The Fords’ Fascination With Streetcars

At a recent meeting of Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee (PWIC), a motion was approved asking for reports on the comparative cost of streetcar and bus operations on Queen Street. The author of this was Councillor Michael Ford, although it was actually placed by his colleague, Councillor Holyday because Ford is not a member of PWIC.

1.  City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission, upon completion of the construction projects that have resulted in the removal of the 501 Queen Streetcar route from service for Summer 2017, to defer reintroduction of streetcar service for a period of two weeks, to permit the collection of data for the comparison study.

2.  City Council request the General Manager, Transportation Services, in consultation with the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Transit Commission, to conduct a comparison study of the efficacy of streetcar service versus bus service on Queen Street, specifically looking at:

a. Schedule reliability of transit vehicles
b. Delays to other users of the road
c. Collisions at transit stops involving transit vehicles and cars, pedestrians, or cyclists
d. Collisions at transit stops between cars, pedestrians and cyclists not including transit vehicles
e. Ridership satisfaction
f. Fleet maintenance costs
g. Fleet operator and operation costs
h. Incidences of driver assault
i. Incidences of passenger disputes
j. Traffic volumes in peak period and off-peak periods

using bus data collected during the two week delayed streetcar re-implementation period, followed by the subsequent two weeks once they have been re-implemented, in order to get a clear and direct comparison during non-construction periods, and report back to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in the first quarter of 2018.

The request received little debate coming as it did as an add-on motion to a Friday meeting. Nobody from the TTC was present, nor were there any interventions by downtown Councillors or members of the public. PWIC, although it deals with many issues affecting downtown, contains no members from that area thanks to the gerrymandering of committees by Mayor Tory.

An amendment to this motion by Councillor Lee asked the Deputy City Manager to report to Council with additional information such as the cost and feasibility of such a study.

The package passed on a 3-2 vote and the request goes to the July 2017 Council meeting for approval.

My recent series of articles on bus vs streetcar operations on Queen was already “in the works” when this motion was approved, although this request triggered somewhat more urgency to producing them than I had planned.

Part I: A comparison of travel times for streetcars in April vs buses in May 2017
Part II: An historical review of travel times September 2013 to May 2017
Part III: Capacity of service scheduled and operated
Part IV: Comparative operating speeds in May 2017

One important point flowing through these article is that “comparison” can be challenging when the underlying conditions vary. From the analysis I have published, it is already clear that buses tend to fare better than streetcars where traffic is light and demand is low, but they lose this advantage in busy areas. A further problem is that TTC operating practices for each vehicle type differ and buses tend to be driven more aggressively. Streetcars could be too, but in an attempt to manage service, various practices have resulted in streetcars being forced to drive more slowly than actual road conditions dictate. The longer this goes on, the more it is assumed to be an inherent part of streetcar operations, while those of us who have ridden the TTC for some years know what streetcars can actually do given the chance.

The motion proposes that buses stay in operation for two weeks beyond the point that streetcars would have returned (Labour Day weekend) and that data be collected to compare operations. To be fair to the buses, this may not be an ideal period because early September sees much traffic displaced from King to Queen thanks to TIFF. Other planned construction work will disrupt the street: in September, track will be replaced at Queen & Coxwell, and in October/November at Queen & McCaul. Coxwell, at least, is well out of the core an work there will not affect streetcar service (a bus shuttle will run to Neville). There is also the question of whether the TTC will have enough buses to spare for Queen once the summer service cutbacks end in September.

One issue raised by the motion and by some media reports is that riders feel they are getting a faster trip with buses. My analysis shows that for some times and parts of the route this is true, but not for the most congested areas. Moreover, as already noted, we are seeing buses unconstrained by a “go slow” operating policy compared with streetcars that limp along the route to avoid running early. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

We have been down this road before when former Councillor Rob Ford, later Mayor, posed a series of questions to the TTC in 2010. My thanks to Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam for providing the exchange. For the purposes of this article, I have divided up the material so that I can comment on each section, and reordered the sections to provide a better thread in the current context.

It is no secret that I support the retention and expansion of the streetcar network. Although new suburban lines such as 5 Crosstown and 7 Finch West will use the “Metrolinx” Toronto car, whatever it might be, new lines in the waterfront west to Humber Bay and east to the Port Lands will be part of the “legacy” network. Waterfront plans depend on the capacity that an LRT  link to Union Station can bring.

The question of articulated buses as a streetcar replacement comes up from time to time. My response is that there are suburban routes where these are appropriate, but that in the congested core area, streetcars are the best vehicles for traffic conditions and they have the ability to operate underground where needed. Buses might be made to work, but only if Toronto is prepared to devote much more road space and time to transit vehicles. They are not a panacea for suburban motorists fighting their way through traffic in an oversized SUV.

Of note in this discussion is that Ford refers to hybrid buses. This mode was in favour, for a time, but many of the hybrids are now retired before their due date as they have proved to be unreliable and the hoped-for operating savings did not materialize. The TTC has standardized on diesel buses and plans to replace almost half of their fleet in coming years thanks in part to federal “stimulus” funding. The irony here is that the large hybrid fleet arrived on the back of another federal program for which only “green” buses were eligible.

As for environmentalism, another pending shift in vehicle technology is to electric buses powered with batteries that are recharged at various locations along the route. If this technology works out, it would eliminate the need for buses to have a diesel engine at all, and would bypass the problems of battery life over long bus routes. The TTC is aware of this technology, but having been burned before on early adoption, they are in “wait and see” mode.

What is missing throughout this entire set of questions is whether it is practical to attempt bus operation on the streetcar lines in light of future demand. Thanks to equipment shortages and, quite bluntly, a lot of farting around by the TTC and City in ordering replacement cars, the level of streetcar service today on most routes has not improved in two decades, and declines are far more common than improvements. A major concern for City Planning is the growth of residential density in the near-downtown. The most obvious examples are the high rise neighbourhoods along King Street east and west of the core, but mid- and high-rise buildings are appearing along other streetcar corridors that will add to demand on them.

A question the TTC has not answered explicitly is what level of service will be needed to handle both the backlog of riding from past constraints and the growth that is to come. What we do know is that they do not consider the 204 Flexitys now on order to be enough, and have plans for a further 60. Whether or not Bombardier will get the contract, it is clear that the TTC knows it needs a bigger fleet to handle future demand. Any comparison with buses must take this into account.

In the text below, the “Q” sections are from Rob Ford, and the “A” sections are from the TTC’s Brad Ross. In some cases, I interject, and as is my standard style in comments here, my remarks will be prefaced with “Steve:” and will be in italics.

Note that costs cited here are for 2010$ unless otherwise specified. There have been minor edits for style and to update external links.

Buses in lieu of Streetcars:

Q: If new hybrid buses were to replace streetcars on all streetcar routes, and in order to:

  • keep the same level, schedule, and frequency of service as at present;
  • keep the same level of passenger capacity on each route, as at present;
  • as well as accommodate normal ridership growth in service;

What is the estimated cost?

A: It is not possible to keep the same frequency of service and the same passenger capacity if lower-capacity buses replace higher capacity streetcars.

On congested downtown streets operating a greater number of buses to replace streetcars will add to overall congestion, and result in less reliable service for passengers.

The answers below assume that the overall passenger capacity on streetcar routes will be kept the same with the operation of buses.

Supplementary TTC reply:

A: Poor service, i.e. unreliability or crush loads, drives ridership away. The TTC’s Ridership Growth Strategy calls for more service and greater reliability to drive transit ridership. Fewer riders means less fare revenue, driving the need for greater operating subsidy.

Steve: The Ridership Growth Strategy was an early casualty of Rob Ford’s Mayoralty, and it was only partly reinstated by Mayor Tory when he realized, belatedly, the damage done to transit by reducing its quality and capacity relative to demand. An important issue in any debate is “what quality of transit do we want”, and the related issue of “what transit will we need in years to come”. Any comparison must look not just at the streetcar routes as they are today, but as they could evolve in the future with more people living in the “old City” they serve.

Q: Cost of new drivers? How many additional new bus drivers / operators would we need to hire, train, and deploy? and their annualized cost?

A: On existing streetcar lines, approximately 700 additional drivers would need to be hired to replace the drivers that would operate the Legacy streetcar vehicle fleet (currently on order) with buses. This would increase TTC operating costs by approximately $35M per year due to the cost of additional operators.

Steve: That works out to $50k as the annual, fully burdened cost of a driver, and this number is now quite out of date.

Q: Cost to replace streetcars with new buses? To replace streetcar service, how many new hybrid buses would be required to keep the present frequency, capacity, and level of service (now offered by streetcars)?

A: Approximately 550 “Twelve-metre” buses would be required to replace the entire fleet of 204 “Thirtymetre” new low-floor streetcars currently on order. (Note: Approximately one 2.7 “Twelve-metre” bus is required to replace each new “Thirty-metre” low-floor streetcar in “peak” periods).

This would also require at least two new bus garages in the vicinity of existing streetcar routes.

Steve: In recent remarks, the TTC has been using a 3:1 ratio rather than 2.7:1 for bus replacements of the new Flexity streetcars.

Q: Inflation in purchasing new vehicles? When inflation is factored, the estimated cost of purchasing new hybrid buses (and what # per year, and what estimated years of delivery?)

A: Cost of a Hybrid Bus: approximately $740,000 based on 2011 prices.

  • The Hybrid premium (compared to straight diesel) is approximately $200K.
  • The base bus price increased by approximately $20,000 with the release of the new 2010 engine exhaust emission control package.
  • Inflation is approx. 5% per annum.

Steve: The TTC Capital Budget contains projects to acquire 768 diesel buses in 2017-2019 at a total cost of $552,669,000 or about $720k/bus.

Q: Increased Co2 Emissions? What is the Estimate of new carbon / Co2 emissions resulting from going from a current all-electric system to a hybrid bus system? What annual effect on the City’s climate change targets?

A: Based on study reports from the U.S. Department of Energy it is estimated that Clean Diesel buses emit approximately 2000 Grams of CO2 per mile when operating in a standard Downtown Business District (CBD) environment. TTC testing of hybrid buses has demonstrated an approximate fuel savings over diesels of 30%, and assuming a straight line relationship between fuel usage and CO2 emissions, Hybrid buses emit approximately 1,400 Grams of Co2 per mile in downtown operation.

This could be compared to streetcar CO2 emissions on the street of “zero” (although the source of the electrical energy must be considered to estimate the actual CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere at the point of power generation.).

Supplementary TTC reply:

Re: Emissions (from 550 new Hybrids): A TTC Hybrid bus operates approximately 50,000 miles per year (81,000 kms.) and emits approximately 1,400 grams of Co2 per mile. A total of 70,000,000 grams of Co2 would be emitted in one year.

Steve: This discussion is moot in the sense that hybrid buses are no longer under consideration, but a related issue is that “city” buses run on routes where speeds are lower than in the suburbs and there is more stop and go traffic. Although the number of kilometres/year is lower, the emissions can be affected by the duty cycle of urban routes. Average values from suburban operation cannot be applied to a replacement of an urban network on this scale.

Increased Fuel Costs & the Maintenance & Reliability of Hybrid Buses?

Q: The annualized increase in: volume, & the cost, of fuels/batteries? What is the operating and maintenance reliability and its costs, of new hybrid buses, compared to the present cost of power, operation and maintenance of the present electric streetcar system?

A: Unknown

Supplementary TTC reply:

Re: Fuel Costs (for 550 new Hybrids): Based on the results of fuel mileage tests by BAE during revenue service operation at TTC, our hybrid buses achieve approximately 5.6 miles per Imperial gallon (1.23 miles per litre, or 1.989 kms per litre); thus the fuel used by a front line TTC Hybrid bus in a year would be approximately 8,929 Imperial gallons, or 40,714 Litres of diesel fuel.

Steve: Again, hybrids are no longer the issue, and the point of comparison will be between diesel buses and the existing and future streetcars.

Q: Recent Track and Roadbed Re-construction? Which streets or routes have undergone (or are now undergoing) a full track / roadbed re- construction since amalgamation and what were the final actual costs of each?

A: The TTC maintains approximately 85kms of double-track streetcar track. There is a continuous program of streetcar track replacement based on a 25 year cycle of replacement with, on average, 3 to 4 kilometres of track replaced each year. See Streetcar Track Replacement Plan in TTC’s Capital Budget for details.

Steve: The TTC also replaces a number of intersections every year on roughly a 30-year cycle. An important issue here, in brief, is that the amount of track repair required in recent years has been affected by the relatively poor quality of track construction from the mid-1970s through to the early 1990s. Although the TTC had decided to retain streetcars, they continued to build track in a manner used when the system’s replacement by 1980 was the policy. All of this track fell apart prematurely adding to a workload that the TTC has only just now overcome. I will turn to this topic in a separate article on streetcar infrastructure.

Fact Sheet re Existing Streetcars & Lines:

Q: For all existing streetcar lines (both those sharing lanes such as on the King / Queen / Dundas / Bathurst / or College-Carlton routes), or those using dedicated rights of way (such as St Clair, Waterfront, or Spadina), what are the following:

The route number /name and the # of kilometres served?

A: Detailed information about all TTC routes and service levels in available in the TTC Service Summary, published about every six weeks in the TTC website. Route Distances are round trip. [Source Service Summary for October 20, 2010]

  1. 511 Bathurst 9.4 km
  2. 506 Carlton 29.6 km
  3. 306 Carlton 29.6 km
  4. 502 Downtowner 18.8 km
  5. 503 Kingston Rd 17.9 km
  6. 505 Dundas 21.5 km
  7. 509 Harbourfront 9.3 km
  8. 504 King 25.6 km
  9. 501 Queen 48.9 km
  10. 301 Queen 48.9 km
  11. 512 St. Clair 14 km
  12. 510 Spadina 12.3 km

Approximately 10 percent of the total amount of service on the TTC’s surface route system is currently provided by streetcars.

Steve: Since this list was compiled, the 514 Cherry has been added as a short branch off of the 504 King car. Most of the track this route uses already existed, and the 514 is operationally simply a scheduled short turn service of the 504.

Q: How many regular-size and articulated size streetcars are used on all routes?

A: TTC owns 195 15-metre streetcars, and 52 23-metre articulated streetcars.

As of January 2011 the maximum number of streetcars in scheduled service will be 163 15-metre cars and 38 23-metre cars.

Steve: An answer to this question must be assembled from information from different time periods. In fall 2016, no construction projects required bus substitution for streetcars, and bus replacements were dictated by equipment availability. The AM peak requirements were:

122 CLRVs (standard sized cars) were scheduled on:

  1. 506 Carlton: 32
  2. 514 Cherry: 14
  3. 505 Dundas: 18
  4. 504 King: 33
  5. 512 St. Clair: 25

19 Flexitys (new low-floor cars) were scheduled on:

  1. 509 Harbourfront: 7
  2. 510 Spadina: 12

This number has increased with the official conversion of 514 Cherry.

30 ALRVs were scheduled on:

  • 501 Queen: 30

49 buses were in use on:

  1. 511 Bathurst: 17
  2. 502 Downtowner: 9
  3. 503 Kingston Road Tripper: 7
  4. 504 King Trippers: 16

Q: The maximum passenger capacity for each size of streetcar (when full)?

  • for those seated? Regular size and for Articulated?
  • for those standing? Regular size and for Articulated?

A: The maximum crowding standards are: for new 30-metre low-floor LRV’s under construction:

  • 63 people at “off-peak” times (Note: the “off-peak” standard is the number of seats on the vehicle).
  • 130 people at “peak” times (estimated).

(For details on the design capacity of TTC vehicles see Service Improvements, April 2008)  [Current standards are in Crowding Standards 2015.]

Q: The maximum passenger capacity of a hybrid bus?

  • for those seated?
  • for those standing?

A: The maximum crowding standards are: 12-metre low-floor bus, hybrid (or straight diesel):

  • 36 people at “off peak” times,
  • 48 people at “peak” times

(Note: the “off-peak” standard is the number of seats on the vehicle).

Steve: Capacities for hybrids and diesels are the same.

Q: For all streetcar routes, the present total of all passengers served:

  • per day (24-hour period)?
  • for the entire year?

A: Approximately 285,000 customer trips are made on streetcar routes on a typical weekday. For the entire year, the annual ridership is 86.9 million rides – 285,000 daily rides (avg) X 305 weekdays (taking into account weekend ridership).

Streetcars serve the three busiest TTC surface route corridors (King, Queen, Spadina/Harbourfront).

Six of the TTC’s 13 busiest surface route corridors are served by streetcars (King, Queen, Spadina/Harbourfront, Carlton, Dundas, St. Clair).

Four TTC streetcar routes (King, Queen, Spadina/Harbourfront and Carlton) each serve more customers each day than either the Scarborough RT or Sheppard Subway.

TTC streetcars carry approximately 18 per cent of the total ridership on the TTC surface route network.

Steve: All day ridership numbers for December 2016 are available here: Ranking Surface Routes

Q: The total number of streetcar drivers / operators needed to serve all streetcar routes at present?

A: Current TTC streetcar services are operated by approximately 540 operators per week

Removal of Streetcar Infrastructure

Q: To have each existing streetcar route returned to a normal flat surface road, can you please provide the best estimates (based on comparisons of current arterial contact & construction cost actuals, or track rehabilitation):

A: No work has been undertaken on this issue, to date, and a detailed response to the question is not possible in the time frame requested. Some initial responses are provided where information is available.

Q: To carry out the planning, coordination, community consultation needed, possible traffic and/or transportation studies, and/or street or site preparation?

A: Unknown

Q: Would a change of this magnitude require an Environmental Assessment? If so, what type, and is there any estimate of cost and length?

A: Formal EA approval would not be required to decommission existing streetcar tracks.

Steve: This poses an intriguing question. When the TTC implemented the rights-of-way for lines on Spadina and Queens Quay, an EA was required because there was a change in use of the road. It is odd indeed to think that a wholesale conversion from streetcar to bus would not require some sort of review, but it would likely be the more perfunctory Transit Project Assessment (TPA) now in use.

Q: Other than a policy approval by the TTC’s Commission, and Budgetary approval by city council, is any other official approval required (i.e. regulatory or otherwise)?

A: Unknown

Q: The estimated cost to excavate, remove all streetcar rails, carry out road paving & re-construction along all routes? (including streets not in active service, such as routes to streetcar garages / or connecting rails downtown).

A: The removal cost for the items mentioned above is approximately $1,000 – $1,100 per single track metre including the cost of repaving the street.

Supplementary reply:

A: This isn’t something the TTC would do across the board. The rails and track bed are designed for a 20-25 year life. When the time came to redo the road, that section of track would either be removed or paved over or left alone – depending on engineering assessments at the time.

Q: The cost to dispose all rails (how / where are they disposed, used, or sent?).

A: Disposal of the steel rails is estimated to cost $100-$125 per single track metre with a potential estimated salvage cost of $400 – $425 per ton.

Q: The total # of present streetcar stops? The cost of additional physical changes (signage / schedule / parking meter changes) to convert to bus bays?

A: Approximately 700 streetcar stops are currently in existence. Modification costs unknown.

Q: Estimate of existing on-street parking spaces that would be lost in creating new bus bays (on shared streets)? Estimate of the average yearly loss in revenue to the city of a single on-street parking space?

A: Little loss of parking expected as parking is currently not allowed opposite streetcar stops. Each on street parking space generates $2,500 per space per year (net of taxes, source, TPA).

Steve: It is worth noting that despite all the room allegedly available at car stops, 501 Queen buses routinely have problems properly pulling into the curb. This affects passengers boarding or alighting at the rear door which is well above pavement level and which cannot “kneel” as the front door does.

Q: Estimated costs for any other changes that are not contemplated or covered above?

A: Unknown

Q: Cost to dispose an existing streetcar? (how / where are they disposed of, used, sold, or sent?).

A: Unknown

Q: Cost to remove all applicable streetcar overhead wiring, power plants, or electrical generation or components? Cost to covert existing streetcar maintenance garages, storage yards to house hybrid buses?

A: The demolition of the overhead contact system, including all poles, wiring, substations and components is estimated at $1,000-$1,100 per single track metre.

It is not considered practical or cost effective to convert existing streetcar yards to store/maintain hybrid buses. The existing TTC capital budget estimates the cost of a new 250 vehicle bus garage at $100 million (excluding property acquisition).

Supplementary TTC reply:

A: Approx. $10 million for property acquisition, depending on location. This is a guesstimate only.

Steve: The cost of the new 250-bus McNicoll Garage now under construction is $181m and this does not, I believe, including the cost of land. [This value is corrected from $181k, the original number published here.]

Q: The estimated % increase in inflation for road construction/transportation infrastructure projects in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 used by the City’s Budget and Transportation Planning Divisions in their future Capital Budget planning purposes?

A: The approved Transit City Program escalation factors are as follows:

Base Year (is 2008)
2009 3 %
2010 3 %
2011 4 %
2012 4 %
2012 4 %
2013 4.5 %
2014 4.5 %
2015 to 2020 5.0 % / annum

Q: The present market value a used TTC streetcar (based on actuals)? How many would be eligible for sale? How is transport to a buyer carried out, what is the cost, and who pays?

A: Unknown

Steve: The existing streetcar fleet (CLRV/ALRV) is beyond its 30-year design life, and the TTC has to invest substantial funds to keep the remaining cars in working order. Of particular concern are the electronics which are positively antique by modern standards, and these would represent a substantial cost to a potential buyer. The old fleet is good for little more than scrap value.

As for the new Flexity cars, much depends on Bombardier actually filling the contract. If Toronto were to offer them for resale, they would have to be modified for operation elsewhere (change of track gauge, possible change to reflect power voltage).

22 thoughts on “The Fords’ Fascination With Streetcars

  1. Hi Steve

    The thing I find curious about this is the timing of it. With the “Sun” running an editorial advocating a war on the streetcar and Gordon Chong’s recent column about wanting to get rid of streetcars, this seems like too much of a coincidence. Ford has neither said nor done anything of note during his time on council and now this.

    Steve: A collection of the usual suspects. If it were not for f***ing Bombardier, we would have a new fleet in place by now and there would be no question that it was staying.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m wondering if Councillor Michael Ford, Councillor Holyday and their suburban clique believe that climate change is a hoax.

    Steve: I await the convergence of the Humber River and Etobicoke Creek leaving only their egos above water.


  3. How can “3” council members change my current commute from Queen St. West to downtown. I take the Queen St. West Car daily at various times. I cannot believe how many people can be literally squeezed into a bus. Terribly uncomfortable.

    The bus must use the right turning lane to get to the bus stop. Travelling west means a long delay approaching University, the bus needs to wait for the cars turning right to clear before it even gets to the stop. I counted 3 red lights to finally pass the University stop. The same thing occurs going eastbound at Spadina. Again, we waited for 3 stop lights before the right lane was cleared. The streetcar does not have to use the right turning lane. I have never had to wait for 3 red lights on a street car waiting for drivers to make a left turn.

    The cost of the extra buses, the extra drivers, TTC riders will pay for this. Our cost will rise for even a more uncomfortable ride.

    The environment: I’m surprised this plan was even considered while Toronto is thinking of improving its emissions. ?????

    I have never seen Ford on a crowded bus, as the bus keeps stopping and crams even more people into such a tight space. This cannot be safe, riders are bumping into each other as the forces of constant lane changes and breaking shuffle people from side to side.

    One last point: Tourist. Queen street now looks like main street Hamilton. You’re taking away an amazing tourist attraction on Queen Street. The Queen street car is a wonderful symbol of the Queen Street Route and the TTC, I have not seen one tourist take a picture of a bus driving down Queen St. The street posed for many pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a typo that McNicoll garage will cost $181k? If not, I’m going to contact the contractor and get a bid for some renovations; I’ll get a palace for thirty or forty thousand I’m sure!

    Steve: Ooops! That should be “m”, not “k”. Will fix. Thanks.


  5. Fordwards was backwards, and it seems it still is. The alleged financial conservatives tend to be ‘carservatives’ first and foremost, and in denial of how cars are subsidized through a wide range of less-obvious ‘helps’ like health care and storm drainages as two eg. see

    With Queen, ahem, while I don’t necessarily advocate a subway here, it was approved in 1949 by voters, tho federal level support didn’t happen, and maybe core voters should ‘ahem’ to see subways are placed appropriately, and the distance between Parkdale and the core is about 6kms. Arguably, this east-west corridor is very overdue for a faster, and more robust link in a new RoW, something perhaps still possible via Front St., or more recently, atop the railways, as there’s now an OK to build heavy things over it with the Raildeck park/building process, and it has blessing of railways by the air rights sale. We need faster, sub-regional to express transit and not milk runs, Iexcept Liberty Village area needs better linkage, and not the regional GO) and while buses can travel quickly, the thought of putting buses on to swap out streetcars seems like another way to bankrupt the system, if misplaced subways aren’t enough for the ‘job’.

    While the imbalanced and anti-core PWIC may have bumped this up to the full Council, maybe there will be a solid thumping of relative foolishness.

    Steve: Queen is a long way from Front, let alone the Rail Corridor. These are two separate issues.


  6. First, Since this was not an urgent matter the motion should not have been permitted. Time to allow TTC to be present to respond should have been provided.

    Second. Ward 2 is miles from Queen Street. Councillor Ford should pay attention to Ward 2 matters and leave such matters to those councillors who do represent the ward where the Queen Car runs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As always, I facepalm when I hear Fordian non-sense. I must admit, while I didn’t vote for him in the recent by-election (nor either of his uncles when they ran in my ward), I was hoping (obviously in vain) that the younger Ford might keep the retail “I’ll return your calls and visit you” politics of his uncles but with a moderate view on transit (as moderate as a populist who doesn’t take the TTC can).

    I mean, to say “mind your own business and let the downtown councillors do their thing” as Raymond suggests isn’t correct. He can have a say, but it’s when Ford’s policy views (and that matter any councillor’s) come from a lack of understanding of what works for a given neighborhood, then you run into issues. If Ford and the rest of the Etobicoke councillors took the 501 regularly, we wouldn’t have seen this motion in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Someone should ask Councillor Ford if he’s ever ridden bus #29 – the sufferin’ Dufferin, and if yes, why he would want to replicate that experience on almost every streetcar route. That’s what you’d get on College, Dundas, Queen and King if you ran articulated buses there…actually, it would be worse.

    Also, someone should ask Mr. Ford whether he realizes that in order to make articulated bus-based routes worth anything in a highly dense urban setting, the buses have to run in 24/7 dedicated bus lanes? Not just in wide avenues mind you, but on streets the size of College and King.


  9. The reason this is happening is quite simple. The 501 on Lakeshore has been underserved, so by swapping out streetcars for buses, a couple things are happening. Since there’s so many more buses than there were streetcars, the times in which we’re waiting around is significantly reduced. Double that up with less people waiting at stops, less people boarding (and in turn skipping stops) and less people requesting stops, there’s a significant decrease in travel time. Adding on top of that there has been zero short turns. It’s not the capacity, it’s the turnover.

    I’m a big streetcar fan, but service has been improved MASSIVELY with buses. I would be ecstatic if they matched the frequency with the new streetcars because getting downtown in a timely fashion should not be weighed against taking the 110 or 44 to the subway. That’s how bad the streetcar gets when you’re in Lakeshore village. You basically had 3 bad options. Go west to Long Branch GO (WHY IN THE HELL IS THERE NO STOP AT KIPLING), go north to the subway or take a streetcar. All take about 45 minutes. The buses lately? 25-30 minutes. This is the service frequency I want. It’s made going downtown fun again.

    Steve: First off, there is massively more bus service because the route has so much extra running time in anticipation of construction delays that have not yet started. This guarantees that all of he 501L service actually makes it to Long Branch without short turns. I wouldn’t be so certain of this continuing under normal circumstances.

    Second, I have my doubts about your ability to get downtown in 25-30 minutes from Kipling, and will check this against actual running times. What definitely is the case is (a) you don’t have to wait as long for a vehicle to show up and (b) a lot of the farting around at Humber Loop and along The Queensway does not exist for the bus service. There is a big problem that even where they can run faster, streetcars are forced to operate slowly by their schedules. For the bus service, this shows up instead as big pileups of buses arriving early at terminals.

    I ran the stats for trips from Kipling to Yonge for the month of May. No bus made the trip in 25 minutes, not even late at night. AM peak times consistently averaged between 50 and 60 minutes and this holds through the day. Times on weekends are even worse going regularly above one hour.

    See this set of charts of actual running times for details.


  10. The TTC is coy on the running time of the 145 Humber Bay express, but from observation it’s in the 35-45 minute range. (Transsee has some interesting predictions but I haven’t followed it long-term. As I write this, there’s a bus at Windermere and it’s expected to be at University in 25 minutes.)

    There is no way the regular 501 Queen bus makes it from Kipling to “downtown” (which I would take as well east of Spadina, John Street at a minimum) in half an hour.

    When I caught the bus home from Peter Street Thursday evening, it was over an hour to get to Long Branch loop.

    Making Lake Shore service through-running to downtown does cut off five or more minutes for an average trip, compared to transferring at Humber loop (streetcar service) or Roncesvalles/Dufferin (west-end bus substitution). The annoying thing about the transfer was that it was quite unpredictable. One day you’d lose only a minute because the streetcar was right there; the next day there would be a big gap and the wait could be five or ten minutes.


  11. I have had debates with a good friend of mine regarding streetcars. He has argued that on most routes they are useless and buses would be much better, and that streetcars are largely a nostalgic fling. Just to be clear, he is a regular TTC rider, but often frustrated with poor service on the downtown streetcar routes. I’ve argued in favour of streetcars that to achieve the same capacity one would need at least two buses for every streetcar replaced, plus average service life of a streetcar is far longer than that of a bus. Certainly if the ridership on a particular streetcar route is such that it could easily be replaced with buses with no impact to level of service, one could justify that replacement if the overall costs are lower, though I wonder if those that live along that route would enjoy the noise and fumes of diesel buses (it’s sad that Toronto abandoned its trolley buses routes – San Francisco actually expanded theirs, electrifying some routes previously served by diesel buses).

    Then again, Toronto seems to have done a piss poor job of transit priority, though it’s encouraging to see the pilot on King Street is happening.

    Phil (now in Calgary)


  12. Among terms of service desired by Councillor Ford to be examined with respect to the question of whether, or not, streetcars are efficacious hence whether, or not, should be replaced by buses, on Queen Street, is the one being Ridership Satisfaction. As to ridership satisfaction, I would state that I prefer streetcars for the reason of their consistently smooth ride: a characteristic which I consider to represent not only a matter about my comfort being maintained, but, as well, a matter about my safety being maintained, in the event that I must stand while traveling aboard the T.T.C. Safety is a contributor to efficacy.

    The experience of a streetcar ride is one consistently featuring absence of several irregularities to motion, which, by contrast, are not infrequent accompaniments to travel by bus, and which may significantly destabilize the passenger who must stand, or walk about, while the bus is in motion. Those troublesome irregularities are represented by, and often combine in a single passage of events, the effects of parameters external to buses’ on-board systems and parameters internal to those, and include: strong lateral forces during lane-changing or cornering; rolling or jolting because of pavement unevenness and, or, stiff suspensions; abrupt momentary hesitation to progress, being caused by brake “grab” during short-term application of brakes while in rapid motion’s course, and, then, the converse a momentary “lurching” forward upon release of brakes while in rapid motion’s course; and effects similar to those, the immediately aforementioned, such as appear to be caused by balky transmissions. Even ordinary braking is often “hard” such that the bus loses momentum disconcertingly faster than do its contained passengers. The streetcar’s electric dynamic braking better combines power and smoothness.

    Too, the streetcar’s being steered at both ends not just at one end, and almost pivoting through a corner, seems as if it might be the type of a quality a contribution to negotiation of corners comfortably free of body lean and adverse forces on passengers: although the cars’ quite slow speed in corners, necessitated by short-radius curves, perhaps is, as well, a factor contributory to cornering-with-comfort.

    “Efficacy” is, virtually, a synonym for “efficiency”: either word is a highly charged word; the concept of efficacy (or of inefficacy, hence of efficiency or of inefficiency), can be defined in diverse ways, some of those ways being inclusive of qualities meritorious to be considered yet in opposition to what may be a “mainstream” idea about efficacy or about efficiency. I find, for example, that the modern “high efficiency” washing machine, albeit that it quite conserves water compared to a washing machine exhibiting the former, standard, abundance of water use, and does cleanse clothes, it may be considered inefficient, or not efficacious, should one come to believe (as have I come to believe), that it may cleanse not reliably as even — as complete — as would the former standard machine do by tendency; or rinse as fully; or as well preserve some kinds of fabrics away from premature wear (because, mainly, the clothes scrub each other; are not scrubbed mainly by the more gentle action of an agitated water bath). Analogously, I believe the streetcar’s consistently performing to deliver a smooth and stable ride, is a quality representing high efficiency, abundant efficacy, on the basis of safety to passengers in motion, a basis quite important to me — but the vehicle’s opponents might not assign value in such accordance as do I.

    I currently live along the route of the future Crosstown L.R.T. and look forward to using it instead of Eglinton East buses. Apparently, the power supply is planned to have voltage almost twice that featured by the legacy rail system; perhaps faster acceleration will occur. I hope the experience of a ride will not consequently suffer in respect of smoothness.

    Bruce Ramsay,


  13. I am sick of hearing from people like Michael Ford who DO NOT USE TRANSIT trying to force their unfounded opinions on those of us who actually use it.

    I have been commuting daily to/from downtown on the 501 route from Mimico since 2013. I have lived through it all, from streetcar breakdowns to shuttle buses, construction, weather related events etc. etc.

    As an actual user of this route I can tell you that the experience of commuting to work on a streetcar is FAR SUPERIOR to a bus. The jerking motion, bumps and loud engine noise of buses makes for an extremely unpleasant commute. I cannot wait until the streetcars begin running again.

    The right thing to do is to build more streetcar routes, make them operate in DEDICATED LANES and increase frequency of service.

    Furthermore, those who criticize transit should direct their criticism to the politicians who consistently UNDERFUND it.


  14. Steve, I wasn’t implying from Kipling to Yonge. Just from Lakeshore Village to downtown core. As an example. The day that I was talking about we got on the bus at 5th street and Lakeshore at 10:35. We had anticipated the trip to Queen and John to be about 45-50 minutes (typical transport time). But we arrived exactly at 11. We had an appointment to go to at 1 so trust me this info is 100% correct because we had to figure out how to kill 2 hours.

    Steve: This may seem like quibbling, but if you expected to be there in 45-50 minutes, and actually got there in 25, you didn’t have an extra two hours on your hands.

    Here is the vehicle tracking info for for the Queen bus eastbound from Royal York to John Street. The running time is fairly consistently in the 45 minute range, and that’s starting a bit east of where you were. (My data analysis routines are set up with a bunch of predefined screenlines for use as measurement points, and I didn’t want to create a new 5th Street one just for this one chart.) I don’t want to say you are making things up, but the data make it hard to believe that a 25 minute trip over that distance is common, not even a rare exception.

    The distance from 5th Street to John Street is about 11.65km, and if a bus did this in only 25 minutes, that would be 28km/hr. This is simply not a credible speed for a bus even on many suburban routes.


  15. I would challenge anyone to drive their car along the route of the 501 and get from Fifth and Lake Shore to John and Queen in 25 minutes on a weekday mid-day. I suppose it would be possible 10:35 PM on a Sunday evening, if the traffic lights cooperated.

    Some 501 buses are indeed quite fast, but unfortunately this isn’t providing great service but playing games. If you are lucky, you won’t be caught in the huge gaps that are caused by this kind of operation. Or you get to sit on the bus, unmoving, for five minutes while it takes a time-out at the direction of CIS (I experienced that a few times during the west-end shuttle).


  16. Steve, I wasn’t implying from Kipling to Yonge. Just from Lakeshore Village to downtown core. As an example. The day that I was talking about we got on the bus at 5th street and Lakeshore at 10:35. We had anticipated the trip to Queen and John to be about 45-50 minutes (typical transport time). But we arrived exactly at 11. We had an appointment to go to at 1 so trust me this info is 100% correct because we had to figure out how to kill 2 hours.

    The Google trip planner says that’s approximately 38 minutes on the bus if you boarded the bus at 6:30am on a Sunday morning.

    In my personal experience, a 4km trip on the 501 to Yonge Street even at ideal times (think 7am on weekends) is around 15 minutes on the bus. You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you when you say your 13.5km trip was 25-30 minutes at 11am on weekday, or as Steve put it, as fast as the subway.

    Steve: And I really do have to reiterate that I did not invent the data from nearly a month’s worth of bus operations on 501 Queen to come up with those observed timings — that is from the TTC’s own vehicle tracking system which is GPS based and, with minor exceptions, usually quite accurate.


  17. There haven’t been any recent analyses of running time from Long Branch/Lake Shore to downtown, because the service has been split for years.

    What I can say is that back in 2006-2008, there was an operator who reliably rolled his streetcar out of Long Branch loop at about 8:42 AM, and would deliver you to Queen and Spadina at 9:30 AM, plus or minus a couple of minutes, for a running time of about 48 minutes. This was before a lot of the Humber Bay and West Queen West construction, before the “transit priority” signals at the west entrance to Humber loop from Lake Shore, and before “streetcars crawl through intersection” directives on The Queensway.

    The current trip planner suggests that you be on the bus at 8:26, and you will be delivered to Queen and Spadina at 9:25, for a running time of 59 minutes.

    Also, even back then, other operators were not as reliable as this one operator. I always dreaded new board periods, because you never knew what operator you’d get, which meant the run departure time from the loop, and arrival time at Queen and Spadina, could be different by any number of minutes. (Yes, it was the same run number, although I have now forgotten which it was.)


  18. I’m not making it up, mind you I did not have many stops on the way downtown. Though on the opposite end, the trip back was slow and the bus was overcrowded and I was forced to stand right beside the driver. I’m just saying my experience with the buses has been superior to the streetcar service at least on Lakeshore. I am probably the biggest advocate for the waterfront west LRT. I say this knowing I will lose my job as they were going to demolish the place where I work due to the realignment of Lakeshore blvd. That is how bad transit is down here.


  19. I took that exact same trip, same time of day, from First Street to John Street, returning around 3pm on a Friday last month. It most certainly did not take 25 mins. It was closer to an hour in both directions.

    Even if by some transit miracle your 25 min. trip did occur, it is most unhelpful and illogical to ask an implausibly short trip to stand in as representative of overall service quality.


  20. What about the poisonous diesel fumes and their effect upon the residents? Gasoline burning vehicles are on the rise as population density increases. What is the human cost. What is the expected and acceptable increase in the death and sickness rates in the surrounding population?

    Steve: The argument has always been that the big environmental benefit is to move people out of cars into transit regardless of the propulsion technology. It is worth noting that there are environmentalists who oppose electric power because it comes from fossil fuel (that has its own emission issues) or nuclear (which has cost and waste problems). That said, buses on busy city routes are noisy and their fumes certainly are no contribution to the streets. In the suburbs, these effects are less noticeable because of wide streets (and a lot more auto traffic to drown out the buses) and the tendency for development to be located on sidestreets.


  21. Every city, town, village, and hamlet in southern Ontario was based upon a mill stream. In the age of centralized electricity the wiers and dams fell into disrepair and the water spills without being tapped. With today’s technology we could have more clean hydro power than we need using a traditional infrastructure already partly paid for.


  22. Speaking of buses, any reason why the new livery on the recent batch of Nova’s is different then repainted Orion’s specifically in rear and on the roof of these buses?


Comments are closed.