TTC Board Meeting June 24, 2014

The TTC Board met a light agenda and little inclination to debate. As events at City Hall wind down toward the October election, there are no major decisions, and Commissioners in the Karen Stintz camp have succeeded in blocking any significant policy discussions until 2015. This leaves the Commission and Council going into the election and next year’s budget process without background information that could be useful in quick implementation of a policy shift in the post-Ford era at City Hall.

If it is any consolation, Stintz currently is polling at 3%, below the “don’t know” category.

Items of interest on the agenda include:

Details on the debate and actions taken, if any, follow the break.
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Queens Quay Reopening for Streetcars Delayed Again (Update June 24, 2014)

Updated June 24, 2014 at 11:35 pm with additional info from the TTC. Please scroll down to the end of the article.

Updated June 19, 2014 at 11:15 am: Waterfront Toronto has replied to my query about the status of the Queens Quay project. This has been added to the end of the article.

In what is becoming a distressingly common TTC tactic, the first sign of delays to the Harbourfront streetcar’s return has again appeared buried deep in the monthly CEO’s Report in the TTC Board’s meeting agenda.

The report now shows two separate dates for resumption of service to Queens Quay:

Queens Quay Union Stn to Yo Yo Ma Lane
Jul 29/12 – Oct 11/14
Waterfront Toronto
Queens Quay Reconstruction

Spadina Ave. and Queens Quay including Loop
May 13/13 – Aug 30/14
Platform Upgrades & Track Replacement

[See table on page 21]

I wrote to the TTC’s Brad Ross about this slippage, and also asked whether another factor was the planned opening date for the second platform at Union Station (which provides access to the Union Station Loop). He replied:

QQ may well be ready, but then again it may not. As you can appreciate, we had to schedule service as bus in case it wasn’t ready.

Union second platform is to open this summer. I don’t have a specific date to share yet.

What astounds me here is that the trackwork on Queens Quay is nearly complete, except for the section west of Spadina which is not required for restoration of streetcar service to Union Station.

When I pressed Ross further on the issue of opening east from Spadina, he replied:

Our track and overhead staff do not have a high level of confidence of readiness. We have made clear to WT in the strongest terms possible, our desire to have QQ back.

I will pursue this issue with Waterfront Toronto to get their side of the story.

Updated June 19, 2014:

Waterfront Toronto replies:

We are working collaboratively with TTC to substantially complete the construction of both the Spadina Loop and the streetcar corridor on Queens Quay by the end of June to give TTC crews the time they need to commission the line. To date, we have completed over 90% of the construction and have begun installing TTC poles along the corridor. Unfortunately, due to a collapsed telecommunications duct bank in the roadway west of Spadina (which is now repaired), reconstruction of the streetcar corridor in that block has been delayed by approximately two weeks. While we are working diligently to provide TTC crews the time they need to commission the line in that area, we fully respect their Service Planning process and the decision to have buses available to serve customers on the 509 Harbourfront line through September. We are pleased that the TTC will resume the 510 Spadina streetcar service to the newly rebuilt Spadina Loop as of August 31 and that we are on schedule to deliver the fully revitalized Queens Quay next June.

Updated June 24, 2014 at 11:35 pm:

Today I spoke with TTC CEO Andy Byford who advises that a major problem for the TTC is not the completion of the track, but the availability of poles on which to string the overhead. This is a particular problem at Queens Quay and Spadina where even getting the loop open for August 31 may be a challenge.

From various Waterfront Toronto construction reports, I know that work west of this intersection has been delayed first by the unexpected collapse of a Bell duct, and also while work was put on hold so the area could be used for staging of new track panels. That said, it is difficult to believe that WT cannot get the new poles installed promptly now that the intersection construction is largely complete. I will follow this up with WT for further info.

Reconstruction of Dundas & Spadina

The TTC and Toronto Water will be rebuilding their infrastructure at Dundas & Spadina this summer.

Here are the preliminary plans for TTC service as supplied by Brad Ross:

  • July 14-28: Water main work in the intersection. 510 Spadina will run with buses over its entire route. 505 Dundas cars will divert both ways via McCaul, College and Bathurst.
  • July 28-August 11: Track work. 510 Spadina will be split into two routes. The northern section will run to Baldwin looping via College, Huron and Baldwin to Spadina. The southern section will run to Sullivan and will simply make a U-turn at that intersection.
  • August 11 onward: Bus operation will continue on 510 Spadina while reconstruction at Spadina Station Loop for new streetcars continues. The 505 Dundas car will return to its normal routing.

August 31, 2014 is the start of the next schedule period, and at that time new streetcars will make their debut in service on 510 Spadina running south to Queens Quay Loop. As previously reported here, service to Union Station is not expected until the next set of schedules on Thanksgiving weekend.

A Father of LRT Speaks in Waterloo

On June 11, Dr. Vukan Vuchic spoke in the Council Chamber of the Waterloo Region Council on the subject of medium capacity transit modes. Dr. Vuchic has been around transportation issues for decades. He organized the first Transportation Research Board Light Rail Conference in 1975 in Philadelphia, an event that became a series of 12 such meetings, the last in 2012.

Dr. Vuckic’s presentation (just over an hour long) covers a lot of historical ground going back to the early days when “LRT” as a mode distinct from “streetcars” – the missing link between bus systems and full-scale subways or rapid transit – started to gain popularity. Vuchic’s speaking style isn’t breezy. He could cover his material faster (and probably with less text on the Powerpoints running behind him), but he gives us the history of transit evolution over four decades.

This is not an all LRT, all the time, presentation, and it gives fair credit to the importance of buses at the core of transit systems. The point, as always, is to use the right mode for each implementation.

TTC Service Changes for June 22, 2014 (Update 2)

Service changes to be implemented on June 22 include a large number of seasonal cutbacks in service on a par with what was done in 2013. There is an unusually large amount of construction underway around the city and this is reflected both in adjusted schedules and in a much higher than budgeted number of hours for construction-related service. This activity is one of the constraints on service growth for 2014.

Updated June 18, 2014: With the reopening of Cherry Street south of Mill Street, the 172 Cherry bus will resume its normal routing through the Distillery District (via Parliament, Mill and Cherry) on Saturday, June 21.

29 Dufferin will be formally scheduled as an articulated bus route on weekdays. Although there will be fewer vehicles than at present, the reduction is smaller than the relative size of the vehicles giving an increase in route capacity. This may be offset by service reliability as happened already on 7 Bathurst.

The Queen and King streetcar routes will divert around track construction at Broadview & Queen from June 30 to July 25.

501 Queen cars which are now diverting both ways via Broadview, Gerrard and Coxwell will alter their route to divert via Parliament, Gerrard and Coxwell.

504 King cars now diverting both ways around the Don Bridge constuction via Parliament and Queen will alter their route to divert via Parliament and Dundas.

501/502 bus replacement service on Queen will divert both ways via Pape, Dundas and River. As with the diversion service already in operation for the Queen & Leslie track work, these buses will loop downtown via Church, Richmond and Victoria. There will be no 503 Kingston Road Tripper service to York & Wellington.

2014.06.22_Service_Changes (Updated June 13, 2014)

An Interactive Display of Boston Subway Performance Data

For those who can’t get enough of charts showing the behaviour of TTC routes, I highly recommend a visit to Visualizing MBTA Data, a project of Mike Barry and Brian Card at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

In their article, they show data for the movement of trains, for headways and for trip times between points, not to mention station usage counts. All of this can be explored interactively to view specific sections of the network.

(For more details about their project, please see this handout from a recent presentation.)

As they note, the idea of plotting train movements goes back to the 19th century. I certainly didn’t invent it. The biggest challenge has been to take masses of data from the TTC and convert them to a format that is digestible and illustrates various factors of transit operations.

An encouraging note: the TTC is now doing some of this type of analysis itself, and this will inform work on improved scheduling and better monitoring of service quality.

Analysis of 7 Bathurst Bus: What Is The Effect of Articulated Buses? (Part II)

In the first part of this series, I reviewed the headways operated on 7 Bathurst Bus during the months of March and April 2014, with December 2006 for historical comparison.

This article looks at running times for the route, the time needed for buses to travel from one place to another, and the differences between each of the three months’ worth of data.

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TTC Board Meeting of May 28, 2014

I have been remiss in completing my coverage of the TTC Board meeting on May 28 as other issues and activities have drawn my attention.

The big issue was the $47-million so-called surplus in the 2013 operating results which I addressed in an earlier article. Let’s just say it was one of the less well-informed debates I have seen in my years watching the TTC.

Another issue of note was the matter of eliminating stops on the streetcar system, an issue also covered elsewhere on this site.

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John Lorinc and the Sad Story of Scarborough Transit

For those who may not follow their site, Spacing Toronto has an excellent series by John Lorinc about the machinations at City Hall and Queen’s Park behind the many changes in transit plans for Scarborough.

Reading through this, and in particular the double-dealing at Queen’s Park, not to mention self-serving moves by some city councillors, it is impossible to have any faith in plans or grand statements about the future of our transit system. Even worse, any thought of transparency is a fiction, and transit planning is a secret, political exercise utterly devoid of credibility.

This is not news to those of us who watch the process close up, but seeing the gory details on Scarborough brings a stench of opportunistic grandstanding to every other transit scheme on the table. Does anyone actually care about transit riders, or are we just buying votes with billion dollar promises?

Plans by Murray and Tory: Steve Visits Goldhawk

On June 2, 2014, I appeared on Dale Goldhawk’s radio show talking about both the Murray High Speed Rail plan and the Tory “SmartTrack” scheme. A podcast of the show is available on Goldhawk’s site (running time about 34 minutes).

Even with half an hour, we couldn’t talk about everything including those pesky details that make superficially attractive projects run aground.


[Photo by Zoomer Radio]