Updated February 10, 2019 at 9:00 am: Notes from the Board meeting have been added at the beginning of this article.
Relief Line Business Case
When the agenda was released, the Relief Line report created quite a stir with an apparent shift in Metrolinx’ position on the staging of subway expansion projects. Where “relief” taking precedence over the Yonge north extension only referred to the southern section (Pape to Osgoode), Metrolinx now shows a shortfall in capacity if the northern section (Danforth to Sheppard) is missing from the network.
This prompted a letter from Frank Scarpitti, Mayor of Markham and Chair of the York Region Rapid Transit Corporation Board. The heart of Scarpitti’s objection is that the Metrolinx report uses a mixture of demand models and assumptions to arrive at its conclusion, and that this is out of step with previous studies and approvals.
The Relief Line Business Case Development presentation paints a flawed picture of the ridership modelling work being undertaken by Metrolinx, in conjunction with York Region and City of Toronto staff. The vague and contradictory information being used to update the public on slide 7 regarding Line 1: Ridership Demand and Network Effects has, once again, pitted two critically needed infrastructure projects against one another, namely the Relief Line against the Yonge Subway Extension. This positioning is not supported by the ridership modelling analysis and is at odds with the advice and information presented by Metrolinx at a recent meeting.
On June 25, 2015, Metrolinx released the results of the Yonge Relief Network Study to the Board. Supported by a Stakeholder Advisory Committee and a Peer Review Panel, the Board endorsed the finding that “With the Yonge North Extension, the Yonge Subway will still be under capacity.”
The Relief Line Update uses a blend of data and methodologies to make broad assumptions about future ridership. Each subsequent ridership model claims to have better information, more detail and more sophisticated analysis. Some models include independent findings and more recently, to our objection, some have been relying heavily on market driven employment and population data, contrary to the required obligation of all municipalities to follow the Provincially-mandated “Growth Plan” numbers.
The Relief Line Update being presented to the Metrolinx Board on February 7, 2019 has, according to Metrolinx staff, blended the findings of at least three different models and does not accurately represent any of the individual modelling analyses. Slide 7 suggests that, in 2041, Line 1 will be below capacity and then over capacity when the Yonge Subway Extension is added. This is completely inaccurate – current Metrolinx modelling shared as recent as January 21, 2019 demonstrates that the Yonge Subway Extension adds a relatively minor number of riders to the peak demand location and, in no case, is it the cause of Line 1 becoming over capacity.
The facts are that only 20% of the new riders on an extension of the Yonge Subway line would be headed south of Bloor. Ridership growth on Line 1 is directly related to population and employment growth in Toronto. In fact, models show that ridership on Line 1 will exceed capacity regardless of whether the Yonge Subway Extension is constructed. We believe that by promoting the shift of as little as 10% of people from peak hour travel from the Extension to the Richmond Hill GO Line, and by using fare structure and level of service incentives, that substantial relief on Line 1 can be achieved while the Yonge Subway Extension is being constructed.
Modelling also shows that the majority of riders (80%) on the Yonge Subway Extension are headed to Toronto’s uptown employment centres north of Bloor, including St. Clair, Eglinton and York Mills. Furthermore, the Yonge Subway Extension will also serve a large number of Toronto residents that work in York Region Other initiatives are underway, or should be underway, to alleviate Line 1 capacity problems. Metrolinx’s 2015 study concluded that a number of planned and funded initiatives such as Automatic Train Control, more Rocket Trains, GO Expansion, and the opening of the Line 1 extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will add capacity and offload the Line 1 demand.
These are serious challenges to the professional quality of work presented by Metrolinx planners.
The June 2015 report cited here was the Yonge Relief Network Study and it contains the quotation about the subway remaining under capacity even with the Yonge North extension. However, this depends on a number of factors:
- The model year is 2031
- Then-current projections for population and jobs
- Assumed diversion levels for ridership to TYSSE and GO RER, net of demand added by new projects especially the Crosstown LRT at Eglinton
The reported projected that the volume/capacity ratio would have been 96% (2031) over the peak hour meaning that the super-peak would be above the line. The claim that the subway would still have capacity is “true” only on average and with no headroom for growth. Metrolinx planners should have known better to make that statement in 2015.
Metrolinx staff pointed out:
- They are modelling for 2041, ten years later
- The 2016 Census shows that core area employment is growing faster than predicted
- Modelling now includes factors for latent demand and safety considerations at stations and platforms
- If there is no alternate relief in place by 2041, the Relief Line North will be required
Staff also reported that although the Relief Line South approved concept (Pape to Osgoode via Carlaw and Queen) has a positive Business Case, the value is only slightly above 1.0. All six of the options were close to 1 and so the distinction between them is not as strong as the simple over/under status in the report might imply. With only a small positive margin, factors such as cost control and encouragement of Transit Oriented Development along the line will be important to maintain the supposed benefit.
CEO Phil Verster argued strongly that building the Relief Line does not preclude building other projects. His concern is to build more transit and build faster. Metrolinx is looking at (unspecified) new technology and innovation from industry to speed up the process. More than one line could be built concurrently, but the critical point is to open them in a sequence that causes the desired redistribution of demand.
Verster admitted that Metrolinx has not done enough to look at the Richmond Hill GO corridor for its potential contribution to relief.
A Board member asked whether the staff have identified a “tipping point” in safety for their studies. There is not a single value, but rather a variation from one location to another depending on local demand, station geometry and passenger flows.
Unspoken through all of this was the years of delay in admitting that a problem even exists, let alone of doing something about it. GO’s ability to provide relief has been downplayed for various reasons including the need to regrade the south end of the line to make it flood-proof, the winding valley route’s limitation of travel speed, and operational conflicts with CN’s freight traffic that limit GO capacity to Richmond Hill. Meanwhile, candidate John Tory’s SmartTrack campaign claimed that his scheme would eliminate the need for a Relief Line, and TTC projections did not raise alarms about capacity and safety issues until the situation at Bloor-Yonge could not be ignored.
“Relief” will not come from any one line or project, but from the contributions of several.
Financing and deliverability studies will be reported in spring 2019 for the Relief Line South, and a preliminary business case for the Relief Line North will be available by year-end.
This entire exchange shows the problems brought on by oversimplified presentation decks for the Board. In their oral remarks, Metrolinx staff displayed a more extensive grasp of the issues and details than contained in the Powerpoint deck.
Drivers of Ridership and Revenue
The presentation began with an astonishing admission that ridership stats existed separately within parts of the Metrolinx organization – GO Transit, Presto and Union Pearson Express – and they are only now being consolidated.
Staff explained that there are three different metrics for ridership: boardings, trips and customers. One person (customer) takes multiple trips (a journey from “A” to “B”) and within each trip may board multiple lines and vehicles. Each measure has its purpose. [The TTC is wrestling with the same problem in “ridership” tracking due to the effects of Metropasses and the Two-Hour Fare.]
Fine-grained behaviour shows up in the stats such as at Aurora Station where counts are affected by its being a terminal during off-peak periods. When all-day service was introduced, station usage shot up.
Research showed that families value free children’s fares and this generates more full-fare adult trips. However, the free-fare communication program could have been better because some riders did not know of it and paid for their children even though free rides were available.
Metrolinx clearly needs to understand how its riders think about using the system because growth cannot be driven forever by a park-and-ride model. This type of work is long overdue, and it should be reported publicly as an essential part of shifting how politicians think about transit’s role beyond classic suburban commuting.
As with the Relief Line presentation, the details reported orally provided a better understanding of the issues staff raised than the superficial information in the presentation deck.
Regular readers will know that my attitude to “marketing” is that it is often a substitute for providing service riders want and need. The most brilliant campaign can be undone by an empty shop window, or chronic shortages of popular items. One can “market” service that does not exist, but would-be riders catch on fast, especially if they have already been “shopping” elsewhere by driving.
The idea behind the Brand Campaign is to create a key message and focus for each part of Metrolinx, but a statement quite early in the presentation (and like so many other pearls revealed orally, not in the printed text) brought this gem – GO Transit is a long-established brand, and Metrolinx should be careful not to mess with it.
I would go further and say that the branding exercise has a fatal flaw in attempting to keep a separate focus for what were originally four separate organizations.
- GO Transit is well established, over a half century old. Both the name and the green colour scheme are well-known throughout the GHTA.
- Metrolinx was created as a planning agency with no operational responsibility, and it has suffered for years from an identity crisis. A rebranding exercise a few years back produced the “Metrolinx squiggle” and a black and white colour scheme.
- Presto was originally independent of Metrolinx, but later became a division. GO Transit green set its original colour scheme, but with the Metrolinx change to black, Presto soon followed.
- UPX was originally to be a private company, and for several years operated as a separate, pretentious, bloated entity within Metrolinx. The colour scheme is an unhappy attempt to look like part of a GO Transit family while staying separate from it.
The union of operational entities – GO, UPX, Presto – with a planning agency has never been a happy one, and this continues with the battle over the reigning corporate identity of GO green or Metrolinx black.
On the marketing side, the idea that a separate set of slogans and goals is needed for each division preserves a structural view that was never relevant, but simply reflected individual fiefdoms. A great deal of time and organizational effort could go into preserving those unique views rather than integrating them.
Meanwhile, with the lessons to be learned from analysis of actual riders, Metrolinx might more profitably turn their “marketing” efforts to actual service rather than corporate fluff that adds no value to a rider’s experience.
The original article follows below.
The Metrolinx Board will meet on February 7, 2019, with the public session beginning at 12:15 pm. The agenda contains several items of interest, although the presentations are thinner than one might hope. I will update this article after the meeting and add any salient information that comes up in discussion.
- Relief Line Business Case Development
- Drivers of Ridership and Revenue
- Operations Quarterly Report
- Customer Experience Committee Report
- Presto Quarterly Report
In a piece of bitter irony, a report on branding strategy is a public document, but one on “2019 Service Increase” is in the private agenda. So nice to know we will have a good marketing campaign, but not what they will be trying to sell us.
More substance and less fluff would be a welcome addition to Metrolinx agendas.
Relief Line Business Case Development
There are two parallel studies underway of the south and north sections of the Relief line. The dividing point is Danforth Avenue.
The southern routing is now set, but the northern portion in the map below is a placeholder pending final route selection (see below).
Six alternatives were considered for the southern portion of the Relief Line. Of these, option “A” (orange in the map below) was chosen. It begins at Osgoode Station and runs east on Queen with stops at Yonge (Queen Station), Sherbourne, King/Sumach, Broadview (East Harbour), Queen/Carlaw, Gerrard/Carlaw and Pape Station. Detailed information about the proposed route is available in the Environmental Project Report.
Of the alternatives, only options “A” and “F” (with a downtown alignment via King rather than Queen) were considered to have a benefit-cost ratio greater than 1, and they are the only options that serve the East Harbour (Unilever) site where a major office development is proposed.
The northern section of the route has not been nailed down yet. This is a provincial project under Metrolinx. Work on it, at least from a public point of view, ended with the call of the provincial election in spring 2018, and there has been no further public consultation. At this point, several routes and permutations of routes are under consideration.
None of this is news, but one key slide in the presentation puts the relative priority of regional subway plans in a new context. This shows the projected demand in 2041 on the Yonge subway relative to capacity under five scenarios.
- The base case includes only the existing Yonge subway and the anticipated extra capacity that will be possible with automatic train control (ATC) and more trains. The demand will match the available capacity.
- If only the southern portion of the Relief Line is built, there will be a slight decrease in demand on Yonge, but a larger total ridership because some demand that is now constrained can flow via the RL to the core.
- If only the Yonge extension to Richmond Hill is built, demand on the existing subway will considerably exceed its capacity.
- If the Yonge extension and the RL south are both built, the existing subway will still run over capacity.
- Only with the RL south and north can the added demand from the Richmond Hill extension be handled on the Yonge line.
This creates a considerable challenge for subway planners and funders regardless of who will actually own the subway over coming decades. Richmond Hill has been waiting for a subway, and the project Environmental Assessment has been on York Region’s website for some time. The Mayor of Markham, as quoted by Ben Spurr in the Toronto Star, is a tad upset by this situation.
In an interview Thursday, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, a vocal proponent of the Yonge Extension, called the new Metrolinx report “an about face” and said the agency has “some explaining to do.”
He suggested Metrolinx was kowtowing to the interests of Toronto and its mayor.
“Maybe Metrolinx has become ‘Torontolinx,’ I’m not sure. Maybe Mayor (John) Tory got appointed to the chair of ‘Torontolinx’ overnight,” he said.
Scarpitti asserted the “Yonge subway is not going to take a back seat to any project in the GTA” and called on Premier Doug Ford to publicly confirm the provincial government will proceed with both projects.
This puts Metrolinx and their political masters in a difficult situation. With the planned provincial takeover of (at least) subway planning and construction responsibility, any decision regarding project timing will be 100% in Queen’s Park’s lap, and they will not be able to blame wrangling at the municipal level for hold-ups. With their own planners telling them a Yonge extension will demand the construction of the full RL to Sheppard, there is a large bill sitting on their table, and regional jealousies to be managed.
The Metrolinx report is contradictory because it states:
Transit network forecasts show that Relief Line South needs to be in operation before the Yonge North Subway Extension. Relief Line North provides further crowding relief for Line 1. [p. 2]
Presumably, there would be an interim point before 2041 where the extension and only the RL south could co-exist without overloading the subway, but it is clear that demand growth will eat through any headroom and return the Yonge line to a crisis situation in the 2030s. In turn this raises the issue of how much demand for Richmond Hill to downtown travel can be shifted to GO Transit through service expansion. That GO corridor is challenging because of its topography, but bettering its ability to parallel the subway deserves consideration.
GO’s fares are a high-cost option for commuting to downtown compared with a subway extension which, like the Vaughan extension, is presumed to operate with “Toronto” fares. GO service suffers both from poor frequency and from GO’s chronic problem of charging high fares for shorter trips. Although reductions in short-trip fares were proposed in the Liberals’ 2018 budget, this would have applied to Langstaff GO Station, but not to points further north. The current Presto fare from Langstaff to Union is $6.53, more than double the TTC fare even though the travel time would be roughly comparable to a subway journey over the same distance. The Presto fare from Richmond Hill is $6.62 and would not be reduced in the proposed tariff.
There is no word from the Ford regime on whether any of that scheme will be implemented.
Trips to midtown on the subway would be shorter than on GO because riders would not have to double back from Union. However, GO should seek to handle as many of the end-to-end trips as possible to reduce subway demand. Discussions of RL planning are silent on this issue.
This is an example of the problem with many planning reports regardless of the agency. They consider the end state, in this case 2041, but offer no discussion of the interim stages by which we might reach that point two decades away. It is precisely the interim states that transit riders will have to suffer through if subway congestion is not relieved, and especially if the end state is never actually reached.
Metrolinx owes us all a much more thorough examination of alternatives and the stages through which the network would evolve over coming years. Only then will we know the criticality of interim steps and the timing of funding needed to minimize subway congestion.
The Operations Quarterly Report advises that ridership grew by almost 7% on the train network and 4% on buses during Q3 (October-December based on an April 1 fiscal year). UPX ridership was up 12% over 2017. These numbers show strong growth of the system overall, and any corridor or station-specific jumps should be considered in that context.
The “Drivers of Ridership and Revenue” report could have been an interesting piece of market research on how riders react to fare and service schemes. However, the presentation deck is a superficial review of a few changes made by GO, but without any sense of concrete lessons learned or a plan to apply these to the system. Except for a reference to a pilot for free rides for children, revenue is not mentioned anywhere.
The presentation recommends that the Board:
… endorse the insights, strategies and actions set out in the Director of Customer Insights February 7, 2019 report
The report itself is not linked from the agenda. When I asked Metrolinx where the recommendations were, they replied:
At the bottom of slides 5, 6, 7 & 8 there is an action item. The resolution is to approve all 4 of those action items. For clarity they are:
- Identify, pilot & validate new service & customer trip purpose opportunities.
- Expand off-peak service to build customer trip purpose opportunities, and strengthen construction service & communication mitigation plans.
- Identify & pilot station access, parking and municipal service provider collaboration opportunities.
- Monitor new station ridership & station access performance (e.g., Guildwood Station).
- Leverage Uber pilot learning to improve customer communication
- Identify expanded TNC opportunities, collaboration and pilots [email of February 4, 2019]
“TNC” is Metrolinx shorthand for “Transportation Network Companies” such as Uber.
A map of the GO system shows the growth of ridership at each station on the network over the period April to November 2018. This appears under the pretentious title “From Data, to Insights” with the heading:
Ridership data dynamically generates summary maps that, together with new analytic tools, validates performance drivers and highlights key learning and insight to build future ridership.
Exactly what those tools, drivers, learning and insight might be is a mystery, and we must take it on faith that the Metrolinx planners will produce rabbits out of their hat at a suitable moment. Metrolinx might be glad to have detailed riding counts, but far more is involved in understanding why people chose or avoid transit.
The presentation gives little sense of how service plans will interact with whatever Metrolinx might discover from this exercise. It is no secret that GO, like the TTC, is capacity constrained by several factors, and cannot absorb additional demand during peak periods. They eye the off-peak, but their service design (including feeders such as commuter parking and local bus services) are strongly oriented to peak travel.
Total ridership data only tell us how many people use the service at each station, but the “why” is more complicated, let alone knowing what might encourage new riders or growth in usage by existing customers.
The detail of the map on page 4 of the presentation is obscured when viewed at “normal” size, but the map scales up revealing the details for each stop. [Click to expand maps below.]
The numbers shown at each station are:
- total ridership for the eight months from April to November 2018,
- the daily count (based on the number of days when service was provided at each station), and
- the percentage change from April 1 to November 30.
The methodology has the effect of diluting the weekday demand on line with weekend service that pull down the daily average. For example, at Allandale, there are 74,000 rides at 301 per day, or about 246 days (rounded). At Gormley, there are 104,000 rides at 597 per day, or about 174 days. Because the Barrie corridor has weekend service, the level of weekday demand at each station is understated relative to a corridor like Richmond Hill where there is less service, but all on weekdays.
The presentation states that Barrie corridor ridership went up:
- By 3.0% comparing January-April 2017 to the corresponding period in 2018 (increased train frequency)
- By 7.0% comparing May-August 2017 to 2018 (Kids GO Free project)
- By 0.6% comparing October-November 2017 to 2018
However, overall ridership rose by 20.8% from April to November 2018 including a 30.5% increase at Aurora even though parking there is fully utilized.
Analytics validate a strong correlation between parking capacity, municipal service providers and station access design with ridership performance. [p. 7]
Each component is not broken out, and these probably vary by site. For example a rise of 17% at Mount Pleasant is attributed to better bus service and new design. Riding counts from local transit could give insight into the transit feeder contribution to station usage. At Cooksville, a drop of 7.2% (with a shift to neighbouring stations), is linked to reduced parking due to construction.
At Weston, UPX growth “accelerated from 6.5% to 15.4%” during a pilot with Uber providing last mile service (September-November 2018), but overall Weston Station growth was 23.2% for April-November. Was this a one-time gain, in effect setting a new base, or will there be continued growth. The catchment area for Uber trips shown in the report is huge: Steeles to St. Clair and Caledonia to the western boundary of Toronto, but there are no trip counts or details about trip origin/destinations.
Getting to Weston Station is a challenge for anyone attempting to use transit given its location in the transit network and the available local services. This is a problem shared by many GO stations which often lie in old industrial areas. To what extent can or should local transit routes be gerrymandered to serve GO rather than overall demand?
With GO Transit reaching the limit of growth through provision of parking spaces and structures, alternates to the park-and-ride model are essential including the ability of local transit to provide substantial capacity. This has both the peak commuting aspect of bringing riders to stations in the morning and home again at night, as well as providing last mile services for off-peak and counter-peak trips.
On the Lakeshore corridor, ridership rose by 30,000 from September 24 to November 30, 2018, the period after service was improved. This is not expressed as a percentage, nor does the presentation clarify if this is a per day value, or over the course of two months. The maps show that Lakeshore East and West rose by 53,400 daily riders over the April 1 to November 30 period on a base of 13.1 million.
By contrast, the off-peak service cuts during construction are claimed to have cost 12,480 passengers per day over the nine weekend shutdowns. This is a huge proportion of the weekend demand, and the citation should be verified.
The presentation’s author mixes counts for single days, periods of varying lengths, weekdays and weekends with no consistency. Percentage changes are cited in some cases, while in others absolute counts are used. There is little discussion of the interaction of factors such as convenience, lower fares, and station accessibility (by walking, transit, etc.).
There is little to document the research and rationale behind what the Board is voting on. It is simply not credible that there is no background report with further information, but Metrolinx has not made it available.
Operations Quarterly Update and Customer Experience Committee Report
Metrolinx crows about a recent service expansion to Niagara Falls:
In January, Metrolinx brought new GO train service to commuters in Niagara, several years ahead of schedule. The GO rail network now offers year-round weekday GO train service between Niagara Falls and Toronto. [p. 2. Operations Update]
To call this “weekday GO train service” is a bit of a stretch by comparison with the level and frequency people expect from GO Transit. The only weekday train from Niagara Falls to Toronto leaves at 5:19 am arriving in Toronto at 7:50 am. The return leaves at 5:15 pm from Union arriving in Niagara Falls at 7:42 pm. This may meet the letter of a campaign promise, but the majority of trips to Niagara Falls will continue to be provided by buses with a transfer to trains at Burlington.
Metrolinx managed to screw up service on the Kitchener corridor while attempting to improve it. The goal may have been laudable, but the implementation failed. Moreover, Metrolinx had strong pushback from their customer base about the way in which the change was implemented.
The January service changes had two primary focuses: provide Lakeshore West extensions to Niagara and extensions from Georgetown to Kitchener. To achieve this—while also adhering to CN spacing requirements for train services that operate over the territory they own near Bramalea GO Station—the afternoon Kitchener line schedule was adjusted to provide service approximately every 30 minutes from Union Station between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. This meant trips were spaced further apart to provide more consistent departure options for customers and to enable us to run our services in parallel with CN, which owns the rail corridor from Bramalea to Georgetown.
During the technical review, we were not aggressive enough in challenging restrictions that had been previously imposed around the length of our trains and we were optimistic in our mitigation plans for identified risks related to the increased spacing between trains and the removal of the popular 4:50 p.m. express trip. These gaps were further exacerbated by the timing of customer communications launch for the service changes, with the public announcement occurring only days before the seasonal holiday period. The timing of the change occurred on what was, for many of our customers, the first day back to work. [pp. 1-2 Customer Experience Report]
Riders were not impressed:
Key Issues Identified by Customers:
1. Timing of the announcement, schedule change and communication to customers: The initial public announcement coincided with the start of the Christmas Holidays, with the change taking effect January 7th.
2. Express train conversion to all stop: The conversion of the 4:50 p.m. train from an express to all stop and the change in trip time to 4:35 p.m. was perceived as a removal of service by customers. With the trip no longer stopping at Kitchener, those customers moved to the 17:02 train.
3. Crowding on Trains: The time changes and trip extensions to Kitchener resulted in customers migrating to different trains. Previous restrictions at Georgetown prevented the conversion of this trip to 12 coaches to add seating capacity.
4. General dissatisfaction with schedule: Customers in general did not like the new schedule. Kitchener-bound customers did not like the 90-minute service gap in the evening. With the removal of the express train, the timing of the 3:35 p.m. Kitchener-bound trip was not seen as a viable option for many customers. Kitchener customers on the 5:02 p.m. train were now arriving at 7:11 p.m. versus the previous express train scheduled arrival before 7 p.m.
5. Bus connections: Reduced timeframe from announcement to implementation did not allow for sufficient coordination with GO Bus Planning and municipal service providers, resulting in poor connection times.
6. Platform crowding at Union Station: Track changes created additional confusion that extended to customers on other corridors, namely Barrie. These adjustments created excessive crowding at platform level. The impacts at Union were underestimated. [Customer Experience Report, p. 2]
A few quick fixes were implemented to deal with crowding, although these were stop-gaps:
1. Effective January 8th and continuing through the end of January, Metrolinx has increased the number of staff at platform and concourse level in Union Station. Staff- including senior leadership – were on hand to direct customers safely to the right platforms and to engage directly to hear their concerns.
2. Effective January 14th, two coaches each were added to the 7:56 a.m. and 9:13 a.m. trips departing Kitchener and the 5:02 p.m. and 5:27 p.m. trips. The addition of 600 seats during peak periods alleviated crowing both on trains and at platform level. [Customer Experience Report, p. 3]
The express train will be restored soon:
Our customers were clear in telling us that the removal of the 16:50 express train created difficulty for them. We have worked with our partners at CN to find a solution that allows us to re-introduce this trip effective February 13th. [Operations Update, p. 2]
This shows the degree to which service in the Kitchener corridor is constrained by the needs of the host railways, in this case CN. Such problems also exist on other corridors where portions of the routes must be shared with freight traffic. Recently the proposed freight bypass project that was to improve capacity by eliminating the CN conflict on this corridor (and a CP conflict on the Milton line) was cancelled with a claim that Metrolinx has found a way around the problem, but there are few details or timelines for improvements.
Metrolinx will improve its analysis of planned service changes with a more detailed review of their potential effects:
The following principles have been embedded into our readiness process going forward:
Customer impact assessments will be conducted in addition to operational readiness. These assessments will incorporate customer analytics to understand and predict ridership patterns and shifting demand.
Changes will take effect mid-week, allowing for targeted reminder messaging to be in place immediately up to the new schedule date. Changes will not take place immediately following a holiday period.
Union Station will undergo an independent readiness assessment to identify collateral impacts. Platform assignments will undergo detailed risk assessments, incorporating pedestrian flow modelling into the review process.
Proposals will be brought to the Customer Experience Advisory Committee for review and debrief.
We will critically analyze and challenge restrictions that could have detrimental impacts on the customer experience (where we can safely do so).
In preparation for this upcoming change, we have begun weekly Executive Review panel sessions to add the unbiased perspective of 3 non-Operations Executives to the readiness process. [Customer Experience Report, p. 3]
It is unusual for a service change to trigger substantial negative publicity and this extensive a review in the public agenda. Was there a political imperative to implement the changes to provide “good news”? If so, this certainly backfired. The problems all speak to a last-minute change where proper co-ordination was not a priority.
Presto usage is up substantially over the corresponding period in 2017, and the ratio is growing likely reflecting the shift of TTC riders to Presto in advance of the end of Metropass sales. The monthly transaction counts were:
- October 43.6m, 51% above 2017
- November 46.4m, up 55%
- December 40.6m (a seasonal dip), up 60%
Although Presto use is still building on the TTC, in December more than half of all Presto boardings were on the TTC network.
Two changes are in the works:
In addition to selling PRESTO Tickets from Fare Vending Machines at TTC subway stations, Metrolinx plans to sell the single-ride, two-ride, and day pass Tickets from its retail partner locations (i.e. Shoppers Drug Mart) beginning late spring.
Metrolinx has been working with York Region Transit, Mississauga Transitway (MiWay) and the TTC on a PRESTO solution for customers who ride on the select bus routes that cross between York Region and Toronto or Mississauga and Toronto, and require two separate fares. Starting this spring, customers will be able to use their PRESTO card to pay both transit agency fares on these select routes. [p. 3]
The fare boundary fix eliminates the annoyance of separate fare media, but it does not address the larger question of fare integration or subsidies that might have come into effect with the May 2018 provincial budget.