TTC 2013 Budget Update (Update 2)

Updated November 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm:

The City of Toronto budget papers released yesterday include Budget Analyst Notes for the Operating and Capital Budgets.

These are different in format from the TTC versions in that they are cast in a standard reporting layout for City budgets and concentrate on the financing of the TTC from the City’s point of view.  All expenditures have a “gross” and “net” version with the difference made up by various revenues such as fares and subsidies from other governments.  That difference represents what the City must raise from its own resources (although some of this actually originates externally).

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TTC November 2012 Meeting Wrapup

At its November meeting, the TTC considered various matters other than the 2013 budgets on which I have already reported.

New Commissioners

The new “citizen” members of the TTC were sworn into office: Maureen Adamson, Nick Di Donato, Alan Heisey and Anju Virmani.  Ms. Adamson was elected Vice-Chair of the Commission under a new Council-approved structure where the Vice-Chair is chosen from the citizen member ranks.  At this point we know little of where the newcomers will take the Commission beyond background articles such as one in The Star.

Although they may claim to be focused on customer priorities, whether this will survive the political onslaught of budget constraints and the organizational morass of “TTC culture” remains to be seen.  Commissioners tend to catch a “TTC disease” when it becomes easier to defend what the TTC has done and the official management outlook than to ask difficult questions, publicly, about how things could be better.  At least there is a CEO in place whose goals lie in improvement, not in justifying more of the same.

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Jerry Waese Street Scenes

On display at R.A.D., 899 Dundas Street West (just east of Bellwoods, south side).

Jerry’s illustrations of Toronto, frequently including streetcars, appear regularly on Spacing’s website.  You can pull up all of his Spacing posts (open each article individually to see the illustration) or go to his flickr page (look under “art by category” for the street scenes).

The gallery will generally be open on weekends from noon onward.  Other days, by arrangement.  If you like Jerry’s work, the pictures are worth seeing as originals, not just online.

The Facebook event page will be updated from time to time with current info.

Image Copyright © by Jerry Waese, 2012.

A Debut Party for Car 4400

The TTC unveiled the real car 4400 — not the imitation, half-car mockup seen on an earlier occasion — at its Hillcrest Shops today to a crowd of press, politicians and staff.

Representatives of all governments were present.  Councillor Karen Stintz as TTC Chair, Ontario Minister of Transportation Bob Chiarelli, Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, and Peter Van Loan representing the Federal Government.

Van Loan’s inclusion was rather odd considering that his government famously told Mayor David Miller to get lost (in somewhat earthier terms) when Miller asked for a 1/3 federal share in funding these cars.  Now we learn than some of the federal gas tax transit revenue in Toronto has been earmarked for the streetcar project.

  • City of Toronto share: $662m (55.8%)
  • Ontario share: $416.3m (35.1%)
  • Ottawa share:  $108m (9.1%)
  • Total $1,186.3m

In fact, Toronto gets a flat annual allocation from the federal gas tax that now runs at $154m.  In 2012, the total TTC capital spending (not including projects with their own accounts such as the Spadina extension) will be $1,034m.  This puts the federal gas tax at about 15% of current spending although the proportion rises in future years when the currently planned rate of spending tails off.

I have asked the TTC to explain how they came up with the $108m figure, and as I write this (2:20 pm, November 15), I have not received a reply.  Federal capital grants go into the general pot of capital funding (see pdf page 36 of the TTC Capital Budget).

During her remarks, TTC Chair Karen Stintz joked that she hopes to see Van Loan back soon with a big cheque for the Downtown Relief Line.

This is a fully working car, although we won’t see it out on the street for several months, and even then only for test runs, not in passenger service.  Cars 4401 and 4402 will arrive over coming months to add to the test fleet.

The 4400 sat among representatives of three earlier generations of streetcars each of which represented the technological pride of its age — the Peter Witt (1920s), the PCC (1930/40s), the CLRV (1970s).  That CLRV (and its relative, the articulated ALRV) is odd man out, in a way, because it was, in part, the product of an era when Ontario thought it needed to reinvent the streetcar.  Only one other buyer was ever found for these vehicles as compared with Witts, PCCs and now Bombardier Flexities running all over the world.

The car’s interior is divided into sections, each with its own door very much like a subway car.  All-door loading will spread out the demand through the interior.  Space dedicated for large objects such as shopping buggies, baby carriages, wheelchairs and bicycles will allow them to be carried without plugging circulation.

Although the cars are “low floor”, there is still one step up from the ground into them unless one boards from a platform or widened sidewalk (as on Roncesvalles).  However, that’s the only step, and riders will be able to flow into and out of the cars quicker than they do on the earlier models.

Presto readers are mounted on either side of the entryways.  The rules for Presto use on TTC are not yet decided including whether there will be any need to “tap in” for transfer connections or to “tap out” when leaving a vehicle.  [That’s a separate debate and I would prefer that the comment thread on this article not fill up with a discussion on that topic.]

Visible in the photo below is a small pedestal (left side, just ahead of the articulation) which will hold the fare equipment.  This will be used by passengers who need to pay a cash or token fare while the system is in co-existence mode between current practices and Presto.  Machines will also be provided at busy stops along the routes as the new cars roll out.

The box under the pedestal is a heater/blower (another is located under the seat just inside the door) whose purpose is to keep the vestibule warm even in the winter and an attempt to dry out the floor.

Stop displays hang from the ceiling through the length of the car, not just at the front as on the retrofitted CLRV/ALRV fleets.

Notable by their absence is any provision for advertising on either the interior or exterior of the car.  Something may be fitted in the coves between the top of the windows and the lighting strip, but there is nothing on the 4400.  This would change the look of the cars inside and out.

Here is another view through the articulation showing the fare machine pedestal.  Note that the window has a separate panel at the top.  This is a “flip in” window similar to those on the CLRVs intended for situations where the AC fails and some ventillation is required.  The flip-up seating in the area beyond keeps it clear for use by wheelchairs in a similar format to that already used on the subway.

At the doors, there is a red button for passengers to open them when they are activated by the operator.  Actual operation will likely vary from stop to stop and car to car just as it does today with the CLRVs.  At some stops, the operator will simply open all doors; at others, only doors passengers want to use will open.  This is a common practice elsewhere to which Torontonians will, I am sure, adapt.

This door is also the wheelchair location, and the blue button is intended for a request to deploy the wheelchair ramp.  That ramp has two levels — one is a short bridge to get from a car to a nearby platform, the other is a longer ramp to get down to pavement level.  The operator controls which version is deployed.

Not visible in these photos is an LED strip mounted on the trailing edge of each door.  This will be brightly lit when the doors are open as a warning to passing motorists and cyclists that they should stop.  I hope to get a photo or video of this in operation from the TTC and will add it here when available.

Low-floor design brings seating above the wheel sets, and a mixture of forward and rear facing seats.

The front of the new car, in profile, can be read as a face, here in contemplation of a human.  The paint treatment at this end is different from the rear (see the next photo) with the white stripes swinging down.

The rear end of 4400 seen from the transfer table.  The white stripes at this end simply wrap around the car.

Finally, a view along the runway for the transfer table that moves cars and buses between the shop entrance and the various repair bays.  The mockup version of 4400 is visible in the middle distance.

I must say that having a genuinely new streetcar in Toronto, one that is based on a proven international design, gives me good feelings.  All the same, there remain questions of how the vehicle will perform in service, how riders will adapt to the new layout and fare collection tactics, and whether the TTC will actually improve service capacity (as implied in the Fleet Plan that I reviewed recently) and improve line management so that expected wider headways are not compounded by ragged service and short turns.

The fight for better streetcar service is far from over.

Postscript: What The Design Panel Did

I was one of the members of design review panel recruited by the TTC to tweak the new car design.  The physical layout of the cars was more-or-less settled by the time we came on board, and our opportunity for influence was limited.  The factors we affected were mainly aesthetic including:

  • The use of a different, patterned seat fabric rather than the standard TTC red.
  • The use of a darker red than the bright cherry found on the CLRVs.  It is not as dark as the colour used with cream trim on the PCCs and Witts, but not as bright as the CLRVs.
  • The presentation of a distinct “front” and “back” to the cars by bringing the white stripes down at the front of the car.
  • The presentation of a uniform black stripe down the side of the car (the original version made the doors look like a mouth with missing teeth).

One thing we hoped to see was interior surfaces that had some texture and variation from lighter off-white on the ceiling to a darker gray on the floor.  That idea did not become part of the final version probably for a combination of cost and maintenance issues.

Eventually the cars will go into service and we will see how their layout works in practice and whether it can be improved.

An idea I would particularly like to see would be a subset of the fleet as “art cars”.  We came up with this idea before GO Transit started its own program, but given the state of transit funding and municipal attitudes to non-essential “gravy”, this was an idea that has gone into a deep sleep.  Could we find a sponsor to underwrite a competition for, say, ten cars each with its own “total wrap”, a set of “one of” cars whose designs would change from season to season, year to year?

Queen’s Quay Track Construction (Updated November 15, 2012)

Updated November 15, 2012 at 7:00am:

Demolition of the trackbed has progressed eastward to Rees Street.

With the eastbound road lanes now closed, passengers looking for the replacement bus service have a considerable challenge as there is no signage anywhere at the former eastbound stops indicating that buses are now operating on Lakeshore and Harbour.

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Streetcar Track and Cyclists

The matter of streetcar track and cycling will be considered by the Public Works Committee on November 14, 2012.  How much coverage this will receive, considering that the first item on the agenda is the proposed ban of plastic bags, remains to be seen.

The report, in brief, says that streetcar tracks have been around for a century and the problem is how to improve cyclist safety.  Removal or covering over of tracks would be done only for inactive parts of the system.

Most of the inactive track is listed for removal as part of planned road paving jobs in the next decade.  The City’s report includes:

  • 2013:
    • Neville Loop tail track: A fragment of this long-disconnected track is still visible south of Queen.  On an historic note, this street was the last place to have track set in wooden block paving, but that’s long gone.
    • Richmond Street eastbound track from east of Yonge to York (*)
    • York Street southbound track from Queen to Wellington (*)
  • 2014:
    • Wellington Street eastbound track from York to Church (*)
  • 2019:
    • Adelaide Street both ways from Charlotte to Victoria
  • Not yet in capital program:
    • Wychwood from St. Clair to south end of Wychwood Yard
    • Kipling Loop tail track
  • (*) The TTC capital program includes reconstruction of the track in these streets’ one-way direction

This list is incomplete because it does not mention:

  • Church northbound from Wellington to south of King (obsolete due to no access from Wellington)
  • Victoria northbound from Adelaide to Richmond (obsolete due to no access from Adelaide)
  • Bingham Loop tail track (Kingston Road at Victoria Park): This may be removed as part of the TTC’s Kingston Road project in 2013, but it is not clear from the TTC capital budget exactly which special work at Bingham Loop is to be removed.

It is now clear that the TTC does not intend to retain the eastbound track on Adelaide Street which has been unusable due to various construction projects for years, and which is in very bad repair thanks to many pavement heaves, asphalt patches and utility cuts.  I cannot help wondering why the TTC has included replacement of the overhead poles for this street in its ongoing program.  Possibly they never got around to deciding until the cycling issue came up, or the electrical planners didn’t know what the track folks had in mind.

Adelaide has been out of service for so long that one could hardly claim that the TTC is losing flexibility because they have done without it for over a decade.  In any event, there are many years before the scheduled removal, and if a case can be made for reactivating the track, it will still be around, albeit in appalling condition, for a while.

As for the cyclists, the report is basically saying “be careful”, and the issue is now one of finding ways to make the roads safer for cycling without removing active streetcar lines.

Services Changes Effective November 18, 2012 (Updated)

A few changes will be made to TTC service in November 2012.

Corrected Nov. 7, 2012 at 11:35 am: Route 504 King trippers which appeared to be a service increase are actually only a TTC correction to a previous error in their Service Summary.

502 Downtowner

Service will return to McCaul Loop operating on the same headways but with one fewer car during peak and weekday midday periods.

29 Dufferin

Service will return to Dufferin south of Queen when work by Toronto Water and TTC track replacement have finished.

504 King (Corrected)

Although this is not mentioned in the service change memo, the Service Summary shows three more CLRV trippers in the AM peak than on the October schedules.  This extends the period of 2′ headway eastbound to downtown by 12 minutes (a total of 19 trippers rather than 16 on a 4′ headway).

Correction Nov 7:  Scott Haskill at the TTC advises that these trippers existed in previous schedules, but were not included on the Service Summary.  Therefore, there is no net addition to service.

45 Kipling

The late evening 11 minute headway will be extended to midnight to relieve crowding, and a new northbound trip from Kipling Station will be provided at about 2:20 am.  These changes are on the weekday schedules only.

103 Mt. Pleasant North

All service now operating on a 15′ headway with 2 buses will be changed to run on a 20′ headway to “improve reliability”.  The change includes adding six minutes of driving time and four minutes of layover to each trip.

Affected periods are weekdays all day to mid-evening, Saturday and Sunday daytime.  Service at other times remains at 30′.

510 Spadina

Streetcar service returns between Spadina Station and King Street with a bus shuttle from King to Queen’s Quay.

Streetcar headways will be:

Period             Weekday  Saturday  Sunday
AM Peak              2'30"
Midday               1'53"
PM Peak              2'00"
Early Morning                  6'00"  15'00"
Morning                        2'30"   2'50"
Afternoon                      2'00"   2'10"
Early Evening        2'15"     2'30"   6'00"
Late Evening         6'00"     6'00"   6'00"

Bus shuttle headways will be 6’00” at all times except early Sunday morning when they will be 10’00”.

Streetcar service will return to Queen’s Quay & Spadina on December 23, 2012 using the same schedules as in May 2012.  Service to Union Station will not resume until late spring 2013.

165 Weston Road North

Weekend service to Canada’s Wonderland ends.