Welcome to My New Site for 2015

Updated February 28, 2015: The domain stevemunro.ca now points to the site hosted at WordPress and is synonymous with swanboatsteve.wordpress.com.

Updated February 17, 2015: All articles and attachments from the old site have now been migrated here.

Starting on January 1, 2015, all of my new content will appear here.

For a period of time (likely until March 2015) “stevemunro.ca” will take you to my original site where articles are still active with comments. Given the number of hotlinks to recent activity, I am leaving those articles in their original locations.

Access to the new site will use the URL swanboatsteve.wordpress.com until February 28, 2015.

When the migration is completed and activity on the old site dies off, I will switch my domain to point to the new site and it will be accessible either via the WordPress domain name or using stevemunro.ca.

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Birth of a Name: Transit City

Today, December 29, 2014, is the tenth birthday of the name “Transit City”.

No, this was not an early version of David Miller’s LRT network (still two years away), but rather an attempt by the TTC to show what might be done with surface transit improvements. I had an advance copy of the proposal for comment, and a request for a name that could give it some presence. Something better than “Expansion of Bus and Streetcar Rapid Transit” by which it would appear on the January 2005 agenda.

In a somewhat fanciful, stream of conscience email, I wrote back:

Hmmm … “Better Late Than Never” would be a good description for some TTC services, not to mention for a plan that we could actually achieve rather than endlessly debating.

[…] it is important that we somehow emphasize that this is something we really can do, and can do in a reasonable timeframe at a cost we might be able to afford.  Also, we have to tie this in with the idea that Toronto is growing through transit to support the OP [Official Plan].

As a sidebar, somewhere the plan has to acknowledge that the TTC is NOT the only game in town, and that some of the growth will be handled by other systems, notably GO Transit.  What is vital is that we do not repeat the errors of “Network 2001” which planned for lots of growth but ignored the potential contribution of commuter rail.  That’s where the so-called justifications came from for the Sheppard Subway and for the scheme to massively expand Bloor-Yonge station.

Somewhere, we have to say that we should not try to handle all of the regional demand on the subway, and that this approach will leave resources (and subway capacity) free to handle comparatively-speaking local demand.

The LRT (or whatever) study needs to acknowledge this context — that it is NOT trying to be a mega solution to all transportation problems of the 416 and 905, but that it is trying to address the growth of population on The Avenues, and more generally in a built form that is not suitable for a network of subway lines.

Alas “Wheels to the Future” has already been used by the TTC over 60 years ago, and some bright spark might point out that hovercraft and maglev trains do not use wheels for propulsion — we want to give no indication that this study may be biased to one particular mode, after all.

“Transit for the Avenues” or “Transit Avenues” only makes sense if you know about the OP and the special meaning it assigns to that word.

“Network 2011” has been used before, and we really need to get a shovel into the ground sooner than that anyhow.

Hmmm … I have just had a brainwave along another, er, avenue …

“Toronto, A Transit City” is generic and it shows the focus we want for overall growth using transit (be it on the Avenues or elsewhere).  It’s also broad enough to embrace a larger scheme of studies … “Toronto:  Building a Transit City” … which would probably come to be shortened in general parlance as the “Transit City” plan …

The presentation duly appeared on January 12, 2005, and it makes interesting reading, if only for a very different view of where transit was headed 10 years ago. The report is no longer available on the TTC’s website, but thanks to Transit Toronto, it is still online.


The TTC Looks Ahead to 2015

At its December board meeting, the newly-appointed Toronto Transit Commission board had little new business to discuss on its agenda. The heavy policy debates will come in January with the 2015 Operating Budget and the 2015-2024 Ten Year Capital Plan.

The board is a mixed bag of old and new faces, and there is no real sense yet of how this group will react to calls for improved service and the reversal of cuts for which some of them were responsible during the Ford/Stintz era. Josh Colle is now the TTC Chair, a position held by his father Mike, now an MPP, from 1988 to 1994. He is hard to read, and like so much of the new John Tory administration, uncertain as to whether holding the line on taxes takes precedence over the quality of service. Until the budget debates, Toronto will not know whether Colle is a new “transit champion” in name only, or if he and his board members will fight for TTC riders at Council.

The so-called citizen members of the board (four of the eleven seats go to non-councillors) have been carried over from the previous term, and will sit until their replacements are appointed early in 2015. The choices made by the Civic Appointments Committee, itself dominated by Tory-sympathetic Councillors, will give us a sense of just how independent the Mayor and his circle want the TTC Board to be.

To set the stage for the new term, CEO Andy Byford presented a TTC Overview under the title “The Road to Modernization”. There is nothing particularly new here, but it gives a sense of Byford’s focus. The title is somewhat ironic, the sort of things one would have expected half a century or more ago, not a call-to-arms for a system that prides itself for its reputation in the transit industry.

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TTC Service Changes for February 15, 2015

The February 2015 service changes are mainly a collection of housekeeping updates with no significant change in service levels.

41 Keele local service will change to artic buses, but the express service will continue to operate with 12m vehicles.

504 King continues to see buses substituting for streetcars during peak periods. Weekend running times will be extended to match actual conditions but no service will be added “because of a lack of budgeted operator hours”. Remember this line the next time the TTC tells you it has no spare vehicles. They are unable to add vehicles off-peak because there is no budget headroom to pay the drivers.


Updated: A reader has noted that the evening service proposed for Keele is shown as the 41B Petrolia/Steeles branch rather than the 41A Steeles service that operates now. The info in my table is based on the TTC’s service change memo, but I have sent a request that they clarify whether this is an error. Given the holidays, a reply probably won’t come in for a while.

Updated: The TTC has confirmed that the service design on the 41 Keele route has not been changed, and that the 41B evening service was shown in error. The table linked above has been updated to reflect this correction.

The Mythology of GO Transit “Fare By Distance” Pricing

At its recent meeting, the Metrolinx Board approved a GO Transit fare increase taking effect February 1, 2015.

A separate, but important topic, and one noticeably absent from the meeting agenda, is the question of regional fare integration. Another related matter is the relative roles of GO as a regional operator and the TTC as a local one to accommodate demand to the core area. The hybrid SmartTrack proposal is a bit of both — a GO Transit corridor running with station spacings more like a subway in spots, but at TTC fares.

The problem has always been that GO simply does not regard itself, or at least not until quite recently, as having a role as part of a unified network. Critically, the fare structure is rigged against short distance trips, and this has been getting progressively worse for a decade.

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What Does Scarborough Transit Need?

At the risk of re-igniting the Scarborough subway debate, I am moving some comments that are becoming a thread in their own right out of the “Stop Spacing” article over here to keep the two conversations separated.

In response to the most recent entry in the thread, I wrote:

Steve: Probably the most annoying feature of “pro Scarborough subway” (as opposed to “pro Scarborough”) pitches is the disconnect with the travel demands within Scarborough. These are known from the every five year detailed survey of travel in the GTHA, and a point that sticks out is that many people, a sizeable minority if not a majority, of those who live in Scarborough are not commuting to downtown. Instead they are travelling within Scarborough, to York Region or to locations along the 401. Many of these trips, even internal to Scarborough, are badly served by transit. One might argue that the lower proportion of downtown trips is a chicken-and-egg situation — it is the absence of a fast route to downtown combined with the impracticality of driving that discourages travel there. That’s a fair point, but one I have often argued would be better served with the express services possible on the rail corridors were it not for the GO fare structure that penalizes inside-416 travel.

We now have three subways — one to Vaughan, one to Richmond Hill and one to Scarborough — in various stages of planning and construction in part because GO (and by extension Queen’s Park) did not recognize the benefit of providing much better service to the core from the outer 416 and near 905 at a fare that riders would consider “reasonable” relative to what they pay today. I would love to see service on the CPR line that runs diagonally through Scarborough, out through Malvern into North Pickering. This route has been fouled up in debates for years about restitution of service to Peterborough, a much grander, more expensive and less likely proposition with added layers of rivalry between federal Tory and provincial Liberal interests. Fitting something like that into the CPR is tricky enough without politicians scoring points off of each other.

The most common rejoinder I hear to proposals that GO could be a form of “subway relief” is that the service is too infrequent and too expensive. What is the capital cost of subway construction into the 905 plus the ongoing operating cost once lines open versus the cost of better service and lower fares on a much improved GO network? Nobody has ever worked this out because GO and subway advocates within the planning community work in silos, and the two options are never presented as one package.

With the RER studies, this may finally change, and thanks to the issues with the Yonge corridor, we may finally see numbers comparing the effects of improved service in all available corridors and modes serving traffic from York Region to the core. I would love to see a comparable study for Scarborough.

Meanwhile, we need to know more about “inside Scarborough” demand including to major centres such as academic sites that are not touched by the subway plan.

I will promote comments here that contribute to the conversation in a civil manner. As for the trolls (and you know who you are), don’t bother. Your “contributions” only make the Scarborough position much less palatable, and I won’t subject my readers to your drivel.

Stop Spacing: How Close is Too Close?

With debates swirling around various schemes to improve service on King Street, one disheartening thread is the fixation on pet solutions, on annoyances that don’t really contribute much to the overall behaviour of the route.

In comments here and elsewhere, the issue of stop spacing has come up from time to time. On King and on other routes (including many bus routes), there are locations where pairs of stops are closely spaced to the point one might ask “why is this stop here”. The TTC has proposed elimination of some stops, and this brought mixed reactions. Some “surplus” stops clearly are very close to others and might be eliminated. Others may appear to be close, but they may also have strong demand in their own right, riders who don’t take kindly to the idea that their stop isn’t needed.

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The Dubious Planning Behind SmartTrack (Part III)

In the first part of this series, I discussed The New Geography of Office Location, 2011, and then in the second part, its successor A Region in Transition, 2013. Now, I will turn to The Business Case for the Regional Relief Line, October 2013. All three papers were produced by SRRA (Strategic Regional Research Associates).

Only a 17 page summary version of the Relief Line report is available online, compared to the full versions of the first two. Considering the clear influence this series of reports has had on transit policy and the recent election campaign, the idea that

Detailed research is available to Investment Partners of SRRA [Page 1]

leaves a big hole in the range for public comment and review. I hope that Metrolinx will rectify this situation as part of whatever studies might take place.

My thanks to those of you who slogged through the first two articles.

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The Dubious Planning Behind SmartTrack (Part II)

In the first article of this series, I examined a 2011 report about the shifting location of office development in the GTHA. Here I will turn to a follow-up report, A Region in Transition, from January 2013.

These reports provided the underpinning for the SmartTrack campaign proposal from Mayor John Tory. It is important that we understand just where this scheme came from and what it was  intended to accomplish by authors who, in some cases, lent their support to the Tory campaign and the SmartTrack brand.

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