Updated October 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm: Additional material based on the presentation and debate at the TTC Board meeting has been added at the end of this article.
At its meeting on October 28, 2015, the TTC Board will receive a presentation about bus fleet and garage planning. This combines many threads that have been discussed separately in the past into one overview and co-ordinated long-range planning, something missing from Board-level debates at the TTC for many years.
Four important changes in the TTC’s fleet planning lead to one common goal: an increase in bus reliability.
- Steady-state procurement. TTC bus purchase quantities fluctuated wildly over past decades. In the late 1960s, there was a major system expansion into the suburbs concurrent with the subway extensions to Kennedy and Kipling, and later north to Finch. This produced a big spike in bus purchases which echoed through the system every 18 years or so as this generation of vehicles (and its successors) came due for replacement. Other ebbs and flows arose from political decisions such as service increases beyond “typical” requirements, or service freezes imposed through declining standards. This plays havoc with maintenance planning and with the City’s capital plans.
- Increase the spare ratio. Historically, transit spare ratios have been set at about 12% (even lower values can be found decades ago on the TTC), but this only worked when vehicles were considerably simpler than they are today. It is worth noting that the PCC streetcar was designed from the outset to be a low-maintenance vehicle with roughly a monthly trip into the shops for preventative maintenance. The onset of vehicles with much more complex technology, and especially with technology at the “bleeding edge” of implementation, did nothing to improve transit maintenance costs. Higher spare ratios also require more capital to be tied up in buses under repair. Higher failure rates affect service.
- Early retirement of the hybrid bus fleet. The hybrids were one of those nice “green” ideas where the technology simply did not perform as expected, but for a time government policy forced the TTC into buying nothing else. The fleet is less reliable than the diesels it supplanted, and the extra capital cost is not offset by lower operating cost.
- Re-align diesel bus overhaul schedule. Various subsystems on a bus go through major overhauls or replacement on a planned cycle through the vehicle’s life. The schedule for this work will be adjusted to better match needs and to fit well with a planned 18-year bus lifespan. Equally important will be a change in the approach to routine maintenance with a shift from “fix on fail” that accounts for 80% of work today to a proactive, preventative replacement of parts before their expected in service failure disrupts service.
An additional issue still under study is the question of just how long a bus should stay in service. The 18-year span typical in Toronto (and previously in many other cities) arose from a combination of vehicle quality (the GM New Looks lasted forever) and of limited subsidy funding. However, a longer lifespan demands that transit systems have the capability to perform major overhauls that will keep a bus running that long, and this is not practical for smaller systems. Long ago, the USA standard dropped to 12 years as the funding cycle for federal subsidies to bus purchases. A still unanswered question is whether this should be Toronto’s policy.
Finally, there is the matter of garage space for a fleet that will continue to grow before the combined effect of subway and LRT line openings will see a drop in total fleet requirements.
Factors Feeding Into the Fleet Plan
Even without new rapid transit lines or ridership stimulus policies, the TTC expects to see 12-million more trips in 2016. The bus network’s share of this increase will require 17 more buses.
It is worth noting that the TTC’s method of calculating fleet increase is very conservative. The ratio they use is that one million more trips leads to a requirement for about 1.4 more buses in the fleet or an increase relative to the scheduled peak service of 0.089%. However, one million more trips on a base of 540m is 0.185% or double the factor applied to the bus fleet. This may reflect a view that new trips will come disproportionately off peak when there are spare vehicles, or that the increase will be disproportionately absorbed by the rail network.
To this must be added plans for reduced peak period crowding (the 2015 service changes addressed only the off-peak), and new express bus routes. These will be partly, but not totally, addressed by 50 new buses now on order.
Other pending changes include a reduction in contract services to York Region, the implementation of more articulated buses (these improve operator productivity, but do not change the need for garage space), rapid transit construction (Spadina extension winds down, but Eglinton Crosstown ramps up) and an increased rate of City infrastructure repairs. Transit signal priority and other road congestion measures can provide some offsetting benefits, but there are limits to what can be achieved without a major reallocation of road space and time for transit.
In the short term, TTC forecasts ridership growth based on known economic factors and on policy changes already in the pipeline such as improved service standards. From 2019 onward, they use the City Plan’s 1.5% growth number. Clearly this may be conservative if transit usage goes up faster than the population. The charts below show the effect of a 1.5% and 3.0% annual growth rate over the next decade.
Although there will be some saving in fleet size, notably after the Eglinton-Crosstown opens, the fleet requirement in 2025 will still be larger than it is today thanks to growth on the remaining bus network. The difference between the low and high growth rate translates to a fleet requirement of 120 buses, or half of a typical bus garage.
Historically, TTC fleet planning has been starved for capital, and there is no indication that Toronto Council would embrace plans based on a faster growth rate. This is shortsighted and can only lead to continued problems with system capacity and attractiveness, but Council seems content to focus on a few rapid transit projects to the detriment of its bus network.
Current plans call for the bus fleet at year-end 2016 to look like this:
Note that the major source of service growth in 2016 is the “Service Initiatives”, the next wave of improvements following on from 2015. These will be peak period improvements affecting fleet size rather than off-peak which only affect vehicle usage and operator hours, but not the fleet.
The spare pool will rise to 18% of scheduled service, and a further pool of buses will be out of service for various capital programs. In total, there will be about 400 more buses in the fleet than the scheduled peak service (25%).
Bus procurements come and go. The first big bulge accompanied the suburban expansion of the 1960s, and this had an echo 18-20 years later when those buses came due for retirement. Economic circumstances and political decisions can also affect purchase patterns with decisions to cram more riders in fewer buses, or simply to not operate some service, being driven much more by a desire to “hold the line on spending” than good medium-to-long range fleet planning. The first chart below shows what would happen if the TTC continues on its current pattern, while the second shows the goal, a “steady state” replacement policy. This has the effect of moving some bus purchases into the near years from the comparatively fallow years of 2018-22 in the original plan. That will be a hard sell at Council where any move to bring forward capital spending from the 2020s works contrary to plans for controlling the short-to-medium term debt load.
This change ties in with the planned early retirement of the Hybrid bus fleet (see following section). There was a very large order of Hybrids (almost 700 buses in the mid 2000s) and this is echoed in the spike starting in 2023 on the original plan. Retiring these buses early achieves a goal of flattening out capital requirements and setting a common rate for new vehicle acceptance, warranty repairs and future scheduled overhauls (i.e. there would be a constant number of buses having a nine year overhaul each year). The downside for the City is that the purchases have to be moved into years when added capital spending is not desired under current plans.
Overall, there is expected to be a slight saving for the next decade, but this comes with a shift in the timing of capital spending (see p23 of the presentation for details).
Early Hybrid Retirement
The TTC’s experience with Hybrid buses has not been as rosy as originally hoped. The duty cycle for many TTC routes does not match the heavy start/stop conditions where energy storage systems are thought to create the greatest benefit, and the cost of operation and maintenance over the lifespan of a Hybrid offers little net saving over that of a diesel bus. The premium per bus is calculated as $279k over 18 years. The lower fuel cost roughly balances off the capital cost, but other maintenance and component replacement costs push up hybrid cost-of-owrenship. The hybrid-specific components are expensive and add to the total, not just for original purchase, but for ongoing replacement.
To these issues must be added reliability problems in poor weather, and the fact that the market for this type of vehicle has never grown to the level where economies of scale might begin to make it practical. The TTC has a large Hybrid fleet not because it believed in the technology in a big way, but that Federal subsidies for bus purchases at the time were only available for “green” buses.
Early retirement of the Hybrids will also avoid one cycle of major overhauls for vehicles that are more expensive and less reliable than the diesel fleet. The estimated capital saving would be $141-million, plus the value of spare parts “harvested” from these vehicles.
Increased Spare Ratio
The TTC proposes to increase its pool of spare buses (those which are in running maintenance programs at garages, plus spares for service change-offs and emergencies) from the current target of 12% to 18%. By contrast, the standard in the USA is now 20%, and so the TTC is still staying a bit below what has become the “industry norm”.
It is important to note that adding 6% to the spare pool on a base of 1,600 peak buses is 96 more buses. These have a capital cost, and they require garage space to be housed and maintained (a typical garage holds 250). In past years, the spares have been treated as a cushion against predatory politicians looking to make quick budget cuts, and for a short time, this can isolate the system from the worst side-effects. However, any effective change in the spare ratio is a one-time saving with an ongoing cost – reliability declines and maintenance suffers. The effect of such “efficiency” is that maintenance shifts to a focus on just getting a bus out the garage door.
Indeed, the way the TTC was measuring “service availability” was to count buses that left the garage even if they only went a block before breaking down. This artificially inflated the reliability stats for service dispatched while playing havoc with stats for service actually operated.
Realigned Diesel Overhaul Schedule
The TTC plans to change its overhaul plan for diesel buses as shown below. The revised plan shifts some major work earlier to the six year (1/3) mark in the life of a bus, with a repeat pass on the same subsystems an equal time later. The basic change is to advance work on some subsystems that cannot reasonably expect to last to the original nine-year schedule for their overhauls, and to avoid major work on buses that are close to their 18-year retirement dates.
Reliability Centered Maintenance
For all that the TTC thinks of itself as a great transit system, bus reliability in Toronto pales by comparison to other cities. To be fair, a raw chart of mean-distance-between-defects can hide information such as the average age of fleets, their duty cycles, and the fleet profiles in each city. All the same, being roughly as good as New York is not necessarily a mark of distinction.
The TTC performs most of its maintanence, 80%, on a “fix on fail” basis rather than proactively changing out components when they near their typical lifespans. This may be cheaper (less inventory, use parts until the bitter end), but those failures typically occur in service and affect riders.
Again, this has a medium term cost because it will take time to ramp up the planned replacement of components and many vehicles in the early years of the program will receive new parts sooner than they would have otherwise. This extra cost will run in parallel with failure-based costs on that part of the fleet not yet under the new program, but in the long run, the TTC expects the ongoing cost of materials to drop.
Bus Replacement Strategy
For the 2017 budget cycle, TTC will be reviewing the validity of its 18-year replacement cycle for buses. This arose in the years when Queen’s Park provided substantial capital subsidies, but would not fund new buses to replace anything less than 18 years old.
The cycle in other cities in Canada and the USA varies from 12 to 18 years.
As discussed earlier, a short replacement cycle adds to ongoing capital costs because the TTC would buy 1/12 of its fleet every year rather than 1/18, but with the goal of improved reliability, lower maintenance costs and reduced major (capital) overhauls.
More buses mean more bus garages. The TTC operates seven garages for the “conventional” system, plus one garage for WheelTrans at Lake Shore.
The presentation contains a chart which is odd for what’s missing.
First off, the proposed leased garage (formerly used by York Region Transit) that would provide a 50-bus relief has vanished from the plan. Moreover, an as yet unidentified temporary 250-bus garage is also missing. Compare the first chart below with the one following that appeared in the preliminary Capital Plan in June 2015.
October 2015 version:
June 2015 version:
There is no discussion in the presentation of why these leased garages have disappeared, and I look forward to having this explained at the meeting. Also unclear in the October version of the plan is the meaning of the blue hatched areas on the chart.
Updated: See the end of this article for a chart which does include a leased 250-bus facility, but does not include the 50-bus facility in Concord approved earlier this year.
(Note that for planning purposes, the unit of measure is a standard 10m/40ft bus. Where artics exist or are planned, they are converted to standard buses for the purpose of counting garage space.)
Clearly the TTC cannot accommodate the number of buses it plans to own and operate within existing facilities.
Having overcrowded garages makes for more complex operations, delays while vehicles jockey out of each other’s way, and extra cost simply because buses cannot move freely throughout the property. This affects service because buses do not necessarily get out on the road on time, a situation that can be compounded if there are reliability issues with the fleet (i.e. a dead bus sitting in the middle of a crowded garage). The importance of addressing the situation is summarized on two pages of the presentation:
The presentation concludes with a page showing the combined effect of changes in bus fleet planning at $36-million over ten years. What is missing here is a year by year summary showing how the capital requirements shift from current plans. This is a fundamental requirement for the City’s budget process.
On the operating side, the presentation shows a $7.7m increase for “Reliability Centred Maintenance”, but again misses the issue of multi-year projections. Moreover, leasing garage space (never mind staffing for operations and maintenance of the larger fleet) is also a cost, and this is not discussed anywhere.
The TTC presents a thorough overview of the factors affecting the current and proposed fleet plans. However, the very item on which Board Members, and later the City Budget Analysts and Council will focus – the effect on year-to-year budgets – is missing together with any analysis of how the extra spending will improve service reliability.
I will update this article after the TTC meeting with any information gleaned from the presentation and associated Q&A by Board Members.
Updated October 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm:
The following updates come from the presentation and discussion at the Board meeting.
- In the original article, I said that a plan showing the interim garage configuration had not been included in the presentation. It is unclear whether this was an oversight on my part, or if the presentation was changed to include this after I had reviewed it. Here is the proposed interim garage configuration:The blue hatched areas in the chart above show the effect on bus fleet size if Metrolinx is late in opening its Eglinton and Finch LRT lines.
Notable by its absence is the 50-bus garage in Concord that the TTC Board approved earlier this year. Updated information on interim garage space is supposed to come to a Budget Subcommittee meeting on November 4.
- The chart which shows the development of the service and fleet plan for 2016 shows a shortfall of 13 buses. This is a temporary situation pending delivery of more new streetcars.
- The chart which shows the comparative cost of ownership of hybrid vs diesel buses claims that the premium paid for the 691-bus hybrid fleet would have funded 48 diesels. There is an error in the calculation, and the correct number is 72. In other words, for the premium paid to operate hybrids, the TTC could have run 72 more diesels. (To be fair, there would be an associated garage capital cost that is not included in this.)
During debate, Commissioner Minnan-Wong asked why the TTC was not looking at CNG (compressed natural gas) buses. The TTC had a bad experience with these vehicles which were foisted on the system by a combination of industry interests, the Ministry of Transportation and management who wanted a “green” replacement for the trolley buses. Minnan-Wong asked about Miami-Dade’s plans to convert its bus fleet to CNG, and staff appeared to be unaware of the details of this proposal. It is important to understand that Miami-Dade has not actually made the transition yet, but plans to roll this out over 10 years as buses come up for retirement. An initial order for 300 vehicles would jump-start the process.
What is intriguing about this plan is that the Miami-Dade has not yet announced the result of the proposal evaluations, and more recently, Mayor Gimenez has been looking at electric bus technology. This does not appear to be a “done deal” although the county appears to be very interested in moving to a greener technology than diesels.
Such are the challenges of making policy based on Google searches.
The matter of acquiring buses through the Metrolinx Transit Procurement Initiative came up as a potential cost saving. Staff replied that at the volumes TTC orders, they get a comparable price to what Metrolinx can achieve on behalf of the smaller transit systems in Ontario. Moreover, TTC has a tighter spec and, according to staff, some cities are complaining about the buses procured by Metrolinx (nothing specific was mentioned).
Commissioner Mihevc asked about the effect of moving to a more aggressive growth rate as discussed in the ridership projections, and of fully returning to the old loading standards. Staff replied that the TTC could not just revert to the old standards because they applied to different types of buses. Staff will report on what would be required in the fleet plan to address a full return to “Ridership Growth Strategy” standards, and to embrace a higher growth rate as part of the base plan. This request was also supported by Chair Colle.
Commissioner Lalonde asked that staff pull together all of the factors involved in costs and reliability to a consolidated metric that the Commission could track the costs and benefits of the new fleet policies.
Commissioner Heisey asked that staff extend the concept of benefits to include the time saved by riders through more reliable service.
Commissioner De Baeremaeker noted that he had been on the Board when the hybrids were purchased. There were glowing reports in 2006, but this did not work out in the longer term. Staff noted that neither Toronto nor another major trial city, New York, had ideal conditions for hybrid operation. The technology worked well initially, but did not hold up. De Baeremaeker claimed that Edmonton was undertaking an all-electric bus project and asked about this as a alternative. The technology is still at an early stage.
Staff will update the Board on alternative fuel technologies at a future meeting.
Various reports were requested from staff by the Board:
- For the 2017 budget cycle, staff should present the implications of moving to historic crowding standards and a higher rate of ridership growth.
- Staff will report on the Edmonton electric bus project and on CNG technology, and more broadly on how the TTC plans to meet city energy efficiency and clean air targets.
- Staff will report on whether procurement practices can be improved such as joint purchases with other properties.
- Staff will report on a cost-benefit analysis of securing an additional new permanent garage.
The combined effect of these Steve, along with the failure to be clear about garage space and the waiting for failure approach to maintenance is troubling to me. The combined effect would be to push more people who need to travel at and close to peak onto the roads, or planning to arrive at their destinations longer and longer before they would there otherwise need to – so that they can actually get there.
The other thing that concerns me, is that this approach also increases the crowding on roads – and hence portion of buses getting caught in congestion, that was in part created by the lack of on peak capacity. While I understand the notion that regardless what is done on the bus network, the rail network cannot handle increased load – and hence we do not want to deliver it – there is a basic need to ensure we avoid service degradation for those who are not core bound. Thus there is a huge need to allow a DRL, or whatever increment in capacity that will permit the bus network to grow without overloading the rail system. I think there is merit in building LRT and BRT where the bus runs in traffic are much shorter, and much less subject to congestion – though creating more transfers. The transit system must be upgraded to not only permit, but encourage a much higher than population growth rate. The city (GTA) as a whole has a less than 25% transit mode share, and Toronto itself is what about 34%? – so if population growth is at 1.5% and we want to keep the city moving – no worse than it is, one would think we should be targeting something around of 4.5% growth rate for transit in Toronto, over 6% for the GTA. overall – as we are not practically able to substantially increase road capacity (a 6 lane expressway – is not going to do much nor even 2). Buying buses at a pace that does not match this type of growth, without building substantial other transit infrastructure – is simply accepting total gridlock.
Is Concord still planned for 2016, because after reading the file, it looks as if its been pushed back to 2017. Is TTC having trouble getting Concord?
Steve: I believe that Concord is in the 2016 plan, but things will be clearer at the TTC Budget Committee meeting early in November when there is supposed to be an update report on additional garage properties.
TTC should cut down service, it sounds bad but its better to have reliability service than a false hope or promise of frequent service knowing these buses will probably break down because of ‘Fix on Fail’. I’d rather a bus come every 15min knowing it’ll take me were I need to go than every 5-10min, with a greater chance of the bus breaking down. Can the TTC not convert the hybrids to regular diesel like they did with the CNG, unless at this stage of the hybrids its probably not economically feasible?
Steve: The issue is the remaining life in the hybrids makes converting them a dubious proposition.
TTC should go back and get GM buses, just add a wheelchair lift do the cost to run the each bus is reduced. << that was a joke.
Breakdown maintenance is an outdated practice for most companies operating machinery of any kind. That the TTC still employs this method is both surprising and not surprising. Surprising that they still employ it but not surprising as so much of the TTC’s methods are outdated.
Regarding the chart outlining failure effects. Missing is the cost of towing (I often see those huge tow trucks and think those contractors must love the TTC!.) Also missing is Operator overtime due to on the road failures. Both must be a cost that should be taken into account.
I feel that it’s a massive shame that the image of Hybrid buses in Toronto is tarnished for the foreseeable future, especially when major cities like London are buying Hybrid buses like no tomorrow (over 1500 at the last count and rising), and are investing in new technologies like wireless charging electric buses and hydrogen buses.
Oh well. The TTC needs lots of new buses, bought on a steady basis each year, regardless of propulsion type.
From this I gather the idea of converting the hybrids to regular diesel buses for 6 more years of life is a non-starter and not viable nor cost effective.
Steve: Yes. Could have made sense when the buses were younger, but not now.
So, no surprise then that nowhere is there even a consideration of a return to any form of trolleybus technology. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?
Seriously? Reduce service all TTC routes in York Region? That would be tragic!
Steve: The reductions mentioned in the presentation are plans by York Region to either reduce the level of service the TTC provides, or to take over operation of routes. The level of service is not a TTC decision.
If they reduce service on all TTC routes in York Region, that would turn ugly, especially the 129A McCowan North which is the busiest TTC operated route in York Region that links the 2 busy transit hubs at McCowan and Highway 7 and Scarborough Town Centre!
Steve: As I said before, any decision on service levels on the YRT/TTC routes is up to York Region. TTC plans only reflect whatever changes YRT has already asked for. Indeed, in 2015, there was an unexpected cutback beyond the amount the TTC expected, and it shows up in the detailed budget reports.
If you don’t like what is happening to YRT routes, complain to York Region Council (although I suspect that their service plan for 2016 is already cast in concrete).
It’s actually better if all TTC routes in York Region gets discontinued and replace with YRT operated routes because I live off McCowan and 14th Avenue and I had to utilize a busy non-frequent 129A McCowan North on weekends. I use Presto when I take the Miway, Durham Region Transit, and YRT/Viva and I can’t wait to be fully rolled out on the TTC.
Assuming of course that York Region then operates the routes with their own buses, does this not in effect add to the pool of TTC buses available to run routes within Toronto? Thus present an opportunity to improve service elsewhere?
Steve: Yes, but the actual number of buses that are on the outside-Toronto sections of routes is rather small given the wide headways on these routes.
Hi Steve, I was trying to ask but my system crashed twice when I answered you. But anyway, I have my take on this situation when I read that document.
– Mt. Dennis was built to hold 250 buses but added 40 buses thanks to overcapacity over there as well as other garages (Birchmount can hold as 250 buses and instead it had a fleet 220 buses on it!). In order to better balance bus allocations and resources, I think Service Planning Dept. could consider moving the 47 LANSDOWNE and 63 OSSINGTON to Wilson while they have an option to reassign 5 AVENUE ROAD, 56 LEASIDE, 75 SHERBOURNE and 83 ROSEDALE to Birchmount as mentioned above.
– On the Concord situation, is it yet going to be yet in operation next year or not happening? They were considering reopening Danforth but it could be too expensive. I was thinking well with the Bombardier-TTC bombshell, Leslie Barns was supposed to open to hold streetcars, so why have an option to convert into the temporary bus garage to hold 230-250 buses instead? Leslie can serve the routes as was with the old Danforth and can be ended up as a “satellite” for Birchmount or Comstock.
Steve: If you have been following the comment thread, you would know that I have already mentioned that a report on leased garage space is coming to the November Budget Committee meeting. Danforth cannot be reopened without major modifications including relocation of the TTC functions now housed there to space elsewhere they don’t have. Leslie will officially open in late November when the Flexity fleet will move there. Using it for buses is a non-starter because it was not designed for that type of vehicle. Moreover, you assume that the streetcars won’t get here.
See, the YRT’s sometimes have stupid decisions! The current frequency on 129A McCowan North between Steeles and Highway 7 does not meet passanger demand!
Re: Hybrid low floor bus
TTC hasn’t considered converting the hybrid fleet similar to the CNGs. Edmonton had two buses converted while NYCTA currently has one bus in operation as diesel. My question is could that hybrid conversion option be costly or expensive as I said? They would have to use the Cummins ISL engines if that’s the case.
Steve: TTC has considered this, but prefers to retire some Hybrids early and use their parts to keep the rest going. No point in spending major money on vehicles that have only six years left.
I’m being parochial here, I know, but it would sure be nice if Queensway Division got some new buses out of this that are not hand-me-downs. Apparently the last new buses to go to Queensway were in 1992.
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The population of Toronto is currently around 2,610,600. It’s expected to be just below 2,900,000 by 2021, maybe 3,000,000 by 2031. The GTA could reach 7,450,000 by 2031. To delay, or assume there is no need for more buses or garages, is “wishful” dreaming by those who don’t look to the future.
New Eglinton last received buses in 2002 in form of an Orion VII then Birchmount in 2005. Wilson had received deliveries since 2006. I can vouch for Birchmount training on the new NovaBUS LFS buses but its a must.
YRT is assuming 224 Victoria Park North.
Steve: Thanks for digging this out. I was going to look it up, but had not gotten around to it yet.
I don’t understand why the TTC, and all of us here, are having a discussion about “bus fleet” in a generic sense when what we are talking about in large part is the complete abortion that is the Orion VII. It’s appalling we are stuck with these clunkers for literal decades at a time.
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I think that for most US operators, except for a couple of large ones like New York, life cycles are less than 12 years, some are 7. Part of this is caused by federal capital grants but not operating grants which would cover maintenance.
Thankfully the airline industry does not follow this practice.
I was in Toronto yesterday and had an occasion to ride a new Nova articulated. I was impressed by the acceleration of the vehicle and smoothness of the acceleration. I sat in the rear raised section and noticed a fair bit of engine noise and vibration though. I believe that the TTC should put articulateds on more routes.
Steve: FYI, the artics are not making as good running time notably on hills, but also due to more passengers boarding per stop where headways have been widened.
On an unrelated note I saw Presto machines on a lot of CLRVs and ALRVs.
While I understand the idea of going to natural gas, I also have the sense that this increases the wear and tear of vehicles. Also I would argue that we should wait to see how Miami, and a more northerly city fare with this. There is not really much of an advantage to being a first mover on new technologies, so why rush. It would be far better to wait for somebody else to work the bugs out, experience the failures. Also how will the performance compare in terms of acceleration – given the lower energy density, and heavy tanks required? How does the range compare? Will this be material in route planning? I think given that Toronto, has had a bad experience already, it should be especially careful about remaining off the bleeding edge. Once CNG has become an industry standard, well fine. Toronto has far too many basic transit issues to be playing on the side.
This will continue to be a problem until they allow all door boarding though a lot of the people who got on my King car yesterday would hold up their pass for the driver to see then run to the rear doors.
There is also the style of operation that the TTC uses. The majority of systems have the driver take the same bus into and out of service so there is more opportunity to refuel. The TTC leaves some vehicles out all day. I remember when 2 run St. Clair, a night car, would follow 2 run St. Clair from Keele loop back as far as Wychwood. TTC base service is a lot heavier than most other systems. CNG buses do not have the fuel capacity to stay in service for the length of time needed by the TTC.
I used to have a boss who was always reluctant to jump onto new bandwagons. When I asked him why, he said it was because you had a lot less backtracking to do when it didn’t work, and if it did, then you adopt what others had done.
In the previous meeting, TTC will be leasing land in the Port lands. If I remember it correctly they want to move everything that’s stored at Danforth now to be moved to the Portland’s location. I’m not sure when they plan on moving in the lease property. This piece of land will give TTC room to use Danforth for something else like bus parts or put it up as surplus land to be sold off. I’m sure the office for subway operators and collectors could be moved to Greenwood Yard somewhere. So for those that keep bringing Danforth in the discussion for a possible use as a bus garage might have hope. TTC did hint at Danforth being used for possible bus parts, due to extra bus components that are in buses today, compared to 20+ years ago.
Steve: Link to this report please? I don’t remember this from the meeting, although there may have been offhand remarks during the presentation on warehousing.
Go figure DMW would ask such a dumb question. I’d say he’s just ignorant of the past but I think he really talks just to hear his own outrage.
I fondly remember the occasional CNG bus running out of fuel on the hotter days, I presume the cause was the operation of air conditioning. If they don’t have enough fuel for those conditions, then I don’t think they are particularly suited for the intensity of service the TTC runs.
FYI, YRT is taking over all the west end routes into York Region when the subway is complete. Many of the routes have numbers and names already set up, with many operating from Pioneer Village Station. East end, I don’t know.
Steve: This makes sense considering that the routes will be entirely contained within York Region and there would be no benefit in having the TTC operate a continuous route to a subway station.
Hey Steve here’s the link.
Steve: Aha! That property (which is actually part of the Unilever/Great Gulf site that will eventually be redeveloped). I don’t think of that as being in the “Port Lands” which strictly speaking are south of Lake Shore, but naming of various blocks down there can get confusing because of inconsistent usage. Thanks.
There are a lot of advantages to steady-state ordering.
One of them is that it actually makes it easier to switch to new technology (for instance, pure electric buses). Once you’re satisfied with the quality, you just switch out the next year’s order.
Toronto seems to be unusually conservative. CNG is already an industry standard, for what it’s worth — we know it’s problematic (and I would avoid it) but we know exactly why. There’s nothing “unproven” about it. LA uses an enormous CNG fleet.
Battery-electric bus technology is quite reliable these days There are three reliable vendors at this point (for reference, Proterra, BYD, and New Flyer, but being Canadian you’ll probably see a government bias towards New Flyer). They already work better than hybrids (fewer parts!!!) and CNG (fragile parts) — several economic analyses have concluded that you should avoid hybrids, because they have all the maintenance complexity of both electrics *and* fuel buses, and go either pure-electric or pure-fuel.
Battery-electric buses have huge advantages for frequent-stop local buses; they have very few advantages for long-haul highway buses. The advantages for local-stop service are that they have regenerative braking when slowing down, and no idling, so insignificant energy used when stopped. This means that in start-stop traffic or frequent-stop service, battery-electric buses can go much, much farther on one charge than you would expect from a naive conversion from the fuel usage rate of diesels. And since they are not wasting energy, they are significantly cheaper to operate. They also have *much* better acceleration from 0-50 km/h than diesel buses, so they can even run faster. In long-haul highway service, none of these advantages are significant.
Toronto may be using duty cycles for its local buses which make it hard to find time to recharge the battery-electrics. I believe all of the reliable models (but certainly New Flyer’s) have fast charging from an overhead charger, but it still means that the bus needs 15-minute breaks several times a day or a half-hour break a few times a day before going back on duty. In most cities with local-service duty cycles there already *are* breaks like this for the drivers, so it’s been trivial to schedule these. Toronto would have to look carefully at particular bus route duty cycles to work out which routes are suitable.
New York City is taking hybrids off its long-haul express routes in favor of diesel buses, but it’s keeping hybrids on its frequent-stop local services, and looking into battery-electrics. Winnipeg and Chicago have been “testing” battery-electrics for several years with complete success, while agencies in Southern California and Washington State have simply been using them in revenue service and are ordering more.
At this point, with the technology being very reliable, there are pretty serious advantages in switching to battery-electrics for frequent-stop local service sooner rather than later; mainly the reduction in operations costs.
Steve: An important issue for battery buses is the parasitic loads of heating and cooling if they operate in a climate where these are an issue. Even a stopped bus needs to be kept warm in winter, and cooled in summer.
Given the TTC”s history of embracing alternative fuel buses, I expect we’ll hear about electric buses in the next few years.
Winnipeg has one year of actual service on 1 40-km, two-hour round-trip route with 4 vehicles. Charging times are billed as 4 minutes per hour of service. There is little to no data about battery cycle lifespans in the cold winters, which is a huge expense if it’s more frequent than average.
I don’t think that the TTC was a willing embracer of alternative fuel technologies as they were a victim of the latest whim of the higher levels of government. At least they have not had to put solar panels or wind mills on the tops of their vehicles though that might prove a problem in subways, subways, subways.
Are you talking about physical life of the batteries or the time that they could run between recharging? Extreme cold temperatures cut into the cycle time between charges and increase the energy demands because it is necessary to provide heat but we could always put in coal fired space heaters like the old streetcars had.
Generally speaking, the life cycle of batteries is measured in recharge cycles. Cold temperature increases the internal resistance and lowers the capacity. Lower capacity means more frequent recharging and using more charge cycles per day/month/year. So you have an operational expense and a capital maintenance expense. As you say, this could be mitigated, but I’d rather someone else works out all the kinks first.
Do you know if the hybrid retirement is already approved by the TTC and also which divisions would get the 108 Novabus for 2016-2017?
Steve: “Approved” is a tricky word here because the TTC’s bus plans include some purchases that have not yet been funded in the Capital Plan. The fate of the hybrids depends in part on how quickly the TTC will get money to replace them. As for garage allocations, no, I don’t know where the new buses will end up.