The National Post has two articles about the utter frustration of streetcar riders with what passes for service on the TTC:
Readers erupt with tales of anguish about riding TTC streetcars
Overcrowded streetcars, uninterested drivers part of the rolling horror show on Queen
Updated July 17, 2014 12:30 am: The National Post has published two additional articles. My comments are added at the end of this article.
Fare evasion and aging fleet large part of streetcar problem, TTC says
A TTC streetcar driver’s view on the Queen line chaos
These articles focus on the streetcar as a problem, but this is symptomatic of a much deeper malaise at the TTC: the refusal to acknowledge and publicly report on the crisis in the amount and quality of service actually provided on the street. This affects the entire surface system, not just the streetcars, but because there are so many more people trying to ride the streetcar lines, the effect is more concentrated. On top of everything else, the entire city is suffering through a huge number of concurrent construction projects.
For years, no, it’s now decades, the TTC has a stock response to complaints about streetcar service: we have no spare streetcars, and in any event they get stuck in traffic so we can’t do anything. For off-peak service, that excuse is pure crap because the number of vehicles is not the problem, only the will to staff at a sufficient level to actually operate them. Vehicle reliability has been falling over the years, and the ever-receding arrival date for new vehicles leaves Toronto facing two or more winters with most of the service provided by an aging fleet. It is unclear whether the TTC has stopped properly maintaining the fleet it has on the assumption that the worst of the cars will be retired soon, but the non-delivery of new cars will make a hash of any fleet plan now in place. The TTC has still not published an updated rollout plan for new cars (not to mention improved service) that reflects the reality of vehicle deliveries and availability.
On the bus fleet, things are not much better. Thanks to the combined efforts of Queen’s Park, Rob Ford, Karen Stintz and their cohorts, the bus fleet plan is in chaos. The first problem lies at Queen’s Park with the arbitrary changes to implementation dates for the LRT lines that would have replaced busy bus routes and reduced total requirements. Next up are the Ford/Stintz transit gong show with cutbacks to service standards and expansion plans for the fleet and garage space. Current TTC plans indicate there will be no relief for crowded bus passengers until — wait for it — 2019. Heads should roll for such outrageous “planning”, but instead we get platitudes about making more out of limited resources. That line may have played well to the neo-cons (or simply tight-ass tax cutters) now in office, but it was an irresponsible commitment to suggest that efficiencies could make up for inadequate funding especially with riding growth at 2-3% every year.
If there is an “efficiency problem”, it lies with line management and customer service. The problem of maintaining reliable headways (spaces between vehicles) stems from a foul brew of bad scheduling (inadequate time for some vehicles to complete their trips), operators who drive only vaguely on time and often close to the vehicle in front (a minority, but enough to cause problems), a laissez-faire attitude to traffic problems and transit priority by the city’s political elite, and an overriding emphasis on keeping operators close to their schedules to avoid punitive overtime costs.
Customer service falls apart with operators who, frustrated with an intolerable environment, either choose to “see no evil” when passengers misbehave, or to take out their anger on passengers who are just as ticked off with the TTC as the staff are. The TTC’s own performance measures aim for only two-thirds of surface service to be within three minutes of schedule, a target that is routinely broken on many, many routes. For years, the TTC has patted itself on the back for “hitting its target” when that target guarantees riders will encounter problems with their trips on a daily basis. (On the subway, the target is so ludicrously constructed that half of the peak service could be missing, but they would still hit 100%.)
And, as the Post notes, there is the ongoing “left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing” problem of keeping passengers accurately informed about service changes. Multiple notices, confusing notices, contradictory notices, are far too common.
Budget planning has to be mentioned too. On one hand, the service budget (planned number of vehicle/operator hours per year) allowed for modest growth overall. However, the amount of construction and resulting delay/diversion effects has chewed up so much unplanned-for time that service improvements are on hold until, probably, mid-October. When City Council says “you’re only getting X dollars of subsidy, make do”, the real effect on what people experience is neither explained nor understood.
Meanwhile, we have a former TTC Chair, Karen Stintz, more interested in blowing a so-called “surplus” from 2013 on a fare freeze in 2015 rather than addressing the real problem, the amount of service actually on the street. Fortunately, City Council spiked that ridiculous scheme, but the problem of TTC funding remains for the 2015 Council to sort out. Do we have tax revenue to support TTC operations? No, but we can levy a special tax to pay for the Scarborough subway. Such are Toronto’s priorities.
Do we have discussions about strategic planning and options for future budgets at the TTC? No. As we learned recently from a motion by one member, strategy is something the TTC Board doesn’t bother itself with. An attempt by now-Chair Maria Augimeri to bring forward a discussion on service options was spiked by the board’s Stintz faction lest it provide support for Olivia Chow’s campaign to improve bus service. When you freeze in the cold this winter, remember the faded blooms of the Stintz campaign.
Some folks, notably our Mayor, will delight in people slagging the streetcar system when the real problem lies with transit generally, not just the mode serving the densest part of the surface network. Toronto has big problems, but we prefer to talk about wasted spending as an excuse to make cuts to vital services, all in the name of “the taxpayer”. We prefer to use transit as a political soapbox, a way to show we care about people with fare freezes and future subway lines while we refuse to pay enough to operate the system we have today.
Carnage? Yes, but there is far more to this battle than atrocious service on the Queen car.
Update July 17, 2014:
In an astounding admission, the TTC has all but confirmed that although there are supposed to be fare inspectors working the Queen line which runs on a proof-of-payment (POP) basis. in fact these employees are responsible for security system wide and are rarely on Queen.
This is confirmed by comments from an anonymous operator working the route who hasn’t seen a fare inspection in ten years.
From my own experience, I vaguely remember a check well over a decade ago.
How many times has the TTC blamed its frequent riders who use passes for the drop in average fares when they don’t even bother to police their own POP route?
Steve would it be possible to run a streetcar along Adelaide to take some of the King load? Could you run it as far west as Shaw, or would you have to stop at Bathurst (can you get around the church or is that too tight a corner)? If feasible how much ridership would such a route attract? How much difference would it make as development continues to push north?
Steve: The church would be a big problem, and in any event Adelaide is one-way eastbound with little prospect of changing.
I was thinking that possibly you could round either a round trip with say Richmond, alter it to a two way (long shot given traffic wise, and that it has been one way a very long time), or dreaming, but give me credit it is a colorful dream, just grab two lanes.
Steve: Richmond and Adelaide are already the subject of the Downtown Traffic Operations Study which is, among other things, looking at these streets (or at least Richmond) for bike lanes. Also, I must emphasize again that the problems on King are not confined to the central piece of the route during a few hours of the peak. Taking over space on Richmond/Adelaide, leaving aside the practicalities or conflicting proposals now on the table, will not address all of these issues.
Also, these streets west of Bathurst are entirely residential and not suitable as streetcar routes.
Finally, any time you might save by nipping a few blocks from King will be lost making the turns on/off of the north-south legs of the journey. An excellent example of this problem has been visible in various scheduled diversions such as operations via Spadina, York, Church and Parliament where the turns and closely-spaced traffic signals add considerably to running times.
Does anyone remember the Corcoran piece after Metrolinx tabled their revenue tax report?
He told everyone there’s no point to bringing in new taxes for new transit infrastructure because congestion in Toronto is overstated to begin with.
I’ll leave other readers to take that one apart.
I was not thinking so much of saving time on King as adding an added parallel route. I think you would need to start west of Bathurst, however, if you could reduce the expected growth in demand for the King car. I am concerned with the continued development in the area, that the longer cars will not be enough to meet the demand in a few years, without running a disruptively high frequency. Short of having another route or a tunnel, it is hard to see how this growth in demand will be met.
Steve: Could I ask that you actually look at a map? Richmond Street is discontinuous at Niagara and ends at Strachan. Adelaide ends at Shaw Street. Both are narrow residential streets west of Bathurst, and neither can serve a lot of the new population because they don’t go far enough west.
If I remember right, doesn’t Richmond also flip directions at Bathurst to block any through traffic?
Steve: I was ignoring the one-way pattern on the assumption that it could be modified. Street widths and alignments are not so easily changed.
While I was not saying it was a good possibility, I was hoping you might bleed off a little load. Just past the points where Adelaide and Richmond end you have very little crossing the tracks, and Queen and King are very close together with no chance to add between them. I was aware of the issues, however, what are the better options in the area? King and Queen have existing routes. In the west will improvements in Queen service bleed off enough load? Where else do you go? You have pointed going through the Ex and south will not address existing traffic, and that a subway will not address the fine grained requirement.
Steve: Short of demolishing existing neighbourhoods and the Ontario Mental Health Centre, you are not going to extend those streets. Whatever is done has to fit on King and Queen with some possible assistance from the south or from the GO corridor. I emphasize “assistance”, not “replacement”.
Given the way this conversation has gone I almost don’t want to say it, but if we really desperately needed an additional surface route, wouldn’t Front be the obvious choice?
It would have serious traffic problems in front of Union, and ridiculously close to King in the East but a local service there would at least have some potential. Actually, running Bay buses west on Front (loop via Bathurst, King and Portland?) doesn’t sound like a necessarily terrible idea to me especially if a western GO station is still on the table and we find funds for Queens Quay.
Steve: Front Street at Union is being reconstructed as a pedestrian mall with only two through lanes, and so is not going to be useable as a bus route. A bus route only to Bathurst would not serve the majority of the new population on King/Queen west. The fundamental problem is that we have a huge new population, but don’t run sufficient transit service to handle the demand it creates. This won’t be fixed until King and Queen convert to larger streetcars on frequent service. The idea that we will improve traffic by reducing the number of streetcars shows an outlook that penalizes transit users so that autos can move a bit faster.
My concern frankly Steve, even with a 1:1 replacement in terms of streetcars, the loading and service will seem very much like the existing situation of overload within a decade of the conversion. To me there needs to be some sort of way of relieving load from the network. I suspect that fewer overloaded streetcars, are worse even for cars, as load and unload times will likely be dragged out as people fight their way on and off cars.
The notion of a shorter route was merely to bleed a little from the extreme eastern end of the west side so that you could actually board a car in the area. I agree that these solutions would address only a very small area, and are dubious at best (hence approaching it as a question).
Having had it clarified that in your opinion this would not be a worthwhile proposal, if you could protect the rails and hence get relief from the fra-tc rules on the UPX corridor, and converted to electric and LRT, would a stop at say King or Queen, on such a political fairytale, make any sense from a technical transit planning perspective (as opposed to a political reality one).
Somehow a Queen and Dufferin stop has some emotional appeal. I like the idea of an LRT in that corridor, if technically feasible, and running it out to at least Brampton. I understand that there is the possibility of some issues here, however, it seems to me that the UPX being an airport exclusive service is a waste of capacity, that could likely be better used in a number of areas.
Steve: An LRT-like service (or whatever technology it may be) could conceivably have stops at Queen/Dufferin and King/Atlantic. The challenge would be for people to get to these stops from what I might call “Greater Liberty Village” and whether the access time would provide a net benefit to a goodly number of riders. Some of the developments at Queen & Dufferin are right on top of a potential station, but that’s not the case for everyone. I would also worry about a “Summerhill/Rosedale” effect at the inner end of a line that would be well-loaded further north. There is no point in advertising a UPX/LRT service as an alternative to the King car if people can’t get on it.
I would hope that a service based on a 4 car high frequency service would still have capacity here, although, I suspect it would also attract significant ridership as it went, so there would certainly be a risk that it would have the issues that the Yonge line does. Clearly this service would not bring the fine grained service however, it might provide a transfer point, and attract some ridership, to permit loading on the streetcar lines further east.
To what degree would the addition of a Dufferin Streetcar to the existing King and Queen lines, help the access issue (assuming there was said LRT)? Would connecting this car to the Ex to provide a transfer with the Queens Quay line to provide access to the area directly to the southern core make sense?
Steve: First off, it is unclear that there will ever be a “Queens Quay” line serving southern Liberty Village, and you should not make this a precondition of any plan. In any event, there is already a service connecting Dufferin Street to Parkdale Station: 29 Dufferin.
This entire discussion is getting into more and more esoteric ways of avoiding simply running more service on King and Queen. Neither of these is near what the Bloor-Danforth streetcar carried, and if we are really serious about dedicating streets to transit, then that’s what we can do. I am tired of hearing the TTC go on about how short headways won’t work as an excuse to not bother trying.
Basically Steve I was asking the question with regards to having a Dufferin car meet the existing 509 in the Ex Loop, thereby maintaining a transfer at the ex, that the Bus essentially has. So in essence replacing the Dufferin bus south of Bloor with a higher frequency streetcar (not really a new idea).
I however would also like to see substantial service running in a couple of directions. I would like to see very high frequency running on King, and Queen. If they are running every 2 minutes and you end up with a couple cars right on each other so be it. As you have noted they ran at much higher levels once upon a time on Bloor, and it would appear based on history much longer cars (or even trains) running at very high frequency can co-exist with traffic on streets.
I would like to see LRT in the UPX corridor, just in that it would enable service to so much of the city, and open many more destinations from the Liberty village area (not to mention capacity). I would also like to see a better route to serve the west end, with reliable high frequency transit. While I do believe that higher frequency will work on the street, (the TTC should be ready to meet the load with extra cars even if that means 1 per minute). I would like, wherever possible, transit riders exposure to the vagaries of traffic reduced.
I heartily agree with your point of the TTC needing to stop finding excuses to not provide line management, and adequate service. The city has indicated they would like to see near core intensification, however, I do not believe the TTC has an allowance in the size of their streetcar fleet to provide the levels of service that will be required to support this. I suspect that Queen will soon need the frequency now proposed for King. I have a sense that the latent demand for streetcar service in the near core is large enough to more than fill currently proposed service plans and fleets, before adding large new populations. In my mind they need to fix basic line management, and get a contingency to be able to expand the fleet beyond 260.
Steve I wanted to comment/question further on the fleet size. You have regularly noted that surface demand has been increasing 2-3 percent per annum, or about 25-30 % per decade. Latent demand would mean a much more rapid initial growth with the delivery of the new cars, and the availability of additional capacity. If you ignore this you still have about 10% growth before the completion of delivery of the new cars (assuming 4 years). If you consider that it will likely take an additional 5 years to complete the release of 60 more cars (assuming we act soon), that would mean we will likely have seen 25% within the time to deliver the 260 or so cars that the TTC has plans on.
Since I suspect that the growth rate east and west of the core will be above 2.5% per annum, I suspect that the growth will actually be about 30% growth in demand, in addition to whatever the current unserved latent demand is.
Does this not in effect mean that the cars will be nearly full when the delivery is complete, assuming that we do not want to add lines or substantial new services. Since I am a proponent of doing something to create the waterfront east and west lines (even if that requires a short length of tunnel to get to the Queensway in the west), will that leave enough cars?
How far off base am I in thinking that realistically the TTC should really be looking at extending the order from 260 including the option, to something like 300-315 in order to serve this growth, and provide improved service?
Steve: I have been banging my big bass drum for proper demand and fleet planning for years going back to before the Ford/Stintz era. Everyone is so busy building subways to North Bay that they lose sight of the very real problems downtown, and I think that the TTC has been derelict in its failure to address the problem. They still don’t give a sense of enthusiasm about improving capacity rather than saving on operating costs. That’s what years of starvation does to an organization.
Meanwhile, we will run trains to Vaughan every five minutes 20 hours/day and regard this as “progress”.
I’ve wondered whether wheelchair users making use of the accessible ramps in the way they were designed to be used will cause significant delay.
I toured one of the prototypes, during Doors Open. (I put my pictures are in the public domain.) The Flexity outlook vehicles are not that spacious inside. A motorized wheelchair takes up a lot of room, and the standing area, near the doors, is not that large. The vehicles probably can’t carry many big wheelchairs. Will standing passengers have to step outside to allow a wheelchair user to dismount, during rush hour? Will courteous passengers who dismounted to allow a wheelchair user to dismount be able to count on remounting before the vehicle leaves the stop?
Russell Carhouse during Doors Open Toronto, 2014
Bombardier LRV in Toronto, during Door Open 2014
Steve: There will no doubt be some delay, just as there is on buses, but that comes with the territory. Two points about the Flexities. First, Any ramp you have seen to date is not the “production” configuration unless you have been looking at 4403, and even that car isn’t the final, final version. The production ramp is designed with a shallower “lip” at the transition from the ramp to the carbody so that it is easier to get over the threshold. Second, with all door loading, the cars are not intended to function as walk-though vehicles, but as a series of compartments.
[Flame alert!] I believe that there will be far greater problems with bicycles, baby carriage, shopping carts and luggage than from wheelchair and scooter users. Far too often, I see buses with three or more (!!!) such things all crowding the space just inside the front door. The wheelchair users should not be blamed for causing a problem that already exists with a much broader spectrum of TTC customers. [Flame off.]
Over on Queens Quay East it was my understanding that the plan was for it to connect to the second stage of the Cherry Street Line. If it were built today, running along the south side of Queens Quay, I think it would be able to have a clear run to its terminal loop at Parliament. But, I think the new building south of it will be serviced by three new roads, so the occupants can park their cars in their buildings underground garages — thus adding three stoplights to this quite short route. Grrr. I wish that the developer had been made to have the ramps to these underground garages on the north side of the route, so the cars didn’t delay the streetcar.
As for where and how streetcars would cross the Keating Channel — there is currently a lift bridge where Cherry crosses. Although I have never seen it lift it must do so occasionally as the tugboat William Rest seems to remain on active duty, and this is where it is moored, and there is a big dredge also moored in the Keating Channel. If large working vessels are going continue to be moored in the Keating Channel I can’t imagine how the streetcar can be enabled to cross.
Will the streetcars use a new tunnel under the channel? That would be huge new expense. If the Gardiner is not torn down, I think it would prevent building a bridge for the streetcar tall enough for vessels to proceed under it. That dredge is very tall. Maybe they will just retire the maritime use of the channel and force the vessels moored there to relocate. In addition to the dredge and the William Rest there are two other tugs, two small vehicle/passenger ferries similar in size to the Ongiara and two big flat barges.
Steve: There will be a new Cherry Street and a new bridge. Cherry is to be realigned west of its present location to get rid of the jog at Queens Quay, and the new road won’t swing back to the old alignment until just north of the bascule bridge further south (which will likely be as far as the LRT ever goes). There won’t be a lift bridge at the Keating Channel any more. Please see Waterfront Toronto’s site for more info on this area.
So I gather from your response that I am likely either right or a little short in your opinion. The fact that the TTC has been talking about being short cars for a very long time (seems like decades) had made me sort of wonder about how small the new order seemed, even though it does represent a substantial increase in capacity, it would not be enough to absorb all the growth since the last order.
It would appear that surface transit is getting ignored even while it serves the bulk of the city, while the new shiny highly visible projects get all the attention and money. Is this governance being ignored for the benefit of politics? Transit will not be solved by a handful of mega projects, but subtle improvements along the way. Better to buy buses, and streetcars, build a few low impact rights of way, and try to catch the basic network back up.
That depends on how much of the growth is split between peak and off-peak periods. Taking care of the latter just needs a few extra operating dollars.
If we wanted more than 264 Flexitys, am I correct in presuming we’d have to build another new yard?
There are good reasons to favour public transit, over and above saving energy. On a purely saving energy basis, I think there is a break-even point — a minimum number of passengers where the passenger car is just as efficient as a bus, or streetcar, or subway. Has the TTC done the math, and published how many passengers a subway, streetcar, or bus has to carry, in order for it to be more energy efficient, per passenger, as a private automobile?
The complaints people make about the TTC’s drop in service quality hasn’t really affected me. The 65 Parliament bus is the one with the closest stop to my home. For many years the last bus was about 9:30pm. But I didn’t resent that, as after rush hour the buses were lightly used.
Should the TTC run vehicles at a time when they anticipate they will be relatively empty — under that threshhold where they are no longer more energy efficient per passenger than private automobile — in order for riders to feel the route is convenient?
Steve: The problem with “energy efficiency” is that it only looks at one part of the economic problem. If the absence of service encourages someone to own a car, then there is not only the energy cost of the auto trip that might have been handled by transit, but all of the other trips the now car-owing rider will take. There is also the extra personal cost that will pre-empt spending on other things. All transit systems have routes and periods of operation where the marginal cost (never mind just the energy) is quite high compared to the number of passengers. Even during peak periods, buses on lightly-loaded sections of routes, especially running counter-peak, will have a high marginal cost per passenger for that segment. However, it is a basic fact of transit that you have to run vehicles on round trips with, at most, scheduled short turns to balance service to demand. On the subway, think of all the energy needed to run frequent trains and keep stations open until 2 am. These are all operational and policy decisions that are fundamental.
I run through all of this not to be pedantic, but to emphasize that if one only considers the energy (and other costs) incurred just by “my” trip, this ignores the cost of simply having service running on the street or in the tunnel that you will be able to board when and where you want it. Some routes have demand patterns that result in high vehicle utilization, and the cost per passenger is lower than on other routes. Publishing an average value distorts the comparison. Buses running on major, busy routes cost more for a variety of reasons than the same buses running on a relatively uncongested line. But we need service throughout the city and at all times of the day — that’s what transit is all about.
Thanks for the info, and for the link. Both the Waterfront Toronto site, and the Christopher Hume video on that site, show artist’s renditions of aerial views of the Keating neighbourhood — two slightly incompatible artist’s renditions. The artist in Hume’s video shows several knots of dense housing, with huge highrises. Jeez! More ugly glass-clad highrises? I thought the plan was to turn the Port lands into public space filled with parks and other amenities of use to the entire public, not sold like a cheap whore to developers, who will make a quick buck selling condos that will be vertical slums in a few decades.
The artist’s rendition shows the Keating Channel as having crystal clear water, when, in fact, when it rains, a plume of muddy water fills the channel and the eastern portion of the bay. A big storm can wash down an alarming amount of broken branches — and real trash. A truly natural Don would have natural sandbanks for those broken branches to wash up on.
Many of my neighbours are looking forward to the day they can take a Cherry Street streetcar all the way to Cherry Beach. There is a Cherry Street in Toledo Ohio, and the Lift Bridge on that Cherry Street was widely admired and copied for the way it allowed streetcar tracks, and their caternaries to function on a lift bridge.
When it quits raining, storm sewers being what they are, it can take a long time to flush the really silty water from the Keating Channel using only the measly amount of ground water the storm sewers allow to recharge the aquifer.
I wonder whether anyone is considering this issue?
One of Waterfront Toronto’s drawings shows the ESSROC Cement silos on the south side of the Keating Channel. Both aerial views show the area where the Stephen B. Roman moors to fill the silo as parkland, so it seems the artists think the silo will be kept for its scenic value.
Steve: Current plans are for ESSROC to remain until such time as they choose to move elsewhere. Please refer to other parts of Waterfront Toronto’s site for info in “Villier’s Island” and the Don Mouth Remediation project.
Of course this also translates to car owners who are users of transit. It does not matter that a service is available, if I regularly drive because transit is not broad enough to serve most of my trips, I am unlikely to consider transit. It needs to be available enough so that I presume it will be an effective option before I start thinking about it. If you ran only the trips that were full, you would find people presuming they could not use transit.
It can’t all be parks and amenities, otherwise the whole area will be a dead zone at night.
If the Flexity fleet was expanded past the current order, would rebuilding Russell into a satellite yard (including potentially eliminating as many buildings as practical and build additional storage tracks with the freed up space) for Leslie provide enough space or would additional yard space still be needed on top of that?
Steve: Russell is retained in future plans to achieve the capacity for a fleet of roughly 260 cars. The only buildings on the site are the traffic office at the Queen/Connaught corner, and the carhouse itself. There is no space that could be gained by demolishing the buildings.
FWIW, I ride the 501 daily, and I’ve seen inspectors a few times in the last few years, most recently in the spring (and they were constantly writing tickets). They boarded at the rear doors and stayed there, so unless the driver saw them as they pulled into the stop, it’d be easy to miss them. That said, it’s not enough to be an effective deterrent.
Could we not resolve some of this issue by improving service in the core, offering more cars on all night streetcar routes. Keep the extra 50 or so on the street. Yes there is not a great deal of demand after say 2:00 am, however, this is still a service we want to support.
The reduction of services to overnight levels at 1:30 is at least an hour too early. This needs to be extended to at least 2:30 if not 3:00 am to encourage our late night partiers to ride the streetcar home not drive, and of course all the staff that needs to stay late to support them.
Steve: I think the more likely question is the future of Harvey Shops at Hillcrest. That building was designed for streetcar maintenance, although bus body work and painting are done there too. The question would be whether these functions can be shifted elsewhere and a new carhouse built at Hillcrest (including the employee parking lot that could be incorporated in any new building).
While I believe that the TTC will not opt to place more service overnight on the street, I would still like to see the times extended, especially the post 1:30 am time, most especially Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Although to really work this would have to be all week, in order for people to know that there was relatively frequent streetcar service awaiting them. I would like to know that for people leaving the bar, public transit is a good option.
I worry about the slow erosion at the edges of the quality of public transit in Toronto.
Transit needs to get better and faster, and more pervasive, so that the TTC really is the better way, almost all the time, including 2:30 in the morning. 1:30 almost made sense when last call was 1:00am, however, now that it is 2:00 am, it is hard to square the reduction in service 30 minutes before last call instead of an hour later.
There needs to be a substantial shift in thinking, to working to improve service, not pinching pennies. The city needs to be efficient and effective, and that should not mean overcrowded and miserable public transit, but high quality public services delivered with an eye to value for money, not simple cheapness. It should also be there for those trips most in the public interest. Keep the drinkers off the roads, help staff get home and impress the tourist that they can ride the streetcar back to the hotel after their night out, without waiting forever.
The thing is that the voters do not seem to appreciate that the operating budgets that the TTC has are also determined by the politicians that want to spend billions on subways. The voter needs to actually spend a few minutes looking at the issues, and the plans, and asking does this work, does it make sense. There needs to be a real hard look to see what works elsewhere and under what circumstances. Toronto should not follow blindly, but it should look to learn from best practice and outcomes everywhere, which it would appear we have a hard time doing.
Do we have un or under used rail corridor space ? Do we have roads wide enough to put BRT or LRT in? Do we have roads that can be turned over primarily to transit, that are close enough to a needed location to be good corridors? What can we do in terms of light priority, traffic management (left turns, right turns, light timing) and parking control, to make transit work better than auto, thereby encouraging people to use it and reduce the load that slows it. Do we do what can be done in order to make sure that waits for transit are short and predictable and rides quick and predictable? Are all the responsible parties at the table, and being held responsible by the voter.
Is there a plan that looks at how to take best advantage of a big change that must be made to affect a lot of marginal improvements? Can a required rapid transit line intercept a more of surface lines (especially the heavily used ones), and actually move some of those people part or more of their trip? Does this leave space on that surface line to continue and collect and drop still more riders whose origin or destination are dispersed along its length?
If you think bus or streetcar service sucks, well yes look to council, and traffic management as well as the TTC. If you ride the subway from Scarborough and it takes 3 trains to get onto a subway at Yonge, what will it be like when 10K more people per hour are trying to do that in the morning?
Be aware, it is not about a subway to your door, but about a network that can move as many people as possible as to and from a wide variety of places reasonably quickly. It should not be about a single seat ride, but about how the network can allow you to make a reasonably quick trip, and relatively painless transfers.