Toronto Regional Relief Public Meetings

The City of Toronto Planning Department will hold four public meetings regarding their Regional Relief study now in progress.

The meetings will be held between 7:00 and 9:00 pm:

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at Calvary Church, 746 Pape Avenue (Pape Station)
  • Thursday, March 5, 2015 at Riverdale Collegiate, 1094 Gerrard Street East at Jones (506 Carlton car of 83 Jones bus)
  • Monday, March 9, 2015 at St. Lawrence Hall, 157 King Street East at Jarvis (504 King car)
  • Thursday, March 12, 2015 at Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street (St. Clair Station)

The focus of the meetings will be station locations and evaluation criteria.

TTC Confirms Streetcar Service Levels With New Fleet

Toronto’s Budget Committee has asked staff for many briefing notes on details behind various programs. Among these requests was for TTC to detail the level of service that would be operated on all streetcar routes after the 204 new Flexitys have been delivered, and how this would be improved with the addition of a proposed 60 car order.

The TTC has responded with a report that details how the cars would be used.

Long–Term Peak Headway Projections for Streetcar Routes

With the initial 204 car order:

  • Peak headways would widen by varying degrees on all routes except 501 Queen where existing AM peak frequency would be maintained using the larger cars. The biggest change would be on the 502/503 services changing from 12′ to 14’30” on each of the routes which, in theory, provide a blended service.
  • Capacity increases in the AM peak would be greater than in the PM peak.

With the additional 60 cars:

  • Peak headways would return roughly to current levels. Capacity, relative to today’s service, would be considerably higher than today, except anomalously, on 501 Queen.

The report notes that additional cars will be needed for routes to serve the waterfront, but gives no indication of the service levels or fleet requirements for these routes. Because the report shows only headways for existing routes, not vehicle allocations, it is unclear how many of the 60 cars go for service improvement and how many for new routes. The percentage improvements on existing routes are high enough that it is possible that cars have been double-counted for this purpose. I will follow up on that issue with the TTC.

Updated at 12:22 pm: At Budget Committee, Andy Byford confirmed that the only “expansion” covered by the 60 cars is the Cherry Street spur south from King Street.

Updated at 3:00 pm: The TTC has confirmed that all of the 60 additional cars would be allocated to “legacy” routes with none reserved for expansion. As to the spare ratio they would design for:

“Spare ratio of 18%. We expect that that we will be able to reduce that when the fleet is settled in and we have confidence in the performance and reliability but, until then, this is our going-in assumption.” [Email from Mitch Stambler, TTC]

The ratio for the streetcar fleet today is about 25% (not including cars out of service due to cold weather) with roughly 200 of the 247 in the fleet scheduled for the AM peak.

Platform Edge Doors: Motherhood or a Vital Addition to the TTC Subway? (Updated)

At its meeting of February 11, 2015, Toronto Council debated a report from the Medical Officer of Health on Suicide Prevention. In response to this report, Council approved the following motion (which is a modified version of one of the MOH’s recommendations):

1. City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission to consider the following improvements to passenger safety and suicide prevention in future budget submissions as the automatic train control project is completed:

a. in the design of stations for all future extensions or new lines include Platform Edge Doors or other means for restricting unauthorized access to the subway tracks by members of the public;

b. retrofit existing stations with Platform Edge Doors or other means for restricting unauthorized access to the subway tracks by members of the public.

Please refer to the update at the end of this article for comment about the content of the debate which is now available online.

During the debate, various claims were made for the benefits of Platform Edge Doors (PEDs) on the advice of TTC staff, notably that it would not be possible to increase subway service from 28 trains/hour to 36/hour without the installation of PEDs.

28 trains/hour is equivalent to a headway of 128.6 seconds, somewhat shorter than the current scheduled level of 141 seconds, but within the capabilities of the existing signal system. 36 trains/hour is equivalent to a headway of 100 seconds which is well below the current infrastructure’s capacity.

This is the first time that the TTC has advanced PEDs not just as a “nice to have” option, but as a pre-requisite to improved subway service. The MOH cites a TTC report on the subject, but does not comment on its technical merit only regarding PEDs as a way to eliminate subway suicides, a noble goal.

The TTC received a presentation on this report in September 2010, but only a two-page covering report is online. (The TTC plans to post the longer version, but as I write this it is not yet online.)

According to this report:

In May 2010, SYSTRA Group (an affiliated company of Paris Metro) was retained to conduct a business case study for the installation of PEDS at TTC subway stations.

The SYSTRA report is not publicly available, but the presentation summary will be posted by the TTC soon. It is not yet on the TTC’s site as I write this article, but was provided to me by the TTC’s Brad Ross and is available here.

PEDs Business Case Presentation Sep 28, 2010

This presentation is misleading in that it combines benefits expected to flow from reduced headways through Automatic Train Control (ATC) and those specific to PEDs. A major benefit of the doors is to keep debris from falling onto the tracks where it creates a fire hazard. However, a separate review of TTC operations by an international consulting group noted that the TTC’s ability to operate its advertised service is compromised by several factors including equipment reliability and passenger illness (some of which is a result of overcrowding). Continue reading

A Few Questions About Scarborough

Toronto Council’s agenda for today, February 10, 2015, contains a series of “Administrative Inquiries” by Councillor Josh Matlow regarding various aspects of transit plans for Scarborough. The City Manager’s response appeared late yesterday, but it was not exactly packed with revelations.

In theory, the inquiry process provides a way for questions to flow directly from a Councillor to City staff bypassing the usual mechanism of committee reports where administration majorities might strangle debate. In practice, the information released might or might not fully address the question.

Mayor Tory’s position is quite clear: the subway debate is over, and Matlow’s questions are simply attempts to reopen the question on matters that are already known and decided. Would that it were so simple. Subway champions should pause in their dismissal of Matlow’s position because the report shows how much we don’t know, or at least are not being told, about the subway project.

Continue reading

TTC Service Changes Effective March 29, 2015 (Update 2)

Updated February 6, 2015 at 6:10 pm:

A change to service on 1 Yonge-University on weekday evenings was missed in the original version of my condensed version of the changes. This has been corrected.

Updated February 3, 2015 at 11:30 am:

In response to questions raised by the planned changes, I asked the TTC for more details on specific work.

  • At College & Spadina, the platforms used by 506 Carlton will be lengthened, but not widened. They are already wide enough for boarding via the ramps on the Flexities.
  • The 509 Harbourfront route will convert to PoP operation when the Flexities move there at the end of March.
  • Transit signal priority has been or will be restored at various locations on St. Clair:
    • On December 23, 2014, it was restored at Yonge and at Avenue Road.
    • Before March 29, 2015, it will be restored at Deer Park, west of Dunvegan, Russell Hill, Bathurst, Wychwood, Arlington and Caledonia
    • To be completed, but not necessarily by March 29: Ferndale (St. Clair Stn. Loop exit), Christie, Old Weston, Keele/Weston)

The original article from January 31 follows below.

Continue reading

Those Pesky Metropasses

The TTC Board has approved fare hikes in most categories effective March 1, 2015. [Scroll down in the press release for the details.]

This round included certain changes that attracted debate:

  • Children (age 12 and under) will ride free.
  • Adult Metropasses will change from the equivalent of 49.5 tokens to 50.5 tokens.
  • Cash fares remain at their 2014 level.

Although the “average” increase is advertised as 3.7%, the Metropass holders (who are 40% of the TTC’s customers and account for 53% of all riding) will see an increase of 5.8%.

TTC management has never liked the Metropass and fought hard against its introduction in 1980. Over the years, to encourage use, the TTC reduced the fare multiple (the token equivalent of the pass price) from the original 52 and it eventually dropped to about 48.

Management pushes back, and treats pass holders as people who get too good a deal, also as a captive market who will put up with a larger-than-average fare increase leaving money to offset other fare policies such as free rides for kiddies. They argue that passholders don’t pay their way:

  • Since 2010, the price of a pass has gone up by 17%.
  • During the same period, based on surveys of pass users, the trips taken per pass have gone up from 70 to 75 per month, on average, or 6%.
  • Therefore the price per ride (on average) has stayed at roughly the same level as inflation in Toronto.
  • The effective after tax price of the pass is only 43 fares.

From 2010 to 2015, the cost of a token has gone up from $2.50 to $2.80, or 12%, roughly equal to the imputed increase for pass holders, but this assumes that every pass holder actually is making five more rides a month to offset the higher price. As for the tax rebate, this assumes that a buyer has taxable income against which to offset the transit credit, and passes actually cost the poor more than they do those with taxable income.

Management claims that it is “not economically sustainable to carry an ever-increasing number of trips without the associated revenue to cover the cost of providing those trips” [Budget Presentation, Feb. 2, 2015, page 25] What this statement completely misses is the fact that pass holders make many “trips” that they would not take on a pay-as-you-play basis, or they would creatively cheat on their transfers. Those 75 trips/month do not all represent “lost” revenue, nor do they necessarily push up operating costs through a need for increased capacity. Indeed, pass holders get no credit in this calculation for the much lower cost/trip of fare collection — one monthly transaction, an electronic one for the Monthly Discount Program, no handling of cash (other than one monthly payment for in-person transactions), no tokens to distribute and collect, and no transfers.

There has never been an accounting of the so-called cost of Metropass users to the TTC, and especially not one weighed against the benefits in simplified operations and the social benefit of a fixed, monthly fare.

Oddly enough, management has no worries about “sustainability” when it comes to the inevitable demand that free rides for children will bring, but instead spins this as a way to get future customers into a transit habit early in life.

This is a simple grab for $7-million in extra revenue in the guise of better equity.

In fact, Toronto should encourage more people to use passes as an incentive to ride transit. Being able to take “another trip free” is an important change in how a user views transit, and is similar to a motorist’s view of car use — it’s paid for, I might as well drive.

Unfortunately, the 2015 budget was assembled entirely out of view of the Commissioners who nominally should debate and approve these things. Mayor Tory and TTC Chair Colle simply assembled the media in a schoolyard one brisk morning and announced the new fares with no input from the board nominally in charge. The new fares were not even a campaign promise, quite the opposite.

One ray of sunshine in this procedural murk is that the Commission voted that management should bring back a report in May 2015 on a “vigourous” (later amended to “rigourous”) process for future budgets so that the policy issues affecting them can actually be debated. This is a welcome change, but it should not have been necessary in the first place if the Commission had been doing its job and actively developing policies in public view.

Next year, the TTC and Council will have to address key issues such as:

  • Whether to implement a “two-hour fare”, in effect a limited time pass in place of the current transfers.
  • Whether to implement discounted fares for recipients of social welfare programs.
  • What, exactly, “fare integration” with GO and the 905 transit systems would look like, and who will pay for it.
  • What will a “monthly pass” be in a regional context, and how should it be priced.
  • How will the additional, net, cost of opening the Spadina Extension to Vaughan be absorbed in the budget (an estimated $10m that will have its full effect in 2017).
  • The next round of “customer service improvements” beyond those planned for 2015 are off in remote 2019. Is this acceptable, or should Toronto continue to budget for even better service by, for example, fully restoring the crowding standards to the Miller era?
  • What does “reliable” service look like, and what steps are required from management and staff to make this a reality.

This is much more complex than the smiling, simplistic, good news, bright-yellow-flower world of the previous administration. Is the TTC, is Toronto up to this challenge, or will the major debates be on the choice of tiles for new subway stations?