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.

The makeup of the TTC’s customers has been reported before in the quarterly polling data on rider satisfaction, but the information is worth repeating for politicos and pundits whose view of transit’s purpose starts and ends with home-work commute trips.

  • 57% of all riders are women
  • 64% of riders are employed with the remainder being students, retirees and unemployed
  • There is a wide range of income levels among riders, and the system cannot be thought of as serving one demographic
  • Less than half of TTC trips (44%) are for work
  • The majority of riders use the system regularly, but one quarter (27%) are on the system once a week or less
  • 70% of riders believe that the best way for the TTC to improve is to run more service, while only 15% feel that the best option is a fare freeze

This presents quite a challenge for the Board in setting priorities and arguing where money might be spent. The peak period commuting crush is well-known and the bane of transit riders. It is the legacy of too many years of making do, of saying that “efficiencies” are all Toronto needs to absorb growing demand. The mood of riders is that better service is what they want, not a fare freeze, the populist politician’s glib substitute for a real action on transit.

The TTC network is based on transfers, on a (mainly) grid network with the trunk rapid transit lines fed by on-street routes. The importance of the bus and streetcar networks cannot be exaggerated — 51.5% of TTC riders begin their trips on a bus route and a further 10.6% start out with a streetcar. Of the bus riders, two in five do not transfer to any other mode. Only 28.6% of riders are subway-only users.

Any plan to improve service that ignores the surface system is doomed to fail, and yet political debates rage over subway fantasy maps, not over buses or streetcars (except to the degree that these are disdained by some politicians and motorists).

Of the TTC’s 10 top routes for weekday ridership, only three are bus lines, and these were all in areas proposed for LRT conversion in Transit City.

On the basis of passengers per service hour, six of the top 10 are streetcar routes, no surprise given both the vehicle capacity and the high turnover of passengers along the streetcar lines. An  often neglected component in route comparisons is average trip length, and routes that serve many short trips will show higher “efficiency” on this measure.

Actual service is provided based on occupancy — peak load — not on boarding counts. A bus might carry 50 passengers for 10km, or it might carry 10 of them each for 2km. The average load will be quite different, but the boardings per hour (or km) values will be the same.

The Capital Budget and Ten Year Plan are a major headache for the TTC because roughly one third of the planned projects have no identified funding. Contributions from Queen’s Park and Ottawa look good on paper, but far too much of this comes as project-specific money, not as an ongoing allocation. As the 2014 Capital Budget report stated:

Most of the projects on the unfunded list are precisely the type that have received very significant Provincial or Federal government capital support in the past. The project-specific upper-level government funding that has been provided in the past either has been or are nearly completed. [2014 Capital Budget Report at page 2]

The Spadina subway extension and the Scarborough Subway project are additional to the “base budget” of $9.3-billion, and they have their own dedicated funding. When the TTC talks of “expansion” within the base budget, it does not include these two major projects.

For the Operating Budget, one quarter comes from City subsidy. (Note that this amount includes about $90-million of provincial gas tax revenue that Toronto dedicates to TTC operations.) In discussions about fares, there is a delicate balance between what riders will accept, and what would counterproductively drive riders away from the system. The relationship is not linear in that small fare hikes have little or no effect, but a bump of 20¢ is expected to reduce demand by 1.3%, and a bump of 40¢ would cause a 3% drop.

An important component in the reaction to any fare proposal is that riders need to feel they are getting what they paid for. In that regard, TTC management now describes the 2011 service cuts as doing “tremendous damage” by adding to crowding, reducing service quality and creating long-term problems of restoring the system to its former state, let along making improvements. Sadly, when these cuts were pushed through “for the greater good” as former chair Stintz claimed, few voices on the TTC board or in management opposed them. The miraculous conversion is a little hard to swallow.

The TTC’s subsidy/trip is the lowest of the GTA region’s systems and in comparison with other major Canadian and U.S. cities. Toronto talks a good line about being a “transit city”, but when it comes to paying the bills, politicians are hostage to the “no new taxes” brigade, and have been for years. The Scarborough Subway tax is a notable exception, but its benefits, such as they may be, won’t be seen for nearly a decade.

Byford’s report trots out charts we have seen before comparing TTC’s subway network to other world systems. However, this information is fraught with limitations of the source data on two counts. First, assignment of revenue to a specific route in a flat fare system is very difficult and can be skewed depending on how this is done. There is no “right” way, and each methodology produces its own distortions. Second, there are substantial variations in accounting for maintenance costs from system to system notably in the split between capital and operating budgets. Historically, the TTC has preferred to maximise the use of the capital accounts because they attract a higher subsidy.

The report reviews the past few years’ achievements, and talks of “laying the foundations” for rebuilding the TTC. Part of this was simply a question of credibility both that TTC management even would acknowledge the system’s problems, let alone be willing to fix them. A major change was the recognition, publicly, that the TTC was no longer a first-tier organization, and that acceptance of mediocrity had become the norm. In part, of course, this was the result of years of underfunding going back well before the Ford era, and a “make do” attitude this engendered.

However, a more insidious problem at the TTC is the tendency to place blame for almost everything on external factors, an attitude that is very deeply rooted and difficult to change. Stir in departmental silos and rivalries and you have a classic challenge for organizational renewal. That’s the situation Byford inherited when he unexpectedly replaced Gary Webster at the head of the TTC two years ago. That abrupt handover is now far enough in the past that it is now the “Andy Byford” TTC, and the responsibility for results lies on his shoulders.

A major problem in the Byford era has been what I would call a concentration on the superficial — cleaner washrooms and simplistic good news stories. This was in part thanks to the era of Stintz and Ford. One regarded the TTC as little more than a springboard for her own political aspirations, while the other cared about transit only to the extent that it underpinned a “subways, subways, subways” mentality. Whatever did happen at the TTC, it tended to be small scale and cost little, or even ideally, save money. Squeezing “efficiency” out of the organization was the key goal.

TTC  management has two audiences, two markets so to speak, for the work that they do. One is Council, and behind that the larger mass of voters many of whom have little use for spending more on public transit. The other is that vast horde of long-suffering TTC riders who want to see real improvements in their service. By 2014, especially after Stintz’ departure from the Chair’s Office, the focus began to shift more to service issues and to the challenges — managerial and financial — of delivering real improvement on the street.

Byford is not there yet, and this isn’t a “just around the corner” situation — years of rebuilding are needed that will require changes within the TTC and strong support from Council both on financing and on reordering priorities for the use of space on busy transit corridors. This comes at a time when the system is struggling with a legacy of underspending:

  • The subway signal system passed its “best before” date years ago, and is an ongoing challenge to reliable operations.
  • Some subway track structures (the original Yonge line’s open cut sections) date from its construction over half a century ago. The track and ties have been renewed over time, but not the foundation in which everything rests causing ongoing issues with track stability and signal circuit operation.
  • The elderly streetcar fleet is overdue for renewal, but this process has been delayed by a variety of factors, some technical, some political. Meanwhile, there has been no significant increase in peak capacity on the streetcar network for two decades because there are no spare cars. Even off-peak improvements are limited because there are no spare “budget hours”, a value that translates into headcount for drivers. There may be spare vehicles, but no money to pay someone to drive them.
  • The bus fleet’s size was artificially constrained both by a change in loading standards in the Ford era, and by a decision to postpone capital projects (bus purchases and a new garage) to trim capital requirements.

This is compounded by basic operational problems that the TTC is only starting to address including:

  • Changing subway scheduling and operations to improve terminal operations and as-operated (as opposed to scheduled) line capacity.
  • Changing surface operations to reduce the need for short turns by the use of gap-filling vehicles, schedules that reflect actual operating conditions, and line management that concentrates more on providing a regular headway than keeping operators strictly “on time”.

When we see the 2015 budgets, we may get a sense of the options management is placing before their Board and Council. Some information may come out in advance at meetings of the TTC’s own budget subcommittee, but there is no schedule for its operation on the TTC’s site. As and when this is available, I will update this article.

The behind-the-scenes question is whether Mayor Tory really wants to hear the hard truths about what needs to be done, how much it will cost, and how long it will take. We have already seen his reaction to the August proposals for system improvements brought forward by Andy Byford.  During the campaign, Tory’s first reaction was that Byford was irresponsible in bringing such issues forward without a funding strategy (even though that’s Council’s job, and now his own as Mayor). Moreover, it is no secret that the existence of this report riled those in Tory’s inner circle who saw it as favouring a rival candidate, Olivia Chow.

For his part, Byford has stated publicly (at a TTC Riders meeting in early December where he received a “Transit Champion” award) that if Council wants to fire him for doing his job, he will leave to work somewhere else. That Byford would say this shows it’s not just a minor tiff, and that “Team Tory” risks losing a hard-to-replace CEO of a key organization. Imagine the challenge of recruiting a new CEO after losing two in a row to political meddling. (That was also the reason Toronto lost David Gunn years ago.)

There is more to running a transit system than drawing a few lines on a map.  The Mayor and Council must accept that transit has become “their problem”, something a mere wave of the hand and vague edicts about doing things better won’t solve.

For his part, Andy Byford has moved into the hard parts of “Modernization”, those requiring real change in his organization and in Toronto’s transit political environment. Will he be allowed to achieve anything, or will better transit be something for those “better times” that never quite arrive?

30 thoughts on “The TTC Looks Ahead to 2015

  1. It looks like its getting hot behind the scene with Tory and Byford. Tory even took a shot at Byfords decision to name the Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4. And if Byford does leave, Tory will quickly be compared to Ford, which would make Tory look bad. So I suggest they work things out, they think they have a challenge for 2015, it will be more than that. Steve, what’s your view on Byford and his plans for TTC, and do you agree its right or not? I would like to get a general idea of how you feel about him and his direction.

    Steve: Over the past two years, Byford has concentrated more on managerial reorganization including some housecleaning, but he has suffered from being new to the TTC and not really understanding just how bad things were in some places. This was compounded by having a Chair, Stintz, who didn’t want to hear about complicated details, and whose whole purpose was to bring “good news” eventually in support of her mayoralty. Now he is turning to serious operational matters and there are a lot of them including fleet planning, day-to-day service and the huge hole in capital funding.

    Byford has to turn into a real advocate for transit improvement, and bring the Board members along with him, not to mention the Mayor. His biggest challenge, and Tory’s biggest weakness, is that Tory has surrounded himself with staff and an executive who are more conservative than the image he has presented. Moreover, some things like real improvements to TTC service will require that Tory abandon his attitude to fare freezes, limited tax increases, and the assumption that “efficiency” will pay for everything.

    Something important for the 2015 Budget and plans going forward is that the line “we’re working on it” simply will not do any more. There need to be specific targets and deliverables that will make real differences to riders’ experience within at the outside two years, preferably one.

    I worry that Josh Colle as Chair won’t be strong enough to stand up to Tory from whom, no doubt, future favours might flow.

    A difficult situation.


  2. Streetcar 4062 will not be available for service. Will they repair it, scrape it, or use for parts on the remaining fleet?

    Steve: My guess is that it will be stripped for parts as that was to be the fate of the early retirees from the fleet anyhow.


  3. A fascinating presentation!

    A few comments:

    1. Page 14 contains two data points about the TTC’s estimate of the price elasticity of demand for their product. I would be curious to see more of their model of the demand curve with the data supporting this model.

    Steve: So would I. They rarely publish this sort of thing, and in the past they have overestimated the effect of smaller increases because other factors such as high fuel costs were a deterrent to people leaving the TTC.

    2. I note that the chart on page 15 cleverly cherry-picks its starting point. This chart would look a lot worse if it started in 1985 instead of 1995. Starting in 1985 means that we would have seen the 1988 peak of 463.5 million annual ridership and then the recession and service cut induced crash to its 1996 low. By starting in 1995, just before the bottom, the chart shows a “wa hoo” steady rise.

    Steve: I could argue this either way including the view that the steady growth since the recession’s trough has not been matched by investment in better service. If you delve into the details, more of the demand growth lies outside the peak where there was room available, while peak growth has been constrained, especially recently and on the streetcar net (which had no new cars over the entire period).

    3. We see more cherry-picking with the chart on page 16, which shows the TTC as having the lowest subsidy per trip when compared to selected other systems. On page 8, the TTC brags about being the #3 largest system in North America. Yet the #1 largest system in North America was conveniently ignored by the chart on page 16.

    Steve: There is a big problem that the TTC has bits and pieces of other presentations that have been cobbled together here, and internal consistency does not appear to have been checked carefully.

    4. Page 17 brags about the low operating costs of the subway system as compared to other systems. However, I suspect that the same basis of accounting in terms of capital/operating allocation was not used for all these systems. In other words, the TTC is counting as “capital expense” a lot of maintenance items that other systems call “operating expense.” So this bragging about low operating expenses is based upon an “apples to oranges” comparison.

    Steve: I mentioned this in the text.

    5. Pages 37-38 refer to “Time-based transfers in 2015.” In my opinion, this is A Very Good Thing. It will also be a very highly visible change for most non-Metropass users.

    Steve: And now all we need is for Council to fund the fare inspectors. Of course PoP is in use informally all over the system already.

    6. Page 41 refers to a “New signal system on Line 1 (+25% capacity).” In my opinion, it will not be possible to run 25% more trains with the ATC system described on page 31. Putting this claim in the Report seriously damages the TTC’s credibility when the +25% more trains fail to happen.

    Steve, if you disagree with this opinion, I would be interested to hear how you believe this can be made work. In particular I would be fascinated to hear that the TTC has come up with solutions to the issues with train turnaround at the ends of the line as well as dwell time at busy stations (eg Bloor/Yonge) to support this 25% more trains.

    Otherwise, I am putting this down as yet another TTC fantasy claim whose inevitable failure to become reality will once again damage their credibility. I am also profoundly concerned about a TTC board so ignorant that they would tolerate such an absurd claim.

    Steve: I have criticized the TTC’s claims for higher capacity on several occasions. A 25% increase would require the actual headway to drop from 140 seconds today to 112 seconds. This is not possible for terminal operations as they now stand, but I believe that they could manage this as a “burst” of higher capacity inserting trains at selective points to operate a half-trip during the height of the peak. The whole point here is that they have to plan and test this carefully rather than simply buying zillions of trains they won’t actually be able to use if they attempted a 112 sec headway over the entire route. The TTC has always been very bad about the concept of scheduling a variable headway, but it’s the only way I think that they will achieve their claim.

    Sorry to rant on so, but this sort of “magic bullet” thinking has caused such serious problems over and over… sigh.

    Steve: I have a room full of reports on various magic bullets, and they are all more than a little rusty.


  4. Steve wrote:

    “Less than half of TTC trips (44%) are for work”

    I wonder how many more people going from Union (in the morning) or to Union (in the evening) would use the TTC if the TTC and GO Transit had an integrated fare? There are certainly a number of times when I end up walking instead of the TTC once I get to Union Station, simply based on where I am going because I want to avoid paying two full fares if I do not have to.

    Jay wrote:

    “It looks like its getting hot behind the scene with Tory and Byford. Tory even took a shot at Byfords decision to name the Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4.”

    Then good for Tory. The name change is not only a waste of money in my opinion, but useless. Will the numbers be changed if the SRT becomes part of the Bloor-Danforth line. And I refuse to change to the numbers – I will always call the lines what they were called, some for over 50 years.

    Overall, I do think Byford has done a good job – but that does not mean that we have to accept, or agree, with all his decisions.

    Steve wrote:

    “There is a big problem that the TTC has bits and pieces of other presentations that have been cobbled together here, and internal consistency does not appear to have been checked carefully.”

    Organizations, and people, do that all the time. You can’t blame the TTC for doing the same. Why would they not pick and choose the data that helps them achieve their adjectives?


  5. I wish they would always include in the ridership growth graph a separate line showing amount of service operated … seems totally useless to just show a graph that shows more people are riding the system without any context as to what the service levels are.

    Steve: Even that can be misleading depending on how you define “service”. If it is vehicle miles or hours, then the replacement of smaller vehicles by larger ones could actually reduce the “service” even though the capacity provided grows. Years ago, stats were distorted by the replacement of 8-car G-trains by 6-car H/M trains on the Yonge line. The trains were the same size, but the number of car miles fell.


  6. Steve regarding magic bullet thinking, I have often wondered if this is in part created by the nature of the politics. Have they caught the fantastic thinking of their sometime political masters? I am hoping that Tory can bring the type of conservatism that represents realistic earnest problem solving, not the angry blaming tax cuts at all cost variety.

    The last thing Toronto needs is a combination of more transit grand vision and angry tax cut zeal. It could really use some tough minded problem solving management. Yes make best use of what you have and insist on proper headway management, but see the need for more buses. Insist on involving other city departments in the issues, and set clear goals. I personally am tired of angry conservatism and hope to see some of the smart management variety.

    Steve: It is ironic that what passes for “good conservative thought” these days wouldn’t last five minutes in a business that had to deal with the reality of the market, not some invented fictional version suiting the owner. “Businesslike” is a term the right wing loves to throw around, but they don’t actually follow it.


  7. Steve wrote: I have a room full of reports on various magic bullets, and they are all more than a little rusty.

    Kevin’s comment:
    As a professional Accountant, I have frequently been called upon to analyse consultants’ reports and have heard presentations to various corporate Boards of Directors in the private sector.

    But in the private sector I have never encountered the level of consistent amateurish incompetence that routinely characterizes what we get for public transportation.

    Can we imagine Andy Byford making this type of presentation to the Board of Directors of a private company? The claim to be able to boost production of the company’s #1 product line by 25% would have been the instant focus of attention. The Board would have started out by ripping this claim to shreds and then continued by questioning Mr. Byford’s credibility and competence in making the claim in the first place.

    Ditto in spades for the profoundly delusional consultants who produced the Smart Track report.

    For a consultant to produce a report advocating trains running every 90 seconds at 160 km/hr carrying 70,000 passengers per hour with zero operating subsidies… the mind boggles at the multiple levels of incompetence that displays.

    The private sector Boards of Directors that I have been involved in would have no problem in tearing such a report to shreds and sending the consultants packing. Yet Mr. Tory put a proposal before City Council giving these consultants more business.

    Don’t get me wrong: I am not a Rob Fordian worshiper of the private sector. Mr. Ford and his ilk would probably call me a member of the “bicycle riding commie pinko downtown elite.”

    But one thing that the private sector does do rather well is reject the more absurd fantasies. Because companies that swallow these fantasies tend to go bankrupt rather quickly. But government public transit entities? The only people who suffer are the passengers. And most of the TTC board does not use the TTC for their daily transportation.

    Steve: Andy Byford’s primary failing, as I have observed him, is that he doesn’t know when his staff are feeding him a pile of BS, and he has a tendency to parrot claims he should not. Now to be fair, they used to claim they could get 40% more with the new system, and so 25% is an “improvement”. This is a difficult situation because the project has been delayed many times and is costing a lot of money and reputation. Having to admit that it will not achieve its stated objective (which should never have been claimed) is a lot to ask. The TTC got buy-in from funding partners on this project by selling much needed maintenance as a way to increase capacity on a scale that was not credible, and this charade predates Rob Ford.

    As for that piece of crap masquerading as a “report” on SmartTrack, my biggest problem with it is that the main author is on the Metrolinx Board having been appointed in the final days of Glen Murray’s term as Transportation Minister. He has declared a conflict of interest, but who knows how many private conversations he has had while spouting this rubbish. This is a big problem for Metrolinx because the staff may not be willing to give the SmartTrack proposal the sound thrashing it so richly deserves.


  8. Steve wrote:

    “Even that can be misleading depending on how you define “service”. If it is vehicle miles or hours, then the replacement of smaller vehicles by larger ones could actually reduce the “service” even though the capacity provided grows.”

    Steve, it would also depend on how the replacement occurs. For example, if the vehicles are replaced based on capacity, not on a 1:1 ration (i.e. one larger vehicle for every smaller vehicle), then yes service is reduced – there will be a reduction in how often a vehicle comes which may drive people away.

    Steve wrote:

    “Andy Byford’s primary failing, as I have observed him, is that he doesn’t know when his staff are feeding him a pile of BS, and he has a tendency to parrot claims he should not. “

    Could this also, in part, not be based on the last four years of ‘subways, subways, subways’? Any report that sounds like a huge increase inefficiency at low or no cost, or in the case of the subways that make it sound like subways are the ‘only’ proper mode of transit, are the acceptable. Any report that does not make subways the best option, or make it sound like the city will not be saving millions (or billions) of dollars is unacceptable.


  9. The thing I want to see in 2015 is TTC Management and the Union on the same page when it comes to service improvements. Together their voice would be extremely powerful and would help convince the board, council and the public that it is time to invest in the TTC again.

    Past divisions between TTC Management & the Union have been political fodder and have led to significant political problems. The last thing Toronto needs right now is more of the same.

    If TTC Management and the Union are together, then perhaps they will wisely speak the truth without fear or favour and the powers that be might even listen.

    Cheers, Moaz

    PS all this makes me think I should have attended the TTC RIDERS fundraiser/year end party earlier this month.


  10. @Moaz, it would be great if management & union could get on the same page. Management appears to be working down the excess claims, however I suspect a straight up jump to reality would be better. The TTC and Union do have service improvement plans on the table that appear to be moving in substantially the same direction.

    @Kevin Love:Tory himself, needs to take the opportunity to be a new CEO and have all come clean. Hiring the initial firm to review Smarttrack was not a step in the right direction. You should not hire anyone to review their own work. Smart engineers ask other engineers to do a review of their critical work. Academia even would laugh at this process (peer review being required for most serious publication). How can we be serious about smart track without a study by a critical body has been done. CrossRail (the supposed model) discusses 24 trains per hour at 200 meter lengths and 1500 passengers each. That is a headway of 150 seconds and capacity of 36k. These numbers are much more credible, in a desperate closed corridor that is not mainline railway.

    Tory needs to make sure a new firm focuses on two things: Eglinton West and Lakeshore East. If a closed corridor and new station can be had then a 36k line should be a possibility (however I have counts about where it would lie in a real list of priorities that were transit-need not political-need driven).


  11. Moaz wrote:

    “all this makes me think I should have attended the TTCriders fundraiser/year end party earlier this month.”

    We will ensure that in 2015 you are acutely aware of the details of the annual fundraiser/celebration as soon as we know them. When you get the invitation, think back to having missed Bob Kinnear and Andy Byford both present and hammering home similar talking points. Should I not see you before then, I expect to see you there!


  12. Would it have cost the TTC a lot to keep the PCC fleet in the 1990’s around in storage (if not maintained), in case service requirements would expand again?

    Steve: A big problem at the time with old PCCs was spare parts. Also, inactive cars tend not to work too well. In the early 1990s, the TTC was in solid retrenchment mode and the idea of keeping spare cars for future growth was the last thing on their mind, along with any excess expenses.


  13. Steve wrote:

    “As for that piece of crap masquerading as a “report” on SmartTrack…”

    Kevin’s comment:
    We are in total agreement there!

    One major problem with SmartTrack is that it was oversold by Mr. Tory. Yes, GO’s RER plan is a good one. But Mr. Tory’s SmartTrack purports to be a “magic bullet” that solves Toronto’s transportation problems.

    There is no such magic bullet. What Toronto needs is not one “magic bullet” but a large number of not-so-magic solutions that, yes, are expensive. And no, the private sector is not going to voluntarily finance them.

    For example, if we look at just one issue, Yonge relief, there are no less than four not-so-magic bullets that are all needed.

    1. We need the Relief Line and we need it going all the way up to Eglinton to connect with the Eglinton Crosstown.

    2. For demand originating north of Eglinton we need Metrolinx’s proposed all-day two-way 10-minute peak headway Richmond Hill GO trains. See Scenario B on slide 7.

    And let’s not forget moving the Oriole GO station 400 metres up the tracks to co-locate it with the Leslie subway station.

    3. We need to upgrade the Yonge line itself with things like replacing the existing original 1954 signaling system with Automatic Train Control and upgrading Yonge/Bloor station.

    4. Feeder lines: Let’s not forget the phenomenon of Induced Demand. There is so much pent-up demand for the Yonge line that doing items 1-3 will overwhelm the existing Yonge feeder lines. We need to improve the feeder routes into Yonge with everything from the Finch LRT to Dutch-standard cycling infrastructure/cycle parking. And lots and lots more buses on existing bus feeder routes.

    Note that just one problem with overcrowding on one line requires no less than four solutions. None of which is Smart Track.

    Let me say it loud and strong: Anyone who claims that their pet project will fix Toronto’s transportation problems is a charlatan.


  14. Josh Colle represents only Josh Colle. He’ll be as much a boon to the TTC as Karen Stintz was.

    I know, its too early to judge, but I can’t see him as anything other than a John Tory yes man.


  15. I think the passage of time has had an effect on the collective memory of the service cuts that took place 20 years ago. Most people aren’t transit fans and don’t pay very much attention to that sort of thing, many people in their low thirties and younger wouldn’t remember the before vs. after of the service cuts, and anybody who came to Toronto after the cuts took place simply wouldn’t have been there to experience the TTC as it was before. It seems that the density of the surface service the TTC used to run has largely been forgotten.

    The mid-1990s service cuts were brutal. Subway service was left somewhat unscathed which has contributed to the current situation where subways are deemed acceptable but anything less is not because of the spread between service quality; this spread wasn’t this wide before surface service was decimated and never really recovered. At the time, the TTC was sitting on surplus CLRV cars because streetcar service had bee cut down so much. You can imagine the before and after service levels when you consider the streetcar system without Spadina, which was a bus line at the time, operating with the full CLRV fleet, full ALRV fleet, and a bunch of rebuilt PCC cars. When the cuts happened, all the PCCs were surplus, and enough CLRVs became surplus there was enough headroom to convert Spadina to streetcar using only the CLRVs, that’s how badly service had been thinned out over the whole system. There’s no way the TTC was going to hold on to those PCC cars even though they had recently been rebuilt.


  16. Shaun Cleaver said:

    When you get the invitation, think back to having missed Bob Kinnear and Andy Byford both present and hammering home similar talking points. Should I not see you before then, I expect to see you there!

    I was debating whether to attend or not up until 3 pm which is about the latest I could leave Mississauga and get there on time. Unfortunately my kids decided for me that they wanted me to stay. I do hope to attend next year.

    In the meantime I certainly hope you could get TTC Management and ATU113 together for a working lunch or other positive & practical extension of the goodwill you are trying to build. Maybe Toronto could have “Transit Camp” once again.

    Cheers, Moaz


  17. @Kevin Love: I would be willing to bet that Steve could come up with a pet project for the city that would provide the infrastructure to permit decent management to radically improve city transit. However this would likely involve 1 subway line, 6 or more LRT lines, 4 or more RER lines, and at least a couple of BRT lines, as well as a new approach by city traffic in terms of signal controls. Although even at this I suspect even he would be struggling with the fix for his own backyard.

    This pet of course would likely not be a single line or technology, also I suspect it would not involve 160km/h trains with 90 second headways.

    Steve: We are working on high speed Swan Boats. They will be the answer to all our commuting problems. Highland Creek is even within walking distance of STC!


  18. Steve, I have to admit I was expecting your pet to be more canine like (Cerberus), as opposed to a swan. The pet needs to be able to so terrify the politicians that they stay on program, although I understand Swans like Geese can be quite scary when threatened with cancellation.


  19. Malcolm N said:

    “Hiring the initial firm to review Smarttrack was not a step in the right direction.”

    To my understanding, they are hired to create a formal proposal based on their own research paper. I think that it is acceptable; as long as a review by an independent third party happens after they complete their formal proposal and before the detailed design starts.

    Steve: A related challenge will be whether Metrolinx, the City and the TTC are allowed to freely comment on the proposal and alternatives to it, or if they will be strongarmed into making “The Mayor’s Proposal” look as good as possible despite its flaws.


  20. Steve:

    A related challenge will be whether Metrolinx, the City and the TTC are allowed to freely comment on the proposal and alternatives to it, or if they will be strongarmed into making “The Mayor’s Proposal” look as good as possible despite its flaws.

    Byford must have had some experience working with stakeholders (London Assembly Mayor of London, Department for Travel sport & the public) on creating, evaluating and delivering the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

    What concerns me is the possibility that he is very much on side with building more heavy rail but not pushing as hard as he could to get more operating funds out of the government.

    As we reach the point where there is no more low hanging fruit is he prepared to say no to the Mayor of Toronto’s transport strategy?

    Cheers, Most


  21. @Micheal Forest, I would agree as long as a proposal is as far as it has goes. However, the rubber meets the road where it comes to a final review, that must have a substantial element of network analysis and options.

    Where I thought Tory was either pure politicking, or being irresponsible, was in supporting two parallel lines in Scarborough without first having a network analysis done.

    Transit expansion needs to be viewed in the light of current ridership, and trips that could reasonably be converted to transit. In Toronto, knowing the precise origin and destination would be useful, in that we would also see the trips the current system frustrates, and/or forces to auto. Scarborough bus does not always support local bus trips well, unless they are centered on the STC.

    Focusing all resources only on getting to the core, means not serving other rides.

    @Moaz, yes the tendency to focus only on heavy rail is disconcerting. I would like to see a proper analysis for the entire region of options around the existing rail corridors how many rails they have, and how many they can handle. Also where line pairs could be dedicated to transit, and signaled and converted to support rapid transit DMU, EMU or LRT. This should include potential extensions using LRT in roadway where it adds significantly.

    However, a complete network analysis needs to be done with all options on the table. The loading of lines would then be calculated based on other lines being built or not. It is possible that a 10 minute frequency,in Stouffville and Lakeshore, would cause a complete rethink of Scarborough transit. Stouffville as rapid transit (2-5 minute headway) to an underground station in the core, might cause a radical re-orientation of transit planning for in the entire north and east, anchoring LRT & BRT here.

    We would have been much better off proceeding with the well considered plan that was in hand before it became a political football(Transit City including the bus plan). The issues there were clear and understood, and the DRL (Don Mills), a fairly clear way of resolving the singular outstanding capacity issue that would clearly remain in the near term. It left additional options on the table that would both improve local rides and the network (BRT in Lawrence for instance) as demand required.

    I have the impression the current process is playing up subway, and heavy rail, looking at LRT for only a subset of what it can do well, i.e. only the very local service portion, and seems to be ignoring BRT as an option for the within Toronto portion of rapid transit. Focusing on the heaviest most expensive options to appease a polity that believes that is the only way.


  22. Malcolm N said:

    I have the impression the current process is playing up subway, and heavy rail, looking at LRT for only a subset of what it can do well, i.e. only the very local service portion, and seems to be ignoring BRT as an option for the within Toronto portion of rapid transit. Focusing on the heaviest most expensive options to appease a polity that believes that is the only way.

    I expect that there is another group of people who are being appeased … those who benefit directly from the heavy investment required to build these heavy rail networks … especially if they are subject to Alternative Financing and Procurement.

    It is essentially the same thing that I saw and still see in Malaysia.

    I spent 5 years in Malaysia advocating for better public transit, and still do that pro bono from Canada. I arrived in Malaysia on December 21st, 2004 and since then there has been significant investment in the various railway networks (more, larger trains, “LRT”~mini metro extensions and a new metro line with less capacity than the 2 old “mini-metro” lines) but scant investment in buses … except that the buses operated by the 3 government linked companies (Rapid KL, RapidPenang and RapidKuantan) are now low-floor and new. There are actually far fewer bus routes in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding area (approximately 5 million people) now than there were in January 2006 when a major revamp of the bus network began. This revamp ultimately failed (in my opinion by April 2007) because of weak policy (allowing government and private companies to coexist in an unregulated market) and bad planning (ok, what planning) as well as a new CEO taking RapidKL in a new direction.

    Anyways … if the TTC is serious about improving transit they have to look at their surface routes and take the steps needed to make them more reliable. That will ultimately determine the success of the whole network, not the rail lines.

    Cheers, Moaz


  23. @Moaz, I think that transit for the entire trip needs to be reliable, however yes now the surface portion of trips is a mess. The bus routes need to be reliable, and offer service that can be boarded.

    Even before rocket routes or BRT must come headway management and hundreds more buses, and hopefully a new approach by the city on transit priority. These 3 could mark the start to a return to a real ridership growth strategy.

    If this was followed quickly by providing bus skip lanes, then BRT it would be a real step forward. However, given the basic structure of Toronto’s transit system getting extra capacity to Yonge will be essential. I suspect even 36-38k will only be provide a very short period of relief, especially if the bus system is truly attractive. If you ran an extra 150 buses in Scarborough and ran them on time, I suspect they would also be nearly full, especially if half of those were run as fill in local area and run express to subway service. However that would be more than the subway could presently handle. Even if all this service was centered around the BDL, it would be a huge problem at Yonge. The Danforth riders would start transferring at Spadina to beat Bloor riders onto University Southbound trains at St George’s. New signals and an extra turn on Yonge to allow more trains would just a temporary answer.


  24. I’ve waited years to be able to buy tokens with a debit card. Yesterday, I went to Sherbourne station to see for myself the TTC’s belated entry to the 21st century to discover … their debit machine was out of order. It was all covered up. “I came to buy token with a debit card,” I said in a mournful tone. “Just walk in,” the collector said to me.


  25. Steve your comment with regards to the hard part in Byfords job is spot on. While, it is the hardest part, if he can get the TTC to become truly service oriented, self critical, and both realistic and forceful with regards to what will and will not work, and the resources required he will have changed transit and its politics in Toronto for the better. This will however be a very tough task.


  26. Given the slowness of debit transactions versus cash at my local stores, I am glad I buy a Metropass outside of the TTC stations, and can bypass the inevitable lineups of people fumbling their PIN in order to purchase two tokens.

    Steve: For what it’s worth, they would have to buy 4 tokens to get to the minimum transaction value level the TTC accepts. But, yes, until the majority of debit cards are tap-and-go, this will be tedious.


  27. What comes to my mind, and I think other posters have alluded to this as well, is that the TTC management not only has “the general public” and “transit riders” as audiences, but also their own employee community (as represented by the unions), who need to be satisfied or placated as well.


  28. In today’s Star, Chris Hume describes a concept implemented in Singapore in 2013 to reduce congestion by offering free rides before 7 am. Steve, what do you think? Is a congestion charge practical? Do you think it would make a meaningful difference?

    Steve: It is worth noting that the Singapore “free rides” are not quite as they are described in the article. They are not free over the entire system, only for trips going to specific heavily used stations, and they are still in a trial period.

    Good news! Free early morning MRT rides to 18 designated MRT stations in the city area before 7.45am on weekdays (excluding public holidays) has been extended till 23 June 2015.

    For those who miss the cut-off timing for free travel by a few minutes, you can still enjoy 50 cents off your train fare if you exit at any of the 18 stations* between 7.45am and 8.00am on weekdays (excluding public holidays).

    To be eligible for free MRT rides or $0.50 off train fare, the point of entry cannot be from any of the 18 stations.

    Source: Travel-Smart for Commuters

    The free (or discounted) trip is based on the time the trip ends, not on when it begins, and this depends on “tap out” smart card fare collection. The idea is interesting, but I suspect there would be political pressure to extend it to other busy parts of the network in the name of “equity”.

    As for a congestion charge, there are two problems. First, the worst congestion is not downtown (despite Mayor Tory’s much publicized war on illegal parking), but in the suburbs. If anything, a lot of the traffic downtown is commercial vehicles including taxis. Some of the worst congestion occurs outside of the peak both through the loss of road capacity to parking, and to time-of-day effects such as shopping and entertainment-related travel. Second, the whole idea of a congestion charge in London was based on the fact that it already had a dense network of subway (tube) and commuter rail lines providing a good alternative to travel into the core area.

    Quite bluntly, I think that a congestion charge, per se, would be a considerable waste of political time and effort that would better be directed to improving the capacity of the transit system, something that any diversion of traffic would require anyhow, but with a broader focus than the corner of Queen and Bay.


  29. Hi Steve:-

    In the olden days, the Civic Railway charged more to ride in the rush periods than they did in the off peak.

    Unsure if it helped anyone, but it wasn’t continued when the TTC took over the City’s other street car system.



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