Updating TTC Wayfinding

This article has been split apart from the coverage of the October TTC Board meeting to accommodate updates and to keep the comment thread separate from other issues.

The Board considered a presentation entitled New Wayfinding Standards which, among other things, proposed a change in naming for subway lines to the use of numerals.  This has provoked no end of comment, some on this blog, as an ill-advised waste of money.

More to the point, this presentation is neither a “standard” nor a comprehensive review of TTC wayfinding.  It is an overview of a few changes, and even these are not set out on a thorough basis.  What we have here is a proposed trial, but not a systemic review of wayfinding.

The goals are simple: avoid multiple styles of signs, convey information in a consistent way so that riders know the “language” of the signs across the system, make maps easier to understand, and make all forms of wayfinding more accessible.  One style, one letter font, one style of branding should identify a “TTC” message wherever it appears.

Consistency and legibility are not important just for the casual user, but for the regular passenger who  may be in an unfamiliar part of the system.  They may walk through their “home” station on auto-pilot, but off of their regular territory, they too will be “tourists”.

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TTC Board Meeting October 23, 2013 (Update 3)

Updated October 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm to reflect discussions at the meeting.

The TTC Board met on October 23.

Update: The 2014 Operating and Capital Budgets are still not public, and they may now  appear in November (this has yet to be confirmed).  This is unusual because under Mayor Ford, the budget process for the City has been moved up so that the overall budget can be finalized early in the new year.  In 2012, the TTC budgets for 2013 were on the September agenda.

Will the TTC roll over again and accept a flat-lined subsidy placing the entire burden of extra costs on riders through fare hikes and compromises on service quality, or will they finally argue for better subsidies and force Council to debate just what transit should be doing – aside from building one subway line – for Toronto?

The CEO’s report (below) offers a hint in this statement:

“… discussions with the City continue regarding the TTC Operating and Capital Budget submissions for 2014-2023.  I am resolute in expecting an increase in subsidy to accommodate and service ever increasing customer numbers.”  [page 5]

Does this represent a strategic position on the TTC’s part, or division among the Commissioners about the direction the organization should take?

The City of Toronto will launch its 2014 budget process formally on December 2, 2013.

New Wayfinding Standards

Recent reports in other media have talked of a proposal to rename the subway lines with numbers to simplify wayfinding information for riders.  The details of this and other schemes to overhaul information will be presented at the meeting.

Updated October 23 at 10:55am:  The presentation is now online linked from the title above.

Updated October 26 at 5:00pm:  This topic will be split off into a separate thread given the volume of comments, and the accumulated comments will be moved to the new thread.

CEO’s Report

The CEO’s report has little new relative to the September edition.  Riding continues to be above 2012 but below budget.  For reporting period 8 (mainly the month of August), riding was up 3.5% over 2012.  On an annualized basis, riding is up 2.8%.  These results are 0.1% below budget for the period, and 0.5% below budget for the year to date.

Total ridership for 2013 is projected to be 527m, 1m below the budget projection.  This shortfall, coupled with higher-than-expected sales of passes versus token/cash fares, will mean revenue will fall $7.6m below budget.  This will be counterbalanced by various swings plus and minus on individual expense lines (details on page 24).

Update:  According to CEO Andy Byford, the lower ridership and revenue numbers for 2013 are mainly attributed to the severe weather and floods earlier in 2013.  Major shutdowns planned for 2014 will definitely affect ridership and this will be built into the budget estimates.

Subway punctuality on the Yonge-University line remains a problem particularly in off-peak hours.  It is unclear how much this is a side-effect of the yardstick of headways within ‡3 minutes of scheduled values.  During peak periods, it is much easier to meet this goal because there are more trains on the line, and entire trips can be missing without headways going beyond the 3-minute rule.

The BD line problems occasionally from the transfer of trains to the Yonge line to “cover shortages”, although this is not explained.  Are there simply not enough working trainsets to operate the Yonge service, or are BD trains poached to fill major service gaps?

Update:  I have asked the TTC to clarify what this section of the report actually means.

As if the wait hasn’t been long enough already, the CEO’s report states that the Harbourfront line will not return to streetcar operation until August 2, 2014.  No reason is given for the further slippage between the July date given by Waterfront Toronto and the TTC’s new August date.

One major issue that the CEO’s report does not address is the fleet availability in Toronto.  Only through the shutdown of substantial chunks of the streetcar system has the TTC managed to field enough cars to cover what remains in operation.  It is in their interest to prolong construction projects until they can get the first of the new fleet on the road.  What was originally touted as a “spring” startup of LFLRV service may now well slip to at least “summer”.

Production deliveries of cars are supposed to start later this fall.  What is the status of this order?

Service reliability is supposed to be reported quarterly for all surface operations, but the third quarter report has not yet appeared (it is expected to show up sometime on October 21).  When it does, I will be reporting separately on comparisons of the numbers over the past three quarters of 2013.

Update:  The quarterly report was published on October 23 and has been discussed elsewhere on this site.

I will follow up on questions raised here with TTC staff at the meeting and will update the article when further info is available.

TTC Fare Policy – Requests For Fare Discounts

This is a compendium report on various proposals/requests the TTC has received for reduced fares for various groups.  The staff position is that any additional subsidies for various classes of riders must be funded through a policy decision at City Council with adequate funding through the subsidy stream to offset the projected revenue losses.

This has been the TTC’s stock position for such requests for years, but at least we now have a consolidated report listing the projected cost for each option.  If Council wants to fund new discounts, the expected cost is known presuming that we accept the TTC’s estimates (some of which are dubious).

  • Extending “Family Pass” (6 people, maximum 2 adults) pricing to the entire week.  This is projected to cost only $2.2-8.6m per year, although I am suspicious of the figure because it is based on existing pass sales.  If the pass is more attractive, then more of them will be sold, but the estimate does not take this into account.
  • Free off-peak trips for seniors.  The cost is estimated to be at least $22m per year based on the number of non-pass trips by students/seniors today (45.2m), subdivided by the proportion of seniors (40%) and then the proportion of off-peak trips (65%).
  • Off-peak only pass for seniors.  The technology to handle time-of-day passes does not exist on turnstiles today, and so this option would best be left until Presto is rolled out across the system.  The estimated annual cost is $1.0-2.1m, but this depends on various assumptions regarding pass pricing, trip counts and conversion rates from the existing all-day passes.
  • Lower age for “senior” passes to 60 from 65.  The estimated cost is $3.3-4.9m, but this includes only the lost revenue from existing Metropass holders switching to the lower-priced pass.  No provision is included for token users for whom the senior’s Metropass would be more attractive than continuing to pay single adult fares.
  • Extend senior/student fare pricing to ODSP and OWP recipients (these are the Ontario Disability Support and the Ontario Works programs).  This is projected to cost $6.3-12.6m, but the mechanism for administering these fares is not discussed.  Of particular note, the calculation is based only on the actual recipient numbers within Toronto, not on their dependents and spouses.

Any special fare regime will be easier to administer once automatic fare collection is in place.  Time-of-day discounts and special fares associated with a rider’s status can be build into the fare structure, and the actual amount of discount provided for each target group can be tracked.  This will be important if special subsidies are involved so that they remain separate budget lines rather than simply merging into the overall TTC revenue stream.

Advisory Committee Activity

An interesting read in recent TTC agendas has been the meeting minutes for the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT).  This is a very active group whose discussion cover a wide range of issues with TTC staff, and the minutes report their activities in detail.

One might wish for the Customer Liaison Panel to be as forthcoming with information on its activities.  It is unclear whether the CLP has done anything since its formation, or what its areas of focus might be.  If the panel is intended to represent “customers” as part of TTC activities, why doesn’t it show the rest of the world what it is doing?

Supplementary Agenda

Yorkdale Fatality of September 14, 2012 – Final Investigation Report

This report contains the detailed findings regarding an accident last year in which a work car struck two employees during overnight maintenance near Yorkdale Station.

[New] York University Station Construction Status

Councillor Perruzza addressed the Board on the issue of York University Station where, as reported in the National Post, the station excavation is a lake, and no work appears to be in progress.

According to TTC staff, the tunnel construction contractor, Obrascón Huarte Lain and FCC Construcción, has handed off the site to the station contractor, Ellis-Don, but this process has taken longer than expected.  Meanwhile, Ellis-Don did not take over pumping of water even though they were now responsible it.  This is to be corrected, and Ellis-Don will begin active work on the site in 2-3 weeks.

Construction at this location was substantially delayed due to a worksite fatality in 2012.

[New] Time-Based Transfers for Eglinton West

Commissioner Colle requested a report from staff on the implementation of a time-based transfer arrangement on Eglinton West during the Crosstown tunnel construction similar to the setup still in use on St. Clair Avenue.  The TTC will ask Metrolinx to contribute to the cost of this if it is implemented.

[New] GO/TTC Fare Integration at Dundas West and Exhibition Stations

Chair Stintz requested that staff report on the provision of a joint TTC/GO fare between Union Station, Dundas West and Exhibition Stations as a way of relieving demand on the system, notably on the 504 King car.  The report should be on the November agenda.