TTC Board Meeting June 16, 2021

The primary issue on the agenda for the June 16 meeting was the “near miss” in the subway in June 2020 and management’s failure to report this issue to the Board. Please see The “Near Miss” At Osgoode Station for further details on that item.

CEO’s Report

The CEO’s Report contained little new and included the usual statistics about which I have written before. These are supposed to be the “new improved” version, but they still hide more than they tell.

  • Service reliability:
    • “On time” performance is still measured only at terminals, and is reported on an all day basis.
      • For the subway, the target is that headways be no more than 1.5 times the scheduled value.
      • For surface routes, the target is that departures be within a window of +1/-5 minutes to schedule.
  • Subway capacity:
    • These values are reported as averages from several locations over the peak periods.
    • The index is the percentage of scheduled service operated, not the number of trains. This measures what proportion of planned service was provided, not the absolute amount of service or demand.
  • Vehicle reliability:
    • In many cases, the reported kilometres-between-defect numbers appear to be capped and do not reflect the actual maxima achieved nor the month-to-month variations.
    • Subway reliability changes are, in cases, reported to be affected by line closure that reduce the amount of mileage the fleet accumulates. This should only affect distance-based metrics if the failures are a function of something other than distance and if cars are prone to break down even if they are used less.
    • eBus reliability shows consolidated results for all three vendors with average MDBF values generally above the target of 24,000 km. This does not align with comments in the Financial update (see below).

A major concern for the TTC is the growing number of assaults on employees. This is a trend seen across the transit industry, according to TTC management, and it is related to the pandemic, stress levels and arguments over fares and masking. This index is measured per 100 employees and reported quarterly. In 1Q21, the value grew above 6 offenses per 100 employees per quarter.

Offenses against riders are also up compared to the pre-pandemic era, although the number is falling. This index is measured per-million-boardings, not as an absolute value. If riding falls, but offenses do not fall at the same rate, then the index goes up. Conversely, growing ridership could cause the index to fall even if the number of events does not. A common problem, according to management, is fights on the subway.

Although the Board sought more details, management did not have the detailed stats to hand and could only report limited anecdotal information.

Customer mask use continues to be reported at over 96 per cent, with only a few percent above that wearing masks improperly. Very few riders were observed unmasked.

Ridership has not changed much in the past month, and the stay-at-home order, only recently expired, has reduced demand.

Average weekday boardings were 502,000 on bus routes (36% of pre-COVID), 286,000 on subway lines (19% of pre-COVID) and 81,000 on streetcar routes (23% of pre-COVID) for the week ending April 24, 2021. There was a small increase in boardings for all modes the last week of April.

CEO’s Report, p. 11

Bus occupancy continues to be reported as well below the level seen in September 2020. Like many TTC stats, this chart shows all route, all day values and does not break out hot spots and times. There is no reporting of where “Run As Directed” buses are used or of their efficacy in reducing crowding.

This chart will bear watching as demand grows with relaxed pandemic rules and later in the year with a resumption of in person activities in schools, some work locations and entertainment venues.

Financial Update

The quarterly financial update tracks the ongoing status of the Operating Budget and major Capital Budget projects.

On the Operating side, the TTC projects a shortfall in revenue because ridership has not recovered at the expected rate in the first months of the year. This will be almost completely offset by reduced expenses over the year. In the short term, the TTC is running ahead of budget because cost reductions have exceeded revenue losses, but this is not expected to last as service ramps up to handle demand growth through the second half of the year.

The key indicators for operations are shown in the table below:

Note that the TTC projects it will schedule about 3 per cent less service hours over the year than originally planned, and for the year-to-date has actually scheduled about 5 per cent fewer hours than budgeted due to lower than expected demand. This falls more heavily on the subway which is operating at 87 percent of normal service levels, while bus and streetcar services are at 97 and 95 percent respectively.

The actual versus budgeted ridership is illustrated in the chart below.

Service levels are planned to begin rising in September with a return to 100 per cent of service budgeted for January 2022 when ridership is expected to hit 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

With ridership at only 50 percent at the start of 2022, the City and TTC will continue to be challenged to operate 100 per percent service levels. Provincial and federal support programs are based on their fiscal years which end on March 31. Funding for Covid support for much of 2022 is an unknown. This will be a major budget issue.

On the Capital side, there are only a few projects with significant news.

The major overhaul of streetcars now in progress to repair manufacturing defects on the first of the fleet will not complete in 2021.

The projected underspending on the 204 LRV procurement is due to project closure activities not being completed until 2022. The Major Repair Program, also included in this project, is tracking behind schedule due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Alstom’s production facilities to temporarily shut down in late March 2020. Currently, Alstom is working on accelerating the program to be completed by the end of 2022.

Financial Update, p. 18

This will affect the level of service that can be provided on the streetcar network, and the expected return of buses to bus routes will be delayed.

On the Line 1 ATC project, revenue service is planned to extend from Rosedale to Eglinton in 4Q21. Completion to Finch would be in 3Q22. There is an issue at Eglinton Station due to the Crosstown project and the timing of the shift in platform stopping location further north as planned for the new links to the Crosstown concourse below the subway station.

On the eBus project, vehicle reliability is cited as a key issue:

Vehicle Reliability and Fleet Availability: Only one (New Flyer Industries) of three vendors for e-Buses are meeting availability and reliability targets. Action Plan: The TTC is working with all vendors on a daily basis to improve both vehicle availability and reliability to address these issues through root cause analysis, vehicle modifications and improvements for the supply chain.

Financial Update, p. 33

This raises questions about the planned split tender for eBuses and how the TTC will deal with a vendor that has not met reliability targets. A further update on the head-to-head competition between vendors is due in 1Q22 but the RFP for buses will be issued in 4Q21 for deliveries in 2023.

3 thoughts on “TTC Board Meeting June 16, 2021

  1. Great! These e-Buses don’t meet our requirements or targets so let’s buy hundreds of them anyway! What could possibly go wrong?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If only NFI is meeting availability and reliability targets why not just buy vehicles from them and not do [a] split tender.

    Steve: I suspect that there is heavy lobbying from BYD who were doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to push their product, and have lobbied the Deputy Mayor who is also a TTC Board member. It will be interesting to see whether their performance improves by the time an order is placed, or if their is political pressure to tweak the numbers and buy from them no matter what. TTC is not currently reporting performance figures for each vendor separately.

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  3. With ATC scheduled to be completed on Line 1 in 3Q22, what will happen to the door guards? These guards account for nearly half of the workforce out of Wilson subway. Is another master signup on the horizon?

    Steve: According to the Star, the move to One Person Train Operation (OPTO in TTC lingo) is to start this August, although ATU Local 113 is fighting this.

    Also, I heard that the TTC will be operating the Eglinton LRT for the duration of a 10 year contract. Is it likely that LRT operations could potentially be contracted out following the completion of the10 year contract?

    Steve: Who knows how Metrolinx will be run and what the provincial policies about transit operations in 10 years. If it were the current crew, they would drop the TTC out of sheer spite. Another government, another story.

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