TTC’s 2016 Customer Charter Reviewed

The TTC has released the 2016 version of its Customer Charter listing a number of areas in which they promise improvements through the year.

First Quarter:

  • Ensure that 510 Spadina is served by fully accessible streetcars: Mostly done already with a few of the high-floor ALRVs still in service but the majority of runs operated with low-floor Flexitys.
  • Apple Pay at collectors’ booths: In progress.
  • Reduce streetcar short-turns by a further 20% over Q1 2015: New schedules on 501 Queen effective January 3 make a big contribution to this coupled with the milder winter weather.
  • Start subway service at 8:00am on Sunday: Done effective January 3.
  • Add service to Line 1 (YUS) during off-peak: Not done yet, but the schedules going into effect at the end of March have not yet been announced. (Note 1)
  • Establish a Local Working Group for Donlands Station second exit project: Done.
  • Add five new express bus services: Planned for late March.

Second Quarter:

  • Wifi at 22 new stations (Note 2).
  • Roll-out of new fare gates with Main Station as a pilot: Work at Main in progress.
  • Improve bike parking at 5 stations.
  • Add 20 bike repair stops at subway stations: Subject to outcome of a pilot.
  • Install notice boards in 12 busy stations to inform passengers about planned/unplanned closures.

Third Quarter:

  • Ensure 509 Harbourfront and 511 Bathurst are served by low-floor streetcars: With delivery of new cars, Harbourfront is already planned to ramp up beyond two assigned Flexitys in mid-February. Delivery rates for new cars are supposed to be up to 1/week by the end of March and this should make conversion of 511 Bathurst an easy task provided Bombardier manages to stay on track.
  • Pilot high capacity bike parking at one station.
  • Replace T1 trains on Line 4 (Sheppard) with 4-car TR sets: The order for these cars is in progress at Bombardier with delivery expected later this year.
  • Improve 28 Bayview South and 101 Downsview Park routes to be part of all-day, every day service. This will bring services to two park-based areas. The Bayview South bus serves the Brick Works from the west (Davisville Station), but service from the east (Broadview Station) will still be operated by a free shuttle bus.
  • Add 3 trains to Line 1 (YUS) to improve AM peak service. It is unclear whether these will be “gap” trains used to supplement service when things go wrong, or an attempt to slightly shorten the average headway over the entire line. Gap trains generally make a bigger difference for situations where holes in service at peak times and direction need to be filled because the extra train is used specifically where it is most needed.
  • Add peak service to 25 busy bus routes.
  • New streetcar service on Cherry Street: (Note 1) This service could most easily be implemented by converting the 504 buses now scheduled from Dufferin to Parliament back to streetcars as a Dufferin to Cherry operation. Peak vehicle requirements would probably go down, but the off peak service on Cherry would be a net addition. This change is related to whatever modifications the TTC will make to the 72 Pape and 172 Cherry bus routes.
  • Begin revamping the east parking lot at Finch Station.

Fourth Quarter:

  • Widen 25 bus stop pads to improve accessibility: Locations TBA
  • Install external route announcement system on all vehicles: Work in progress.
  • Add two new elevators at Ossington Station: Work in progress.
  • Install customer info screens at Union Station mezzanine and platform levels: An overdue follow-up. This work should have been an integral part of the station renovation.
  • Install customer info screens at Dufferin, York Mills and Lawrence stations.
  • Install transit signal priority at 15 intersections: Locations TBA
  • Complete PRESTO roll out to the entire system: Bus fleet conversion in progress; new fare gates will finish PRESTO subway access as they are installed.
  • 10 additional WiFi stations: Locations TBA (Note 2)
  • Lengthen 10 bus pads for compatibility with articulated buses: Locations TBA
  • Start construction on a bus queue jump lane: Location TBA
  • Introduce a new Wheel-Trans qualification process: Details TBA
  • Install new, “more informative” stop markers at over 3,000 surface stops.
  • Review schedules on 32 bus and streetcar routes to improve reliability and travel times.
  • Reduce subway delays by 10% (counted as both incidents and minutes of delay). See What Causes Subway Delays?
  • Consult with riders and other stakeholders to revise service in three neighbourhoods around routes 40 Junction, 54 Lawrence East and 116 Morningside.

Note 1: Some items in the Charter are not yet funded in the City’s budget. Whether they will actually operate depends on the TTC’s ability and desire to squeeze money out of other parts of their operation.

Note 2: The WiFi rollout in the subway is limited to internet access only because the major telcos – Bell, Rogers, Telus – will not provide service over the incumbent provider’s network. Even the internet access has its problems due to login requirements recently introduced that require signon to a sponsoring site such as Twitter. This state of affairs can be traced to a bad system and contract design by the TTC who appear not to have contemplated the difficulties of the “big” players refusing to come onto, and thereby financially support, the network.

I cannot help feeling that a lot of this “Charter” is a shopping list of the low hanging fruit, things the TTC planned to do anyhow, but repackaged in a “look at us” format where green tick marks will gradually fill up the boxes. What is missing, and this is as much a political discussion as a managerial one, is a “what could we be” dimension and aspirational goals that might not be achieved, certainly not in a one-year timeframe.

Of course, when there are members of Council and the TTC Board who would rather count paperclips than address fundamental issues of just what  “good transit” really is, this situation is almost inevitable. Good news, but as cheaply as possible, and so we aim low.

9 thoughts on “TTC’s 2016 Customer Charter Reviewed

  1. Steve,

    The WiFi is no longer accessible only by twitter. As of the past few weeks it has been 1 hour access simply via logging in by clicking a button. I find it to be a pain in the ass. It would be easier to have a 24 hour login rather than log in every time someone gets on the TTC.

    When you say customer information screens do you mean platform level or the ones as you enter? I know the North Yonge line has yet to have their Subway Online screens replaced with Onestop signs.

    I notice that they are looking to implement Cherry Street service in the third quarter of the year. Any thoughts as to if this will be part of the CNE service?

    Steve: The WiFi logon is easily adjustable by OneStop, but they allocate a short “license” probably to drive you back through any advertising they manage to sell at the login. It’s a pain in the ass especially with short wait times for incoming trains, and no onboard service.

    Steve: If you look at the TTC page I linked, you will see that it is just as vague as my text about the location of screens. One problem with information screens that might tell you of problems with the subway is that many stations have multiple paths to the platform, and one monitor can’t catch them all. The other problem is that these screens rarely actually tell people about service interruptions on a timely basis.

    I suspect Cherry will be implemented for September, and will mark the transition back to all streetcar operation on King. But that depends on Bombardier’s deliveries freeing up enough cars from other routes. Or, who knows, they might even run the “514” with the new cars. Wait and see.


  2. Though I agree that a lot of this is rather low-hanging fruit and a re-announcement of earlier announcements, I can see the ‘psychological’ effect of being able to tick-off items and try to get across the idea that there actually IS a long-term plan.

    Not to quibble but I wonder if they will really evaluate the public’s acceptance of the (certainly needed) new fare gates before proceeding on them past Main and I remember a prototype of the new surface stop signs (on the 94 Wellesley, I think) that did not get very good reviews. Maybe good to run another short pilot of the poles before they buy 3000 new ones!

    One item NOT there is a redesign of the bus and streetcar on-pole timetables that puzzle everyone until they work out the FS means “Frequent Service”!. The timetables on the web are easy to read — why not just use this format in both places? An example is Westbound on Queens Quay at Richardson.

    Steve: The fare gate project appeared out of nowhere and added to the capital project backlog. It was explained as being essential to the Presto roll out even though this was never part of the Presto budget. What is also clearly going on is making provision for “tap out” at subway stations and a new fare structure. I am getting tired of the TTC being so coy about this.


  3. WIND Mobile has cell phone service through the “U” downtown (Spadina to Bloor Stns) on the Yonge-University-Spadina line and in Spadina, Bay, and Yonge stns on the Bloor-Danforth line. I also get limited cell service IN the tunnel from Osgoode to Queen”s Park. I don’t have to view ads. I also get very limited data service from Keele to just before Dufferin, going eastbound, eve though there is NO cell or WIFI service in that section, yet.

    Steve: Yes WIND is the only carrier that has signed on to use the WiFi network in the subway. Certain spots have signal penetration from the street and so you can get access for free, but it’s spotty.


  4. Any idea what they mean by revising service to the 40 Junction?

    Steve: I think it is not for the 40 Junction, but for the Junction area which has a number of overlapping routes. Could they be better organized?

    WiFi is currently available for either 1 hour or the full day with a Twitter login. You can choose which on the authentication page.

    It also seems to be available now at Lansdowne, High Park, Dupont, and Main Street stations, though it hasn’t yet been officially announced. I’ve also seen the routers installed on the ceiling at Ossington, and possibly Dufferin. Interestingly, those stations and the officially announced group of Bathurst, Christie, Castle Frank, and Sherbourne do not have Wind Mobile cellular service yet, just WiFi.


  5. >Apple Pay at collectors’ booths: In progress.

    Hmmm. What does the TTC know about the Canadian Apple Pay rollout that the public does not? Currently, as far as I am aware, this change will benefit only Amex customers. :-/


  6. Steve you are ignoring the massive potential for more accurate travel demand data with tap out at subways as well. Also helps prevent fare dodging. These are operational incentives for the TTC separate from political motives.

    Steve: I am really quite tired of the idea that our fare structure and collection system should be more complicated just to get more data. Ours is a simple subway system, and we certainly will not be running branched or subdivided services where detailed origin-destination information would inform scheduling and route design.

    I’m not denying the potential for distance based fares but I don’t see it as a negative to simply have the ability to do so. TTC are service providers, not transit planners. If the decision makers of our region determine that distance based fares should be implemented on subways (rightly or wrongly) then the TTC should be obligated to provide that functionality. The TTC has a duty to carry out the decisions of the decision makers and whether or not this is an appropriate model is a different discussion.

    Steve: The “decision makers” for fares in Toronto are the TTC and Toronto Council, not Metrolinx. Tail wags dog.

    If Queen’s Park wants to foist a new fare structure and higher subway fares on Toronto, they might start by offering better subsidies in order to claim a place at the table.

    Also you are being very pessimistic about low hanging fruit. Making several cheap and easy improvements is in no way a negative or somehow ignoring other big issues. It’s like saying how can we be wasting time discussing transit while there are still homeless on the street and murders happening. Attention to one issue or improvement doesn’t mean you can simply shuffle resources to others. And how does one simply reallocate resources from tangible improvements to “address issues of what good transit actually is”? This is the same completely vague unhelpful direction you constantly slam Metrolinx, the TTC, and the city for. But now that TTC has concrete measurable goals and plans it’s somehow bad?

    Steve: What low hanging fruit? This has nothing to do with fare policy. As for the Customer Charter, yes a lot of it is low hanging fruit, so much so that some of it is already on the ground. My complaint is in making up a list where “success” for a large part is a foregone conclusion, not a matter of diligent and possibly difficult work. It’s like getting to design your own final exam.

    Also there is no current free WiFi in the world that doesn’t require a login or pressing a button or agreeing to terms and conditions. This is how it works. You need to authenticate and create a secure temporary session for legal. security, and performance reasons. Your secure session ends after a period of time mostly for the latter two. And advertising is how the service can be provided for free. If you don’t want operational budget to be compromised you have to come up with funding from somewhere else. I’m sure the vast majority of people don’t mind skipping past an advertisement for the luxury of free wifi and those that are bothered can not use the service and at no consequence to the rest of their service. Is it fairer for WiFi users to “pay” for the service through advertisements or for non-wifi users to subsidize WiFi users?

    Steve: There are two basic problems with your statement. First off, the way the service might have been provided “free” was for the major Telcos to use the network for underground carriage, but they refuse to do so because their bid to install the network was not the winning one. Thus a large potential revenue stream is not available.

    Second, there has been a big problem with the authentication time to connect to the WiFi service. There is a difference between “skipping past an ad” which was the original implementation, and requiring a login to a service such as Twitter as the authenticating mechanism. Depending on the “sponsor of the month” some users may not have an account, or may not wish to share its logon information with the WiFi provider (or anyone sniffing the login transaction).


  7. Cool. The Sheppard subway is gonna get TR trains. Interesting.

    Steve: For the simple reason that they need automatic train control to traverse the link to Davisville Yard. It will be a dedicated fleet of four-car TR sets.


  8. Julian writes

    This is how it works. You need to authenticate and create a secure temporary session for legal, security, and performance reasons.

    A secure session would require that button to generate and provide your phone with a shared encryption key. You can’t be sure it does that. You also can’t be sure it does that well. For example, if your key is simple enough, somebody with a little know-how can guess it and read your traffic anyway. Also if the key is made available to the content provider, they can do the same. Alternately, you could be downloading a certificate that expires quickly via this button, however any good browser will show this. My guess is the button does no security function whatsoever and just adds sends your mac address to the utility which grants network access.

    As an aside I think cell service in the subway should have trumped free wifi. If ‘legal’ considerations are really a concern, why make the TTC a content provider? I admit the wifi has come in handy for me but not for anything I couldn’t have done with my data plan.


  9. How could the TTC forget to install display screens at Union as part of the renovation? Classic TTC thinking.

    Steve: Actually, the signs are installed by One Stop, not by the TTC, based on where they think they can sell advertising, and the contracted total number of displays within the TTC system. If you think Union is ridiculous, just look at Davisville. It’s only the TTC’s head office.

    This is what happens when something that should be a “service”, an integral part of the transit system, is treated as a revenue source and fobbed off to a private sector provider.


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