The TTC Board meets on February 25 to discuss several reports and proposals. Among items on the agenda are:
- The monthly CEO’s Report
- Green Bus Program Update
- A Notice of Motion regarding the Five Year Service Plan and new vehicles
- A Notice of Motion regarding consolidated reporting of fare evasion enforcement and staff oversight
I will add to this article following the Board meeting with additional information from the discussions.
Notable by its absence from the CEO’s Report is any information on route crowding or improved metrics for service quality.
Trials of electric buses are in early days, and Toronto is a long way from seeing an entirely zero-emission fleet. My column this week in NOW Toronto present some of the history of evolving bus technology.
Commissioner Brad Bradford has a Notice of Motion which seeks to link spending on improved transit service to potential funding for new vehicles. While the recently improved City Building Fund provides more money for transit vehicles, this covers only one third of their cost and none of any future increase in operations. Bradford’s motion requests:
The TTC Board request that the TTC Chief Executive Officer, when engaging in negotiations with the provincial and federal governments for funding for the TTC’s vehicle procurement priorities, tie funding requests to the implementation of the TTC’s 5-Year Service Plan and service levels as prescribed by the strategy.
There are two problems with this stance.
First, if the TTC and Council choose not to actually fund the added service, this would imply that the capital funding should not come from other governments. I doubt that is Bradford’s intent, but the real issue is that there is no Council commitment to fund better TTC service. Other factors such as the jump in operating budgets to fund new lines such as Eglinton Crosstown and increased fare subsidies could crowd out spending on service.
Second, the scale of service increases proposed in the Service Plan is quite modest, and it really should be revisited. Sadly, the TTC chose not to include more aggressive options for expansion in the Plan even if only on an aspirational basis. Back in 2003, the strength of David Miller’s Ridership Growth Strategy was that it addressed what Toronto could do for modest increases in spending, but this approach has never been repeated.
Bradford also has a Notice of Motion that seeks to consolidate updates on two reports so that both sides of the revenue protection and enforcement issue can be seen by the Board together.
- Auditor General’s Report – Review of Toronto Transit Commission’s Revenue Operations
- Ombudsman Toronto Enquiry Report Review of the TTC’s Investigation of a February 18, 2018 Incident Involving Transit Fare Inspectors
Further discussion of fare issues and Presto are likely at the meeting.
Corktown residents have been complaining about unbearable noise from streetcars. TTC said that this issue would disappear with newer streetcars but that has not happened. I wonder if it might not be better to replace the extremely loud and noisy streetcars with very quiet and silent electric buses. Why not have a referendum in Corktown on this issue since it is not right for people from other parts of the city (such as myself) to be dictating what kind of transit Corktown residents should receive? Let us have this resolved locally and democratically.
Steve: I am regularly at this intersection and most streetcars making the east to south turn do not squeal loudly around the corner. This was certainly an issue when the line opened with CLRVs which were much noisier on that curve than the new Flexitys. The streetcars are not “extremely loud and noisy”, but clearly it is your agenda to portray them that way.
Two issues: First there are definitely places where TTC track maintenance is wanting and should fix some of the vibration issues (not to mention basic condition). We seem to go through cycles with the TTC where they get on top of track maintenance, and then it starts to slip for budgetary reasons, but the effect isn’t immediately obvious.
Second, I await the TTC’s report on what actual measurements now are at this location. There can definitely be variation, some of it weather related, but the question is how to address this short of abandoning the streetcars.
Remember that this spur down to the Distillery will eventually link to the eastern waterfront line on Queens Quay and south on Cherry to Villier’s Island, and it is an important part of the network.
I was at King and Sumach today as the streetcar I was on turned south, while another one headed north and west through the intersection. There was hardly a noise, never mind an unbearable screech.
I am also wondering where those “very quiet and silent” electric buses will come from. I’ve encountered the New Flyer XE40 buses often enough. While they don’t have a diesel exhaust noise, in no way are they silent. (Neither were the trolley coaches, back in the day.) With the extra weight of the battery pack, it would not surprise me if those same residents began complaining about the unbearable shaking caused by the buses on the road.
I walk by the King/Sumach intersection quite often and must say that I too seldom (VERY seldom) hear squealing. Not saying it never does but this may be a case of ‘give a dog a bad name”. I think TTC needs to do a full survey and monitoring project before doing anything.
Steve: There is also an issue with the complaint originating with what might be described as a “squeaky wheel” resident. She was not well-treated at the Board meeting having to wait over four hours to make a deputation on a simple item that should have been moved earlier in the agenda to leave the big issue – fare enforcement – to the end.
Councillor Wong-Tam’s letter to the TTC Board and CEO had a few technical details not included in the CP24 news report about streetcar noise at King & Sumach.
She said that only 10 Flexity streetcars have “noise dampening rings”; however, 26 streetcars are used on the 504A route. If she is correct then one might be listening to one of the 10 streetcars so equipped and conclude no problem.
She also identified “the eastbound switch at King and Sumach” as a cause of noise and vibration. There is both a facing-point and a trailing-point eastbound switch at the intersection; so I don’t know which is the problem. She also says that the TTC Engineering Department is testing “prototypes to develop a new and improved trailing switch design”.
Is there any more background info on “noise dampening rings” and the “improved trailing switch design”?
Steve: For the benefit of readers, the deck from the community meeting is here. Frankly it would not surprise me in all of the upheavals of vehicle assignments and carhouses over the past few years that the idea there are specific cars to be assigned to the 514/504A is lost in the mists of time. Obviously more cars need to be modified for this to be a general improvement to the fleet, not just to a handful of cars for one intersection.
There is a photo of the noisy switch, and it is the trailing point switch eastbound.
Is it known what is the problem with the BYD buses? Why are they not in service yet, despite having all arrived?
Steve: They only just arrived, and there are still issues that are being worked out as part of acceptance testing. There were problems with the other buses too, but they got here sooner.
I was on an Electric bus operating on 6 BAY. I thought that was a great testing ground (with a history of electric vehicles to boot) since it is a relatively simple route with generally mild changes in elevation over it’s course. If they can’t handle BAY they can’t handle anything more complex. I was surprised to subsequently see one on 161 ROGERS a route with much more complex elevation conditions (and of course, Rogers road itself involves a lot of lane changing). I hope these are successful, and I look forward to reading the TTC reports (and moreso your analysis) when the trial periods are ending.
The electric buses I was on appeared to be from the same manufacturer, is Toronto still getting 3 sets of 10 electric buses? (i.e. 10 buses each from three providers)
Steve: 10 from BYD (which have only recently arrived and are not yet in service). 25 each from Proterra and New Flyer. They are at Eglinton, Mount Dennis and Arrow Road garages respectively. Both 6 Bay and 161 Rogers Road operate from Mount Dennis. To see all three, you will have to visit routes in each garage’s territory, but you use any of the apps that give vehicle locations to track them down.
This is the TransSee link to see the routes and locations of the battery buses.