The National Post Discovers “Streetcarnage” (Updated)

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?

66 thoughts on “The National Post Discovers “Streetcarnage” (Updated)

  1. Must have been a slow news day at the National Post for them to post this BS.

    What could this lead to?
    Roadcarnage: Readers erupt with tales of anguish about driving on the 401
    Graftcarnage: Readers erupt with tales of anguish of well placed political money
    Prosecarnage: Readers erupt with tales of lazy newspaper articles written in the silly season

    Steve: I wouldn’t call the article “lazy”, but rather one focused on problems of a specific technology-based group of routes, not on the system overall.

    For the record, the Post’s writer attempted to contact me about this article, but we did not manage to connect despite emails and voicemails.

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  2. Of course the sad irony is that increased chaos on surface routes, which will get much much worse before it gets better, will only build the case for subways subways subways!! People don’t realize that even in the perfect scenario with all the money and planning in place subways take a decade to build. I think by 2020 Toronto will become completely intolerable to get around in and the fastest mode of transportation will be by foot. But that’s ok – maybe by 2030 we’ll have a few new subway lines. I’ll be living elsewhere long before then!

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  3. It’s so damn infuriating that the TTC didn’t fire back at Council for their b.s. cost cutting the last four years. Stand up for yourself. You’re being bullied and screwed over.

    It’s a damn shame that the riders don’t blame those elected for cutting funding where and when it was sorely needed. Now of course the riders take it out on the drivers who take it out on the riders.

    Thanks for your damning dissection of the problem. We need more than a bandaid solution. We need major surgery fast.

    Steve: The TTC has, until quite recently, been run by someone who (a) was one of Rob Ford’s cheering section, who then morphed into (b) I can get lots of profile by fighting for LRT rather than subways, only to (c) change again into a subway champion in a blatant play for votes in the mayoral campaign. Do you honestly expect a TTC hand-picked by Ford’s henchmen to challenge his budget policies?

    Meanwhile, management feared for their jobs (just look what happened to Gary Webster) and always presented the most sanitized, sweetness and light version of the TTC so as not to contradict the good news vision.

    Toronto will pay for the Ford/Stintz years for a decade at least.

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  4. How can bus relief be so far off? Isn’t the TTC rolling out articulated buses on some routes? Should that both provide some relief, but also free up buses for additional service?

    And when the Harbourfront line goes back in service, won’t that also add buses back to regular service?

    What about the York subway? Won’t that free up buses from at least a few routes to be redeployed elsewhere? (The York Rockets for one, but might it also reduce loads on the Keele and Finch buses?)

    Steve: All of the planned bus orders for the next five years are only to replace vehicles that are coming out of service to retire, not to expand the fleet. Some of these, especially the hybrids, may not make it to the normal 18-year retirement date and they represent a major headache for the TTC as they age. The artics are mainly replacing the last of the high floor, lift-equipped buses.

    The buses now on Harbourfront (and many other construction projects) will be soaked up by restoration of seasonal service cuts plus a small number of improvements for the fall.

    The TTC has a big problem with garage capacity because even if they get new vehicles, they have no place to put them thanks to the deferral of a garage now planned (but not fully funded) for northern Scarborough which has been the subject of some community objections recently.

    York Subway, well, the official opening date is late 2016, but this is likely to slip into early 2017 because of construction delays on two stations (Steeles West and York U). Meanwhile, there will have been a roughly 10% accumulated growth in riding at current rates that will account for far more new bus requirements than the vehicles the subway will free up. Then there is the small matter of service standards that is good for roughly another 10% bump if we go back to the pre-Ford standards.

    The TTC should be, but isn’t, talking about the coming crisis in service quality on the surface network. We talk a good line about attracting riders to transit, but work as hard as possible to drive them away.

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  5. Steve said:

    “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.”

    Steve while I believe there are notable improvements to be made from improved operations, and I think real capacity could be had that way, it would require someone at the top (above the head of the TTC) to actually make good city management a priority, and to really understand what good management is.

    The problem is that the person in charge does see transit as a priority, and has no standing with the police (whose cooperation is required to make it all work). Good management is not about spending the least but getting the biggest bang for you buck.

    If you must keep the merchants in the downtown streets happy, provide additional off street parking. Parking restrictions established for flow must be reviewed and enforced, left turn restrictions increased and heavily enforced.

    To really get the efficiency requires the TTC to fix its basic line management, plus getting an understanding with city traffic, that transit vehicles should get a real transit priority, and police and bylaw enforcement to make enforcement around critical surface transit routes a high priority.

    The lot must then continue to work together hand and glove. This might buy some real capacity, although nowhere near enough to permit the city to avoid the purchase of a substantial number of new buses, and to likely expand the streetcar purchase beyond the current plan. After this will still require some sort of dedicated ROW in order to handle some of the load.

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  6. Steve, sorry also wanted to comment on the St Clair portion of Streetcarnage article. Interesting the St Clair seemed a so much better ride! Spadina, with enough cars, and decent signal priority should be at least as good.

    It is unfortunate that there is not really the space to do this ROW on King or Queen.

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  7. I have noticed that there is a lot of minor issues with the streetcars now – like rust showing up and not being repaired, not doing touch-ups on the paint, etc. IT definitely appears to me as if the TTC does not want to maintain its fleet.

    Mind you, a couple streetcars are showing up on the 501 Queen without a roll sign (just a blank white line.) One of the streetcars I saw a few days ago was ALRV #4225. I don’t know if this is the operator, or the TTC – but it would be nice to know what route the streetcar is operating on.

    Also, the other day, I saw a streetcar short-turning into Kipling Loop. The driver did not like that I stopped and was taking pictures. But he kept starting towards the back of the car and would come back and open the front door as soon as I took a picture. I moved down closer to the Lake Shore to wait for the streetcar to depart and the driver jumped out of the car and very boldly walked over to a garbage bin to throw something out and was staring at me while he was doing so. I noticed that as he pulled out that the streetcar was still signed for Long Branch, despite the car now travelling east. While he never said anything to me, his non-verbal actions made it clear that he did not want me around with my camera despite the fact I was on public property the entire time.

    A lot of the problem is also that the new longer cars are not replacing the current fleet on a 1:1 ratio. So, despite an increase in capacity, there must be a reduction in service levels which will only make things more difficult to get around and frustrate people more. The TTC could have chosen a shorter streetcar that was cheaper, so they could have had more streetcars built and maintain service levels.

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  8. Steve,

    I understand that this is a loaded question but I always wondered … what the hell would it take to get transit planning out of the hands of politicians? And hypothetically, what good would it do if that ever happened?

    Steve: Since it is the politicians who must raise the money to pay for transit operations, maintenance and expansion, you will never get planning out of their hands. The photo ops are too tempting, and what would elections be without “subway champions” filling voters’ heads with misguided dreams?

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  9. What scares me the most, is Ford being re-elected, just imagine the ensuing carnage concerning the surface routes.

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  10. There is an interesting article in the Globe.

    However, the point that the light priority is mostly on the side streets, speaks to the issue as to why people see streetcars as so disruptive. If there was proper light priority, the light that people want to get through would be red while the streetcar was loading much more frequently, and the disruption would not be as great, or as notable.

    The fact that the streetcar set the pace would be more acceptable, as being behind it would also mean that you would catch all the lights. Looking at signal priority as only being possible where there is spare capacity in the signal time, to me is backward. Yes it cannot work perfectly, as there are too many points where the timing of transit vehicles themselves will conflict, however, this could be reasonably built into a timing system for the lights, that would limit the effect. King Street of course will remain an issue, with streetcars being so frequent that they would have conflicting needs frequently at lights (one wanting the proceed, while the other is still loading, or just arriving).

    Steve: I am amused that someone in the article is quoted as saying that the new streetcars are “as long as a subway” considering that they are about 1.2 times the length of one subway car. Some motorists are easily terrified.

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  11. The second article actually has some constructive solutions. Though both just seem to be an amalgam of anecdotal horror stories.

    As a regular streetcar rider I’d be on board with;

    – prohibiting left turns on streetcar routes without dedicated turn lanes.
    – scramble pedestrian cycles on traffic lights
    – proper headway maintenance.

    There is absolutely no excuse for bunching of cars at the end-of-line loop. I’ve never seen a supervisor once at Dundas West – yet regularly see bunches of 504 cars leave in convoy for no good reason. The constant short turns mean I have to get a paper transfer (which is ludicrous since I just ride the 504 to work) with a token ride – lest I incur the wrath of a vindictive driver on an unannounced short turn for requesting one on the way out.

    The good thing is, none of these things ailing the TTC (and streetcars in particular) can’t be fixed in the short term – one would hope that once the current municipal election is over cooler heads will prevail.

    Steve: At the risk of exposing the sort of platform I might have should someone ask if I want to sit on the “new” TTC, a big, big issue for the new Mayor, Council and TTC Board is to stop letting TTC management get away with superficial reporting of problems with service, maintenance and funding. The big challenge is to look “under the carpet” at the accumulation of issues and demand not just a simplistic “do something”, but an informed debate about our options and the actions/tradeoffs needed to fix the problems. A similar challenge lies at Queen’s Park who have spent several years doing as little as possible while trading on a few megaprojects, but spending little or nothing on the more fundamental issues of service quality and capacity around the region. We have to stop making high cost recovery (i.e. running as little service as we can get away with, and cherry picking the more profitable routes) a badge of honour.

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  12. “Toronto will pay for the Ford/Stintz years for a decade at least.”

    You mean, on top of the almost FIVE decades of bad transit decisions …

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  13. The endless construction on the streetcar system every year is getting really frustrating. Large sections of the streetcar system get shut down every year for construction, and the endless closures for special events make it even worse. I really wish that we could get the downtown relief line (including the western section) and GO train expansion built. If both of these get built, the streetcar system would be a lot less relevant; right now, the streetcar system is slow, ridiculously overcrowded at all times of day and unreliable, and massive amounts of condo construction has made it worse, so an alternative is desperately needed.

    Steve: I hate to tell you this, but better GO service is unlikely to do much for the streetcar system because there will not be enough GO stops (or space on trains) to intercept much of the demand now on the streetcar routes. The DRL will handle some demand, but it is at least a decade from seeing even phase 1 built in part because it is not seen as a benefit to suburban riders and politicians. We have been increasing population in the “shoulder” areas of downtown served by streetcars, but have done nothing to improve streetcar service. Of course it’s a mess.

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  14. So our transick is becoming trans*it…. and meanwhile, the transport sector leads in our GHG production, but some things take decades to get done, if they’re in the right place, and I tend not to comment on too much north of St. Clair as I’m not so familiar with it all, though one can learn from this blog and the comments…

    A decade ago I was very propositional for a transitway instead of a Front St. road folly. It took a long long time to get the road deflected, and the province was smart in spending on GO expansions, but the City, basically all of them including the alleged progressives, couldn’t do that extra bit of imaginative thought according to the Official Plan and then Places to Grow, of actually thinking of transit-first. So while it was quite obvious to me that a Front St. transitway would be less of a milk run, and help offer a faster/quicker ride into the core from the west end in particular, nope. Nada.

    Just like my thoughts of let’s put transit on the Gardiner instead of more car traffic, just offered ahead of us getting pregnant with status-quo/car servicing at great total cost (and opportunity cost as those repairs will blight budgets for years, especially with not a damned cent in user pay from the users).

    And to some extent, blame most everyone. Hope the gas prices go up a bit more too. Then there might be some awareness that the mobile furnaces basically burn money as they create congestion, and a clearer way forward is to clear off the cars from one route or another.

    It’s good to have the noting that the replacement capacity of the streetcars won’t be a 1 to 1 – one can make (made) a deputation, but the F*x was in. Take a bow or something Mr. Giambrone and Mr. Miller…. and others too, they didn’t act alone.

    Meanwhile, it’s still hazardous to be biking parallel to most of these streetcar tracked streets, especially including the tracks, ignored as a hazard. While biking won’t work for all of us, if it became safer in a set of linked/smooth routes, some might be quite surprised at the uptake.

    Steve: Every time the TTC has an opportunity to improve service capacity through initiatives such as transit signal priority or rights-of-way, they have “sold” it on the basis that they can reduce operating costs. That was the original story for the St. Clair project, although they changed their tune when all the upheaval for no improvement in service proved to be a public relations disaster.

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  15. Steve said:

    “Since it is the politicians who must raise the money to pay for transit operations, maintenance and expansion, you will never get planning out of their hands. The photo ops are too tempting, and what would elections be without “subway champions” filling voters’ heads with misguided dreams?”

    To me I look to the voter as being responsible. If you reward those who tell you what you want to hear, and punish those who are prepared to tell you there is no quick fix, that the Rolls does not make sense you get will tend to get blow hards, and deceivers both in office and running for office.

    Transit may not be complicated, but it does require more thought than the average voter wants to give it, and big shiny and expensive things both sound good and bad, (I want subway everywhere, but have you looked at the bill), and we end up with endless posturing instead of a reasoned debate with a decent resolution. I requires a mature reasoned approach on the part of the voters to get it from those in office.

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  16. Andrew says:
    July 16, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    “The endless construction on the streetcar system every year is getting really frustrating. Large sections of the streetcar system get shut down every year for construction, and the endless closures for special events make it even worse.”

    What about the endless construction on the Gardner and the 401. Every summer there is construction on these roads and the 427. Should we stop shutting down sections of the expressways for maintenance because it is inconvenient or should we just tear it up because they cannot make roads that last forever?

    Maintenance is a necessary evil for any type of transportation network. It is a lot better than the alternative. The street car system is suffering from years of neglect that is finally getting caught up. Don’t blame the street car system, blame the politicians for lack of leadership.

    Steve: It’s worth noting that of the many projects this year, some are a direct result of major improvements to the system for its future expansion: Cherry Street and the associated intersection at King (a minor interruption to local drivers), Queen & Leslie (future connection to a new carhouse), and Queens Quay (major redesign of the streetscape, not just the streetcar). Stir in the Union Station project and we have a big list of major, “one time” jobs, at least on the scale we see now.

    The “standard” streetcar track jobs include Queen & Broadview, Queen & Victoria, Dundas & Spadina and, possibly, Bathurst & Dundas although I am not sure if it is still in the 2014 list.

    As for the Gardiner, all I can say is that there is a bitter irony that the Lake Shore will be closed down this weekend for an auto race.

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  17. The solution to the streetcar problem is simple. We live in a democratic society and so let us have a referendum on the future of streetcars and doing so with the municipal elections will cost as almost no money at all. Now, don’t say that if you want to get rid of streetcars, then vote for Ford and if you want to keep the streetcars, then don’t vote for Ford because guess what? The people did vote for Ford and the streetcars are still here and not just that but the TTC wants more multibillion dollar streetcars on top of the ones ordered many years ago which have yet to see service as the TTC keeps delaying their launch due to the inherent problems of an obvious mismatch between Toronto and streetcars (new or old).

    Steve: I have to jump in here with several corrections/comments.

    First off, we never had a referendum on building the Scarborough Subway, we just levied a tax to pay for it. Given the type of comments I hear from the more incendiary Scarborough folks (at least I assume they are from Scarborough and not troublemakers from somewhere else like Etobicoke), the rest of Toronto has no business getting to vote on streetcars when they only serve the “old” City of Toronto. We can’t have those no-nothings from the burbs telling we downtowners what to do, even if they might be helping to pay for it. (Don’t all shout at once, folks. That is simply the classic Scarborough subway advocate’s argument turned on its head, and yes, it doesn’t sound so nice when someone from the “downtown elite” says that sort of thing.)

    The TTC wants 60 more streetcars at an estimated cost of $120m including inflation, warranty and a bunch of other related costs. They are not a “multibillion” project.

    The worst problem has been to make an accessible streetcar, a big challenge that the TTC is taking seriously. Most recently, of course, Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant is on strike. I will agree, however, that the TTC has been rather guarded in explaining why there have been so many delays with this project, and have undermined its credibility in the process.

    I am not saying that we should get rid of the streetcars because I don’t like them (which I don’t as modern buses are faster, safer, much much cheaper, and way more reliable than streetcars) but what I am saying is the following: let the people decide in a referendum whether to keep or get rid of streetcars. As to the new streetcars, I am sure that we can sell them to a third world country where they belong should the people vote against streetcars in a referendum that streetcar supporters viciously oppose as they know that most people will vote against them. WARNING: Since a plethora of problems have also been reported by the National Post on St Clair and Spadina with their own rights of way, this is what is to come on Eglinton Ave East LRT which is just another fancy name for streetcars. Let us build whatever underground transit we can afford on Eglinton and let buses do the rest as the on street LRT will make things much worse for both drivers and transit riders.

    Steve: The Post’s articles had little to do with streetcars per se and a lot to do with the way the TTC operates and manages their system. There isn’t enough service, there is an intolerable level of unreliability (which also shows up in their bus operations), and for too long they have not been honest about the effect of strangling service growth.

    As for third world countries, well, there are streetcars and LRT lines all over the world, many in first world countries that care a lot more about the quality of their transit than Toronto does.

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  18. The “standard” streetcar track jobs include Queen & Broadview, Queen & Victoria,

    Dundas & Spadina and, possibly, Bathurst & Dundas although I am not sure if it is still in the 2014 list.

    Mike Layton seems to think so, there is a notice posted on his website here

    Does the TTC publish a list of streetcar track construction for the year somewhere, or do you get your information on this from the inside?

    Steve: Thanks for the update. A comment I heard at TTC recently implied that work for this year was coming to an end, and that’s why I wondered about the Bathurst Street work. I should have checked the city’s website for upcoming notices too.

    The TTC publishes a five year plan for its track work as part of the capital budget, but the papers are not online because the detailed appendices are the size of two Toronto phone books. I published information about streetcar infrastructure here including the track plans. That list is, of course, out of date already, but that happens every year. All the same, it gives you an idea of what is in the pipeline. Some of the special work has already been ordered because of the long lead time for procurement.

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  19. Tom_distillery said:

    Of course the sad irony is that increased chaos on surface routes, which will get much much worse before it gets better, will only build the case for subways subways subways!!

    Actually, the sad irony is that our current mayor has made it clear that he thinks downtown has enough subways.

    Malcolm N said:

    It is unfortunate that there is not really the space to do this ROW on King or Queen.

    I’ve begun to wonder if it might be time to take a serious look at burying the 501 and 506 through downtown. The problem is, this is something that should have been looked at before the current building boom started to consume space which would be needed to build tunnel portals and stations.

    Steve: There would be a major problem burying these lines because of various utilities and other conflicts. Even threading a DRL along Wellington (the most likely route of the east-west streets) isn’t going to be easy. The big issue for both routes is that there are far worse problems outside of the core, especially to the west, than in the core proper. These will only get worse as the shoulder-core redevelops. “Through downtown” now is a rather large area, and one that depends on stops in walking distance of many new developments built around fine-grained streetcar service.

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  20. I took a few minutes to compile tickets handed out by year for King St and Queen St:

    KING ST

    2013- 61806
    2012- 66488
    2011- 66384
    2010- 55150
    2009- 56958
    2008- 56105

    QUEEN ST

    2013- 89767
    2012- 89931
    2011- 97516
    2010- 94786
    2009- 91847
    2008- 99296

    Also – the number of tickets given out citywide for “prohibited time/day” – which will affect the most number of people…

    /DAY
    2013 – 834405
    2012 – 865195
    2011 – 888423
    2010 – 860957
    2009 – 854341
    2008 – 899233

    Except for the 2010->2011 bump on King … the numbers are trending down … how is this possible? If part of the issue with traffic is enforcement, and the police don’t seem to want to or be able to improve their numbers … shouldn’t we as a city be looking to either give transit enforcement to another organization – one that can’t say they have other things to worry about?

    Either those numbers need to go up by a few thousand a year OR they need to go to 0 … by which I mean, make enforcement very easy – no cars on KING/QUEEN or other streetcar routes.

    Taking enforcement from high paid cops and giving it to lower paid transit enforcement/tow truck operators while increasing the money coming in from tickets would be great for the budget.

    Steve: What is the URL for the source of this info?

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  21. Actually Steve, I did mean the 506 rather than the 504 because, like the 501, it’s a long east west line where delays in the downtown portion (I’m thinking in terms of the up to Bloor definition rather than just the financial district) caused by road congestion end up wrecking any attempt to remain on schedule or to prevent bunching by the time you reach the outer portions of the line. Also, I knew that it would be a nightmare to tunnel the 504 and the 505 through downtown which is why I didn’t mention them.

    Ultimately though, regardless of how difficult it would be, the tunnelling option will have to be looked at at some point. Simply put, even if everything is done to improve streetcar service short of major infrastructure improvements and outright bans on cars, we’re all well aware that cars will eventually clog up the roads again.

    Steve: I thought you had intended the 504 because you were replying to a comment about Queen and King, not College. I don’t agree with your assessment of the problem, and if you define “downtown” as “up to Bloor”, well that covers almost all of the streetcar network except for St. Clair. You are in effect proposing a network of downtown subways, not a streetcar system.

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  22. You know, I was just talking to my friends about this. It feels like Toronto does not want to pay the piper. The problem is we have institutional complacency in the Greater Toronto Area. Everyone complains about congestion, but do not want to pay a tax. Everyone complains about downtown being tough to drive, but do not want to build a downtown relief line.

    So is Toronto going to continue to brag about growth and safe schools when people continue to spend most of their lives on the highway? If you look at Toronto right, we have almost less rapid transit then everyone else. We have the cheapest property taxes in the city proper. The idea that subways will appear from pixie dust is a fallacy that has been around long before Ford, and will be there long after he is gone.

    The fact is Toronto is just content to bragging about house prices and it “quality of life” while neglecting the fact these commutes which have become the world’s longest are hurting that. Steve if anything will make the housing bubble burst, it will be the lack of transit.

    In all honesty, it make me want to leave the Toronto Region.

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  23. Steve said:

    Given the type of comments I hear from the more incendiary Scarborough folks (at least I assume they are from Scarborough and not troublemakers from somewhere else like Etobicoke), the rest of Toronto has no business getting to vote on streetcars when they only serve the “old” City of Toronto. We can’t have those no-nothings from the burbs telling we downtowners what to do, even if they might be helping to pay for it. (Don’t all shout at once, folks. That is simply the classic Scarborough subway advocate’s argument turned on its head, and yes, it doesn’t sound so nice when someone from the “downtown elite” says that sort of thing.)

    Who’s the trouble maker?

    Steve: It was a rather transparent reference to the Fords “interfering” in Scarborough’s future. If we are going to balkanize planning and political responsibility, we need to look at the implications, just as you do in the following paragraph.

    Hypothetical:

    Do you think an Oakville resident would want to pay taxes to support subways & streetcars in Mississauga (Metro), Brampton (North York) & Etobicoke (Etobicoke)? Even worse if Mississauga starts demanding greater priority for new transit as density increases.

    Sure makes a lot of sense for Oakville to help subsidize all of this as their citizens hop on multiple crowded buses for an hour or so just to get on this network.

    I’m sorry your service is bad. It’s not as bad for you as it is for others in this “City”.

    Steve: If transit loses its attractiveness even in the part of the GTHA where it has a fighting chance to be credible, it will never make inroads where the market share is under 10%. Service needs to be improved everywhere, but don’t try to tell me to be happy with what we have in Toronto just because someone in Oakville has worse. The last time I looked, a huge majority of the GDP and tax revenue for Toronto and the GTHA comes from buildings I can see out of my window. If anything, it will be Toronto subsidizing Oakville and the rest of the 905 just as they have for decades.

    That’s not an attitude I want to see — the “why should I pay for your transit, or schools, or hospitals” politics of jealousy and the false promise that “my” stuff could be better if only “they” didn’t get as much. We have collectively built the GTHA as it is and we need to make it all work, not just the few kilometres outside our front doors.

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  24. Also interesting is the list of traffic cameras in Toronto … I don’t see any on any major streetcar lines … it seems to me though, that if you want to monitor traffic on a road, that it would be good to have cameras on it … that way for instance, you could see that a car is stalled before all the streetcars and buses get backed up … they could be also useful for redirecting enforcement activities to places where it is needed … apparently we have a bunch of cops wandering around downtown looking for cars that are parked illegally … why don’t we have one or two interns sitting in a room looking at cameras, then give the cops a call and tell them to go check out the parked truck that we can see on our screen … make them a bit more effective.

    Steve: City Transportation is working on just such a plan as part of the Downtown Traffic Operations Study.

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  25. Hi Steve,

    A question:

    You said that “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.”

    If I am right about the motion to which you are referring, I had been expecting to see staff recycle the Transit City Bus Plan in time for the July meeting. Are you saying that that this isn’t going to happen? Didn’t the motion pass? What did I miss?

    On a different note, please say “yes” when “someone” asks you to sit on the new TTC board. We need you desperately.

    Steve: What you missed were the minutes of the meeting in which this motion was amended (by Josh Colle) to read “January” rather than “July”. Chatter around the table referred to this is the “Olivia motion” showing clearly that the idea was to stop any useful/embarrassing info about what might be done from coming out before the election. Shameful.

    As for sitting on the Commission, there are at least four problems.

    First is the condescending attitude of some TTC senior management to the role of citizen commissioners as evidenced at a briefing for would-be applicants. They were only interested in “titans of industry” we were told who would bring their expertise to bear on TTC ops. This of course has not happened, and the citizen members have not been heavily involved in TTC policy (nor, for that matter, have the council members). (This problem exists also because of Karen Stintz and her policy-lite approach to the board’s role.)

    Second, there is a question of confidentiality. As a board member, I would have access to info about a lot of things (including discussions of negotiations with other agencies). It would be challenging to continue blogging with knowledge of matters I could not discuss.

    Third, there is the question of the role of management versus the board. It is not a board member’s job or proper position to meddle in the day-to-day running of the organization. That’s why there are staff paid to do this. Yes, there will always be political interference, but it’s a delicate balance not to create a situation where management sits on their hands because they expect to be directed at the political level. The board’s job is to discuss policy and to elicit information from management that will assist and clarify for their debates, and for their advocacy at the political level.

    Finally, there is a basic question of which hat I would be wearing: as a Commissioner, or as a private critic/advocate, when writing or speaking about transit issues. Currently I enjoy the relatively independent role of a journalist trusted by many agencies. That relationship changes completely if one has an official position, and it would be impossible to conduct the sort of critiques and debates that are held on this website.

    I can do far more good being independent, talking to anyone who will listen, and hosting debates outside of official channels. It will take more than one “advocate” member of the TTC to change how that organization and its political environment behave.

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  26. Streetcar driver: “I make about $90,000 a year driving a streetcar. That’s really good money. I’ve got very good job security. I’ve got a defined benefit pension waiting for me when I’m finished.”

    Plus there are countless bus and streetcar drivers making over $100,000 regularly according to the sunshine list published by the Ontario Government. I am a PhD electrical engineer working for a private firm in Scarborough and make only about $75,000; have ZERO job security; and no pension plan other than the CPP available to all Canadians. The “very good job security” that he cites is to blame for poor service and bunching with as many as 11 buses/streetcars coming in a row. Why are we hell bent on paying gold plated salaries, pensions, and benefits to UNSKILLED workers? If an escalator breaks down at the Eaton Centre (and very rarely does it actually break down there), it is fixed within 24 hours but why does it sometimes take TTC months to solve the same problem of fixing an escalator? Toronto Star recently reported 18,000 TTC crashes in the 4 years from 2009 to 2013. Every single day (both as a pedestrian and as a rider sitting in front), I see TTC vehicles running red lights and the “very good job security” that that driver cites is to blame for this including deaths and severe injurious of innocent pedestrians. It is time to have ZERO tolerance for public transit drivers running red lights and speeding with immediate firing of the drivers for doing so.

    Steve: The operators are not “countless”, there are just over 300 of them out of a workforce of close to 5,000, under 1%, and the list is in plain sight for anyone to read.

    Dare I point out that TTC workers were declared an “essential service” and the contract which just expired was the product of arbitration? The new contract recently signed was negotiated at a lower rate of increase than the one it replaced.

    For their troubles, operators have to drive overcrowded vehicles in all sorts of traffic and weather with workdays that can run to over 10 hours quite regularly. 18,000 crashes in 4 years? Well, there were 1,461 days in that four years, and so that’s about 12 per day, not bad considering that there are about 1,800 vehicles in service. Many of those crashes were not the TTC’s fault.

    You cite deaths and injuries of pedestrians, as well as unsafe driving practices. Have you reported any of the vehicles running red lights? All you need is time, location and fleet number. If this is happening every day, you must have quite a dossier by now.

    I agree that there are problems with service that is poorly managed and have written about that frequently. However, my complaint is less with the minority of operators who abuse the situation than with the management who don’t manage and with the politicians who don’t want to fund the TTC to provide adequate service.

    I was of two minds about publishing this comment, and have let it through only to refute some of your claims. If this spawns a stream of pro/anti union rants, I will simply delete them.

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  27. Steve commented:

    Every time the TTC has an opportunity to improve service capacity through initiatives such as transit signal priority or rights-of-way, they have “sold” it on the basis that they can reduce operating costs. That was the original story for the St. Clair project, although they changed their tune when all the upheaval for no improvement in service proved to be a public relations disaster.

    The rebuilt St. Clair is worse for cycling along than prior to rebuilding, though I’d heard that a major, if not prime comment from the public at early hearings was for better biking. So bikes are now more built out from being competition for transit on St. Clair. A solution might well be putting streetcar transit towards the side of the road so that a roadway, if wide enough, goes sidewalk, bikespace, transit, with some trees or something else likely between sidewalk and bikespace.

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  28. Steve wrote:

    “The big issue for both routes is that there are far worse problems outside of the core, especially to the west, than in the core proper.”

    Yeah, the problem in the west end is that the TTC insists on one very long route that runs from the border with Mississauga to east of the beaches (Neville Park.) The 501 has few issues west of Roncesvalles. It’s east of there were the issues are. And I am talking from personal experience and observation. From Long Branch to Humber, the Lake Shore is normally only busy during the rush hour, and even then the streetcars still move. Between Humber and Roncesvalles, there is the ROW.

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  29. TorontoStreetcars said:

    “The TTC could have chosen a shorter streetcar that was cheaper, so they could have had more streetcars built and maintain service levels.”

    Your proposal undermines the whole point of having a streetcar system to begin with.

    At the extreme, a streetcar system with a fleet that has the same capacity as buses is worse than a bus-only system.

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  30. To the electrical engineer that is “only” making 75K a year. Life isn’t fair, man. Instead of moaning about the pay of other people, try to improve your situation instead.

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  31. Steve said:

    “I thought you had intended the 504 because you were replying to a comment about Queen and King, not College. I don’t agree with your assessment of the problem, and if you define “downtown” as “up to Bloor”, well that covers almost all of the streetcar network except for St. Clair. You are in effect proposing a network of downtown subways, not a streetcar system.”

    To what degree would running the Don Mills subway to the Ex, reduce the load on the King car? Would a Waterfront LRT routed north of the tracks (assuming you can find a way past that last block or so to the Queensway ROW ), and somehow finding its way to Union – substantially relieve the pressure on the rest of Streetcar network?

    Steve: I don’t think a Don Mills line would have much effect on current King car loading at all for the simple reason that people do not get on at locations the DRL might serve. It is now fairly clear that the Unilever site would be a logical place for a stop, but this completely bypasses any connection with the King car at Queen Street, and makes any link west of the river difficult. The DRL might reduce future increases in demand on King East (but not eliminate them), but it’s no panacea. West of downtown, the King car does substantial business, but again the question is how well a DRL would actually serve areas from Liberty Village eastward. Much would depend on station locations, and whether the DRL stayed close to the rail corridor or swerved further south to anchor some new development closer to Lake Shore. It’s not a short walk from the north end of Liberty Village down to the CNE (never mind the newer part north of King). Further east, the Bathurst/Niagara area contributes a lot of riders, but again the problem is whether there would be a well-located subway stop and this will depend on where the DRL is headed within the CNE grounds.

    As for the Waterfront West LRT, this line has always suffered from being many bits stitched together because they look nice on a map. The western end (Queensway and southern Etobicoke) serves an area that needs better service generally both because of the ongoing problems with integration of the through 501 service, and because local demand on Lake Shore gets the short end of the stick with all of the focus on getting to downtown. We are prepared to run express buses from a tony condo at Humber Bay, but not to redesign the streetcar service so that folks further west can have more reliable service. Further east, there is the problem of just what the WWLRT is supposed to do. It runs into the same issues as a DRL through the Ex because there have been several proposed routes (including one down to Lake Shore). Then there is the challenge of getting over to Union.

    In general, I believe that any of the new lines we are even remotely likely to see (and I include here a revised GO/TTC relationship on fares and transfers) are more likely to trim the top off of future growth and attract in some new riders, but they will not draw riders off of the existing system, especially with the fine-grained pattern of residential development now underway along the streetcar routes.

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  32. Respect democracy, hold a referendum said:

    “I am not saying that we should get rid of the streetcars because I don’t like them (which I don’t as modern buses are faster, safer, much much cheaper, and way more reliable than streetcars) but what I am saying is the following: let the people decide in a referendum whether to keep or get rid of streetcars.”

    I would note that this is a reasonably complex issue, that would require a level of interest and detailed viewing, that is not well suited to referendum. There is a reason that governance in the past was done via representative democracy, and that was the time required to carefully examine an issue was not available to everyone. One of the issues we have today is far too much governance done by polls that are interpreted to “reflect” the will of the people. They in reality only reflect a knee jerk reaction of someone being ambushed on the street, or called at home, with a short list of possible answer, without time to reasonably deliberate the issue.

    Given the capacity required in the core, and that available on a bus, I do not think that replacing streetcars with buses will work, and there is a reason that other cities are bringing them back. The problem downtown may not be resolved with new larger streetcars, and much improved management from TTC and city traffic will be required. I think however, going to buses, which require many more vehicles would greatly compound the problem.

    Steve: It is amusing to observe how referenda are invoked as a way to prove that “I am right” even though we know folks can be fooled into voting for the “wrong” result. For every one of “us” who despair that so many voted for Rob Ford, there will be opposite numbers who will bemoan the election of someone like Olivia Chow claiming that “the people didn’t know what they were getting into”.

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  33. Public Safety First:

    “Why are we hell bent on paying gold plated salaries, pensions, and benefits to UNSKILLED workers?”

    We might be doing unskilled work but it doesn’t mean we are not skilled. I have an Honours Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from McMaster University and Master’s in the same field from the University of British Columbia. I worked in the IT sector for 15 years for a multinational tech firm and could have continued to do so but found a higher paying job at the TTC as a streetcar driver providing a very essential service. I loved my IT job and liked it much more than my current job but I have a family to raise and the IT job just didn’t pay enough. It is very difficult to make good money in a private sector job (even if you are a unionised worker which I was in my IT job as well) unless you are some sort of a manager or an executive and public sector jobs are generally much better with much better wages, much better benefits, much better pensions, and much higher job security. Also most of my fellow streetcar and bus drivers (I don’t drive buses but have friends which do) are good family people and need and deserve what they work very hard to earn.

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  34. On a related note, Tory is showing some signs that he might be willing to deal with traffic issues that impact surface route service.

    Whether he would actually do anything about them once he gets elected is another question.

    Steve: There is a big problem that the perceived wisdom is that “downtown” is the source of congestion. However, there are problems all along the major routes, especially in the west end, and it will be harder to deal with these than just towing a few trucks from Brinks or Shred-It. There is also a fundamental problem with the amount of service on the route, and Tory has said nothing about how he would address that system-wide issue.

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  35. Steve said:

    There is a big problem that the perceived wisdom is that “downtown” is the source of congestion. However, there are problems all along the major routes, especially in the west end, and it will be harder to deal with these than just towing a few trucks from Brinks or Shred-It. There is also a fundamental problem with the amount of service on the route, and Tory has said nothing about how he would address that system-wide issue.

    Oh no question that it would be only one item on the laundry list of improvements needed for the surface route service. However, along King in particular where enforcement of the traffic laws in place is somewhere between rare and non-existent, it would be a good start.

    I am curious if streetcar projects would fall under his push for around the clock work on road construction projects.

    Steve: There are a few points about streetcar projects. In some cases, especially intersections, there is some round-the-clock work. Next, certain timings are determined by the speed at which concrete cures. Third, people in residential neighbourhoods don’t like track crews working at 3am.

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  36. King and Queen are very busy streetcar routes and it makes perfect sense to (progressively) enforce parking and stopping laws, eliminate left turns, ban through traffic during rush hour, ban traffic during rush hour and ban traffic. The key is that it must be seen as being done to improve transit and not as a “war on the car”. But then Eglinton Connects comes along, and Jarvis Street before, where there is no benefit to transit but lanes are removed anyway. These examples reinforce the idea that there is a war on the car. Decision made to punish the driver in other areas is making it harder to improve transit on busy streetcar routes.

    Steve: Jarvis was intended originally to be an improvement for pedestrians, and morphed into an improvement for cyclists. Eglinton Connects has been grossly misrepresented by Rob Ford (who at best is badly informed, at worst is an outright liar). The only section where lanes will be lost is between Avenue Road and Mt. Pleasant where the street is effectively one lane each way already thanks to parked cars and parades of buses.

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  37. In your reply to Ryan C above you omitted the http:// from the link, so this system is prepending your site to the URL, which, obviously, breaks the link.

    Steve: Fixed. Thanks!

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  38. Steve said:

    Eglinton Connects has been grossly misrepresented by Rob Ford (who at best is badly informed, at worst is an outright liar).

    As we saw more recently with Sugar Beach and the Cherry Beach washroom, I think people can reasonably say that he is leaning heavily towards the outright liar side on the issue of Eglinton Connects.

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