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:
- The CEO’s report for June 2014
- How would the TTC use $100 million?
- Service adjustments for the Eglinton-Crosstown construction project
- Would early closing of the subway on summer weekends aid with scheduling of maintenance work?
- Free Wi-Fi on surface vehicles
- Scarborough Subway Extension update
Details on the debate and actions taken, if any, follow the break.
Although there has been talk of new measures of TTC system and route performance, the same tired and rather meaningless numbers continue to appear. These claim to give us the percentage of trips by each mode and each rapid transit line that operate within 3 minutes of the scheduled headway. As I have written before, on the subway it is close to mathematically impossible for these scores to fall below 90%, and even if half the peak service were missing, headways would still be within an acceptable range. Despite the generous treatment of “on time” performance, the surface modes continue to achieve about 2/3 of their trips in the target range, and this translates to a typical rider encountering off-target services many times each month.
Continuing to publish meaningless statistics about something as public and easy to challenge as service quality makes one ponder the quality of other performance measures. The TTC needs to look at the system at a level of detail where truly appalling conditions for one area, route or time are not masked by better than average numbers elsewhere. This information must be published both as an acknowledgement of just how bad some parts of the system can be, and to give political and senior managerial impetus to improvements.
The new streetcars are one of TTC’s current “megaprojects” and a handful of new cars are to enter service on 510 Spadina on August 31. The very long development time has been frustrating for the TTC not to mention for advocates like me, and the lack of detailed information on aspects of the delay — redesign for accessibility, teething problems with technology, whatever else might have happened — should be published so that the public, media and politicians can understand how much work went into the new cars. Looking at the ongoing problems with the TR subway trains — supposedly a state of the art product — leave one fearing for the success of the new streetcar’s launch.
Meanwhile, the TTC still does not publish reliability statistics for its various fleets, a practice that was dropped years ago as part of the slimmed down reports from senior management for a Commission that preferred not to bother itself with details. We know what the cleanliness index is for stations and what riders think of the TTC, but don’t publicly track vehicle reliability.
Ridership and The Budget
Ridership continues to run below projected levels due to the extremely cold winter, and the 2014 projection is now 537 million, down 3m from the budget level. Expenses are essentially on budget, but there is an $8.1m hole in the projected subsidy even without allowing for added costs of the recent labour negotiations. This puts a recent scheme to use a $47m “surplus” from 2013 for a 2015 fare freeze even more laughable, not to mention fiscally irresponsible.
Already thanks to budget constraints, service improvements planned for early fall have been pushed back a few months and without a fiscal rescue package from City Council, they may vanish completely. This situation is not mentioned in the CEO’s report even though it will become even more pressing right at election time.
Once again, TTC management blames those pesky Metropass users for diluting the revenue stream rather than acknowledging that as more travellers shift to transit, they are more likely to purchase the more cost-effective fare.
Capital spending has run at a lower rate than budgeted thanks to slippage of various projects from their original schedule. Notably, the Spadina extension is still allegedly opening in 2016, but this is going to be a challenge given problems with some station construction contracts. Privately, the more common date TTC talks about is 2017.
Subway Signal and Track Upgrades
The resignalling project for 1 Yonge-University-Spadina is another whose schedule has been stretched out. The TTC expects to cut over the lower part of the “U” (Bloor to St. George Station) at the end of July to a new system (there are two shutdowns for testing already scheduled in July), but this only replaces the existing, antique relay-based block signal system with a modern equivalent.
With this new system in place, the three crossovers added to the system (where they had previously existed on the original Yonge line) can be activated with signal control. The tentative plan for this work is:
- King crossover at some time after the July 26-27 cutover to the new system
- College crossover in spring 2015
- St. Clair / Rosehill crossover in fall 2015
Activating these crossovers is not simply a matter of adding signals, but also of restructuring the power feeds nearby so that, for example, a power cut at Dundas does not prevent use of the crossover at College.
Automatic Train Control (ATC) will come much later and will be phased in over the YUS:
- Phase 1 Wilson to Dupont – Oct 2018
- Phase 2 Dupont to Eglinton – Jan 2019
- Phase 3 Eglinton to York Mills Mar 2019
- Phase 4 York Mills to Finch May 2019
- Phase 5 Wilson Yard Mainline July 2019
- Phase 6 TYSSE including Downsview (Sheppard West) Dec 2019
Thanks to the TTC’s Brad Ross for this info.
Another major project that has been set back a few years is the track reconstruction between Muir and Berwick portals on the Yonge line (aka the Davisville Area Rehabilitation Project or DARP). The final design of what might be done here has not been settled, and the project has been pushed out to 2016 to avoid conflict with the Pan Am Games next year.
Presto Fare Card
The Presto fare card project will come into limited operation on the TTC this fall with the rollout of new streetcars. A schedule for the full implementation including the bus network is still being negotiated with Metrolinx.
The Metrolinx Board received its own report on the TTC Presto rollout on June 26. One new item this report shows is a plan to migrate to new fare gates in selected locations beginning with Spadina Station.
The “wave 1” rollout will include only the first four streetcar lines to receive new cars (Spadina, Bathurst, Harbourfront and Dundas) as well as a total of 26 subway stations (see map in the Metrolinx report).
The rollout will not begin until November 2014, and so Spadina’s new streetcars will operate with an interim form of fare collection yet to be announced by the TTC.
How Would the TTC Use $100 million?
At the March 2014 meeting, Commissioner Alan Heisey noted that the Toronto Port Authority had asked the federal government to provide $100m to fund access improvements to the Island Airport to support jet operation. By way of comparison, he asked (and moved a motion to this effect) what the TTC would do if it received $100m in new capital funding.
The staff report reviews the list of unfunded capital projects and flags the completion of McNicoll Garage as the top priority. This project was cut a few years ago when the TTC rolled back its Service Standards and, for a time, the total requirement for buses and the need for a new garage receded. Now, however, continued ridership growth and the absence of new rail lines to which load can be shifted brings Toronto to a position where expanding the bus fleet to support better service is difficult.
In a recent City TV news item featuring both Brad Ross and me, Ross is quite clear that the TTC service will get worse, that “we’re not delivering on what we have promised on service levels, and we have failed”.
This is only one example of the effect of the focus on the superficial, “good news” issues at the TTC and the absence of medium to long term strategic planning by the Commission and, through them, by City Council. While it is valid to challenge Queen’s Park to return to a level of funding commonly seen in the past and particularly to reinstate programs such as subsidies for bus purchases that were cancelled, the city needs to address two basic questions:
- What will we do with the transit system if there is little or no new money from Queen’s Park, and
- Is the ongoing dedication of funding both from the city and province to large-scale subway projects the best use of what monies are available?
Service Adjustments for the Eglinton Crosstown Project
This report lists a number of changes on various routes using the Eglinton corridor to compensate for construction delays with the Crosstown LRT work. This began with the tunnel boring machine (TBM) launch shaft construction east of Black Creek and the headwall construction work at various future stations, but now will expand to include the launch shaft east of Brentcliffe and the shafts needed for the TBMs to “hop over” the Spadina Subway at Eglinton West Station.
Although the cost of the extra service is absorbed as part of the capital budget for the LRT project, this still is a call on available buses for the TTC and is one more drain on the system’s ability to provide more service on other routes.
Early Subway Closing on Weekends For Maintenance?
In May, the TTC’s Audit Committee asked staff to report on the possibility of closing the subway early on summer weekends to provide an additional maintenance window. As the report back from staff points out, even though the rush hour tends to be early, especially on holiday weekends, there is very strong demand on the subway system on Friday evenings to the point that a bus shuttle replacing the subway would be impractical.
Mercifully, the identity of the originator of this request does not appear (yet) in Audit Committee minutes, but one must really ask who on the TTC Board is so out of touch with actual system use to be unaware of the very strong offpeak demand downtown.
Fortunately, feedback from businesses show that this scheme is impractical and it is unlikely to be implemented. The TTC will do riding counts to verify this.
Of course, this weekend is World Pride and the system may be rather busy — just one of the many demands for transit service that have nothing to do with conventional peak period commuting.
Free Wi-Fi on Surface Vehicles
In yet another example of misdirected focus, the Commission on a motion by Glenn De Baeremaeker, asked for a report on providing free Wi-Fi on all surface vehicles. Staff’s response is that this will not be practical until the rollout of a new automatic vehicle location system (AVL) to replace the existing “CIS” (the antique communication system now used).
The reason for this is that any new AVL will use wireless communication, and Wi-Fi service for riders would piggyback on this.
While this could make TTC service somewhat more attractive to riders with limited data plans for their devices, one wonders whether this is really a high priority for the TTC. It is one of those “the private sector will pay” schemes even though most instances of “free” Wi-Fi are usually considered as a cost of doing business where this is offered.
The Scarborough Subway: Status Update
The subway extension is a matter of debate in the mayoral election campaign and both the City and the TTC are hedging their bets on irrevocably committing to the subway, or the earlier LRT proposal in Scarborough. Preliminary work on staffing and some background engineering will occur in 2014, but public consultation will not get underway until 2015.
If the project does launch, this would not occur until 2016 for property acquisition and design, with actual construction running from 2018 through 2023. The TTC will review the condition of the Tunnel Boring Machines from the Spadina extension project to determine if they are suitable and can be refurbished for a Scarborough line.
The public consultation and overall project planning will be run through the City’s Planning Division so that it reflects not just the technical issues of subway design and construction, but also the planning requirements to ensure economic success of any new line.
One wild card here will be the Metrolinx review of “regional relief” strategies and Ontario’s commitment to a “Regional Express Rail” service on all GO corridors within 10 years. A related proposal is John Tory’s “Smart Track” scheme that would see frequent service on the Stouffville GO corridor which, if operated as part of the TTC network, would drain many of the potential riders of a new subway line who originate in northern Scarborough and Markham.
It is unclear whether these factors will be included in the public participation meetings in 2015, or if in the best TTC/Toronto tradition, we will conduct the whole exercise as if GO Transit does not exist. Much will depend on the political balance at Council after the fall elections, and on the continued support by Queen’s Park of both a Scarborough subway and their own “RER” system.
There is great irony in the competition between the RER plans and supporters of the Downtown Relief Line as to the need for both services and their high capital costs. Meanwhile, a comparable situation in Scarborough goes without mention.
Further information about the study of regional relief will appear in my next article covering the June 26 Metrolinx Board meeting.
There are more finite limits to how much the voters and tax payers of the rest of the province will support, and limits to what you can raise now in property taxes. People will move to jobs elsewhere, and business will move to opportunity where taxes are less. You need a reasonable level of taxes to provide all services, but you cannot exceed certain levels before people will start to leave. You cannot merely allocate an additional 10K from every Toronto household without being voted out. Political will only stretches so far regardless. Push it too far, and even if people vote for it, tax payers will leave. Realistically there are limits (and they are finite) to what will be supported, and to assert that you can have whatever is merely wishful and foolish thinking.
Finch is not a controversial project at all. I will be saddened if it is not built, as it will provide crucial access for people in Jane-Finch and Rexdale- Mount Olive to the RT system. It gets tiring to hear all the LRT bashing in the outer 416. I’m looking at you Michael.
I’d swear that I’ve been on a CLRV on Gerrard East near 80 km/hr in the wee hours of the morning, when it hasn’t stopped from Broadview to Coxwell and hit all the greens. Ditto for a 504 car running all-but-empty between Broadview and Greenwood on Queen. It was certainly well above 60 km/hr!
Surely Queen cars on Queensway between Sunnyside and Humber Loop would be able to hit such speeds in the middle of the night.
Any idea what the new streetcars hit during the speed trials on Queen Street East last fall? I walked past one evening, and it was very impressive to watch how fast they accelerated and braked! I’d have think they were hitting 80 km/hr.
Steve: No, I don’t know what speed the new cars made. As for The Queensway, it used to be quite fast until the TTC safety boffins instituted a slow order at intersections and the “transit priority” lights made a hash of the former speedy running times. BTW, a Peter Witt car can get up to a decent speed on a dead run eastbound from Humber Loop in the middle of the night, albeit not to 80km/h.
Can I ask what crucial access you are talking about? So instead of taking 45 minutes for riders to access the subway, the LRT will cut that down to what, 43 minutes? An LRT on Finch in the middle of the road, is not rapid transit. It will do nothing to reduce commute times for Jane-Finch or Rexdale residents at all.
If you want to reduce their commutes, provide express buses to the nearest subway station.
But let’s stop pretending middle of the road LRT is going to provide rapid transit, because it is not.
I am not bashing LRT. I love LRT, when it is done right (Calgary, Edmonton). But we are not doing it like that, and I cannot see the need to spend billions on lines that are just going to be as slow as the buses they are replacing.
Transit has to compete with the auto. It may not always be faster, but it has to offer a reasonable travel time compared to the car. And in certain circumstances and if possible, it should offer a faster ride.
Toronto has outstanding service frequency, transit coverage, and hours of service. So one of the main reasons people who don’t take transit, don’t take it, is travel time. And studies show this as well.
Transit cannot just sit back. It has to rise to the challenge, and part of that is competing with the auto more.
GO Transit is not well used because it is slow. It is because in certain circumstances it can be as fast or faster than driving.
To keep transit a service used by all, and not just people without an option, we have to continue to improve and offer competitive services to the auto.
In terms of Kennedy, you may not think it is a big deal. But that transfer is a big decision in whether someone takes transit or not, and it must be rectified. And it is not just about downtown travel.
Plenty of people travel intra-Scarborough and within the east end. And currently many have a forced transfer at Kennedy.
I travel to the Danforth often, for example. Driving time is only 20 minutes. Including my feeder bus ride, the current trip can take anywhere from 35-40 minutes by transit. Removing the transfer at Kennedy, and all of a sudden, that trip is 25 minutes. Pretty competitive with the car.
What about Warden Station to STC for shoppers? Currently that trip is long due to the forced transfer at Kennedy. With a subway extension, that trip becomes an easy 10 minute trip. Faster than the car.
Steve: If you were talking about trips that would substitute a subway ride for a bus ride, I might agree with you. However, you are comparing trips that would be subway+LRT to subway-only and claiming a huge penalty for the Kennedy transfer which is simply not true with the planned new terminal layout. You also choose to ignore benefits for, for example, people whose destination will not be on the subway line, but would be on the LRT. Just as not everyone in Scarborough is going downtown, not everyone is going to STC either.
Your inbound trip to the Danforth you claim would drop by 10-15 minutes just by getting rid of the transfer at Kennedy. This is not credible.
Yes that is creditable. You have mentioned many times a 10 minute decrease in travel time with no transfer at Kennedy.
And my own experience also points to a penalty of 10 – 15 minutes, especially on eastbound trips, where you sit in tunnels approaching Kennedy.
Steve: And so we spend $1b to fix the fact that the TTC gives its trains too much running time and they queue up waiting to get into Kennedy?
No. The $1b is being spent to correct a wrong that was done over 25 years ago.
The money is there plain and simple, so it does not matter if it is $1 billion, as that money was made available for the subway extension.
Why not just get it right from now, instead of relating the mistake made 25 years ago? Would you rather we make the mistake again, and then spend $4 billion in another 25 years to fix the Kennedy issue?
As was stated, the money is there, and the city sets priorities. Toronto had the money for subways when we were a lot smaller. So this idea that there is no money is false. Toronto is spending more money than any other region in North America on transit right now. The money is there.
The biggest issue is, are we going to waste this unheard of amount of transit expansion money on projects that will do little attract people to transit and improve mobility. Or are we going to do proper projects that bring us rapid transit?
Spending billions of dollars on LRT lines down the middle of the street, and building forced transfers at places like Kennedy and Don Mills stations, is not the way to grow transit, and make it a viable travel alternative.
Lets get the backbone in place, with subway extensions, and turning GO Trains into frequent metro style service. Then you can have all the local feeder LRT lines you want down all the major roads of Toronto if you want.
But we have to stop the lie that building these LRT lines will bring rapid transit to people. Because it is not, and that is the issue I have. Don’t tell Malvern they are losing out, when you, I, and everyone else knows a surface LRT down Morningside will do nothing to improve commute times for anyone in Malvern.
Or telling Jane and Finch people they need LRT so they can get places faster. Totally false. It will take them just as long.
Or telling Scarborough people an LRT line from Kennedy will serve them better. When we all know the subway extension will attract more people to transit than the LRT line.
And the Markham argument has no bearings in this debate. If a subway extension is so attractive that some Markham residents are going to take it, then fine. I don’t see that as an issue. I see that as a great, that even more people want to use transit.
Sitting in a tunnel for 10 minutes while approaching Kennedy, STC, Sheppard, or wherever makes no difference. Nice try though.
You might want to check your dates because the city had absolutely no plans to extend the Bloor-Danforth line 25 years ago and in fact was planning to expand the then 5 year old RT.
Considering how money loses value over time, spending $4 billion 25 years from now would be a bargain.
Steve: Moreover, there is a fixation on “The Kennedy Issue” without reference to either structural changes to reduce the inconvenience of the transfer or of operational issues to address train queueing at the terminal.
Not to mention not factoring in the wait time resulting from the short turns at Kennedy when it comes to the “time saved” with the subway extension.
You may think the transfer is trivial, but it is not in terms of the riders who actually have to use it. No matter what structural changes are done, you are still asking people to get off halfway through their trip, to complete what should be a one seat ride.
Is your desire to see mode share and ridership increase? If it is, then you need to make transit convenient. Currently, the Kennedy transfer makes transit not convenient.
Again, it is like asking Yonge riders to switch trains at Rosedale to complete a trip to Finch. Or asking Bloor riders to transfer at Old Mill, to complete a trip to Kipling.
The only reason short turn trains would be used, is because the trains would be so full coming from STC, that some trains would have to start further down the line to ensure capacity. But short turns would not be done because of a lack of ridership east of Kennedy.
Steve: The plan for the Scarborough subway quite clearly involves sending only half of the service beyond Kennedy during the peak period, possibly off-peak also. This is based on the number of trains budgeted for the extension.
In fact the TTC should probably short turn trains on the present subway at say Main Street, to offer rush hour passengers in the inner city a little more room on the trains.
Waiting an extra minute or two for a train is not as tough as a forced transfer.
I really don’t get the obsession with wanting to force transfers on people just so you can use a different train for no good reason.
The majority of people taking transit in Scarborough are coming into the subway system by feeder bus. You are asking them to transfer from a bus to an LRT, and then onto the subway. Then they could just take their feeder bus and transfer onto one subway, and continue their trip to wherever they are going, be it downtown, or other points in the east.
Let’s actually listen to transit riders and potential transit riders. And if we do, we find that the transfer at Kennedy is a major issue, and that people see no reason for needing to transfer onto a different train there. You will also see that once people find out LRT is going to operate down the middle of the road on Eglinton and Sheppard, that people in Scarborough do not support LRT in that form. They don’t because it will be too slow to offer a competitive transit trip to the auto.
I have not talked to one person in Scarborough or any of the suburbs, that wants subways because it means transit is out of the way of cars. They want subways and GO Trains, because they are fast, and provide a competitive trip to the auto. I also have talked to people who are in favor of LRT, if it is done like in Edmonton or Calgary, on railroad right of ways, elevated, tunneled, or in a fully segregated and full priority line, with trains operating at high speeds.
But that is not the LRT we are getting.
Steve: You have made this point over and over and over again, and there is no point in repeating my previous reply as we clearly don’t agree. Please don’t post another variation on this comment as it will be deleted.
Michael suggests that a subway will suddenly make it more viable to use transit to get from Warden station to STC for shopping. He is ignoring that the subway will no longer have a station at STC. It will have a station at McCowan and Progress — basically renaming McCowan station to STC and hoping people won’t notice that it’s 400 metres away. Everyone going from B-D to STC on the subway alignment will see any time savings at Kennedy eaten up by the walk from McCowan to STC.
I have seen maps from the 40s (?) that showed the difference in travel time to Queen and Yonge under the then streetcar network, and under the proposed rapid transit network. I would love to see a similar map showing change in travel time to, say, Warden station from everywhere east of there, taking into account the eliminated transfer at Kennedy, but also taking into account removed and relocated stations, changes in walking distance, changes in feeder bus access (westbound riders on Sheppard would intercept a station on the LRT line before reaching the subway alignment, etc.).
I have the solution for the squabbles between those from Scarborough that say the subway is important and for Steve who thinks that the subway will be too expensive.
The city should agree to build the Scarborough subway extension when Metrolinx plans to double track the Stouffville line, run 15-20 min service all day, and have Metrolinx think of a way to pay for it. Until then, there is no reason why we need to build a subway when the right of way is perfectly fine right now. Double tracking would likely require the space from the RT and it would then make sense to expand the subway to Scarborough Centre.
What is hindering the full use of the RT is the lack of RT cars for expansion. The whole point of LRT conversion is that we can actually run enough cars for service (from crappy 4 car RTs to 6 car LRT at subway intervals). Like the Sheppard subway, the RT line is ready to convert to six car use already (pending a summer of construction to make the platform look nice). What makes the current situation crappy is that the RTs can not expand and are breaking down due to their age. The RT situation is a ticking time bomb, and when the RTs have to be decommissioned due to a lack of replacement parts, then we really will see extended bus shuttles due to the waiting time for the subway to be finished. The alternative is to buy equally old RTs from Vancouver or Detroit and hope that the parts are still useable.
If, as Michael says that the transfer at Kennedy is hindering transit from blooming, then the parking lots at Kennedy, Warden would be full everyday, not be 3/4 full at Kennedy and 1/3-1/2 full at Warden. If the transfer is truly irritating, then people would naturally choose to drive to the station and avoid the RT. People choose to do what is convenient for them, and in this case the RT transfer is not an inconvenience that would make them consider driving to the station.
Under the topic “What would the TTC do with $100m?” as noted in your report of the June 24th TTC Board meeting, there is a list of funded and unfunded TTC projects. This list makes no mention of the proposed Waterfront East “LRT” line although Glen Murray (previous Minister of Transport) noted during the recent Ontario election campaign that planning is proceeding on this project. If this is not a Metrolinx project why would Mr Murray be claiming an involvement in it, and if it is a TTC responsibility, why does it not appear on the Funded/Unfunded list? Might it be that there remains an expectation that Waterfront Toronto is funding this promised extension?
Steve: There are projects that are, in effect, “below below-the-line” because someone might fund them some day, but they are not in the TTC’s “must have” list. The DRL and the Richmond Hill subway are in a similar situation.
That is a great idea to get more analysis out. The problem with Transit City and to some extent the subway extensions, is that we have not been given clean information on travel time savings, ridership growth, new people attracted to transit, etc.
There are some reports that do show the subway attracting more ridership. But let’s get more data, I am all for that.
I suspect the lack of data stems from the fact that the Transit City LRT lines have lackluster ridership attraction and speed improvements, that advocates don’t want that data being analyzed.
Steve: Much of the discussion depends on the assumptions that go into the model. The boosted riding on the Scarborough subway is a direct effect of assignment of trips that should be on GO Transit and will be when they improve service. At that point, the “justification” for the subwy based on riding falls apart. But that’s not what the subway advocates want to have analyzed.
So that future needs can be met with minimizing additional places where people are forced to transfer.
There comes a point where the benefits of extending a mode capable of a large level of capacity simply cannot be justified and a transfer is necessary. Feeding a high capacity subway line with a medium capacity LRT line has the benefit of future extensions that do not have to be designed with the capabilities and cost of the higher end of that medium capacity line. Unlike subways, LRT can be extended where only the lower end of its capacity range is needed and do so at a lower cost by implementing the extension without having to maintain a fully separated right of way with all its costs. Subway can only be extended fully separated with the high cost that goes with it.
Why is it so important that a mode change from LRT to subway causes an insurmountable hardship, but forcing people further out to have to take a longer feeder bus and endure a bus-to-subway transfer acceptable?
Extending the subway three stops into Scarborough will force most transit users to endure the same length of feeder bus rides followed by a multi-level transfer to a subway that will trim five minutes off of their current total trip time. Building an LRT line will shorten a low number of those current feeder bus rides a little, but for the majority of feeder bus riders the transfer from bus to LRT will be faster than bus to subway. I would go so far as to suggest that the combined bus to LRT transfer and the LRT to subway transfer would not be any longer than a single bus to subway transfer. People love to forget their vertical transit times as if they don’t exist.
More importantly, an LRT replacement for the SRT will leave us with a system that can be extended for less money, which translates to less political arm twisting. Given that it seems political arm twisting takes far longer than construction does, that means using a new extension a lot sooner. Added to this, extensions further out into less dense areas can switch to a non-separated right of way, possibly with separate branches to reach even further. Those non-separated right of way extensions naturally move a little slower, but the one-seat ride more than makes up for this.
Not every situation can have a one-seat ride, but is it not better to provide a one-seat ride because it makes for other advantages such as a lower cost extension better than providing a one-seat ride just because it would be a nice thing to have?
Why should it or any other ride be one seat? Show me anywhere that you or anyone is guaranteed a one seat ride anywhere. I used to live at Lawrence and Warden and worked at Bathurst and Harbord. I had a 3 seat ride: Warden bus, Subway and Bathurst Car. Should the subway have turned up Warden to Lawrence to save me a transfer? I don’t think so.
At the outer ends of any service there is going to come a time when all the inner service is not warranted. With a bus you can short turn some of the service but with a rapid transit line there comes a point where you stop the line and run something else. Is the transfer done as well as it could be, NO! That does not mean that you should spend a fortune to extend the subway when there are other, better, more cost efficient ways. I am sorry that you will not get a one seat ride but if you do not work on Bloor street you won’t get one anyways.
Steve, can you clarify whether Michael’s repeated attack that on surface middle of road LRT is no faster than current local buses is true? This seems to be a very commonly used attack on middle of road LRTs. My impression is that this isn’t accurate.
Firstly, I would assume that LRT being on it’s own ROW is a significant advantage in terms of speed over current buses because (to state the obvious), they aren’t in traffic like current buses are and can’t get stuck in traffic (which from what I’ve seen is a significant problem on current buses).
I know the Eglinton LRT, has much wider stop spacing than the Eglinton East bus. Even for the surface section of the LRT, many bus stops are not LRT stops, stop spacing is wider. Wider stop spacing should result in higher speeds from what I understand.
Obviously the underground part with even wider stop spacing should have subway-like speeds.
Furthermore, I would expect dwell times (time spent per stop) would be lower due to all door low-floor boarding and proof of payment. Current buses often spend quite a lot of time when there are line-ups of people at the front door, some with strollers or shopping carts.
So, it’s difficult for me to imagine how the repeated claim that LRT is as slow than the current buses is true, which have very close stop spacing (often ~300m from what I see), not to mention the fact that buses are in traffic.
The Eglinton material always says it is 60% faster than current buses, although to be fair it has a large tunnel. Can you clarify for Finch & Sheppard?
Steve: On Finch and Sheppard, the improvement with LRT and a reserved lane is comparatively small beside Eglinton which has a tunnel, but the points you mention do come into play. An important one that is not mentioned in the promotional material for the LRT lines is that traffic congestion is expected to grow and this will slow down the bus service running in mixed traffic. Of course the subway advocates will say that this just proves the need to maintain the maximum available road space.
Thank you Steve for your response to my question about the Waterfront East LRT.
Not very encouraging is it?
I would say so. I find it interesting given how long this and the Waterfront West have been around as proposals very discouraging. The combination of these, even if they had to be rerouted a little to change how they linked up with each other and the balance of transit in the core are really important to changing the access for the southern portion of the city. They are ultimately very important to development, and continued flow in the face of development in the area. This is especially true if we are not building access to a Don Mills subway that will come close to the area south of Queen and Broadview.
I know that there are routing issues, however, I think that these could be resolved and need to be.
It does not matter if an LRT has reserved lanes in the middle of the road, because under the Toronto context, trains will not have full priority at intersections. Further more, because of safety issues, trains will also be restricted to operating no faster than the general traffic lanes.
This is totally different than LRT in say Calgary, where full priority, fences, and crossing arms, mean that even in the middle of the road, trains reach high speeds. Coupled of course with far spaced stations.
But under the Toronto context, LRT just cannot do that in the middle of the road.
Further more, places like Portland which already have middle of the road LRT like Transit City, show us how slow these lines are. Portland has some of the slowest LRT lines around. Minneapolis just opened a middle of the road LRT, and riders are already complaining the trains are slow and stopping at traffic lights. Again no full priority. For many riders, their ride is now longer than the bus the LRT replaced.
You cannot discredit travel time. It is one of the main reasons people choose to take or not take transit. Continued surveying even points to this.
Steve: To which my response is that if we are going to build LRT, we need to read the riot act to the City’s transportation department about transit priority. This does not mean an all-or-nothing approach like the TTC’s ill-considered scheme to completely take over King Street downtown, but of understanding what will be involved in giving true priority to transit. This includes things like ensuring green time extension so that a streetcar on a line with farside stops isn’t caught by a light that turns red just as it arrives. We wring our hands about saving seconds at a few “unnecessary” carstops whose absence will have almost no effect, but don’t go after the much more serious causes of delay on streetcar routes (an by extension, on LRT routes). Having a Mayor who only cares about getting streetcars out of his way does no good for transit.
Toronto has outstanding local transit service, even in the suburban 416. What we need to expand is the rapid transit network. And all I am saying, is that surface middle of the road LRT is not going to deliver the rapid transit we need. Local bus service can be made faster and more reliable with bus lanes.
But if we are going to do rapid transit, let’s do it right. If it is LRT, then it needs to be elevated, tunneled, or in a railway right of way. Operating down the middle of the road is not going to give us the rapid transit we need. If you want to sit on an LRT going down Sheppard for 45 minutes, to complete a trip that takes 10 minutes in a car, go a head. But the fact is, most people will not choose that.
The key here is not the mode type, but grade separation. If a line is fully grade separated and does not have to stop for one stop light, then it will provide the rapid transit desperately needed in this city.
But spending $7 billion to improve local service, I just do not feel is a good use of our transit expansion dollars. For that money, we could electrify the GO network, and operate a regional METRO service.
In terms of Scarborough, forcing a mode change halfway through a trip is not a good idea either, and I will continue to advocate for the subway extension.
You guys put way too much energy into the capacity issue. You are aware that half the world’s subways would probably not be operating under the capacity constraints you place Toronto subway extensions under? The Scarborough subway would not be underused or under capacity in the least, even with improved GO service.
You guys would be shutting down half the Chicago L system, with the ridership they have on their lines.
Steve: For readers’ reference, here are ridership counts and a map of the Chicago El. (For ridership by line, please scroll down to page 28 of the pdf.) Toronto numbers for comparison are here.
Almost all of the El lines have quite respectable ridership. An important distinction for Chicago is that the El has been around for a long time and could almost never be built in a “modern” city given its intrusiveness. Indeed, its physical dimensions restrict Chicago subway cars to vehicles about the size of a streetcar. Second, lines that go off into the suburbs are not all built underground at huge expense, but occupy surface corridors where possible. One hugs issue in Scarborough is that we are building a tunnel at the premium cost of construction and operation for a line that should be on the surface. That, after all, is what the Scarborough LRT (and a rather high end LRT at that) would be. If what people in Toronto were proposing was a network of (mainly) surface lines, then I think a lot of objection to “subways” might dissipate because we would be into a gray area where LRT and subway start to look a lot like each other. However, what we actually have available is a network of rail corridors that could support more intensive service for longer haul trips, and other corridors that would make good to excellent LRT lines.
One need only to look at the first section of VIVA’s Rapidway on Highway 7. This short (only about 2.5 km) section from just west of the 404 to just east of Bayview makes a noticeable decrease in travel time by a few minutes. What makes this even more impressive is that the Rapidway has one added station/stop over what the mixed-traffic operation had.
Automobile traffic moves a little better as well, as only the somewhat infrequent YRT Route 1 remains in the curb lane while the frequent VIVA service is totally removed.
Steve: A related issue here is that projected growth in road traffic will make the benefits of an LRT right-of-way even stronger in the future.
The first line built went south on an underused rail right of way beside the MacLeod Trail. I interviewed the general manager of Calgary Transit at the time and he said that they had to double the number of buses on that road because of increase in travel times. I remember his reply. He said: “We are not buying buses to improve transit but to store passengers in.” This is the problem we will be facing in the GTA. LRT will improve travel times but its real benefit is in keeping them from getting worse.
You cannot rely on increased traffic to justify transit lanes for a service which will still be slow. If we are worried about service reliability and consistent travel times, then we can paint bus lanes for a lot cheaper, and serve more corridors that way.
But the truth is, if an LRT still takes an hour to go across Sheppard, or Eglinton, or Finch, it is still not going to attract people.
Does Toronto have traffic? Yes it does. But the traffic issue is often blown out of proportion, as the local roads do get congested, but it still is not always that bad. And outside of the height of rush hour, most local arterials have pretty easy flowing driving.
The other day I was forced to drive into the city on a business day (I almost never drive into the city, and always take GO or the TTC). Anyway, the DVP leaving downtown at rush hour was packed. I got off and took local roads, and I was back in Scarborough in no time. Was there some traffic on the local roads? Yes there was. But it was, sadly, still faster than taking the TTC.
So we can’t rely on traffic to be so slow that transit can speed by slightly. We have to make transit as best as it can be, and attract people not just when traffic is heavy, but when it is not as well.
At the end of the day, people want to spend time with family, friends, and doing the things they love. Having them sit on an LRT or bus for an hour, just because driving also takes an hour, is not good enough for me. We should be offering them an option by transit that can get them where they are going in a reasonable amount of time, that is competitive with the car in off hours. And dare I say faster than the car in rush hour periods.
People take the EXPRESS GO Trains, because they can get people into the city way faster than driving in rush hour.
Steve: You have made this point many times, and I have talked about things like local travel and traffic growth thanks to population and redevelopment. We each have our position. Finis.
I find it interesting that you choose in effect to make Steve’s point with regards to the limits to which subway should be run, based on the fact that GO is faster. If you are travelling a longer distance, even if it is still within the 416, it makes more sense to have a fast direct service to a spot close to you destination. Hence the need for commuter rail to serve these longer trips. Local transit should also interact with this service (one of the relative failings I perceive in GTHA transit) as those stations become hubs for local transit. This transit needs to be coordinated in time with the commuter trains. Subway and LRT are meant to be intermediate distance.
Steve: FYI, I have cut off this thread.
I was wonder your thoughts on Commissioner Colle’s request for a study on express buses running for the longer bus routes such as Dufferin, Bathurst, Islington, Finch, etc. As I understand it, the “express” buses will use only the more heavier utilized stops in a well spaced out manner. It wouldn’t necessarily mean more resources as some of the currently assigned buses on those routes would be used.
Would it be a faster and more pleasant ride for longer distance passengers? Could it be effective? Has then been tried in the past in Toronto? In K-W they have “I-Express” which, I gather, has been successful.
Steve: The problem with a mix of express and local buses is always the question of “where do riders want to go”. If a substantial majority of riders are travelling between a small set of stops on a route, then an express service for just those stops can be useful. However, if the demand is spread out to more stops, then an express will miss many riders and give them a longer headway. The Bathurst bus, with artics, already has a fairly wide scheduled headway, and the time between either expresses or locals would add considerably to the wait time, never mind if the route were actually running reliably, which is not always the case.
On Jane, the TTC is adjusting the weekend service with the July schedules because they didn’t get the mix of express and locals right, and more demand remained on the locals than they anticipated. The change has been in operation on an unscheduled basis already, but this makes it formal. Of course, weekend travel patterns are different from weekdays, and anyone who plans a network for off-peak service based on peak travel behaviour will generally screw things up. This is a big problem with politicians who think about service — they forget that over half of TTC riding is outside of the peak. Too much “thinking” about transit focuses on the suburb to downtown commute. This is important, but not something that will be fixed with a handful of express routes, especially on a system that is already short of vehicles.
All that said, there are benefits in selected places for express services, but what we often see is the “squeaky wheel” syndrome, or a handful of specific services that might work given their geography, but not an overall pattern that works on every route.
Thanks for your reply Steve:
I gather, from your reply, that in a transit planning context, that is without reference to any specific bus route or even Toronto, that express bus route planning should take into account of different travel patterns between peak, weekday off peak, evenings and weekends. If there is a marked difference then there needs to be an adjustment in service which needs to be communicated to the riders. Thanks, I will be looking for that in the upcoming TTC report.
Your other points such as headway management, equipment and politicians are understood. Incidentally, I spent an hour at the Wilson Station pickup loop several weekends ago, which is next to the bus loop, and was shocked at how many Dufferin buses, many, if not all, were artics, left in close succession to each other.
Steve: Those buses leaving close together are a figment of your imagination.
Moaz: The first rule of TTC headway management … is that we do not talk about TTC headway management …
Steve: And the second rule is that we construct a measure of “on time performance” that masks the true extent of the problem.
The TTC could certainly use a host of express bus services, which would dramatically reduce commute times and make transit a lot more attractive.
The issue however, is that the TTC seems to have some sort of bias against express bus services. However where the TTC has either been forced to, or has tried express bus services, the ridership has almost always been much much higher than projected.
Just off the top of my head, there should be express bus services from Malvern / Morningside Heights to Scarborough Centre or Sheppard-Yonge stations; express extensions to downtown on east side north-south buses like Coxwell, Greenwood, and Woodbine; express extensions from west side north-south routes to downtown, like Kipling; the Kingston Road streetcars should be replaced by bus and operate express to downtown from Lakeshore, point to point express service from major subway stations to major destinations, to provide more rapid cross town service; and enhanced limited stop service on most major corridors.
The public has a huge appetite for express bus services, and we are not providing it. Montreal is a good example of a place that has been enhancing express offerings with outstanding success. They took one area of the West Island where buses ran at best every 30-60 minutes, and started an express service. The bus route now operates every 7 minutes during busy times, and is a high frequency routes 7 days a week.
From the planner I talked to there, transit usage rates went up over 50% in that area of the West Island, when express service was introduced.
Steve: I am not surprised with a big ridership jump when the existing local service is half hourly or worse. This is not a valid point of comparison with Toronto. Another important point about Montreal is that the island is more compact than Toronto and a journey from West Island to downtown Montreal is substantially shorter than from northeast Scarborough downtown Toronto, especially when the difficulty of cutting across the diagonal is in Toronto. Eastern Scarborough would do much better with GO service (it is further from the core than inner parts of the 905 network), but that would require using the CPR line through Agincourt and Malvern.
Before we start talking about express service to specific locations such as Sheppard-Yonge or STC, I would like to see origin-destination data that would support these as major destinations, as opposed to waystations enroute to somewhere further central.
As for an “express” service from, say, Coxwell to downtown, the basic problem is the one afflicting all such services: to make a significant dent in demand, one must run scads of buses that the TTC does not have, and add to congestion on the downtown loop streets. I really get the impression that you don’t understand travel patterns (or times) in the east end very well.
I live in the east and understand it very well. Lakeshore Blvd is an untapped express bus corridor, and operating say the Woodbine bus express from Lakeshore loop to downtown would be a boon for residents on the east side.
The beaches has low transit usage rates for how close it is to downtown, and how dense and urban it is. Part of the problem is, transit is too slow from there. But if the north south buses ran via Lakeshore to downtown. I bet residents would love it.
In fact, Metrolinx has listed operating more buses right into downtown instead of terminating them at subway stations, as part of a plan to reduce crowding on the subway system.
In Montreal’s case, the express buses do not always operate downtown. They take people express to a METRO station. Operating express buses to say Sheppard-Yonge station, would allow people traveling to all different points to get there faster. All of a sudden, downtown, York Uni, North York, Yonge-Eglinton, and other points are a lot closer for people from say Malvern.
Add in express buses coming from the west, and all of a sudden you could have really fast cross Toronto trips.
So for example: Imagine the 16 McCowan bus went beyond STC and ran express via the 401 to Sheppard-Yonge station. Now think if the 37A along Rexdale Blvd went express to Sheppard-Yonge station via Yorkdale, instead of going down to Islington station. Now think if that route was extended to operate to Humber College. All of a sudden, a trip that would take three hours by transit, becomes doable in an hour or less.
There are countless areas where this would work.
Steve: A word of caution about Metrolinx and its shopping list of transit options: absolutely every idea that anyone proposed went into the “long list” of options, no matter how crackpot it might be, for fear of offending people. The “short list” will be a lot shorter once they work through the options.
You seem to play mix and match with examples and proposals between anywhere to downtown and feeders to higher order routes. In the Metrolinx context, they are not talking about taking people a comparatively short distance from The Beach to downtown, but of parallel suburb to downtown operations.
We have to remember the TTC is an anywhere to anywhere network effect transit system. The system is designed to not serve one travel market. So of course Sheppard-Yonge or any other station express buses travel to, would normally be a transfer point to traveling somewhere else. That is also how it operates in Montreal, and other cities where express buses are used to get people to the closest rapid transit station.
The best thing about this, is that it is not just about downtown travel. But opens up other trips that are currently much too long via transit.
Steve: Dare I mention the number of express routes that already serve Scarborough including Steeles East, Sheppard East, York Mills, Lawrence East, Nugget, Scarborough, Morningside?