Vanishing Streetcar Stops (Updated)

Updated May 26, 2014:

The TTC has released a report on the removal of streetcar stops that will be discussed at the Board meeting on May 28.

The report claims that there are two goals in the elimination and consolidation of streetcar stops:

  • Improving the consistency of stop placement to provide better safety so that stops are always at signalled intersections or those with pedestrian crosswalks, and
  • Reducing travel time through stop elimination where existing stops are very close to each other.

The question of safety in stop placement is laudable, although it is odd that so few locations are actually proposed for removal. Of the 550 existing streetcar stops:

  • 20 will be shifted from locations nearby traffic signals to be at the signalled intersection.
  • 39 regular stops that are within 200m of a nearby stop will be removed, although some of these are still under negotiation with the local Councillors.
  • Most Sunday stops (about 40) will be eliminated, and a few will be converted to regular stops.

The geographic distribution of stops to be eliminated is rather strange, and has an uneven feel to it at some locations. Oddly, there is discussion of removing the stops at Queen & Victoria, although this is still under review because of St. Michael’s Hospital, and King & Victoria westbound is on the hit list. However, the stops bothways at Dundas and Victoria (a location with problems compounded by traffic signals at Yonge and Victoria that prefer to thwart rather than aid transit) are not mentioned at all.  Ooops! They are.

Broadview Station could become the only place where one can board a streetcar in this neighbourhood as the stop on Erindale is to be removed, and the southbound stop at Danforth is under review. Strangely enough, the sidewalks at both stops were just rebuilt with accessibility ramps. Also, there is no mention of the northbound stop. Also, this stop is not in service during the peak period already, and how its removal would contribute to any peak time savings is a mystery.

There is no discussion of the comparable situation at Main Station, and 506 Carlton is not even included in the table of affected weekday routes.

The stops bothways at Connaught & Queen disappear, and I must assume that Russell operators are now doomed to making that “convenient” walk down the street to a consolidated stop.

It is particularly amusing to see a Sunday stop listed for Kingston Road at Malvern, a location where there is no streetcar service on Sundays.

Other anomalies can be found in the comment from “nfitz” that follows below.

This report has been three months in the making (at least), originally promised for February, finally delivered in May. It has the feeling of a report that argues the case for “faster transit” rather more forcefully than the actual number of stops involved would suggest. Sunday stops have nothing to do with weekday transit speeds, and the actual number of stops removed is trivial ib proportion to the streetcar system.

If the TTC wants to argue “safety”, fine, but don’t drum up another of these bogus claims that transit service will somehow be improved. That’s a task for the quantity and quality of service on the street, and the little matter of line management.

I cannot help remembering a report written years ago by a junior planner about the placement of all-night services that showed a hopeless lack of geographical knowledge of the city including basic obstacles like valleys, rivers and ponds to crow-fly walking distances.

If we were really talking about a major change in the philosophy of stop placement, and were looking at its effect not just on streetcars but also for buses, I might take this report seriously. Meanwhile, this is another of those “we know best” TTC reports that tries to justify a new policy with an oversold rationale.

The original article from May 9, 2014 follows the break.

In the preparation for introducing the low-floor streetcars, the TTC is modifying the sidewalks at stops to include a curb cut for easy wheelchair access to the pavement. This has a side effect in telling us where the TTC plans to eliminate stops because they are thought to be too close together, or they pose some operational problem for the longer cars, or they are Sunday Stops.

Back in February 2014, there was supposed to be a report to the TTC Board about the process for consultation on this, but the report has been delayed until the meeting at the end of May. Meanwhile, work has already begun.

Recently, the TTC began to consult with local councillors about the changes, but this has not been well-received in some quarters thanks to the “consultation” coming after the fact in a tradition unhappily common at the TTC.

Some stops are certainly dubiously close to others and their existence can often be traced to conditions that existed decades ago when the stop was established. However, removing a stop does represent a change for riders who use it and at the very least they should be asked.

Another odd thing is that the TTC has not actually taken any stops out of service yet, and they are only doing the sidewalk modifications at this time. I suspect there would be much louder objections if stops just began to disappear without notice.

What will now happen is that people will be told they have lost their stops “for the new streetcars”, yet another way to piss people off about the new cars (as if wider headways and the almost certain continuation of ineffective route management won’t be enough).

The TTC talks a good line about “customer service” and “working with communities” at the top level, but quite literally on the street, the story is quite different.

92 thoughts on “Vanishing Streetcar Stops (Updated)

  1. How about stops that should be added. I take the the Lambton bus north to Dundas from High Park. I want to go east on Dundas. I have to walk east to Quebec Ave to get the Junction bus. Have had drivers tell me the transfer point is Runnymede. If I go to the Loblaws at Dundas west of Jane and get on the EB Lambton and at Runnymede the Junction bus is trying to get out of the loop why can I not transfer at Gilmore Ave.


  2. Michael said:
    ”That being said, I really don’t see the big deal with removing stops.

    People will walk further, if the surface route they are taking is operating faster due to less stops.

    Quebec City did this, and found residents were willing to walk much farther to the METROBUS routes, even though the walk was further than the local bus stops near their origin or destination.”

    Quebec Transit offers a couple of bus services “Métrobus – Bus à haute fréquence circulant sur des voies réservées” and leBus “Un service à proximité de chez vous”. Metrobus would be a frequent express bus in its own right of way. That would be like a rocket bus in a dedicated laneway. So yes Toronto needs BRT, with express service to add to its basic bus. However, the idea of the Spadina LRT was to run a short distance, and improving service by not competing with traffic while replacing the existing streetcar (which was not an express service).

    Please note that those who have a harder time walking greater distances, or use the bus to shop do not want to have to carry grocery bags a long ways. As has been noted the stops only slow service where someone actually uses the stop. While I agree that a stop spacing that is too close can be painful, when you use Metrobus as a comparator, it is not a service designed to fill that space, and Quebec city has not deleted the high granularity local bus system, and neither should Toronto.


  3. I am reminded of an old Vancouver Editorial cartoon (I don’t remember which newspaper) that showed a PGE (Pacific Great Eastern) passenger train going past a stop with irate would be passengers yelling at the train to stop. The conductors says; “They have to make up their minds wether they want us to run on time or carry passengers.”

    Brampton’s experience with 3 ZUM, BRT lite, services is that people will walk farther to the ZUM stop rather than waiting for the slower local service. Note the ZUM runs on 6 lane roads and does travel considerably faster than the local. This is not really possible on downtown street running car lines but that does not mean that there cannot be stop rationalization.


  4. Robert Wightman said:

    “Brampton’s experience with 3 ZUM, BRT lite, services is that people will walk farther to the ZUM stop rather than waiting for the slower local service. Note the ZUM runs on 6 lane roads and does travel considerably faster than the local. This is not really possible on downtown street running car lines but that does not mean that there cannot be stop rationalization.”

    I agree, however, you need to be aware what service type you are removing these stops from. While I was riding to work, carrying very little, I would have no issue walking an extra 300 metres. However, while coming home in the core, where I have not opted to drive, and have 4 or 5 bags of groceries, well no way.

    Eliminate too many stops from local services and you encourage people to use their cars for more activities (or encourage them to buy), and this is habit forming. I would remind most, that much of Quebec city (basically most outside the wall and the lower city) has more space for vehicles to move than Toronto. The idea of express bus on Grande Alley makes a lot of sense, and you could run both express and local.

    I suspect that the reason some of Michael’s friends walk instead of ride on Spadina, is that (1) like most students money is very scarce, and (2) the streetcar is running with a large gap, long enough to make walking a km or so reasonable. A 10 minute gap is huge if you are fit and only going one or two kilometres. If the service is uneven enough people will not even bother walking out to the line, but instead will walk the shortest possible route. I would suggest that the TTC should fix headway/route management as its highest priority.


  5. What I find interesting when we talk about the service on the 510 and how slow it is, is the fact that we are focusing on removing stops.

    What seemed apparent to me, watching this video of the 510, was how much time the 510 sat at lights waiting to get to its load point at the far side. I believe I saw at lot more time waiting at lights than actually loading. I would imagine if I was responsible for this service, I would find it very hard to see the light change to red as the car approached.

    This is bad enough using today’s regular streetcar. This would be insane and have to change with the new larger cars. This in addition to headway management are the things that the city can fix, that would greatly improve transit, and encourage people to ride transit. Nothing to get somebody out of a car like knowing that it is faster and cheaper to ride than drive.

    These are not huge capital items, but some moderate fixes, and an issue of setting transit as the priority in the management of traffic and law enforcement, in addition to the basic proper dispatch of buses and streetcars. Every TTC surface rider should be asking their councillor about light priority and parking enforcement.

    Steve: Precisely. The TTC focuses on very small scale stuff and inflates the benefit it might have, but the important issues like transit priority that really deserves the name sit unattended.


  6. Steve:

    It is amusing how dismissive you are of people who don’t count in your world view, the people who actually use the stops to be eliminated, and the snide comment about “transit as a hobby”. For your information, I have been a transit rider for all of my life and know exactly what that’s all about.


    My apologies about that comment. It was not directed at you, but rather at the issue that a lot of people just talk about these issues online with passion, but without really thinking about why people choose to take transit, and how to keep riders.

    I still stand by the idea to consolidate, and as stated before, many North American transit agencies are doing this now.

    It just does not make sense to have stops spaced a block from each other, and an extra 30 seconds of walking is not going to hardship anyone.

    I think we will see stop consolidation primarily in the inner city, as stop spacing in the suburbs is already farther apart, and buses are able to pick up good speeds on suburban roads.

    So overall, lets look at this as an opportunity. Imagine a surface streetcar network like the Zurich tram system.

    In Munich for example, some streetcar routes have stop spacing of an average of 400 meters in the inner city. That is almost the same as the map I posted before.


  7. Steve how many of these stops are on Spadina? Are they not now about 250-300 apart now. Are they not now basically wherever it crosses a route or major.

    Based on the listed stops not sure which stop would be removed. How many additional stops are there beyond those specific all listed?

    13 stops may be excessive, but really the timed stops are essential, and eliminating all the others would seem a little much.

    Steve: I am not sure exactly what you are asking, but I will try to answer.

    The existing stops on Spadina from North to South are Sussex*, Harbord, Willcocks*, College, Baldwin/Nassau*, Dundas, Sullivan*, Queen, Richmond* (NB only), King, Front, Bremner, Queens Quay. Those marked * are not at an arterial, but all are at traffic signals. I wouldn’t get rid of any of them, with the possible exception of Sussex, as they are all well-used at various times of the day. The biggest problem in the afternoon peak is that from roughly College north there is often no room on the streetcars for boarding passengers. That’s a rather drastic way to cut usage counts.

    Spadina cars are commonly delayed by traffic signals that work against them rather than for them. I have a hard time talking about the time saving that might arise from removing stops when delays at intersections contribute at least as much to the slow trip.


  8. Sorry Steve I was talking about arterials vs non where the gap would not be crazy. I was talking stops that could be reasonably removed should Toronto actually attempt real transit priority.

    I was looking at listed stops and could not see any obvious deletions. I could see looking at spacing if they were running nonstop between.

    I suspect that given this failure is one of the reason for resistance to LRT and BRT. It makes one wonder about this being a form of political sabotage of non subway alternatives.


  9. Steve:

    Actually, he is listening to the same consultant who wrote the Neptis report.

    @Michael: Aha! He was having lunch with Michael Schabas. That explains everything. They will probably use ICTS cars to develop a “Made in Ontario Technology” that will be incapable of operating in the snow or at speed greater than 80 km/h.

    About the proposed HSR: there is a made-in-Ontario solution that if implemented, will work with less emissions than what comes from current DMU’s in use by VIA.

    Steve: I am not sure we need yet another development project given to Bombardier by Queen’s Park. Why, oh why, can’t Ontario simply build with technology that is already proven elsewhere rather than turning transportation projects into industrial development schemes?


  10. Well, today is another day when I did not ride the streetcar because my local stop has been removed. I used to be able to sprint to the 39th Street stop if I saw the streetcar pulling out of the loop, but sprinting to 37th is right out (and I will miss the streetcar anyway), and obviously sprinting to the loop, which includes crossing Lake Shore on a leisurely traffic signal, won’t work because the streetcar has left the loop.

    For those who say “well, you could read the schedule, or use real-time tracking”, experience shows that many operators leave on their personal timetable, which makes the printed schedule useless and online predictions (which are based on the printed ones while the car is laying over) equally useless.

    I also went back to the TTC report. In the intro, it includes the 502 in its list of routes. But 502 is not included in the list of route changes. The west end of the 502 is currently on Queen at McCaul (I don’t think operators will take you up to McCaul loop; at least every 502 I’ve been on, the operator says “get off here” at the McCaul stop). Reading this literally, there will be a stop WB on Queen at McCaul, but it will be for 502 only. Reading this as ‘the usual’, it means that everyone on a 502 will get pitched off at St. Patrick. Sometimes I have take a 502 because there’s no 501 coming, and I might as well continue walking west from McCaul. I guess now I’ll get more exercise — or not bother with the 502 at all.

    Steve: There is (was?) a stop on McCaul both ways at the loop which I have used. I think that getting rid of the stops at McCaul, especially westbound, is another of the false economies inflicted on us by the TTC.


  11. I know that discussion of this Report was initially postponed but from the TTC Minutes – and the discussion above – I can actually see no sign of it ever returning for a ‘final decision”. Has it been short-turned?

    I found this in the May minutes:

    14. Improving Pedestrian Safety and Customer Journey Times: Transit Stops

    Chair Augimeri moved that the Board:

    1. authorize staff to proceed with the recommended changes to the stops in the staff report where consensus has been reached; and

    2. refer the remaining stops identified in the staff report back to staff for further consultation with local Councillors and for report back to the next meeting.

    Steve: I suspect that the “consultation” is taking longer than expected.


  12. If I use the iOS app Rocket Man on my iPhone I get real time locations of every vehicle on a route. This shows large gaps and bunching, so reflects the unique characteristics of some operators. Definitely stop removal is inconvenient, but this app can help plan for this inconvenience.

    Steve: I have been looking in detail at data for King and one thing that shows up is that the time lost at the “deleted” stops is often less than the time spent at stops that are retained. The difference is that the deleted stops don’t have traffic signals, and so a streetcar is less likely to be caught by a red signal when serving these stops.


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