The last of many track projects for the Queen route began on Monday, October 16, and has progressed at a blistering pace. By Wednesday, the old intersection had been removed and a new concrete foundation was poured. By Friday, assembly of the new intersection in the street was nearly complete.
Please see Reconstruction of The Queensway and Humber Loop for updates on that project.
According to BlogTo the Queen Car is subject to severe bunching.
The TTC as usual attributes the problem to obstacles on the route. The unfortunate reaction from riders are new calls to replace streetcars with buses.
Steve: I plan to do an analysis in November of the way Queen has been operated with its many diversions this summer. Every time I am out at Queen & Ronces (as I was earlier today), I routinely see two or three Queen cars laying over. This means that they are certainly not pressed for running time even with the diversion in place.
Meanwhile, my observation of various bus shuttles has been that (a) there are a LOT of buses, and so the bus service looks great by comparison, and (b) even on a River to Neville shuttle where there is NO congestion, the TTC cannot maintain reliable headways, and buses run in pairs. This is “TTC culture” and they do bugger all to fix it.
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Bombardier’s incompetence is going to cost Toronto one or more streetcar lines and Queen Street is a good candidate as DRL is going to run under Queen Street. As such, this reconstruction is a waste.
Steve: The DRL is not going to be running under Queen for at least 15 years, possibly longer, and certainly not for its entire length (only about Parliament to University for the first phase). Bombardier may be screwing the streetcar system with their deliveries, compounded by the TTC’s usual half-assed service during the many diversions and splits of the line, but the Queen car is going to be around for quite a while.
I’m afraid I am more and more in favour of buses over streetcars. When did you last hear that streetcars were called in to relieve a route that buses could not manage?
Steve: Buses routinely “cannot manage” but with no tracks on most streets, that’s all we’ve got.
It seems that more drivers are needed to move the same number of passengers than would be the case with streetcars, but does that saving make up for the vast expenses of track, barns, maintenance labour etc. And the rigidity of a streetcar route seems so constricting.
Steve: Two points here. The streetcar system used to have much better service on it, but the TTC has allowed this to dwindle over the years through a combination of stretching the fleet too thin, and making do with service cuts to counter increasing travel times. Moreover, “congestion” is an oft-repeated mantra for the TTC that excuses all manner of ills including their inability to dispatch service on reliable headways, even when there is little other traffic in sight. The same thing happens on bus routes and with bus replacements for streetcars too, but since the replacement shuttles often flood routes with service, the frequency passengers see can be better even if it is ragged. If they ran larger buses, as you propose below, you would see the same effects as we do today with streetcar service.
Double decker busses are a way of increasing the passenger load without the road blocking potential of bendy buses. Could Toronto deal with them?
Steve: There are issues with double deckers regarding loading times and accessibility, and some locations they simply won’t fit. On the subject of lane blocking, I have zero, absolutely zero, sympathy for motorists “caught” behind large transit vehicles regardless of the technology.
Also, it seems that around the corner are practical electric buses and self-driving ones as well. And we in Toronto are busy digging ourselves deeper into the pit with the streetcars.
Please, I need convincing arguments as to why I am wrong on this.
Steve: There are various types of “practical” electric buses. The issue is one of size, and of the duty cycle such vehicles can handle without having to recharge. On route recharging is now an option, and we will see how that works out operationally.
Of course TO used to have electric buses powered from overhead wires until they were ripped out thanks to the combined cabal of the natural gas industry, boffins in MTO, and TTC management’s dislike of anything but diesel, not to mention a cosy deal with a bus builder. Vancouver still has a large fleet that includes off-wire capabilities using batteries.
All that said, streetcars can have much higher capacity than on most of the routes now operated in Toronto, and we have years of neglect in the general growth of transit service (and not just downtown) to thank for the current situation. With streetcars the upper bound is higher, and this is a capability the city will need in coming years as the core and near-core area population rises.
We would be running an LRT network in Scarborough today if it were not for Rob Ford and Brad Duguid, and several other politicians who sold the dream of a subway as what Scarborough “deserves”.
I think that in 2018 the major streetcar track projects are Victoria, a section of Broadview north of Dundas and a section of Bathurst south of College. Yes? These ought to be done fairly quickly and if so, the need for replacement busses should be much less and I suppose we may even have few more functioning streetcars too.
Steve: I have not seen the updated five year list for 2018-22 yet. In the 2017 list, Broadview is supposed to be done all the way from Hogarth (north end of Riverdale Park) to Dundas including intersections at Gerrard and at Dundas. The section on Bathurst was originally in the 2020 plan from Dundas to Queen. Victoria is also in the 2018 list, although I suspect that it will be later rather than earlier to fit in between various building construction projects.
The TOInview map of construction projects for 2018 only shows Broadview and Victoria, not Bathurst, under TTC projects.
I am curious, why wasn’t this work done when buses were substituted earlier this summer? It would have caused a lot less rider inconvenience.
Steve: I asked the TTC about this, and they claim that it was a scheduling problem with the track crews who have been quite busy this year. That said, one has to wonder what the alternatives might have been.
On an unrelated but irksome note to service etc., one evening last week I biked up to the wire fencing, and I took a picture. A security guard came up and said no pictures. I queried, gave a nasty salute (not the one finger type) and went off. It wasn’t the guard’s fault – he was just following orders, and it was a sad indicator of how low we’ve sunk. No flash or anything to make a disruption to delicate operations (the track was being broken up), but it was sure a nuts attitude on a public street well away from the Queen St. activities.
Steve: That’s pure crap, a security guard who either doesn’t know his business or has an ego problem. You can take photos anywhere on projects like that, as I did last Friday without any problem.
It is time to stop the streetcar routes from stealing buses and negatively affecting service elsewhere. First, we spend billions of dollars on expensive streetcar infrastructure and rolling stock for Downtown while everyone else gets cheap buses and then, these Downtown streetcar routes steal our cheap suburban buses. How exactly is this fair?
Steve: In “normal” times, the TTC schedules most of its track work and associated bus shuttles to occur when the bus network operates at reduced summer service levels. During 2017 there was the double whammy of an unusually large amount of construction work that overlapped the “winter” bus requirements, plus the streetcar shortage thanks to Bombardier’s ongoing screwups. The bus requirements for streetcar routes in 2018 should be considerably lower.
That said, the TTC seems content to use “vehicle shortages” as a way to avoid improving service and thereby constrain its calls for subsidy. The bus shortage is a hangover from the Ford era when construction of McNicoll Garage was delayed and a bus order cancelled to save money on the capital budget. The TTC cannot expand its bus fleet substantially for the next few years because its garages are already stuffed full. Even when McNicoll opens, the garages will still be over capacity, just not as badly as today. Suburban bus service has been limited much more by fleet limits and budget considerations than by use of buses on streetcar routes.
The TTC’s fleet plan is based on minimal increases in bus service, and it will be interesting to see what changes will be needed to support the Ridership Growth Strategy that is expected at the November Board meeting.