TTC Plans Service Cuts and Layoffs (Updated)

Updated April 27, 2020 at 11:10 am: A modified and expanded version of this article appears on the NOWToronto website.

In response to a steep fall in ridership, the TTC plans to implement service cuts and reduce its staff complement by layoffs.

Service capacity will be reduced to match demand, taking into account the need for physical distancing by riders. Many of the changes have already occurred as the TTC dealt with staff shortages from illness and quarantine, but this will make the changes official within the schedules. These include reduced service levels and the end of many peak period services. The 14x and 9xx series of express services have already been discontinued, along with the 508 Lake Shore Tripper. Other cuts are likely such as “school trippers” for which there are no students, and the rush hour bus extras on streetcar routes.

Full details of service changes to take effect on the Victoria Day weekend will be released by the TTC on May 4, according to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green. Service will be maintained “at roughly 70-80 per cent of regular levels” according to the TTC’s news release. “Particular focus remains on servicing priority routes within the bus network in a way that allows for good physical distancing.”

The May schedules are traditionally a point where the first wave of summer cuts are implemented (those related to post-secondary institutions), and the second wave normally comes at the end of June. The reduction in service allows for a greater proportion of vacations in the summer months, but with layoffs, the drop is clearly going to be more than Toronto normally sees during this season.

About 1,000 transit operators and 200 non-union staff positions will be affected by the layoff. According to a letter from CEO Rick Leary to all staff, “The TTC will be working to establish a compensation and benefits arrangement for employees to minimize negative impacts as a result of the layoffs.”

Other changes to address the budget crunch brought on by lost fare revenue include “pausing” all non-union salary increases, reducing overtime, reviewing all vacant positions, and going without the usual summer seasonal hiring.

On the capital side of the budget, all “non-essential” projects will be delayed, but the TTC has not published a list of what this entails.

Combined with other savings such as utilities and fuel thanks to the reduced level of operations, the TTC expects to reduce its ongoing losses by $25 million per month from the current level of $90 million.

It is no surprise that the Amalgamated Transit Local 113 is not happy with this situation. Carlos Santos, president of Local 113, wrote to his members:

This is the “thank you” our members get for sacrificing themselves day in and day out for putting their families and themselves at risk. No doubt, this feels like a punch to the gut after all the hard work our members are doing to keep Toronto moving throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Almost 30 of you have tested positive for COVID-19. You deserve better than today’s announcement. The federal and provincial governments need to step in and provide emergency relief funding for the TTC.

This speaks to the heart of the issue: the level at which governments other than the City of Toronto itself will act to support transit through this difficult time. Even with the decline in economic activity and travel, the need for physical distancing by riders dramatically lowers the capacity of transit service, and this drives up the cost per ride substantially. The question is what is the appropriate balance between keeping a transit at a level that actually serves the many who still require it, and reining in costs. Even at only 20 percent of its normal demand, the TTC carries hundreds of thousands of trips per day and these cannot be replaced easily or economically by other modes. For many, many Torontonians, travel is built on transit.

One substantial problem for the TTC in reviewing potential service cuts is that the subway network has a considerable, fixed cost regardless of how many riders it carries. Infrastructure must be maintained and kept safe, and standby technical staff must be available to handle a wide variety of problems. Operators driving the trains are only part of the total needed for all aspects of subway operations.

That has implications for surface routes which are always the poor cousins of transit service. Whether the cuts will fall disproportionately there as they did in past recessions remains to be seen.

Planned Changes to King, Queen, Roncesvalles and The Queensway for 2021

Correction: This item was to have been approved by Council at its April 1, 2020 meeting, but that was cancelled. The item is still pending approval.

Update: This item was approved by Council at its meeting of April 30, 2020.

Toronto Council Infrastructure and Environment Committee recently approved the long-awaited changes at the intersection of King, Queen and Roncesvalles, and on The Queensway to occur in 2021. The detailed construction staging plan is not yet available, but the overall plans were part of the city’s report. This work had originally been planned a few years back, but was delayed for various reasons including conflicts with other  projects and the desire to bundle all works affecting this area in one major undertaking.

The transit work includes extension of the “new” Roncesvalles street design south to include the stops just north of Queen, reconfiguration of the intersection between the four streets, and extension of the transit right-of-way on The Queensway from Claude (east of Parkside) east to Roncesvalles.

King-Queen-Roncesvalles-Queensway Intersection

This intersection, which has been the subject of iconic photos in the TTC’s history, will be reconfigured as shown below. The biggest change is the realignment of the approach tracks from King Street so that they meet Queen Street in a conventional 90 degree configuration rather than the angled approach today. At the same time, the eastbound traffic channel that allows traffic to slip past the intersection onto King Street will be removed.

The eastbound carstop will be moved farside with a bump-out platform similar to those used on Roncesvalles Avenue.

The eastbound approach to the intersection will include four lanes: streetcars (reserved), left turns, through, and right turns. With the farside eastbound carstop, it is clear that the City is not anticipating a lot of through traffic. Traffic signals will be changed to use only two phases rather than the lengthy three-phase cycle now in place.

This arrangement greatly improves the safety for pedestrians crossing to and from the southwest corner of the intersection which provides access to the bridge over the Gardiner to Sunnyside Beach.

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Transit Workers Deserve Protection

My latest for NOW Toronto: Coronavirus: Strike ups pressure on TTC to protect drivers

A simmering dispute between TTC management and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 boiled over when a small number of drivers at two divisions refused work on health and safety grounds. The core of the dispute is the difference between each party’s idea of what protection is “needed”, and the union’s claim that TTC has been slow and inconsistent in provision of safety gear. That is an issue that extends beyond the Covid pandemic, but the breadth of potential exposure in this case is much greater than environmental concerns in some work locations.

The problem also affects maintenance workers who, by the nature of their jobs, may have difficulty maintaining the 2 metre separation. Most of the public discussion has been about drivers, but the maintenance workers are just as important because without them vehicles and drivers never get out of the garage, and track and signals just don’t get fixed.

Update: After the article went online, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green (@TTCStuart) tweeted:

1/3 We have received the first shipment of multi-use disposable polypropylene masks – washable up to three times. We have 15,000 now with another 10,000 arriving Monday. Another 75,000 of these masks will be coming over the next three weeks.

2/3 These masks are being distributed to bus divisions now and are intended as an interim measure while we manufacture and distribute reusable cloth masks over the next two to three weeks. That work is already underway.

3/3 This weekend, bus operators will receive two masks each to start along with their gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. All operators will be supplied with masks in a phased approach and are optional to wear.

The intent is to roll out this program first at the bus divisions because drivers there have the greatest potential exposure to the public, then to the streetcar divisions.

TTC Repeats Penalty-Free Offer for Monthly Pass Cancellation

The TTC is repeating its offer, first made in mid-March, for monthly pass subscribers on Presto to cancel their subscriptions without penalty. This must be done by April 22 when the automatic renewals for May will kick in.

A still-outstanding question is whether the TTC will offer partial refunds for the March passes which most riders were unable to use after many businesses and other activities were curtailed or closed. According to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green, this matter has not been decided yet.

Streetcars Return to 505 Dundas on April 20, 2020 (Updated)

With the switch to buses on the 511 Bathurst, the 505 Dundas route will resume streetcar operation on Monday, April 20, 2020.

Service on the 504B King and 505 Dundas to Broadview Station will be replaced by buses for one week from Sunday April 19 to Saturday April 25 for track work on Broadview at Wolfrey and neighbouring areas. This could also include modification of the overhead on Broadview between Gerrard and Danforth for pantograph operation. New poles have appeared at several locations where curves that are not pan-compliant are still in place.

504B King streetcars will loop via Parliament, Dundas and Broadview. The 504A service will continue to operate to Distillery Loop.

505 Dundas streetcars will loop via Parliament, Gerrard and Broadview.

A shuttle bus will operate between Broadview Station and King & Parliament.

Work at Broadview Station on the extended 504 King platform is nearly complete, and this should relieve some of the streetcar queuing on Broadview outside of the station, an important consideration once the 505 Dundas streetcars are added to the traffic there.

511 Bathurst Switches to Bus Operation

Three major construction projects will affect the 511 Bathurst route through 2020:

  • Reconstruction of the bridge over the rail corridor south of Front Street.
  • Track replacement on Bathurst from south of Dundas Street to north of Wolseley Loop.
  • Track replacement at Bathurst Station Loop.

Beginning April 20, buses will replace streetcars on Bathurst for the remainder of the year. At the south end of the route, because of the configuration of the intersection at Lake Shore/Fleet and Bathurst, the buses will divert via Fort York Boulevard as shown in the TTC notice below.

For the track replacement between Dundas and Wolseley Loop, welding of rail into strings was supposed to begin soon, but this has been postponed (as has similar work on Howard Park east of High Park Loop). The construction periods for these projects have not yet been announced.

At Bathurst Station, track replacement on Bathurst Street and inside the station itself is planned to occur between June 21 and September 5. During this work, routes 511 Bathurst and 7 Bathurst Bus will divert to Spadina Station. Arrangements for the 307 Bathurst Night Bus have not been announced.

TTC Service in the 1950s

My collection of Scheduled Service Summaries has been updated with scans of three versions from 1954, 1956 and 1959.

Of interest among these is the expansion of the suburban bus network, and the very high level of service on routes in the “old” City of Toronto. The Yonge Subway existed between Eglinton and Union, but all other transit was surface routes with streetcars and buses.

Open the page linked above, and scroll down to the bottom. Note that this page is included under the “Reference Material” navigation tab if you are looking for it in the future.

King Street Update: March 2020 Part I

This is the first of three articles updating information in my series of posts last fall [Part I, Part II, and Part III] with data to March 31, 2020.

In the first part of this series, I will review service reliability from the point of view of travel times across the “pilot” area between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets. In the second part, I will turn to reliability from the point of view of headways consistency and service gapping. Finally, I will turn to service capacity.

As I have worked through the data, I cannot help having the sense of looking back at a very different city, one that had busy streets full of transit riders. This will return, eventually, but it will be a long climb that has much more to do with scientific advances in disease control than transportation planning.

The effect of the city’s shutdown is evident in data for March 2020 as traffic and riding disappeared, and so, to some extent, did service.

Service changes during this period affecting the King Street corridor included:

  • November 25, 2019:
    • The 14x Express routes were shifted to King Street from Richmond and Adelaide Streets to use a less-congested path through the core area.
    • Two Christmas extras were added on 504 King between Charlotte Loop (Spadina) and the Distillery.
    • Service on 503 Kingston Road was improved by the consolidation of 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road as one route.
  • January 2020:
    • 508 Lake Shore operated, for a time, with buses in place of streetcars due to a shortage of vehicles.
  • Mid-March 2020 (reduced riding and staff availability):
    • 504 King service declined.
    • 503 Kingston Road service was cut back to a shuttle between Bingham Loop (Victoria Park) and Woodbine Loop (at Queen).
    • 508 Lake Shore and 14x Express routes ceased operating because they are peak period trippers.

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Transit in a Time of Crisis

My latest piece for NOW Toronto looks at how the transit industry, and Toronto’s TTC and GO systems, are affected by and reacting to the Covid-19 crisis.

Not included in the NOW version are hyperlinks to the websites of many transit agencies I cited. Here they are. To the degree possible, given varying navigation paths of each website, the links go to the page with information about service and fare changes.