Charlotte Street Reconstruction

The TTC will be rebuilding the track at the intersections of King & Charlotte and Adelaide & Charlotte beginning on March 29. Charlotte Street forms the eastern part of the loop used by 510 Spadina cars at King Street.

For the period from March 29 to April 10 while King & Charlotte is under construction:

  • 504 King streetcars will divert eastbound via Spadina, Queen and Church, while westbound service will divert via York, Queen and Spadina.
  • 510 Spadina streetcars will all operate at least to Queens Quay loop.
  • A 504 shuttle bus service will operate between Strachan and Church diverting around the construction via Richmond westbound and Front eastbound.

For the period from April 11 to 26 while Adelaide & Charlotte is under construction services will operate on their normal routes, although 510 Spadina cars will continue to operate to Queens Quay rather than turning at Adelaide.


What Is The TTC Policy on Fares? (Updated)

Updated March 11, 2016 at 11:00 am: A section has been added commenting on the TTC’s claim that a two-hour transfer would result in a revenue loss of $20m/year.

Recent discussions about a proposed Toronto transit plan have included, almost as a minor sideshow, the Metrolinx study of regional fare integration. A basic tenet of this study is that “rapid transit” would be a separate fare zone or structure from everything else, but the exact mechanism by which this would be done is as yet unclear. GO Transit fares might be lowered and subway fares increased for certain trips, but there is no worked example to show how various trip types inside and outside the City of Toronto will be affected.

Although City and TTC staff are working with Metrolinx on this study, neither the TTC Board nor Council has been presented with a definitive proposal, and there is limited direction from either of them on guiding factors staff should use.

The only context in which Council has decided anything was for SmartTrack, and their wishes included lots of stations, frequent service and the ability to ride SmartTrack for a TTC fare. We know now that many stations and a good deal of service are no longer part of the package. As for fares, there has been some equivocating about this by staff as to just what a “TTC fare” might be by the time SmartTrack (or more accurately GO Regional Express Rail) begins operating.

As for the TTC Board, there has been a series of reports and decisions evolving over the last year. None of these sets a definitive policy, although the motions passed could be misread to imply this has happened.

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Is Anything Left of SmartTrack?

In the City Planning report at Executive Committee on March 9, 2016, two options for the configuration of a “combined” SmartTrack and GO Transit/Regional Express Rail (RER) service remain on the table. These are referred to as Option C and Option D.



The number of trains/hour cited here has bothered me for some time, and a recent conversation with Jonathan Goldsbie of NOW Magazine got me digging a bit deeper. Here is the service plan for the Stouffville and Kitchener corridors as shown on the Metrolinx RER website, in the “How Will I Benefit” page.


Peak service on the Stouffville corridor totals 7 trains/hour or one every 8.6 minutes as shown in Options C and D.


In the Kitchener corridor, there are 8 trains/hour, but two of these are service to Kitchener which would run express from Bramalea to Union leaving only 6 “local” trains in that segment.

The service levels and station plans have profound implications for the transit network now under study.

  • There is no distinct SmartTrack service, only GO trains and (maybe) a few new stations. There will be no “SmartTrack” branded fleet.
  • If TTC fares will be offered on SmartTrack, this will really consist of giving people cheaper rides on service GO is already operating.
  • If “Regional Fare Integration” means that TTC rapid transit (subway) fares rise and GO fares for short trips come down, then SmartTrack will be a cash grab from subway riders to cross-subsidize SmartTrack riders on GO trains.
  • Demand models for SmartTrack indicate that very frequent service at TTC fares is required to attract substantial ridership, with 12 trains/hour (one every 5′) performing best in the model runs. The proposed service is considerably less frequent. “TTC fares” implies full transfer rights at no premium to and from the TTC network.
  • The existence of frequent SmartTrack service and stations in Scarborough is an integral part of the plan to build the subway extension as a one-stop express route to the Town Centre.
  • Part of the justification for keeping the Relief Line alignment to the north along Queen Street rather than King is to avoid competition with SmartTrack. However, there won’t be any SmartTrack service for it to compete with, only GO trains.
  • Tax Increment Financing requires that SmartTrack contribute something to the uplift in property values that would not occur absent the new service. However, the “new” service will entirely be GO Transit’s, and it will occur whether anything called SmartTrack exists or not.

The obvious question here is “where is SmartTrack”? In fact, it has completely vanished from the map, and at best would be represented by a handful of new stations, none of which is in Scarborough in Option D.

Is this the master plan, the culmination of John Tory’s election campaign and all of the vitriol poured over his critics?

The emperor has no clothes.


Memo To Toronto Planners

This article has been “in the hopper” over the weekend while I worked on other things, and even managed some non-transit entertainment lest my readers despair that I ever leave the keyboard behind. Royson James in The Star beat me to getting the idea out with his own article “Time for Councillors to Ask Tough Transit Questions” yesterday. I have questions too, and some of them will not be easy to answer.

A mountain of reports descended on Council for a bit of light weekend reading when City Planning released its March update on transit plans. I have already commented on the main report over at Torontoist, and more recently on the demand studies, land use assumptions and Relief Line alignment here on my own site.

Council has my sympathy, up to a point, but the sheer volume is, like deferred TTC maintenance, the product of dodging a hard, detailed debate about transit priorities for years, and substituting populist “I deserve a subway” rhetoric.

Here are questions Councillors should be asking of the planners. It’s a long list, but there are a lot of gaps in the reports, despite their volume.

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Transit Network Analysis, SmartTrack and the Mysteries of Future Growth

Among the many reports (scroll down to the bottom of this document for links) coming to Toronto’s Executive Committee on March 9 is a short paper on Transit Network Analysis, three detailed demand projections and a paper about  Growth Assumptions. Although this has the neutral title Population and Employment Projections, it is in fact a review of the effect of SmartTrack on development in the Greater Toronto Area. The main report is titled Commercial & Multi-Residential Forecasts For The Review Of SmartTrack.

The paper is authored by the Strategic Regional Research Alliance, or SRRA, whose primary focus is real estate market tracking and projection. This organization (or its principals) were involved in the reports leading to the original SmartTrack plan in now-Mayor Tory’s campaign, specifically:

A fundamental premise running through all three papers, and perpetuated in the SmartTrack proposal, was that downtown Toronto was more or less fully built-out, and that future commercial growth would occur primarily in two major centres outside of the city, the large area around Pearson Airport and an equally large area around Markham. The potential for additional growth within Toronto itself was regarded as low, and therefore major expansion of the rapid transit network would focus on the two big suburban nodes.

At the Mayor’s direction, SRRA was retained as a consultant to the planning work now underway by the City of Toronto. This raised eyebrows both at Council for the crossover from a campaign support role to consultant, and also at Metrolinx where SRRA’s principal, Iain Dobson, had been appointed to the Board during the latter days of Glen Murray’s term as Ontario Minister of Transportation.

Although there is reason to take the new SRRA report with a grain of salt, the document makes interesting reading including a shift in some of SRRA’s outlook compared to their earlier work.

Which Land Use Model is Toronto Actually Using?

This report is supposed to be background to the overall planning study coming to Executive, but its focus is exclusively on the effects of SmartTrack. There is little mention of the development effects of other initiatives including the Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE), the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Also, in part because ST and the GO/RER proposal cover the same territory and share stations, it is unclear how much change to development patterns occurs specifically due to SmartTrack and how much to the two services operating in one corridor.

Other background studies examine ridership effects of various combinations of SmartTrack, the SSE and the Relief Line, and these clearly must have an underlying land use, population and job location model. How this was developed or relates to the SRRA study is not clear.

That said, for the remainder of this article, I will concentrate on the SRRA text and its underlying assumptions.

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Reviewing the New Schedules on 501 Queen for January 2016 (Part II)

In January 2016, the TTC implemented new schedules on route 501 Queen making the following changes:

  • The route was split into two sections with an independent Humber to Long Branch service (in effect, a return of the long absent 507 Long Branch route), and
  • Running times were increased so that scheduled and real-world travel times were better matched and short turns could be reduced.

The first article on this subject reviewed headway behaviour (the space between cars) with the new schedules. This article turns to running times (the time required to get from A to B) and service behaviour at terminals.

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GO Transit to Take Over UP Express

According to Oliver Moore in The Globe, the separate Metrolinx division responsible for the Union Pearson Express will be placed under GO Transit’s control. The fate of UPX President Kathy Haley is unclear.

UPX even managed to win awards from the Global AirRail Alliance for:

2015 Travelport Project of the Year – UP Express

2015 AccesRail Integrated Partnership of the Year – UP Express

2015 Personality of the Year – Kathy Haley, UP Express

2014 Air Rail Concept of the Year – UP Express: Strategic Partnerships, Toronto, Canada

2014 Travelport Project of the Year – UP Express: The Airport Connection

2013 Travelport Project of the Year – Union Pearson Express Project

One wonders who they were competing against, but the Alliance’s site does not list nominees, only winners. It is am impressive “project” that can rake in the hardware before ever carrying a passenger or proving its viability as a business. Such is the back-scratching nature of the industry, I must assume.

While it may be convenient to target Haley as the culprit here, the real question is how the structure and corporate attitude that led to UPX’ creation arose in the first place. From the beginning, this has been a project for which the word pretentious is almost inadequate. Despite the abandonment of this scheme by its original private sector proponent – for the simple reason that it was judged financially unsound – Ontario forged on with this as a signature project, part of the Bid Book for the Pan Am Games. We would show the world what Ontario could do.

Haley may take the fall for this fiasco, but she worked for a board who lapped up the praise, who bought into the flawed vision of what UPX would become. That board, and the government who set all of this in motion to begin with, owe us all an explanation.

When Is a GO Train not a GO Train? When It’s UPX!

Among the mysteries of the internal organization at Metrolinx is the presence of separate “divisions” for GO Transit (the commuter rail service), Presto (the fare card service) and UP Express (the premium fare airport shuttle service).  Rather than using the GO brand for the airport service and integrating its operation and fares, Metrolinx treats UPX as a completely separate entity, no doubt so that it could isolate the operation as a profit centre on the books. We now know that “profit” is the furthest thing from a UPX future where just finding riders now takes precedence.

Soon, fares on UPX will be much lower and this might encourage some to incorporate the UPX into their journeys. However, there are two glaring holes in the new arrangement.

UPX, being a separate operation, does not have fares integrated with connecting GO services at Union. Riders transferring between these services will pay separate fares for each leg of their journey. Presuming that UPX fares stay low, this should be corrected, at the latest, in the next annual review of GO’s tariff.

But the really bone-headed decision (or lack of decision) lies with the TTC. Although GO fares discourage “local” travel within the 416, there is a legal transfer move a rider can use called TTC Times Two. A trip can start on the TTC, transfer to GO, and then back onto the TTC again using the original TTC transfer.

With UPX moving to lower fares and the likelihood that it will attract commuter trade within the city, the question becomes “is TTC Times Two valid for UPX”? I asked the TTC’s Brad Ross and Chris Upfold this question at the recent TTC Board meeting. Their answer? “No” because (a) UPX is not a GO train and (b) a TTC policy change would be required.

The irony, of course, is that GO operates in the same corridor as UPX, and it would be impossible to distinguish whether a traveller with a transfer from the Lawrence 52 bus arrived at Union Station via GO or via UPX, except of course that GO service only runs in the peak period.

During the March 1 subway shutdown thanks to a power vault fire, TTC riders travelled on GO and UPX for no extra charge. The reverse courtesy has been extended to GO riders on occasion. This did not require a formal meeting and policy decision, simply the recognition that there is one transit network regardless of the logo on the train.

How riders get from one connection point to another should not matter. Between now and March 9 when the new UPX fares take effect, can someone at the TTC show a small spark of initiative and decide that a traveller on either a GO or UPX train can use TTC Times Two? Or will we continue to have an artificial distinction between two services provided on the same track by the same agency?

TTC Board Meeting Review: February 25, 2016

The TTC Board met on February 25, 2016. This article is a review of some of the reports and discussions at that meeting. For the full list, please refer to the agenda.

In this article:

As part of an update on cycling initiatives, the Board passed a motion asking staff to work together with the City on improved parking facilities for bicycles at subway stations. An article on this appeared on Torontoist’s website.

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