How Can the TTC Run More Service?

In a previous article, I wrote about the crisis in system capacity across all modes – buses, streetcars and subways – and the danger that Toronto may face years without meaningful improvement in transit capacity.

This is a campaign issue, but one that is embraced only by one major candidate, Olivia Chow, and even then, not very well.

Full disclosure: Early in the campaign, I was approached by the Chow team to advise on what became her better bus service plank, but I certainly didn’t write it for reasons that will soon be obvious.

Her transit plan includes support for LRT lines, GO electrification and the first stage of a Downtown Relief subway line. It also includes this commitment regarding bus service:

A better transit plan starts investing now, with buses. Because 60% of TTC rides involve a bus and as the TTC says, the only way to expand transit now is with buses. So Olivia will invest to boost bus service right away, investing $15 million a year.

When we stack a paltry $15m up against the billions in rapid transit plans, it looks rather puny and gives the impression we are trying to get more service on the cheap. How can small change by transit budget standards stack up against the massive spending schemes of rapid transit networks?

Where did the number come from? Back when the Ford/Stintz crew started to dismantle the Miller-era service standards, the anticipated saving was only about $14m/year. However, reversing the cuts is not quite as simple.

When you cut transit service, you can reduce costs simply by letting old buses wear out and not replacing them, by reducing the operator workforce through attrition, and by cutting plans for a new bus garage (needed for a bigger fleet) out of the capital budget. That’s precisely what happened.

To undo the damage, we need more buses, more garage space and more operators. Some, but by no means all, of the cost will come out of the $15m, but there is much more involved.

McNicoll Garage has a pricetag of $181-million (of which only about $80m has been funded as of 2014), and it is required simply to handle growth in the bus fleet with no provision for better service standards. Yet another garage will be required to support better service, although in the short term one garage will do for both purposes. Also, by 2020, some bus services will have been replaced by rapid transit lines, but we don’t really know how much because the future of various schemes is uncertain.

(Some of the chaos in fleet planning dates from the cancellation of Transit City, and still more from shortsighted cutbacks of the last few years.)

New buses cost about $700k apiece. With current peak service at around 1,500 buses (not including those used for construction service), a 10% bump in fleet capacity means 150 new vehicles at a cost of $105-million.

At the very least, in the next few years, the TTC would face the following capital costs over and above what is already committed:

  • $100m to fully fund McNicoll Garage
  • $105m to purchase 150 buses

Moreover, the McNicoll project must be accelerated for completion before 2019, the current schedule. The idea that Toronto would see no additional peak service for five years is a disgusting testament to the ill-informed folly of the Ford/Stintz era.

Can We Improve Bus Service While Awaiting New Buses?

When I advised the Chow campaign about buses, two factors were included in the question of short-term availability:

  • Can some of the existing fleet scheduled for retirement in 2015 be retained at least long enough for new vehicle deliveries in mid-2016 (likely the earliest an order placed in the new Council’s term could arrive)?
  • Do known, planned reductions in construction activity in 2015 (due both to the Pan Am Games and the completion of major projects) give Toronto a one-year window where the number of “construction buses” can be reduced from recent levels?

The TTC is adamant that the old buses cannot be kept alive, but I have to scratch my head and wonder whether the real problem is reliability of the newer fleet, notably the hybrids. Toronto needs some straight talk about the condition of its bus fleet and whether buses can be kept rolling into mid 2016.

Some have argued that keeping the lift-equipped buses running would be a disservice to the disabled riders. Without question, riders who encounter those vehicles would be at a disadvantage, but – even more so – all riders suffer when there isn’t enough capacity for anyone to board a vehicle. Any move to keep these buses in service must be accompanied by a guarantee that they will be withdrawn as soon as possible and used only as rush hour extras, not for all-day service.

As for construction, we know that some projects will be finished or winding down: the Queens Quay renewal ends next month, the Spadina subway extension will reach a point where delays thanks to torn up station sites such as Finch West should be over, the Metrolinx Georgetown South project will be done. Finally, the TTC has no major track projects planned for 2015 that require service replacements with buses (unless they have changed the plan published as part of the 2014 capital budget).

It won’t be easy, but the TTC should do more than shrug its shoulders and say “we cannot run more service because we have no buses”.

Service Improvements Within The Existing Fleet

Two changes are possible immediately: better off peak service, and better PM peak service.

The TTC has already proposed a return to the pre-Ford loading standards in its Opportunities to Improve Transit Service report.

Better peak service means a bigger fleet, but only in the AM peak because there are 85 fewer peak buses scheduled in the afternoon than in the morning. (The AM peak includes school and work trips in the same time period, whereas in the PM these are spread out.) Afternoon peak service could be improved immediately, at least to the point of matching AM fleet requirements.

Off peak improvements, of course, require no additional vehicles, only the will to fund the service. The TTC’s estimate of reduced off-peak crowding is about $11.9m/year, although this does not take us all the way back to pre-Ford levels.

The TTC report includes other proposals such as the creation of a core network of 10-minute routes, another off-peak change that requires no additional vehicles, with an annual cost of $13.6m.

What About Streetcar Routes?

Although they are over a year late arriving, the new streetcars have finally made their appearance and the fleet should build up in coming months now that the strike at Bombardier has been settled.

The TTC’s original fleet plans called for old streetcars to be retired at least as fast as new ones could replace them, but the plans were flawed on two counts:

  • ALRVs (the two-section cars used mainly on Queen and King) are the least reliable, and would be the first to go. The published fleet plan would have actually seen fleet capacity go down even while new cars were entering service because the plan made no allowance for reassignment of the smaller CLRVs to take over the work of larger ALRVs.
  • The implementation plan contained no provision for improving service on routes that were later in the rollout (e.g. King, Queen, Carlton) until new cars finally went into service there.

Fortunately, the TTC may have seen the error of its ways and a revised fleet plan is expected in the 2015 budget. (See page 25 of the August 2014 presentation on the low-floor streetcars.)

The problem with streetcar route capacity is compounded by schedules that do not give cars enough time to make their trips under today’s conditions. The King car recently saw extended running times, and changes are likely needed elsewhere in the network. Longer trips require more vehicles if service is to remain at the same scheduled level.

There is no reason that the TTC could not begin improving peak streetcar service in 2015 as the new fleet increases total system capacity. This will require work to keep older cars running for a few more years, but providing service is the TTC’s job and they need to figure out the best way to achieve this goal.

As with the bus network, nothing prevents the TTC from improving off-peak services.

Where Do We Put The Vehicles?

An issue raised by the TTC is that they have no garage space, indeed that their current fleet strains the capacity of the system. If old vehicles are not retired or if new ones arrive faster than space is available, supplementary space will be needed.

The question for the TTC is whether they should lease land or use city-owned space (including commuter parking lots) for bus storage. Wherever this is done, the extra space must be near existing garages to simplify servicing, fuelling and dispatching.

An attitude that “we can’t do anything” dooms Toronto to declining service and is an abdication of management’s responsibility to make the best of a bad situation.

What Must Be Done

At its August meeting, the TTC Board passed a motion asking staff for information on the requirements to run more service. The text of this motion comes from a deputation I prepared for that meeting (in case anyone wonders why it aligns so closely with the sort of thing I have been recommending).

This information will be vital to inform the debate about what can be done, and how soon Toronto can see improvements.

The next requirement is quite simple: there must be a will both by TTC management and by Council to actually work as hard as possible to improve service, especially in the short term when there will be challenges thanks to fleet constraints.

All in, capital and operating, this will cost more than $15m/year, and Toronto should be prepared to pay more. We sit through interminable shouting matches with candidates who happily draw multi-billion dollar maps as their “solution” to our problems. We can only dream of future decades when riders might see better service. That’s not a pro-transit platform, but simply a game of smoke and mirrors to buy votes.

Any mayoral candidate who is serious about improving transit has to start with a program that will improve transit now, not after one or two more election cycles. Rapid transit is important, but without better service on the existing system, as soon as possible, the credibility of transit as a real travel alternative will wither, and political support for any improvements will evaporate.

63 thoughts on “How Can the TTC Run More Service?

  1. How feasible is leasing buses? Though perhaps the lead time on simply ordering buses isn’t all that long.

    Steve: On the scale we need, it is unlikely that there are enough working city transit buses just sitting around awaiting lessors.

    How many buses could we cram into the current facilities?

    Steve: All garages are already full.

    Where is the Pan-Am bus fleet being kept? Presumably this site could be used temporarily. Though if the Pan-Am buses look anything like the ones used at 2010 Vancouver they’d not be suitable for regular transit. Looked more like schoolbuses.

    Steve: Buses will be stored on a lot east of Cherry Street just north of the rail corridor. This is not a convenient location for servicing as it is remote from all bus garages, not to mention a great deal of the bus route network.

    How many buses does TTC use on YRT services in peak?

    Steve: To estimate the number of buses serving YRT, I have taken the scheduled counts on each route and pro-rated the number for the outside-416 mileage.

    160 Bathurst North 1
    17 Birchmount 1
    105 Dufferin North 3
    35 Jane 3
    107 Keele North 8
    102 Markham Road 2
    129 McCowan North 4
    224 Victoria Park North 4
    68 Warden 1
    165 Weston Road North 1

    Total: 28

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  2. The all-door loading proposal for early 2015 on streetcar routes itself should boost streetcar service for all time periods using the same number of vehicles. The only way for Chow to promise better AM peak bus service is to do the same for bus routes.

    I know it’s unlikely, but supposing that all parties are on board, how quickly can painted bus lanes, TSP, and all-door loading be implemented systemwide? Aside from Chow’s proposed cost of $15million, is her promise to boost service systemwide physically possible in this manner (if not by increasing the fleet itself)?

    Steve: Streetcars already load at all doors on an informal basis, and so there is little capacity to be gained on that account beyond having a consistent operating practice. Painted bus lanes tend to be ineffective especially on routes that are already congested thanks to an absence of enforcement. TSP will have some benefit, but it will be route and location specific. As a system-wide percentage improvement, especially for bus services, the effect is likely to be small. In other words, TSP may give a 10% improvement, but not on all routes at all locations, and so the fleet-wide savings would be much smaller.

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  3. Steve said:

    “Streetcars already load at all doors on an informal basis, and so there is little capacity to be gained on that account beyond having a consistent operating practice. Painted bus lanes tend to be ineffective especially on routes that are already congested thanks to an absence of enforcement. TSP will have some benefit, but it will be route and location specific. As a system-wide percentage improvement, especially for bus services, the effect is likely to be small. In other words, TSP may give a 10% improvement, but not on all routes at all locations, and so the fleet-wide savings would be much smaller.”

    Steve, as a mayor would not the improvement of enforcement and TSP performance still be a top priority, because 1 – they can be done relatively quickly, and 2 – the major portion of benefit should actually happen at the time of day when the improvement is most required (even if it did only average out to 2 or 3 percent).

    Also Steve how about having the 3 most pertinent heads sit on a panel with the mayor, the group being specifically charged by the mayor with making transit in the city move. That would in my mind have managers of City Traffic, Police, and the TTC sitting weekly with the buses and streetcars being the issue at hand.

    I have to say in my mind the responsibility for transit, and the notion that their agencies will be held to account on it, is important to make transit work. I would think the simple issue of having to sit down weekly to deal with it would begin to wear on them. If nothing else they would have staff looking hard to see what they could improve to make it work, and it would bump transit up the priority list. It may be only worth 2-3% in capacity but it would also shorten the ride for transit users, and that 2-3% would likely be seen where it is most required. It would also get the TTC and City Traffic at the table with regards to new TSP systems and AVL systems, as a priority if only to have something to report.

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  4. While all TTC garages are currently full, is that also true of YRT/Viva garages?

    York Region seems to be doing a better job than the City currently as far as planning and executing transit expansion plans goes–do they have any temporarily available space that the TTC could lease for bus storage while building a new garage?

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  5. Again, it’s quite helpful to have all of this, including comments, available. Thanks.

    But we always seem to be avoiding the four-wheeled elephants in the living room, den, kitchen, driveway and on the lawns aka mobile furnaces that actually cost us a lot and may be the major contributor to all those congestion costs, though I do accept that they cost a lot to own and operate already; they are increasingly more necessary when the overall density goes down; and they are technologically quite sophisticated. But gee, where’s a Vehicle Registration Tax to fund TTC capital and some operating??

    There’s an old quote from c. 1996 that I’ve shared around in the intervening decades to highlight all this car-avy, printed in the Globe. Ken Cameron of Vancouver said “We realized that the public subsidy enjoyed by the private automobile amounts to $2,700 per automobile per year, or about seven times the amount we subsidize public transit”.

    So – using figures from the killed-off VRT – there was $60M raised to equal about a million cars in Caronto, and thus the total avoided cost (not including the 340,000 or so cars coming in every day), might be c. $2.7B – a lot of car-avy. Surely it’s time to be putting out a Registration Tax with clearly directed ends ie. “trust” funds or capital, so that there actually is a better revenue stream for transit improvements/maintenance.

    Ms. Chow seems to be avoiding this topic, unlike most everyone else of course, and the sar-chasm is great. Major media are usually beholden to the car advertisers ie. they are on the “carrupt” side; and yet, if there’s any commitment to “truth”, the real truth is the subsidy to cars is both great and greatly damaging. If anyone wishes to get into more of this, it takes some digging and it’s controversial, but consider the work of Todd Littman at the Victoria Transport Policy Institute and just yesterday there was a more local prof on Radio Noon (a Civ. Eng. Jeff Kisello I think it was) indicating yes, cars are subsidized. It’d be helpful too, if Steve could talk about these elephants too, though we’re lucky he does what he does.

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  6. Steve, did you forgot to count the 224 Victoria Park North as a route that serves for the YRT?

    Steve: It does not operate north of Steeles in the peak period, and therefore does not contribute to the peak vehicle total.

    [This reply was in error, and the table of routes operating in York Region has been updated to include the 224.]

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  7. There are solutions, but they will not be good solutions. Any facility that can service a Prevost motorcoach can also service a city bus. There are a few in the city, so the city can probably lease those facilities.

    City buses are harder to source. If the city is willing to use motorcoaches, they can be procure relatelively quickly. There is a vibrant lease market through GE Capital. For the Rocket routes, motorcoaches would work since there are fewer disembarkments. It would also be more comfortable.

    Dropping the “Buy Canada” and accessibility provisions would also speed up procurement. There are many bus factories in China. Since they are also a left hand drive country, their buses will only need a few modifications (like DRLs) to make it work in Canada.

    The problem with transit operations are that every system is unique. A TTC spec tram is different than the ones in Detriot (under construction). Unlike a Boeing 737 Max, where many facilities exist to repair them, transit assets are much different. A yard in Detroit cannot service a CLRV no matter how well intention that crew are. Even if the TTC were to send buses to Durham Transit’s garage, without the spare parts, nothing will be fixed. It is not like an airport where it can repair almost any plane.

    Air Canada regularly sends their Boeing aircrafts to Mexico for retrofits and Type C checks to save money. If transit assets are more standardized, the TTC could eventually send 200 buses annually to a US facility (for example) for engine rebuilts. This would free up room in the garages. But it is not possible at this time.

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  8. “do they have any temporarily available space that the TTC could lease for bus storage while building a new garage?”

    That is the kind of thing that would almost certainly cause huge problems with the unions short of also putting TTC staff in York facilities. For all the problems with it, staging sites with limited to nonexistent servicing facilities are probably more practical in the short term.

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  9. As far as TSP is concerned, low-hanging fruit would be sensor-activated intersections. Many times I have been on a crowded and delayed bus which had to wait for a car to make a left turn off of a side street while the bus behind got closer. I don’t think anyone would have noticed if that car had had to wait another 5 seconds for the bus to pass through the intersection instead of the bus waiting for a cycle and getting that much closer to forming a bunch with the bus(es) behind.

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  10. How can the TTC run more service? Perish the thought!

    How about running the promised service? Lately it seems on some days there are more ALRV’s on King than Queen. It’s doubtful the schedules on Queen were adjusted for that…

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  11. The important point about more new streetcars is more accessibility. It’s not just about running more service. Running a bunch of half-broken vehicles is meaningless.

    Steve: And the TTC needs to make the effort to keep the best vehicles running. “Half-broken” is a common sign throughout the transit industry of cutbacks on maintenance to save money and drum up support for more new purchases. Not saying that’s the TTC’s game, but they may have planned to retire vehicles too early and created a maintenance strategy that suits that goal. As for accessibility, of course new streetcars will provide that, but you cannot ride a car that hasn’t been delivered, and meanwhile we need better service any way possible.

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  12. Steve: To estimate the number of buses serving YRT, I have taken the scheduled counts on each route and pro-rated the number for the outside-416 mileage.

    105 Dufferin North 3
    35 Jane 3
    107 Keele North 8
    165 Weston Road North 1

    YRT’s strategy document says that they plan to replace these routes north of Steeles with their own routes once the subway extension opens.

    Steve: Yes, but that won’t be until at least 2016.

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  13. Jim Hoffman says:
    September 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    “As far as TSP is concerned, low-hanging fruit would be sensor-activated intersections. Many times I have been on a crowded and delayed bus which had to wait for a car to make a left turn off of a side street while the bus behind got closer. I don’t think anyone would have noticed if that car had had to wait another 5 seconds for the bus to pass through the intersection instead of the bus waiting for a cycle and getting that much closer to forming a bunch with the bus(es) behind.”

    If it is only cars using the crossing intersection then this would probably work. The problems start when pedestrians enter the picture. If you steal 5 or 6 seconds from the time for autos you will only have a couple of pissed off drivers who will probably speed through on the end of the amber or in the all red phase. If you take 5 or 6 seconds off the crossing time of a cross street with a lot of pedestrians you could end up with dead pedestrians. If you add the time back into the end of the cycle then you are screwing up the main street for the next and later cycles. It is a constant trade off of priorities and some times improving things for one transit vehicle may make things worse for the next 10. It is not a simple problem when streets are carrying at or near capacity, especially when you throw in those pesky pedestrians.

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  14. I see two other big questions no one’s addressing regarding this plan:

    1) Isn’t the Yonge line due for a shutdown to rebuild the track south of Eglinton in the next year or so? Aren’t lots of construction buses going to be required for that? Or has that plan been put off until after the Crosstown opens? How many?

    Steve: The work has been put off to 2016 (post Pan Am), and in any event will not be done with a complete shutdown because the TTC simply could not get enough buses, and Yonge Street would have to be totally dedicated to their operation. Some other approach will be taken to rebuilding this part of the line.

    2) Since Chow’s plan also involves going back to the Scarborough LRT, which will require at least a 2-3 year shutdown of the RT, aren’t a whole bunch of buses going to be needed to run the shuttle service to STC? How many? Will this happen at the same time as the Yonge shutdown? What is the total number of buses needed just to maintain these services, compared to the plan?

    Steve: Yonge isn’t shutting down, and the SRT would close after the Pan Am Games (fall 2015). The number of buses required is much, much lower because RT ridership is only a fraction of that on the Yonge line at Davisville.

    Meanwhile, on Olivia’s side, do you have a total of the number of buses that will be freed up by the end of the Harbourfront shutdown and the opening of the York subway extension? Aside from the 196 Rocket, are other services like Finch and Keele expected to require more, or less bus service when the subway opens (because fewer people will be taking through-trips on the bus past the subway station, or because more people are attracted to the service)?

    Steve: The AM peak service on 509 Harbourfront is 15 buses. The net saving of opening the Spadina extension will only be about 25 buses according to the TTC (cuts on some routes are offset by increases on others). We will get a few more (see a previous comment) thanks to York Region taking on some of the routes now operated under contract by the TTC. In any event, the Spadina line won’t open until long after we could get new buses — the period of concern is 2015 & 2016.

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  15. In reference to the above comment:

    Steve, did you forgot to count the 224 Victoria Park North as a route that serves for the YRT?

    “Steve: It does not operate north of Steeles in the peak period, and therefore does not contribute to the peak vehicle total.”

    You might have gotten the 24/224 mixed up. Service north of Steeles on the 24 is replaced by the 224 in peak periods.

    Steve: Ooops! Thanks for catching this. I have updated the table in the earlier comment, and this brings the total buses running north of Steeles to 28.

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  16. Isn’t this a service that Metrolinx could/should be providing to Ontario cities? I see a need for a shared service float that could maybe be made up of 100 buses … surely storing 100 old buses for a year or two after they are “decommissioned” but before they are scrapped would be fairly cheap in some rural area, with some service fee to make use of them when/if they are needed. If they are not used, they have a small shared cost … if they are used they make a small amount of money – covering storage … and they are still eventually get scrapped and any money would be returned to the system of origin … given that ridership and service needs can fluctuate with the economy, the weather, cost of gas and the government of the day this would be a useful tool for immediate peak improvements if and when they are needed … with little to no cost to Ontario (relative to how much it would be for the City of Toronto to do something similar).

    Steve: A bus that just sits in storage does not come back into service immediately, and this would be complicated by the age of the buses you propose.

    There is a more basic problem at work here. Queen’s Park killed off a program that subsidized the purchase of buses a few years ago, and so the cost to cities of building up their bus fleets has gone up substantially. The counterargument — that this is now part of gas tax funding — ignores the fact that the gas tax was already in place when the bus subsidies were killed off.

    My faith in Ontario and its agencies as a saviour of local transit must work against a long history of indifference and misguided meddling.

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  17. Not to be obtuse, but then what is the requirement of buses for the SRT replacement? It does little good if we can beef up service in early 2015, only to have to cut it back because we’re starting the SRT project the following year.

    Or, are you thinking something like this:

    2015 — 15 new buses come online from Harbourfront; work begins on the portion of SRT that doesn’t require shutdown (ie, the extension portion).
    2016 — 25 + 15 new buses from opening of YUSSE; total of 55 additional buses available for service
    2017-20 — delivery of new buses (but where do we store them?) in 2017. SRT shutdown from 2017-20 requires X buses.
    2019 — opening of McNicoll garage? can this be bumped up? Do we need yet another garage as well, and when would that open?

    Steve: You are off base here. First of all, if we order new buses early in 2015, they will arrive in mid-2016, certainly in time for the fall schedules. At that point we can retire any old vehicles that were kept in service as peak period supplements. The period in which we have to carefully juggle vehicle availability would end with the summer 2016 service cuts that begin in late May.

    Storage has been discussed before, and one place I would look to is the vast amount of parking around Wilson Station which is near to Wilson Garage. Very, very bluntly, the riders who would use those buses are a lot more numerous and important than the drivers who would no longer be able to park there.

    McNicoll should be advanced if possible. The EA is completed, and I have a hard time believing it would take 4 years to build a garage on now-vacant land. As for a follow-on garage, this brings us to the need for a detailed TTC fleet plan that shows the effect of various scenarios, not simply the one that happens to fit the Ford era budget priorities. We need to know what bus requirements will look like into the 2020s including the effect of opening one or more LRT lines.

    What is very, very frustrating here is that there all sorts of ways to say “oh dear, we can’t add more bus service” and, by extension, that the do-nothing alternative (well, actually throwing everything we have at rapid transit construction) is therefore automatically a valid option. The bus situation is the result of years of bad planning including arbitrary changes to rapid transit project schedules on which earlier plans were based.

    Whoever is the new mayor, accepting the TTC’s “come back in 2019” line should not be an option.

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  18. Thanks Steve, that makes a lot of sense.

    I guess what we also need from the TTC is a more detailed a long-term fleet plan, so we know exactly how many buses we need going forward and into the glorious post-LRT-construction future. Presumably, a large number of buses all become available again once the Eglinton, Finch, Sheppard, and even Scarb LRT open (or, yes, Subway) open in 2020-21.

    Will we have a glut of buses because we ordered for our short-term needs now? Or will we have exactly as many as we need to keep up with ridership growth and vehicle retirement? Will we need another garage beyond McNicoll at this point?

    Steve: There is a large group of 482 buses, the first of the Orion VIIs, acquired between 2002-2005 that would be due for retirement starting in 2020. This gives quite adequate protection against any future downsizing that might be needed in a post-LRT opening world.

    And in the medium-to-longer term, what impact will GO electrification and fare integration have on the bus fleet plan? What impact will a DRL have? Neither of these will directly replace many bus routes, but routes and ridership may change as buses run to the new stations.

    Steve: There are too many variables at work here, but my guess is that the effects of ridership growth, especially if stimulated by a new fare system, will easily outstrip any “savings” from riders diverting onto GO.

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  19. Make just one artery through the city, let’s say Queen Street, purely for streetcars and small delivery trucks only. No other cars, no taxis, and no short turns. No new streetcars, same old track and wires, no new costs. It’s just a matter of doing it, just that one street . You’ll probably find that many passengers from the King and maybe even Dundas cars would use Queen.

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  20. Fleet planning is clearly complicated and is based on assumptions about many projects that may increase/decrease/shift demand. (Subway extension, road works, WT projects etc). For example, if the Queens Quay work by WT had been on schedule there would have been lots of spare buses now used to operate the 509 and 510 replacements. If the Waterfront East LRT line gets built it should reduce the number of buses on both the 75 (Sherbourne) and (in particular) the 6 Bay. From what I can see of the TTC plans for streetcar track upgrades these are mainly for diversion routes (Victoria) or ones where an easy diversion is possible (Wellington). We seem to have coped without Richmond and Adelaide is probably a lost cause.

    Steve: As I have said before, service improvements are a short-term issue and any benefits that a future project like the eastern waterfront line will happen long after whatever short-term issues we have will be sorted out.

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  21. If the TTC needs temporary space to store buses, when not on duty, if this is a temporary need, until a new garage is built I think there is room to store dozens, maybe one hundred buses at Eglinton Station. Isn’t there an acre or two sitting idle, where Eglinton’s original bus bays were? If the shelters were torn down could a useful number of off-duty buses be stored there?

    Steve: That site is a construction staging area for the Crosstown project. Also, the reason that the old terminal was closed is that the slab is unsound, and cannot support the weight of buses.

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  22. The lot for the Pan Am fleet, — “just north of the rail corridor, east of Cherry Street” — while it is not near existing garages it will have the advantage of being only a block or so away from the Pan Am Athlete’s village. I have pictures of this site, if that would be useful.

    Steve: I am there quite regularly, most recently a few days ago when I photographed the almost complete streetcar loop. As for the village, there will be no public transit to this destination, only private buses to ferry atheletes and other visitors to and from venues (none is at the village).

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  23. In terms of extra storage space for buses, the TTC does not have to look to far. At Birchmount Garage (Birchmount & Danforth Rd) there is a large parcel of land that is not used to its full potential. Currently, about 1/4 of the land is being used to house retired buses awaiting decommissioning. Sure, the neighbourhood to the southwest will make noise complaints (as they have in the past) but they have to remember that the garage has been there years before those homes were built. Also, Mount Dennis (Weston & Jane) Garage also has some unused land, more like a field full of weeds, on the other side of the sound barrier to the north. It is also used to park decommissioned buses but if they pave the land they could easily use it to store some active buses. Lastly, if they are really desperate they can look into using the old Danforth Garage (Coxwell & Danforth) These two spots could easily hold at least 150+ buses combined.

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  24. The only buses to be retired this year are the Orion Vs from the 7000 series. The corrosion on most of them is bad enough that they will not pass their next scheduled MTO inspection, at which point they will likely be done. On the other hand, the 9400 series Orion Vs (ex-CNG) are in much better condition, and will likely stick around (as spares/extras) until after the Pan Am Games. Technically, they could be used for short-term service improvements, if funding were available.

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  25. Arghhhh!!!! Buses here, buses there. We get so many back when Harbourfront is finished, but we will need so many extra while the SRT is replaced by an LRT or a subway. And nowhere to park them. And buses dying of old age, and at least 16 months lead time to get new ones (with questionable transit funding) at $700k each.

    And though the Bombardier strike is finally over, the streetcar replacement schedule needs a complete & thorough revision. Whether it is streetcars or buses, it would be good to keep a few old models around. However, the Accessibility Act is a Damocles Sword over the head of transit, that a major percentage of rolling stock and infrastructure is legislated as obsolete, with no replacement funding assistance from the Province.

    Back in the much simpler old days, they would slap down a set of streetcar tracks in a matter of days. “I want a streetcar route on Davenport Road!” “Yes Sir, it will be ready Saturday”. Workers got to quit early on Saturdays, 4 pm, because that was the weekend. They did not worry about EA’s because you wondered about how to get up that hill or around that swamp. They did not worry about air conditioning, because for three or four months you could keep the windows open and you wore a heavy wool coat the rest of the year. Only the driver had heat with a wood stove by his feet. If one of the horses pulling his streetcar suddenly died, the driver would dispatch a boy to the nearest abattoir, paying him a tuppence. And, any horse-drawn streetcar could jump the tracks to get around an obstruction. Do not even imagine a woman driving a streetcar, because women did not operate machinery. Milk, bread, groceries, beer, ice, and your mail were delivered to your home; they did not have pizza back then. Garbage was collected daily, and the junk man took your recycling. And, for some crazy reason, they never had a shortage of streetcars or buses or horse barns. (To this day, streetcars are parked overnight in “barns”, but buses get to stay in garages.) Oh, those were much simpler days.

    Does Alexandria, Egypt still have any of the TTC’s old PCC’s? We ought to replenish our fleet.

    Now, in the 20th century… oops… I mean 21st century … we have computers and software and GPS and spreadsheets that can solve all of our problems. Like the bus and streetcar parking and service level and reorder, and… what, what you say? Can’t be done? Hmmm.

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  26. Hi Steve:-

    When somebody I know reasonably well had worked on track maintenance on the TTC, he informed me of a programme that replaced all of the track (new ties, fasteners, higher 115 pound rails and power rail supports and coverboards), with the exception of the power rail (it was reused in-situ) between the north end of Rosedale station and Price Portal both ways. Ballast renewal took place when necessary for that ballast which couldn’t be cleaned and reused. This work was accomplished without closing the subway for longer than the normal night hours, in other words, the maintenance windows designed into the system. Approximately 2 to 5 a.m. weeknights and 2 to 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings. This fellow was involved in this project from its inception and planning, through to its completion. This too included manufacturing a concrete tie lifting frame to allow the placement of three new ties at a time in their proper spacings.

    Slow orders were required while the work was underway to allow tamping through the day of the new material and maintain partial skeletonizing to facilitate the next night’s work, but no bustitutions were ever needed. With the exception of the three turnouts at the north end of Davisville yard, the work required in the area from there to Berwick should be little different from further south and the subway should not need to be closed for longer than the service free times already in place.

    As to Ms. Chow. Her heart and initial thoughts are in the right place. She merely needs a bit more reality. Hopefully she can expand on that, for then we may get what we need rather than what we probably don’t want but some think we do.

    Thanx again Steve.

    Yours

    Dennis Rankin

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  27. Steve, how realistic is it to change every single station platform to side platforms? David Lepofsky isn’t happy with island platforms.

    Steve: This is a point where I think Lepofsky has really moved beyond worthwhile advocacy to a proposal that simply is not going to have legs. The way the Eglinton line is tunnelled, the two bores are separated by a space that will become the platform area at the stations. Changing to side platforms will add very substantially to the cost, not to mention possibly triggering property taking requirements for stations in the narrow stretch of Eglinton.

    Lepofsky could just was well demand platform doors on the entire system, but it’s not going to happen.

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  28. Simple question Steve. When will additional new streetcars be coming? I was told that Bombardier must await delivery of parts from Brazil before they can build more cars. Weren’t they already building them when the strike began?

    Steve: News to me, but I can ask. The parts you speak of may be the final version of the ramp which will be retrofitted to cars already in service early next year, as I understand it.

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  29. Hi Steve:-

    In response to Peter Strazdins probably tongue in cheek comment about bringing back PCCs from Alexandria, me thinks not Peter.

    Those cars were replaced with some from one of the European cities some years ago. By the time our PCCs were retired from there, they were pretty well punched. The oldest of those cars were 1938, the newest 1945 I think. So not so new. Most if not all had no working doors. Some if not many had their controls replaced with ‘K’ like hand controls as the more sophisticated pilot motor/drum controllers failed. When placed in service they had a really appealing royal blue and cream paint scheme over smooth bodies. That was soon replaced by, dents, dings and rust.

    Dennis Rankin

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  30. John Richards says:
    September 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    “Steve, how realistic is it to change every single station platform to side platforms? David Lepofsky isn’t happy with island platforms.”

    Where has Lepofsky been when all the public meetings were being held? It is not like Metrolinx sneaked this in at the last minute. Centre platforms are quite common for tunnelled lines as there needs to be a space between the tunnelling machines. How come he didn’t raise a stink with the Spadina extension. It appears to have centre platforms.

    Steve: Yes, the Spadina extension, the Sheppard subway, the North Yonge line (except for North York Centre which was built as an add-on around the box tunnel structure between Sheppard and Finch), and any terminal station where a common platform serves both tracks for obvious reasons.

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  31. Benny Yeung mentioned motorcoach buses as a possibility for the TTC to lease. While motorcoaches may not be the answer, it seems that the only short term solution for the TTC is to lease every bus they can possibly get. I know Pacific Western has some low-floor buses that they use for Porter Shuttles…and they used to provide (iirc) the inter-terminal LINK bus services at Pearson Airport before the LINK train was built. Since the LINK train is out of service until the UP Express terminal is completed (which should be soon), could PW have some buses available?

    The other solution is, as I’ve said before…get buses off of the 905 agencies as they are retired. Yes, they only maintain on a 12 year cycle so they won’t all last until 18 years, but they don’t need to last 6 more years…just 2-3 years. I expect the 905 agencies also have the space to take care of the maintenance and storage.

    By the way Steve…your comment about Chow focusing on the $15 million “cost” of service expansion is spot on. It’s ironic that she’s getting called out by Tory (purveyor of the $8 billion “SmartTrack” which will be funded by TIF, PPP, PCP and other kinds of fairy dust) for not understanding funding. Maybe she should have stuck to a more believable number…say $300 million…then express surprise and amazement when people question her numbers.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  32. Steve could not the TTC run more service on King, if for instance the Police department, decided tomorrow morning, that it would dedicate say 6 officers in the am peak to King Street, enforcing the lane restrictions and parking rules?

    If the Toronto Police Services, were to allocate say 80 additional duty officers in the AM peak and the same in the PM peak, to being present and providing enforcement to the various restrictions along the busiest and worse affected transit routes, and they were to make sure their a publicity blitz that this was the case, would it not speed buses and streetcars on their way to at least a moderate degree? I am sure the tow operators would be happy to oblige the increase in business. Although I am not convinced the number of additional tickets or tows would be sustained as people altered their behaviour.

    Steve: It’s not quite that simple. First off, the am peak is really not the worst of the problems from a congestion point of view. The problem is worse at midday and through the PM peak. At some locations it is particularly bad in the evenings. There are places where better transit priority for streetcar turns would help — note that scheduled Spadina cars short turning at King will return in a few weeks adding to congestion at that location where there is no streetcar signal, nor any attempt to marshall road, pedestrian and transit traffic.

    A non-trivial problem in the AM peak is the reliability of service eastbound from Roncesvalles, a location where it should be easy to dispatch a regular headway.

    The whole point about any route I have studied in detail is that there are individual locations, times and directions (even days of the week) that present special problems. A one-size-fits-all “solution” will either be overkill, or will miss some of these.

    Finally, you can do more damage to service reliability by digging up the curb lane somewhere for utility repairs, or by shutting down an adjacent street, because these are all-day events. Although the TTC added running time to the schedules on King in September, the benefit was overshadowed by TIFF’s shutdown of central King Street (requiring a diversion for which there was no extra running time) and by the construction work on Adelaide that started once TIFF was over.

    I am not saying we shouldn’t improve enforcement, but we also need to ask hard questions any time someone wants to take over road capacity.

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  33. Because of the obvious difficulties in backing up a streetcar, the normal TTC procedure when a streetcar is disabled is to have the following car push the disabled car. Also, in the picture Geo Swan linked, both cars are ALRVs. My take is that 4215 is dead and 4236 is going to push it back to the barns.

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  34. Dennis Rankin wrote:

    In response to Peter Strazdins probably tongue in cheek comment about bringing back PCCs from Alexandria, me thinks not Peter.

    Those cars were replaced with some from one of the European cities some years ago. By the time our PCCs were retired from there, they were pretty well punched. The oldest of those cars were 1938, the newest 1945 I think. So not so new. Most if not all had no working doors. Some if not many had their controls replaced with ‘K’ like hand controls as the more sophisticated pilot motor/drum controllers failed. When placed in service they had a really appealing royal blue and cream paint scheme over smooth bodies. That was soon replaced by, dents, dings and rust.

    Peter replies: Thank you Dennis! Shame how they maintained their streetcars, though apparently many were damaged during the 1967 Yom Kippur War.

    Here is an article with photos taken by Steve, plus informative comments, posted 2009.

    Too bad TTC has never saved any of the old buses. Apparently Ottawa has some ex-TTC antiques. I hope they keep more than one each CLRV and ALRV.

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  35. Steve:

    It’s not quite that simple. First off, the am peak is really not the worst of the problems from a congestion point of view. The problem is worse at midday and through the PM peak. At some locations it is particularly bad in the evenings. There are places where better transit priority for streetcar turns would help — note that scheduled Spadina cars short turning at King will return in a few weeks adding to congestion at that location where there is no streetcar signal, nor any attempt to marshall road, pedestrian and transit traffic.

    Moaz: As much as it is a “one size fits most” answer, the best solution is all day turning restrictions and parking limitations on most of King in the “downtown” area, plus the official shift of taxi stands in the financial district off of King and on to Adelaide and Wellington. The TPS needs to be spending time focusing on this enforcement too.

    On the Spadina cars short-turning at King, it might just be time to bite the bullet and add more capacity onto the line as a whole, improve transit priority at Front Street (for a faster trip down to the Harbourfront loop), and stop the unnecessary delays.

    Another road capacity issue is, as Steve mentioned, construction and other activities that occupy lanes. Last Sunday I was watching traffic in both directions on King delayed a good 20 minutes because the sign at the Princess of Wales theatre was being replaced.

    The solution there has to be a better system of penalties for contractors and construction companies so that they pay for every day/hour/minute they occupy the road lanes and larger penalties are added any time a project goes over the scheduled time.

    This would be far more effective than paying TPS officers $80 per hour to act as paid-duty traffic cones.

    Cheers, Moaz

    ps. On the same evening a southbound CLRV on Spadina broke down at Wellington, which was quite interesting to see. I didn’t see a build up of southbound streetcars so I assume they were short turned at King.

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  36. Steve said:

    “The whole point about any route I have studied in detail is that there are individual locations, times and directions (even days of the week) that present special problems. A one-size-fits-all “solution” will either be overkill, or will miss some of these.”

    Absolutely, however, these locations where enforcement of left turn rules, transit only lanes or removing a parked business or other vehicle, would have a disproportionate effect. My suggestion for additional officers, even at twice the scale, would certainly not place an office on every corner for transit, but a small number or critical points. The issue would be in identifying which locations and at what times they would have the greatest impact. They would by no means replace real headway management, or more buses, or better TSP, however, they might perhaps improve the flow for transit at the margin.

    Even 6 officers along the King route (while very heavy enforcement) would not represent a cop on every corner. I am very much of the mind that, like all things human, less than 20% of the intersections will likely represent well over 80% of the problem. 80 officers city wide at both peaks still represents something on the order of a police officer for every 20 or so surface transit vehicles in service, which is a thin, but I believe likely reasonable place to start, if they were actively deployed to the locations that were most problematic.

    To my mind 80 officers city wide would not represent a “one size fits all” when there are 1500 buses and 200 streetcars in service at peak, but would perforce need to be a highly targeted approach. I am, however, assuming that the police service would have, or would be given, reasonable information on where the deployment of this small force would have the greatest impact.

    I am also of the mind that a top shelf effort by the police in this area, would help remove one of the TTC’s excuses for poor headway management, which as you note is a problem even at places very close to a point that could be expected to be used for headway management.

    Moaz said:

    “As much as it is a “one size fits most” answer, the best solution is all day turning restrictions and parking limitations on most of King in the “downtown” area, plus the official shift of taxi stands in the financial district off of King and on to Adelaide and Wellington. The TPS needs to be spending time focusing on this enforcement too.”

    That would be my point exactly, and that a small number of officers whose job it was to do this in the areas that were most critical, and having it actively re-inserted in the priorities of the police would help. It is clearly not the answer, however, I do not believe there will be a single answer to better transit.

    More buses are required, although I think that will be hard to do for peak until they can be ordered and delivered, more streetcar capacity is required, however, that will take time. Better headway management, requires both a better system and culture, although there are certainly things that can be done now, I also believe that better enforcement can help, and can be addressed much more quickly than a larger fleet. I think Toronto, needs to look hard at what can be done now, in 18 months, in 2 years etc.

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  37. Another way to deal with the ALRVs coming out of service on Queen and King is to make drastic changes to both streets to reduce congestion and reduce trip time (thus reducing the amount of cars required to maintain schedule). Given that “schedule” has always required quotation marks on these lines, I think it needs to happen regardless. That said, I’m not holding my breath.

    I did want to ask you Steve, we hear a lot about transit and congestion coming from the mouths of politicians, but very little from the men and women who work in urban planning for the city and must be doing the actual data analysis that help inform decisions in city hall. I know this is a personal blog, but it would be great to hear from someone from this team on their thoughts, in a Q&A type format.

    I find it difficult to understand why we depend on the promises of politicians rather than the careful, rational analysis of the people trained and qualified to study and determine the best possible solutions.

    Steve: I have been working with the TTC and City Transportation on a detailed review of King Street that will inform a report coming to Council in 2015. The situation is not straightforward because there is a combination of effects. Some are due to construction (scheduled and otherwise), some due to parking and turn restrictions (or their absence), some due to transit signal priority, and some due to TTC operational issues such as scheduling and headway management. Without going into details, there is no single “fix” that will solve everything, and a greater attention to details on a block by block, hour by hour, basis is needed. “Problems” exist at times and locations well outside of those that receive a lot of attention (e.g. core area, peak period) and these affect service reliability over the entire route.

    Also, a very large amount of the total trip time is consumed by stop service, and this has nothing to do with traffic congestion. The real problem is that if there are more riders than capacity, loading times go up astronomically as the last rider attempts to squeeze onto a car. This will be helped, but not cured, by all-door loading to the extent that it is not already common, if unofficial, practice on the route.

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  38. Steve said:

    “Also, a very large amount of the total trip time is consumed by stop service, and this has nothing to do with traffic congestion. The real problem is that if there are more riders than capacity, loading times go up astronomically as the last rider attempts to squeeze onto a car. This will be helped, but not cured, by all-door loading to the extent that it is not already common, if unofficial, practice on the route.”

    How much difference would it make if the TTC made this the next place it started to introduce the new cars? I realize it would be quite some time before the first car was seen even if it was the next route, but is King not the route that would see the biggest benefit from a larger car and more doors?

    Steve: Yes, definitely. However, in the short term the priority is to finish Spadina and add Harbourfront and Bathurst as these make a logical collection, and they are small enough to get things started. A challenge with King is that it has not been fully converted for opeation by the new cars, but surely this could be completed in the next year or so. One big issue is the intersection at Queen and Roncesvalles which needs completely new overhead (including the junctions with the carhouse) and is planned for track replacement after the Pan Am Games are out of the way.

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  39. JF said:

    I did want to ask you Steve, we hear a lot about transit and congestion coming from the mouths of politicians, but very little from the men and women who work in urban planning for the city and must be doing the actual data analysis that help inform decisions in city hall. I know this is a personal blog, but it would be great to hear from someone from this team on their thoughts, in a Q&A type format.

    Moaz: JF, I follow a few of the City Planning staff on twitter where they share their ideas using their personal handles. I’ve also learned recently that City Planning is setting up their own transit planning team, that will focus on aligning development planning with existing and proposed (and hopefully realistic) transit service.

    Cheers, Moaz

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