TTC Board Meeting December 19, 2013 (Update 5)

Updated December 29, 2013 at 11:30 am:

The TTC meeting presentation on Presto and my comments on it have been added, and the updates related to this topic have been reorganized to follow in chronological sequence.

Original Article from December 15, 2013:

The TTC will meet on December 19 to close out 2013, the last year before the municipal election of 2014.  Regular board meetings are planned through August 2014, but then there will be a break until the first meeting of the new Commmission in December 2014.

The agenda has a few items of note, and continues the policy-light pattern of recent years.  This does not make for extensive discussion of what transit’s goals may be beyond ensuring that stations are tidy.

Presto Fare Card Implementation

(The following text was added on December 29, 2013.)

The staff presentation to the Board Meeting is included in the online agenda, but the pages are rotated 90 degrees.  As an aid to readers, I have created a reoriented copy on this site.


The agreement between the TTC and Metrolinx for Presto implementation is signed and most of it is online.  Significant by its absence is the detailed rollout plan which, as explained elsewhere in this article, is under the TTC’s control according to Metrolinx.  To put this another way, there is an agreed plan for at least part of the rollout, but we don’t know exactly what it is, and more importantly, when TTC management signed off on an extended, two-wave rollout.

Originally, Presto was to be “substantially complete” for the Pan Am Games, but now it will only be available to serve trips to and from the primary games venues.  As I have noted before, this presumes that there is a small number of routes visitors to Toronto will use to reach each venue.  Riders may find themselves on a system still operating in hybrid mode with a mix of farecards, receipts and paper transfers.  Their Presto cards will be useless if they begin trips on any route where they cannot obtain a Presto fare receipt.  Even if their hotel is at a Presto subway station, they may choose to visit a location served only by non-Presto surface routes thereby complicating their return journeys.

At full rollout, riders will “tap and go”, but in the interim, Presto users will also have to obtain a fare receipt that can be used as a transfer for non-Presto routes or locations.  Major stops will have curbside Presto readers so that riders can “pre tap” at the beginning of their journeys.  There will be no need to “tap out” when leaving a vehicle unless the TTC implements fare-by-distance, a move that would put it at odds with other GTHA carriers who have, at most, a rudimentary zone system.

The policy for “tap in” at transfer points has not been specified yet by the TTC, although it would obviously be required at any location with a fare barrier.  Tapping at every transfer would require a major investment for existing free transfer locations between surface and subway routes, and could produce bottlenecks where none exist today.

The rollout will occur in two waves:

Wave 1 will begin with the new streetcar implementation in fall 2014 on Bathurst, Spadina, Harbourfront and Dundas.  Yes, Presto is yet another scheduling issue if there were any more to change the LFLRV route rollout sequence because the on-street fare machines must be installed before a route can be converted.  With this presentation, we see that the date is now “October/November” (page 9) and the implementation of new streetcars drifts ever further into the future.

Presto equipment will be installed at 23 key stations (a net addition of 9) on some but not all turnstiles, and we will see a new acronym added to the TTC for a “Station Fare Transaction Processor” (SFTP).  The stations will be chosen based on their relationship to surface routes that have been converted to Presto.

Fare purchases would be handled as on GO Transit with options for auto-reload or manual “add fare” purchases at stations.  The presentation made no mention of how riders who do not routinely travel through subway stations, or whose rides do not begin there, will deal with the need to load their cards while using the surface network.

Add Value Machines (AVMs) will only accept debit and credit payments, not cash which would still be handled in the conventional way.  These machines will not be delivered and installed until late 2014 (page 11) and it is possible that this service will not be available to Presto users at initial rollout.

“Station Point of Sale” (SPOS) machines will only be available at the Customer Service Centre at Davisville, not in Collectors’ Booths.  Collectors aka Station Agents will have a handheld device to query cards, but these will not be able to perform add value transactions.

Separate from Presto, the TTC will install ticket validators on streetcars and at busy transit stops.  Riders with tickets (Seniors, Students, Children) will insert their ticket into the validator and it will imprint the date and time creating a fare receipt.  Unless paper tickets are going to be much larger than today, how an Operator or Collector is supposed to eyeball a “validated” ticket at a non-Presto connection point is anyone’s guess.

Ticket validation and token fares at subway stations will continue to be handled by the Collectors and turnstiles, and passengers will take transfers as they do today.

A “Single Ride Vending Machine” (SRVM) will initially handle cash and tokens (debit and credit card payment will come in early 2015) on board vehicles and at major stops.

The layout of devices and illustrations of them appear on pages 13 and 15.  The SRVM illustration shows it with a Presto reader although this is self-evidently not required because SRVMs are not intended to handle that type of transaction.

On the new streetcars, there will be only two ticket validators and SRVMs per car.  This begs the obvious question of what a rider boarding a crowded vehicle by the “wrong” door is supposed to do to reach a machine and validate their fare.  The problem will be even more acute when this system moves to vehicles that do not use all-door loading.

A further complication may well be the co-existence of the current fare and transfer rules that will make determination of when a “new” fare is required much more complex.  The TTC has been dragging its feet on this debate, and a new policy such as time-based fares should have been in place for implementation in 2014 completely separate from the Presto rollout.

Needless to say, this is going to present a very complex fare collection environment to locals who will initially encounter a “foreign” fare collection system on a small number of routes.  This will certainly be challenging to visitors.  They may well marvel at how we have taken an antique, ticket and transfer based system and made it as complex as possible all in the name of hitting rollout dates that were obviously quite ambitious for the Presto system, not to mention TTC’s implementation.

There is yet to be any discussion of simply issuing a limited-time “Pan Am” version of the Metropass, and likely any such ideas will be squelched to avoid the well-deserved embarrassment this would cause for Presto.

The TTC acknowledges that the timelines for implementation are very tight and that there is little or no time to address problems or deficiencies in the new system.  An alternative way to collect fares on the new streetcars may be needed as an interim step.  I look forward to the return of roving conductors with “coffee pot” fareboxes.

How the TTC would have handled the LFLRV rollout if these vehicles had gone into service in 2013 as we once expected is a complete mystery.  Queen’s Park forced Presto on the TTC which obligingly rolled over even though the then-available Presto system could not possibly handle TTC requirements.  The “Next Generation” of Presto was, with great difficulty, rolled out in Ottawa and is finally supposed to be working, but it would not have been ready if the new streetcars had been here on time.

Wave 2 will be “everything else” followed shortly by a cutover to Presto as the primary mode for fare collection.  The rollout schedule is “to be determined” and there neither a detailed rollout strategy nor a hard target date for completion of this wave.

Today, Presto supports only the adult token rate at 14 subway stations, and handles the paltry sum of 35,000 transactions per day (out of over 1.5-million trips).

Metrolinx will provide Presto services to the TTC in return for a flat fee of 5.25% of the revenue stream.  There is a clear incentive for Presto to get more of the system working and riders converted to using their cards as soon as possible so that they can tap a greater proportion of the total TTC revenue.  The TTC’s fare collection costs run at 7-8% today, and so this should be a net saving on operations.  (1% of the total budget is about $16-million per year.)  There has been no estimate of the saving, if any, in reduced fare fraud, nor the offsetting cost of policing a self-service fare system.

The capital cost of installation will be covered, to a total of roughly $450-million, by a project shared equally among all three levels of government.

No later than six months after full rollout on all vehicles and stations, all legacy fare media will be dropped and only cash will remain as an alternative to Presto.  Use of the card may be expanded to other city services such as ferries, although an obvious additional one that has not been mentioned yet is parking charges.

The Station Collectors will become customer service agents roving through stations to provide assistance.  This begs several questions about working conditions (non-AC, non-heated stations versus the existing booths) and the problem riders might have in finding an agent when one is needed.

The Debate

Commissioner Josh Colle asked what has happened on “TTC front” with Presto since the last briefing?  Chris Upfold (who is now head of Surface Operations) replied that the contract was signed on November 12.  Specifications and procurement are in progress, as are the electrical upgrades at stations to support Presto devices.  The plan is “set up for success”, a phrase that may well haunt the TTC in months to come.

Colle asked what is holding the TTC back, who sets the timelines?  Upfold replied that Metrolinx is buying and installing the equipment.  Colle wondered whether this is an overly cautious rollout?  Upfold said that he went through the same project with London’s Oyster card.  It is a massive project, and the quality needs to be there from day 1 to ensure acceptance.  That remark begs obvious questions about the state of Presto.

Colle asked who owns the transaction data from Presto use on the TTC including its potential commercial value.  Upfold replied that it is jointly owned with Metrolinx.  As for commercial value, Upfold stated that no smart card system has managed to do this so far.  The biggest value is understanding of trip profiles and origin-destination patters.  Colle asked whether Presto would change the TTC’s budgeting practice.  Upfold said, yes, it would, but budgets today are estimated within half a percent of actual.  By implication, the real challenge will be to get a handle on the shifting revenue and expense situation as the TTC migrates from one system to the other and, possibly, also changes their fare policies.

Commissioner Peter Milczyn asked who the Presto equipment was from.  Upfold replied that it is from a major German supplier, although the software is by Accenture, Presto’s contracted system provider.  Allan Foster, who had given the presentation, said that the Toronto devices are already in use in Ottawa, and are now proven.  Only small tweaks needed to the system.  The SRVM is the only new machine for Toronto, but it is built from standard components.  Milczyn asked about bugs in the Ottawa system.  Upfold replied that Presto went with a faster rollout there and less testing, but that the system is now working “very well indeed”.

Milczyn asked about the rollout for articulated buses.  Upfold replued that procurement has not been done yet for buses, and the critical part is getting SRVMs for streetcars.

Later in the meeting, Milczyn stated that the TTC was forced to accept a system that was out of date but would be updated, and that we are falling behind the schedule Metrolinx originally said it could meet.

Commissioner Nick Di Donato asked how concession fares will be handled?  Upfold replied that in the future, all of this will be on Presto.  Di Donato asked about the value on a Presto card be automatically topped up.  Upfold replied that autoload exists today on the Presto system.  He neglected to mention that the lack of AVMs for the initial rollout will make it almost mandatory that TTC Presto users set up their cards for autoload to avoid being trapped somewhere without a sufficient on-card balance.

Commissioner Glenn De Baeremaeker asked when Collectors will moved out of their booths.  Upfold replied that this cannot happen until the full rollout and withdrawal of other fare media likely in late 2015 or early 2016.  At larger stations, the TTC may still retain an information booth, and in any event they will not be “destaffing” stations.  De Baeremaeker asked about staff helping riders at bus platforms.  This question points out the obvious fact that there are only a limited number of collectors at stations, sometimes only one, and they cannot be everywhere.  If they have any “mandated” functions such as assisting with bus loading, then they cannot do any of their other supposed duties.  This constraint does not appear to be well understood nor well thought out.

Commission John Parker asked how Presto will be used on old vehicles such as the existing streetcar fleet.  Upfold replied that passengers could pay cash (of course they also have access to ticket validators and other devices, but he missed this point).  CEO Andy Byford said “we have a plan”.

Parker asked about concession fares.  Allan Foster replied that provisions for concession fares already exists, but he did not explain how ad hoc trips by a Presto cardholder will be handled for, say, accompanying children.

Commissioner Maria Augimeri asked about payments with “smart” devices such as phones.  Upfold replied that this is coming in Wave 2.

Chair Karen Stintz asked why the TTC had 4000 requirements for a device already in use.  Foster replied that these cover TTC customer and business needs and technical requirements, and that the TTC had to include these in the ontract.  Stintz asked how Toronto is so different from other Presto system users.  Upfold replied that the TTC specified everything even if it was part of the standard offering.  What he should have said is that the TTC needs to nail down its requirements so that there is no debate after the fact about non-performance of the contract given Presto’s less than stellar record and the much larger scale of TTC operations than anything they have handled before.

Stintz asked whether Presto will we be ready for “my commitment” that it would be in place for the Pan Am Games.  Leaving aside the conflation of mayoral ambitions with personal “commitments” (the phrase “L’état, c’est moi” comes to mind), it is clear that this was the first Stintz had heard of an extended Presto implementation.  Upfold replied that procurement for full rollout in the subway system does not start until the end of 2014, and that planned work for 2014 only includes the first 23 stations plus 50 new streetcars.  Putting readers on buses would not be a “quick fix” because they would also have to issue fare receipts in place of transfers.  Why operators could not do this just as they do for people who drop tokens in the farebox is unknown.

Andy Byford said that he is keen to get on as quickly as possible, but the TTC needs to take care to get the right balance right between holding Presto’s feet to fire and screwing up the implementation.

Stintz replied that she didn’t want to get into finger pointing, but she was not satisfied with the schedule — “this isn’t the agreement we made with province”.  There will be a report with more information in January, but one might reasonably ask how such a major project has had such major schedule slippage without the Chair being aware that this was happening.

Clearly, the project is in trouble, and this is a shared TTC/Metrolinx responsibility.  Unlike Ottawa, where unhappiness with the product produced contentious, public debates with Metrolinx, the situation in Toronto is more like TTC serfs who refuse to bite the hand that feeds them.  Toronto riders and the transit system’s credibility will be the victims if Metrolinx is not held to account.  Equally, the silence on fare policy and the absence of public discussions on how Presto will work at the detailed level are TTC matters.  We have spent too much time talking about clean trains and stations, and not enough on the complex details of a new fare system.

Updated December 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm:

[This section partly duplicates the preceding text because it was written first as a quick summary of events at the meeting.]

A major item at today’s TTC Board meeting was the status of the Presto implementation.  There was considerable debate, probably more than we have heard on most issues for the past three years, about what appears to be a less than speedy rollout of Presto on the TTC.  I will add more info to this post later, but one particular item deserve early mention.

Chair Karen Stintz wondered about Presto’s ability to be “substantially complete” in her words for the Pan Am Games in mid 2015.  The staff presentation was quite clear that the “Wave 2” rollout to the entire system, including all of the bus fleet and over half of the rapid transit system would not even reach the procurement stage until the end of 2014, let alone be installed and active for the games.

Stintz took some umbrage citing “my commitment” that Presto would be “substantially complete” in time for the games.  She wants to avoid finger pointing if Toronto does not hit that target, but “this isn’t the agreement we made with province”.

I checked with Metrolinx, and here is their response:

We are confident the plan we have in place will address the needs of the TTC and customers. We expect PRESTO to be in place to serve key venues in time for Pan Am games–a commitment in the master agreement. We are taking a phased approach to rollout, an approach consistent with how we rolled out the GTHA and one we know works well. The streetcar lines are scheduled to be equipped first and will be PRESTO ready when they enter revenue service, now scheduled to begin in October/November 2014.  [Email from Anne Marie Aikens]

This does not sound like “substantial completion” to me, and Metrolinx cites the Master Agreement with TTC requiring that it serve “key venues”, not the entire system.  This will be rather tricky.  The Spadina Subway would have handled York University, but it won’t be open until at least a year after the games.  There will likely be a bus shuttle from Scarborough Town Centre to the UTSC campus.

A motion proposed by Stintz, with helpful amendments by others, passed unanimously:

1) Confirm the expectation with PRESTO that the system will be substantially completed in time for the Pan Am Games;

2) The schedule for implementation of PRESTO within the subway stations be reviewed and expedited;

3) CEO, Andy Byford, meet with Metrolinx to identify opportunities to expedite the implementation; and

4) A report be provided to the members of the Board every two weeks on the schedule and status.

Quite clearly, Metrolinx and the TTC don’t see eye to eye on what has been agreed between them.  The Master Agreement is not (yet?) a public document, and we don’t know the actual language and commitments, if any, it contains.

The conflation of “my commitment” with “the agreement we made” is troubling.  The TTC is not any one person’s organization with personal commitments.  It is many people — staff, management and the Board who in turn are appointed by City Council.  It is not the TTC’s job to make a potential mayoral candidate look good.

Meanwhile, nobody had the temerity to ask how the TTC would have handled the new streetcar rollout if the cars had been in service when they were originally expected.  A year ago, Presto wrestled with its rollout in Ottawa and the system was in no fit state for use in Toronto.

What is astoundingly stupid about the whole Pan Am Games focus is that visitors to the city won’t be in just a few locations and won’t just go to games venues.  What the TTC should be promoting is an “all you can eat” pass for the duration of the games.  Ideally, it would be plastic complete with a mag stripe just like the Metropass.  Presto will not be ready in time, and pinning all our hopes and reputation on it is foolhardy.

But that’s what happens when politics get in the way of good transit decisions.

Updated December 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm:

I received a note from Metrolinx advising that the Master Agreement between the TTC and Metrolinx for the Presto implementation is available online.  Note that it is 650 pages long, and much of this is a detailed listing of the TTC’s requirements for the system.

Schedule B is supposed to contain the agreed-to implementation plan, but this section is blank.  I have asked whether it exists, and await a reply from Metrolinx.

There appears to be no mention of the Pan Am Games in the version of the document that has been published as I write this.

Updated December 20, 2013 at 8:20 am:

Looking back at previous reports, it is quite clear that there has been slippage in the PRESTO/TTC project, but it is unclear just how and why this happened.

From the Metrolinx Board meeting of June 23, 2011:

Metrolinx and the TTC are currently discussing those terms and conditions – full TTC participation and installation to begin in 2012 and to be substantially completed in 2015

[PRESTO Update, Page 9.  The terms and conditions referred to are on Page 12.]

From the Metrolinx Board meeting of September 15, 2011:

Develop plans to benefit customers and the TTC, TTC system to be substantially complete before Pan Am Games (2015)

From a chart of the implementation plan:

  • Subway Stations: April 2013 — July 2014
  • Legacy LRV: April 2013 — 2015
  • Buses:  Summer 2013 — 2015

[PRESTO Update, Page 17]

From the Metrolinx Board meeting of November 23, 2011:

PRESTO to be substantially implemented on TTC system prior to the Pan Am Games (2015)

[PRESTO Update Presentation, Page 9]

Notional Timetable — Preliminary Plan

  • Subway Stations: November 2012 — August 2014
  • Legacy LRV: April 2012 — August 2014
  • Buses:  March 2013 — December 2014

[PRESTO Agreement with Toronto Transit Commission, Page 5]

From the TTC Board meeting of May 1, 2012:

Metrolinx has committed to continuing discussions with TTC to reach a mutually acceptable approach on any outstanding issues.

The expectation is that the necessary details can be worked out over the next few months consistent with the framework and general principles outlined in this report. This will then enable work to continue to substantially implement PRESTO at the TTC by the targeted date of the Pan Am/Parapan Am games in 2015.

The signing of these agreements with Metrolinx will also ensure that the funding for other programs that is contingent upon TTC’s participation in PRESTO (i.e. gas tax; purchase of new streetcars; transit expansion) will continue.

[Framework for Agreements Between TTC and Metrolinx/Presto.  Page 6]

From this point onward, Presto presentations at Metrolinx have less substantive data about the TTC project schedule, specifically the status of support for the Pan Am Games, until early 2013.  Clearly, something changed in the interim.

From the Metrolinx Board meeting of February 14, 2013:

Major Milestones:

  • New Streetcars PRESTO enabled for revenue service (Spring 2014).
  • Deployment to support Pan Am games (April 2015).
  • Target for completion 2016.

[PRESTO Update, Page 9]

From the Metrolinx Board meeting of June 27, 2013:

PRESTO will serve key venues and events in time for the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games

[PRESTO Fact Sheet, June 2013]

As I write this, I am waiting for Metrolinx to post the agreed-to project plan between the TTC and Metrolinx online.

Updated December 20, 2013 at 3:10 pm:

In the continuing saga of the rollout plan for Presto on the TTC, I have received the following from Metrolinx:

The schedule for deployment on the first four lines where the new streetcars will be deployed and 23 subway stations has been agreed in principle. TTC and PRESTO are continuing to work on the remainder of schedules for the rest of the network.

We will work with TTC to finalize the remaining schedules and determine, with their lead, when and how they are posted with the master agreement currently online on the Metrolinx website.

[Email from Anne Marie Aikens, December 21, 2013]

What is abundantly clear is that, somewhere along the way, there was a schedule/scope change for the Presto rollout.  When and why this happened, not to mention who was or was not told about the change, is a mystery.

CEO’s Report (with comments about the City budget process)

Riding and Budget

The 2013 budget is expected to be balanced although riding is slightly below projections (mainly due to bad weather) and per trip revenue is slightly lower due to higher pass sales.  Lower-than-expected costs more than offset the lower revenue, and there will actually be a slight “surplus” of $1.9m (the subsidy actually needed will be less than what was budgeted).  Total riding for 2013 is projected to be 526 million.

Sales of monthly passes continue to rise, to the point that the TTC penalized passholders in the 2014 budget with a bump in the fare multiple (adding $2.70 to the pass price over and above the basic five cents/token).

Revenues ($ millions)

Fares                 $  -10.2
Other                      1.3 ¹
Net                   $  - 8.9


Workforce Gapping     $   -8.3 ²
Diesel Fuel               -6.5
Other Employee Costs      -5.0 ³
Non-labour Costs          -3.6
Utilities                 -1.0
Accident claims           13.6
Net                   $  -10.8

Reduced Subsidy       $   -1.9

¹One time revenue on the sale of used subway cars
²Delays in hiring replacement staff
³Benefits cost less than expected

The 2014 operating budget was recently approved and is now making its way through Council.  As it stands, there is a $6-million unspecified reduction to be achieved, but we have no way of knowing where exactly the knife will cut to find these savings.  This is particularly troublesome in a year where service increases are planned for the fall, but they may be postponed to balance the books.  TTC Chair Karen Stintz has said that she would look to Council for that extra money, but $6m more for the TTC means either a tax increase, or money stripped from some other program.  Because Toronto is rebalancing residential and non-residential tax rates, the burden of any extra funding would fall disproportionately on residential properties.  This situation will continue until about 2020.

Total City Tax Supported Budget    $3,762m   100%
Additional TTC Funding Needed           6m   .16%
  Residential                                .25%
  Non-Residential                            .08%

In other words, if Stintz is to succeed with what she intends, this will require an additional ¼ percent tax increase on residential rates.  This only balances the TTC’s proposed budget, but does not add to it.  We have no way of knowing what that $6m would buy in avoided cuts, and the sense that the TTC can find this money if their feet are held to the fire does not make for a strong bargaining position.  Moreover, the TTC does no “what if” advocacy with scenarios of what would occur, or what would be possible with varying levels of funding.  This leaves Councillors who might join a fight for better subsidies without the information they need to rally support.

The TTC plans to advocate at senior levels for better provincial and federal funding.  This is a hollow request considering that additional funding is already proposed as part of the Metrolinx Investment Strategy (25% of any new revenue flows to the municipalities).  The Feds don’t fund operating costs.  On the capital side Toronto has already pillaged a goodly chunk of proposed stimulus funding for the next decade as part payment for the Scarborough Subway.

Meanwhile at the City Budget Committee, the TTC was asked for briefing notes on a variety of issues, but not, unfortunately, the effect of the $6m in unspecified spending reduction.

  • Extending half tariff fare to all persons on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
  • Extending half tariff fare to all adults with a disability as defined by provincial law and as defined by wheeltrans
  • List of outstanding station conversions from 2013 to 2025 and the costing to meet provincial accessibility guidelines
  • The list of stations that are proposed to be renewed for the Easier Access Phase III 2014–2025
  • The list of stations that were due to be upgraded from 2008–2014 and the year over year projections during these years to 2025
  • The costs associated with platform changes required to the St. Clair Right-of-Way arising from the new Light Rail Vehicle platform requirements
  • Summarize the federal-provincial funding requests related to capital and operating needs and the communications strategy to support a public campaign
  • A breakdown of 2013 overtime costs as compared to 2014 budgeted overtime costs

Service Quality

The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in this report have not changed for 2013, although there is talk of new metrics and greater detail to come, especially on route performance.  Headway adherence for the bus and streetcar systems remains poor with values of 65% and 70% respectively.  (This means that about 1/3 of the service is operating at a headway over three minutes away from the scheduled value, give or take.)  The TTC plans to increase the number of route supervisors in 2014, but it is the way routes are managed, not just the number of route watchers, that is critical.  On a brighter note, a new vehicle monitoring system is finally part of the Capital Budget, although it will be several years before we see it implemented.  With luck, the TTC will actually implement proven technology from an established vendor, not go the “not invented here” route.

The report notes that Yonge-University subway performance is improving, although it is still below target.  Part of this comes from better reliability of the TR trains, and part from other causes.  The TTC has backed off somewhat it blaming all its problems on customers (door problems, track fires from discarded newspapers), but they still do not subdivide the reasons for delays in public reports to give a sense of where improvements are most needed.

The customer satisfaction rating dropped from 79% to 75% in the third quarter.  The significance of this is hard to gauge without any established trend.  When the number goes up, the TTC pats itself on the back for a job well done, but when it goes down, they say “wait and see”.  I would be happier if they waited more consistently for proof that attitudes are doing more than just wiggling within the statistical margin of such surveys.

Streetcar System Plans

The date for resumption of streetcar service on Queen’s Quay between Union and Spadina remains at June 23, 2014.  However, the section of Spadina south of King will not see streetcar service until March 30, 2014, a delay of six weeks over earlier projections.  Waterfront Toronto expects to finish Spadina Loop in January 2014, but the TTC is not counting on its availability.  There is no sign yet of new overhead construction south from King beyond very preliminary work done months ago.

Production LFLRV deliveries are running late, and the TTC no longer plans a “big bang” introduction with the conversion of the entire Spadina route in one go.  Instead, the roll out will being in the third quarter of 2014 and will shift from the CLRV fleet to LFLRVs as vehicles are available for service.  The Bathurst and Harbourfront routes will be the next to receive new cars.

The Leslie Barns project is behind schedule and is now projected to be available early in 2015.

Spadina Subway Extension

Construction at Pioneer Village (Steeles West) Station is badly behind schedule to the point that the fall 2016 opening date (already postponed from 2015 due to issues at York University Station) may not be achieved.  Tess Kalinowski at the Star covered this story.

Time Based Transfers

Chair Stintz has a motion proposing that management “to report back in January on the relative costs and benefits of moving to a time based transfer policy and the best way to make such a change should it be adopted.”

Such a report is long overdue, and frankly one should have been provided by management without the need for a motion by the board.  It is self-evident that the current transfer policy is not workable in a farecard environment, and any alternative has operational and budgetary effects that should have been discussed as part of the 2014 budget process.

49 thoughts on “TTC Board Meeting December 19, 2013 (Update 5)

  1. The Broadview breakdown was loss of air, and the operators had difficulty cranking off the disc brakes of the disabled car. The pusher car went temporarily disabled as well. They had started to couple a third car but then the original pusher problem got resolved. All 3 emergency trucks were tied up.

    Steve: Thanks for the detailed explanation.


  2. Steve: Moving to an everybody tap all the time model would be a disaster and would undo many of the benefits of all door loading and smart card fare collection.

    The Compass card being implemented in Vancouver next year will require everyone to tap in AND tap out for every vehicle. If you don’t tap out, you are charged a 3 zone fare! Recent limited test program seemed to have complaints that it could take >3 seconds per person tapping even when working well. I have to assume this increases when the volume of taps goes up. Vancouver has many routes (eg 99 bLine) where 100% of the capacity of an artic bus changes at one station??? Even with multiple door loading this is really going to bog down quickly!

    Steve: Isn’t it odd how with old, worn out fare systems, zone fares operated on a “check on enter” basis plus whatever spot checks occurred enroute. Only people actually travelling into the outer zones might need to be checked to see if they had a valid fare, not everyone in the system. This is a perfect example of a retrograde implementation.


  3. Jiri wrote:

    “They (and later Metrolinx) pretended that they were and still are willing to listen to the public and showed various alternatives about the section between Don Mills and Laird knowing full well all along that the only viable alternative will be to put the eastern portal in the middle of Eglinton west of Leslie.”

    I guess you want lousy service instead of improvements. Look at what they are doing in Europe, and then be happy. The Eglinton LRT is a huge improvement and on many streets (i.e. Finch and Steeles) would benefit from an LRT. We need to get people out of their cars.

    Steve wrote:

    “It will be intriguing to see how long Metrolinx tries to keep Presto cards alive and fight off more general usage by bank cards. A likely way (we see this already) would be to only offer concession, multi-ride and pass-like fare structures on Presto, and leave only single fares on bank cards. A point will come where having an “in house” smart card will be considered rather quaint, just like paper transfers.”

    NO! Metrolinx/GO made me go to a PRESTO card, and now you are telling me that this should not be good enough. I do not use a debit/bank card for purchases now, and will not start doing so to ride on transit. That’s exactly what my PRESTO card is for. If people want to use a bank card, okay, but allow PRESTO users to use their PRESTO cards for single fares as well. Plus, the system is smart enough that if gives you more of a discount the more you use it – i.e. like what they do on GO. So, why change the system if it isn’t broken.

    Steve: The concept of using a bank card is not to switch everyone to single fares. What happens is that you register the bank count on your Presto account. The Presto reader picks up your identification, and the back-of-house system, knowing what sort of fare plan you are registered for, calculates the appropriate fare and bills your charge/debit card appropriately from time to time. Such a system was proposed to the TTC FOUR years ago when Presto was still struggling to make its antiquated “Mark I” version perform properly in an increasingly complex environment. This is where Presto should be headed after the “Next Generation” card.

    It is extremely important to distinguish between features that are specific to the Presto card itself, and those that are (or can be) implemented in the back-of-house billing systems. Nothing prevents Presto today from accumulating usage info against debit/credit card “taps” and billing in the appropriate discount range beyond (a) the degree to which banks have rolled out NFC-enabled cards and (b) the willingness to build in that facility on the back end. A related step is to enable an app on an NFC-enabled smart phone to be registered as your “card”.

    [NFC: “Near Field Communications”, the process by which smart cards and phones “talk” to nearby readers without the need for physical contact.]


  4. Steve wrote:

    “The concept of using a bank card is not to switch everyone to single fares. What happens is that you register the bank card on your Presto account. The Presto reader picks up your identification, and the back-of-house system, knowing what sort of fare plan you are registered for, calculates the appropriate fare and bills your charge/debit card appropriately from time to time. “

    So, even when bank cards are allowed, I can still [use] my PRESTO card like I do today? That’s my point. Not everyone uses debit/bank cards, but would use their PRESTO card. Plus, I pay for PRESTO card in person – partly because the money is added immediately, plus it means someone has a job.

    One aspect of PRESTO that needs to be improved is when you top up online. The money needs to be added immediately, not the next day.

    Steve: Yes, you can still use your Presto card, but you shouldn’t need to have one to use the system and get all of the discounts. It would be like having a “sale” at The Bay but only giving discounts to people with the store’s own card.


  5. It would be like having a “sale” at The Bay but only giving discounts to people with the store’s own card.

    Which The Bay and other stores do when they offer you an additional discount if you do an immediate sign-up for their store credit card. Or when you join a store loyalty program where, in essence, you receive a deferred discount on top of a store’s current discounted or non-discounted price every time you make a purchase. Such arrangements may seem unfair, but they are not uncommon.

    Steve: The difference here being that it would not be entirely appropriate for a public agency to engage in anti-competitive behaviour in our o-so-free-market political climate. How dare Presto have the effrontery to compete with the banking industry? [That is a joke, for those readers who are a tad slow on the uptake.]


  6. Steve:

    The difference here being that it would not be entirely appropriate for a public agency to engage in anti-competitive behaviour in our o-so-free-market political climate. How dare Presto have the effrontery to compete with the banking industry? [That is a joke, for those readers who are a tad slow on the uptake.]

    The irony here is that the banking industry (through Interac) developed what appeared to be an exciting cashless payment option (Debit Express or ‘Dexit‘) that could have been adapted to do what Presto 1.0 basically does today. If Dexit had developed further instead of being allowed to die (outcompeted by paypass/VISA wave and the recently introduced Interac Flash) then perhaps we’d be talking about how our existing open payment system could be made better.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Dexit made a presentation to the TTC years ago, but the idea fell on stony ground.


  7. Steve, I have a few questions.

    1) In the proposed TTC 2014 Budget that is going to council, did the TTC factor in any increase in labour costs for wages increases as the collective agreements expire on March 31, 2014.

    Steve: Budgets do not provide an explicit provision for labour cost increases unless they are part of an existing contract. There is a standing arrangement with Council that once a settlement is reached, the TTC’s budget will be adjusted with additional subsidy. The budget does include provision for three months of increase based on the current contract (i.e. operations in January-March 2014 will be higher than the corresponding period in 2013), but nothing for the remaining nine months. As a rough guide, a 1% increase in labour costs translates to a $10-million increase on a full-year basis. Whatever the increase is, the TTC is now an “essential service”, and the settlement will be imposed by arbitration if the parties cannot come to an agreement on their own.

    2) My wife rides the GO train daily and has never had any issues with Presto. She even has her card defaulted so each trip automatically charges the trip between Union & Oshawa so she only has to tap on. If she gets off before either Union or Oshawa she has to tap off. Will this function of default be available for the TTC?

    Steve: If the TTC, like all other GTA local transit operators, uses a flat fare system, there will be no need to “tap off” to let Presto know how long your trip has been. Given the complexity of travel on the TTC, a “standard trip” like GO is meaningless.

    3) I’ve travelled on the C-Train in Calgary and they have pay stations at each stop and they use the honour system the same as GO Transit does. The one thing that Calgary to improve congestion in their downtown core they made transit on the C-Train free within the downtown core. Could you see that as an option in Toronto to reduce congestion & increase use of transit?

    Steve: The problem for Toronto would be to define what is meant by “downtown”. With the C-Train, that’s fairly straightforward because it is only for the relatively short stretch of on-street running on one line. For Toronto, there is the complexity of multiple subway and surface routes which operate as a network, and a “free zone” downtown would involve a fair amount of territory. I don’t see this as an aid to congestion because people still have to get to the core unless they already live there, or are making short trips within its boundaries. Transit use is already strong downtown.

    The amount of peak traffic demand has been static for years downtown because there is a constraint on road capacity. The comparatively recent problem is that the peaks are now much wider, up to four hours, and threaten to spread right through the midday. This is compounded by parking regs that give over half of the street capacity to storage rather than movement of cars, taxis and trucks (not to mention building sites with curb lane occupancy). City Council has just begun to address this through changes that will be implemented from the Downtown Traffic Operations Study, but more is needed, and the scope must be expanded.

    If we want to increase transit use, we really need to look to parts of the city where the existing mode share is lower, and determine what will attract more riders, notably better, more reliable service, reduced crowding, and the implementation of express services where there is demand for longer haul trips. The last thing we need is to do is create the impression that downtown is even more “special” while leaving folks in the suburbs with just enough service to get by.


  8. Steve said:

    The staff presentation to the Board Meeting is included in the online agenda, but the pages are rotated 90 degrees.

    Thanks, it is somewhat typical that the TTC publishes pdf files that cannot easily be read by those without totally flexible necks! Is it really so hard to do things right or, at least, fix errors that slip through?


  9. I see that WMATA has bought Presto for their new fare payment system and that it will accept payment from sources other than “PRESTO” cards.

    Steve: Yes, according to Presto, there are capabilities in their “next generation” system that Metrolinx still hasn’t figured out how they will use.


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