Service Reliability on 65 Parliament: September 2021

This article continues a series reviewing service quality on some of the TTC’s shorter routes that generally escape notice when buses like Dufferin and Finch come under fire for erratic operation.

Overview

65 Parliament is a very short route operating from Castle Frank Station on Line 2 BD south to The Esplanade. The 2022 Service Plan proposes extending the route south to Queens Quay to the loop at Corus Quay serving George Brown College.

The service design during September 2021 is shown below:

Although the scheduled headway varies from 11 to 20 minutes, the actual headway operated can at times be well over half an hour either because buses are missing from the route, or because the limited number of vehicles on the route are running in pairs.

In the headway charts below, I have extended the vertical scale from the 0-30 minute range used in past articles to 0-60 minutes so that the data points will be visible.

Southbound From Castle Frank Station

The screenline for the data here is on Bloor Street west of Castle Frank Station.

In spite of this route being short, there is a wide dispersion in headway values as the charts show. In a pattern seen on other routes, the standard deviation of the headways (dotted lines in the first chart) lie between 0 and 5 minutes for the first few hours of service, but rise substantially thereafter. This is a measure of the degree to which headways diverge from the mean value.

Those means show their own variation on a week-by-week basis indicating that the number of trips (and hence the average headway) was not consistent across the month. Day by day breakdowns are in the rest of the charts.

Days with very wide gaps and bunching are not rare oddities, but are a common situation on this route.

Northbound From Front

The screenline for the data here is on Front Street just east of Berkeley which is the start of the south end loop.

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TTC Plans Service Trimming in November 2021

The TTC has announced that for the schedules coming into effect on November 21, 2021, service will be trimmed in response to the reduction in staff available due to the Covid vaccination mandate.

The plans are focused on protecting and maintaining scheduled service on the busiest routes

TTC Media Release, October 27, 2021

The TTC will give priority to the busiest routes in the system and the busiest times of the day, particularly bus routes where ridership has returned more strongly than on other parts of the network. The announcement cited “Wilson, Jane, Eglinton, Finch and Lawrence East, among others”.

Changes on other routes are described as similar to seasonal adjustment for summer and Christmas/New Years. The hours of service will not change. The level of service will be based on TTC Service Standards.

Operators will be made available for service in several ways:

  • Capital projects will be temporarily deferred and weekend/night-time closures will be cancelled so that shuttle bus operators are available for regular service.
  • New operator hiring will continue over “the next several months”.
  • Operators now used for moving vehicles between divisions will be redeployed to regular service.
  • Recently retired operators will be invited to return to work on a temporary basis.

Employees who are unvaccinated or have not shared their status by the end of the day on Nov. 20 will be placed on unpaid leave until they receive all their required vaccine doses, or Dec. 31, whichever comes first.

These measures do not apply to employees with an approved Ontario Human Rights Code exemption.

As of today, 88 per cent of the agency’s 15,090 active employees have shared their COVID-19 vaccination status. In total, close to 86 per cent of unionized, and 94 per cent of non-unionized employees have shared their status with the vast majority already fully vaccinated.

TTC Media Release, October 27, 2021

When I receive the detailed memo of planned service changes, I will produce the usual breakdown for readers.

Although I am sympathetic to the labour-management strain of this situation, there are a few home truths for either side.

Operators are in an essential, public-facing role. Both their vaccination and disclosure to the TTC should not be up for debate. This should not be a matter either on the basis of one’s political preference or as a side-effect of the contentious labour-management relationship.

A major problem today with service quality is that route supervision is sorely lacking, especially at evenings and weekends, as my ongoing series of route-based reviews shows. Operators who habitually run nose-to-tail with other vehicles, and supervisors who do not break up such bunching, are equally to blame.

A further problem exists in a shortage of operators for the scheduled service today. Buses vanish from service when relief operators fail to appear to take over vehicles. The missing buses compound other service reliability issues.

As for management, statistics purporting to show that good service is provided tell more about the pursuit of gold stars on their report cards, than of a real care for service quality. At the political level, the TTC Board seems utterly unwilling to demand that the organization provide reliable service and that metrics truly reflecting what riders see are used to monitor quality.

The TTC claims that they have run-as-directed buses to fill gaps. However, the prevalence of gaps on the few routes I have already reviewed in detail implies that the number of RAD buses is far fewer needed for this task. The generally laissez-faire attitude to route management suggests nobody even notices or cares when service is out of whack, much less dispatches RADs to fill in. The TTC produces no report showing how these vehicles were used, and they are difficult to track with the vehicle location data feeds. There is also a basic question of how these vehicles can fill gaps when they are also used for subway shuttles.

These will be difficult months for riders just at a time when demand on the system builds up again. The TTC refers to its Service Standards, but riders on any busy route will recount tales of overcrowded vehicles and pass-ups of waiting passengers. With erratic service it is impossible to know which of these situations are due to route overcrowding and which to poorly regulated vehicle spacing.

The TTC tells riders that service meets “standards”, but those are based on averages and have wide margins for missing targets. The effect is something like a guarantee that the sun will shine and weather will be good “on average”.

I hope that drivers who have not disclosed do so and are able to return to work as soon as possible. This is not a case of “individual rights” but of workplace and public safety. As for those who have no legitimate reason to go unvaccinated, let them find work elsewhere if anyone will hire them.

As for TTC management, it is time to acknowledge problems of bunching and gapping, and to actively work against them. The TTC Board should demand this as a basic management goal. If management is unwilling or unable, then find new management.

TTC service is only as good as the TTC makes it, and recovery, even without staffing challenges, depends on doing the best possible for riders.

Service Reliability on 63 Ossington: September 2021

This article continues a series about service quality on some of the TTC’s shorter routes.

63 Ossington has a similar scale to the 47 Lansdowne reviewed in the previous article in this series. Although the service is far from ideal, this route is better behaved than its neighbour, even though it is subject to severe traffic congestion at certain times near its northern terminal due to Line 5 Crosstown construction.

All service on 63 Ossington operates between Liberty Village and Eglinton West Station except during peak periods when half of the service turns back at St. Clair via Oakwood Loop.

The schedules were changed on Labour Day weekend, and so data shown here for the first week of September reflects the old schedule, while from Sunday, September 5 onward, the new schedules were in effect.

In most cases running times have been trimmed although in a few periods they have been lengthened. These changes allowed more frequent service to be scheduled without adding buses to the route. This is a reversal of past TTC practice which has seen headways widened as a way to provide more running time at no marginal cost.

The TTC’s goal for “on time performance” is a band six minutes wide (+1 to -5 minutes relative to schedule), and in some periods, much of the service lies within this band. Nonetheless, on headways ranging from 5 to 10 minutes, bunching is possible and shows up regularly with data points near the x-axis of these charts. Wide gaps, especially at evenings and weekends, are common.

Unlike Lansdowne, this route has no branching structure during most of its operation, particularly when headways are wider. Also, as we will see later in the daily analyses, the congestion at Eglinton West Station occurs mainly during the pm peak, and buses have enough running time that they can take layovers there even after being stuck in traffic approaching the station.

Northbound from King

At the south end of the route, buses operate around a long on-street loop through Liberty Village. Their typical layover point is on Atlantic Avenue northbound south of King Street. The screenline used for these analyses is on Shaw Street just north of King where the loop begins.

The weekly headway summary and the week-by-week charts show the schedule change with the shape of the weekly averages and daily trendlines.

Weekend data points are far more spread out than weekdays showing a very different approach to service management (assuming that there is any) especially on Sundays.

Southbound From Eglinton West Station

The screenline for these charts is at Eglinton & Park Hill Road, just west of the Allen Expressway. By contrast with the data at the south end of the route, weekday headways here are more scattered, especially in week 1. The standard deviation of headways begins the day in most weeks at about 3 minutes, but rises in the afternoon and evening as service reliability declines. The SD values at Eglinton West are generally higher than at King reflecting the wider scatter in headway values.

Southbound from St. Clair

These charts are included for weekdays to show the combined 63A and 63B peak service southbound from St. Clair. With all of the service present, the headways are shorter during peak periods, and far more of them are quite short indicating that buses from the two branches probably run in pairs a lot.

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The TTC’s New Website

Updated October 27, 2021 at 9:30am

On October 23, 2021, the TTC’s new website went live.

The old site can be accessed on the Internet Archive. (Note that parts of the site such as schedule lookups do not work because they are not archived, and other archived pages are a tad long in the tooth.)

I have already flagged some issues with it to the TTC, and I am sure regular readers will find others.

Outstanding Problems:

  • There is no search function. If you don’t know where something is, you may never find it.
    • On October 25, the TTC advised: “We have disabled search deliberately until our site is indexed by search engines. This process can take a couple [of] days. When a website first launches, the pages need to be indexed (found) by search engines.”
  • There is a page for the 5 & 10 year service plan and outlook, but it is out of date with content from 2019. The 2022 plan has its own page.
  • Added October 26 at 6:10pm: The following pages formerly linked from a “Major Projects” page have vanished:
    • Bloor-Yonge Station expansion
    • Line 1 ATC (There is a summary page about ATC, but this was migrated from another part of the old site.)
    • Line 1 Capacity Improvements
    • Line 2 ATC
    • Line 2 Capacity Improvements
    • New Western Yard
  • There is no redirection for the many broken links that will now be encountered as people click on search engine results and links from any website pointing to a TTC article, report, etc. There is not even a website map to give a hint where things might have moved (if they are there at all).
  • Myttc profile problems:
    • The ability to subscribe to alerts for all routes has been removed.
      • New routes (e.g. various 9xx express bus routes) and those that have been renumbered (e.g. Bay and Avenue Road) must be manually added to the subscription.
    • The “delete a route” function (garbage can beside route names in the edit dialog) does not work.
    • Some streetcar routes (5xx) are listed in both bus and streetcar route dropdown selections.

Problems That Have Been Partly Fixed

  • The map for 121 Esplanade-River still reflected the old Fort York-Esplanade configuration. However, the schedule data did show the correct stop list, or at least the list as it existed before the recent route change due to one-way stretches on The Esplanade.
    • As of October 26 at 7:45am, the map has been updated, but the route description has not.
  • There was no map nor route description for new express services 943 Kennedy and 968 Warden.
    • As of October 26 at 7:45am, a map for the 943 has been added.
    • As of October 27 at 9:10am, a map for the 968 has been added.
  • I attempted to submit a collection of problems via the “Suggestions” form on the Customer Service page, but it threw up a “Forbidden” error when I clicked on “submit”. TTC advised on October 26 that they are receiving the submission in spite of the error message. As of October 27 at 9:25am, this function appears to work with a shorter submitted text, but there is no indication of what the limit/problem might be.

Problems That Have Been Fixed

  • The agenda page for the most recent TTC Board meeting (September 15) was listed with “past meetings”, but claimed that it has not happened yet.
    • On October 25, the TTC advised: “We are aware and are looking into this and will correct it this week.”
    • As of October 26 at 7:45am, this has been fixed.
  • The Daily Customer Service Report was for September 16, 2021.
    • As of October 26 at 6:15pm, this page is now current.
  • Three pages which I thought have vanished are now listed under the “Transparency” page, although their content was out of date. Updated pages were online when I checked on October 27 at 9:10am.
    • The Planning page with various stats, service summaries, etc. (The most recent service summary was from November 2019)
  • MyTTC:
    • The password reset page included the text “Verbiage for reactivation!” where one would expect to find instructions.
    • As of October 26 at 7:45am, the list of routes subscribed to is now in ascending order with no duplicates.

These problems suggest that the old site was ported over about a month ago and did not pick up recent updates except where they are dynamic (e.g. schedule information).

An important reference page for readers who take photos on the TTC is under a “Doing Business With the TTC” linked from the footer on each page. It is vital for dealing with obtuse TTC staff who think that photography is not allowed on the TTC. It is banned “for commercial purposes” under section 3.17 of TTC Bylaw Number 1, or more generally if it interferes with “with the safe and orderly operation of the transit system and/or our customers”.

I hate to say this, but the website migration is precisely the sort of thing I expect from an organization dedicated to “customer service” in name more than substance.

Maybe it will win an award, just like their last website did in a “contest” where sites and developers could nominate themselves, and there were so many categories, it was almost impossible to lose.

Service Reliability on 47 Lansdowne: September 2021

This article continues a series reviewing service on relatively short routes within the TTC network in areas where one might expect service reliability to be easily achieved.

Overview

The southern part of the route lies between St. Clair and Queen Street. Every second bus continues north to Yorkdale Station on what was once a separate 18 Caledonia route. (These routes will be split apart at Caledonia Station in 2022 when Line 5 Crosstown opens.) During peak periods, the Yorkdale branch splits at the north end with an alternate route via Orfus to Yorkdale Station.

In addition to the type of problems shown in the previous articles on 22 Coxwell, 47 Lansdowne suffers from having what should be a blended frequent service on the common portion of the route. However, headways are not reliable either from the point where the branches merge at St. Clair southbound, nor at Queen northbound, the route’s southern terminus.

This schedule was in effect from September 1 to 4.

This is the schedule in effect from September 5 onward.

Change-offs, Breakdowns and Crew Changes

A common effect seen across the route is for a bus to disappear from service and, eventually, to be replaced by another in the same relative position.

  • In some cases, the same bus re-appears more or less where it disappeared indicating that it probably sat out of service awaiting a new operator.
  • In some cases, notably early in the day, a bus will remain in service for one trip or less, and then disappear. This implies that the bus was somehow faulty rather taken out of service because of a missed crew change.
  • In some cases, it is possible that a crew change is done by bringing a new bus into service from the garage replacing both the operator and the vehicle. This is not a scheduled event as can easily be seen by comparing operations on similar days (weekday to weekday, for example).

Where buses are missing for even a partial trip on a branch with a wide headway like the 47B Yorkdale service, the resulting gap can be very wide. These events are not reported as part of overall service quality and standards, just as bunching is not reported because it can often occur within the “approved standards” and their considerable margin for exceptions.

Northbound from Queen

Headways from Queen are measured north of Seaforth, the north end of the on-street loop. The averages and standard deviations of headways are well-behaved only for the first few hours of the day, and they deteriorate from 9am onward. There is considerable difference in values from week to week.

Note that because of the schedule change on the Labour Day weekend, the shape of the trendlines in week 1 of these charts are different than in weeks 2 to 5.

The clouds of data points span a range above 15 minutes for most of the day. This corresponds to the point where the standard deviation values rise after the am peak period. There are so many days with very short headways that I will not review each one in detail here, but give a sample. Days with very wide headways are of particular interest because this typically indicates either that buses are missing, or that bunching of more than two vehicles occurs.

This set of charts is particularly important because it shows the service at a terminal before the effects of passenger loads or congestion could disrupt service. This is also, as of September 5, a new set of schedules where any problems with the schedule itself should have been resolved. If anything, the service is worse in weeks 2 to 5 than in week 1, although this could be due to other factors.

Saturdays show bad bunching and gapping throughout the month. Sundays also show very erratic service except, oddly enough, on Labour Day (an honourary Sunday for these charts) when headways lie much closer around the trend line.

Southbound from Yorkdale Station at Bridgeland

The screenline for these charts is on Caledonia south of Bridgeland where route turns east to serve Yorkdale Station. As above, the shape of the week 1 chart differs from other weeks because of the schedule change.

Only half of the service reaches this point because of the 47A scheduled turnback at St. Clair. As at other locations, the SD values are high, but they are particularly so thanks to the wide scheduled headways and greater dispersion of data values. Weekend service is particularly unreliable with headways ranging over a wide span.

Note that some values go above the Y-axis cutoff, that is to say above half an hour.

Southbound from St. Clair

Service at St. Clair includes both the 47A buses originating at Earlscourt Loop and the 47B/C service from Yorkdale via Caledonia. The SD values are typical of a midroute location where branching services “merge” with little regard for each other. The clouds of headway values are spread over a wide range with values far from the average/scheduled service.

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Transit Service Reliability on Short Routes

A common theme in these pages is the TTC’s constant problem with providing reliable service. Many problematic routes lie outside of the core on long east-west routes that must deal with varying traffic conditions, the difficulties of blending branched services, and a faster return of demand and post-pandemic traffic levels than in the central area.

These are not excuses for poor service, but at least represent some of the challenges faced. This is not true for short routes primarily in the old City. For these routes, a trip between Eglinton and Lake Ontario is comparatively long, and some reach only a few kilometres from Line 2 Bloor-Danforth south.

They should be routes that run like a clock, but they suffer many problems seen on their longer cousins outside of the core. If the TTC cannot operate these reliably, how can we expect them to fare with behemoths like east-west routes on Lawrence or Finch, or routes from Line 2 north to Steeles and beyond?

This article is an introduction to a series that will examine service on:

A factor among many of these routes is that service is not particularly frequent. If there is a bus missing, or pack of buses running together (effectively the same thing), the gap is wide. The added waiting time (assuming a rider bothers) can be greater than the time they will spend riding from point “A” to “B” on the route. Waiting times hurt transit because riders see them as unproductive, and this can be compounded by uncertainty about the next bus’s arrival and capacity.

Here is an overview of service frequencies on these routes during selected periods. Some of these have 10 minute or better service during some periods, but many do not.

RouteAM PeakMiddayEveningSat AftSat EveSun AftSun Eve
22A Coxwell (Victoria Park)10′9’30”10′10′10′
22B Coxwell (Queen)8’20”8’20”
47A Lansdowne (South)4’45”9′6′8’30”10′9′10′
47B/C Lansdowne (North)9’30”18′12′17′20′18′20′
63A Ossington (Eglinton)9′7’30”8′7′10′8′10′
63B Ossington (S of St. Clair)4’30”
65 Parliament13′13′17′20′17′18′16′
70 O’Connor (South)10′11′13′13′11′11’30”15′
70 O’Connor (North)20′22′26′26′22′23′30′
72 Pape (on Pape)6′9’30”9′9′9′9′9′
72B Pape (to Union)19′19′18′18′18′18′18′
75 Sherbourne5’30”7’30”16′10′30′20′30′
94 Wellesley (East)7’30”7’30”8’30”6’30”9′6’15”9′
94 Wellesley (West)15′15′17′13′9′12’30”9′
Source: TTC Scheduled Service Summary for September 5, 2021

Common problems on these routes include:

  • Buses running in groups of two or more.
    • In some cases, pairs of buses run together over the course of two or more trips indicating that there is no effort made to evenly space service.
    • For branching services, buses on each branch do not blend evenly where the branches combine.
    • In the worst case situations, all of the vehicles on the route are running as a pack.
  • Buses missing from service, with the remaining buses not spaced to account for the gap. In some cases, a route is served by only one bus when there should be two or three.
    • Missing buses are most common during evening and weekend periods when spare operators are harder to come by, in part because many of the “run as directed” operators are used for subway replacement services. Because TTC has fewer operators than crews in some cases, there are open crews that are only filled if there is a spare operator available.

Although the TTC has standards defining what constitutes acceptable service, almost none of these address the problems listed above. That is because:

  • Buses can be running close together but still be “on time” according to the service standard.
  • There is no standard that addresses gaps and bunching explicitly.
  • There is a standard related to missed trips, but no statistics have ever been reported for it.
  • The standards accept a wide range of exceptions with a goal of achieving targets only 60% of the time. There is no reporting of the proportion of service lying outside the standard even if it would be within the target.
  • There is no co-relation of vehicle crowding with service reliability.

To put it quite bluntly, these so-called standards allow management to claim to operate the system to “Board approved” targets, even though the TTC Board members probably have no idea of just how lax these standards actually are.

In turn, when riders complain, they are often told that the service is operating within standards, and that where there are problems, “run as directed” buses are dispatched to fill the gaps. This is simply not possible because there are not enough RAD buses to fill all of the holes in the service. Moreover, the TTC does not track or report on the usage of these buses to establish that they really do provide the benefits claimed for them.

TTC management hopes to lure riders back to buses, but the single most common complaint is that more service is needed. Part of “more” service involves simply running what is already there better. There is no point in advertising frequent service if what is actually on the street is anything but.

When they were approved, there was a staff presentation that set out the standards but did not actually explain what they might allow. The Board nodded in approval of something technical that looked impressive, but was clearly beyond their ken. The old Razzle-Dazzle works every time.

Service Reliability on 22 Coxwell: Part I August 2021

This is the first of a series of articles reviewing service quality on short routes. A fundamental problem across the TTC network is that service is unreliable with bunching, gaps, missing vehicles and crowding all contributing to making transit less attractive than it could be.

Many routes that get a lot of attention are quite long, and there is a raft of standard explanations for their problems. Traffic congestion and construction are chief among these, along with road accidents, ill passengers and “security” incidents. However, there are severe problems with service reliability on short routes where most of the standard explanations simply do not apply, and where the TTC should be able to maintain service like clockwork.

These routes are short enough that the source of problems is easily spotted in the tracking data for TTC buses. The two most common problems are:

  • Buses are missing from service probably because no operator is available to drive the vehicle, and a near-embargo on overtime leaves scheduled work unfilled.
    • Where buses are missing, service is not always adjusted on the fly by Transit Control to space out the remaining vehicles and the result is large gaps where missing vehicles should be.
  • Some operators simply prefer to drive in packs even though they are reasonably close to their schedules. At times, pairs (or worse) of vehicles will make multiple trips close together showing that there was no attempt to space service.

There is a distinctive difference between missing and bunched buses in the data.

Where a bus is missing, headways will widen either where that bus should have been, or overall if the remaining service is spaced out. Where buses are bunched, there will be corresponding short and long headways where two or three buses arrive together followed by gap much wider than the average headway.

In worst-case situations, which happen too often for comfort, most or all of the route’s buses run together in a convoy. These are eventually broken apart, but the convoy should not have been allowed to develop in the first place.

In brief, there are times when nobody is minding the store and riders suffer. In the two months of data reviewed here and in Part II to follow, these problems are not one-off instances, but repeated events.

On 22 Coxwell, the service on the weekday shuttle between Danforth and Queen is usually well-behaved, but come evenings and weekends when the route extends east via Kingston Road to Bingham Loop at Victoria Park, the service can be very erratic.

In this article, service will be shown at three locations:

  • Coxwell south of Danforth, southbound. This is the service shortly after it departs from Coxwell Station.
  • Coxwell north of Queen, northbound. This is the daytime service shortly after it departs Eastern Avenue for the trip north. On weekends and evenings, this is a mid-point of the route.
  • Kingston Road west of Bingham, westbound. This is the evening and weekend service after it leaves the eastern terminal.

To save space, the charts are presented as galleries which readers can open at any page and scroll back-and-forth to make comparisons. Full sets of charts, including illustrations not included in the body of the article, are linked as PDFs after each gallery.

In the text describing the charts tracking vehicle movements, I refer to buses by the colour of the line rather than the run number because this saves readers from having to translate via a legend. Each day’s colour allocations are independent of the others, and they occur in order of vehicle numbers in the underlying data. For example, the “pink” bus is a different run number each day depending on the vehicles assigned to the route.

For those who have not encountered these charts before, there is an introductory primer. For those who want to know how the underlying machinery to produce these analyses works, there is a detailed article about methodology.

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Infrastructure Ontario October 2021 Update

Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has issued its project status update for fall 2021 together with an overview letter from their CEO, Michael Lindsay.

Little has changed in the transit projects, but IO and Metrolinx are shifting away from their original, much-ballyhooed model where public contract risk was minimized by a transfer to the private sector. Instead there is more talk about collaboration and mechanisms to make contracts more palatable to would-be bidders. It is no secret that a few years ago a major firm refused to bid on Metrolinx work on the proposed terms.

Building on the experience of the collaborative Alliance model in use for the Union Station Enhancement Project, IO’s partnership with Metrolinx to expand the GTHA’s network of public transit continues to advance and evolve. Last month, Metrolinx and IO launched the RFQ for the Scarborough Subway Extension – Stations, Rail, and Systems project, introducing a Progressive Design-Build approach. Like the Progressive P3 procurement strategy being introduced on hospital projects, the subway extension procurement includes the benefits of working with a partner on design work, addressing and avoiding considerable contract risk prior to signing a final contract to deliver the project. Following considerable discussion and consultation with industry, this complex, multi-billion-dollar project will be contracted as a targeted price versus the fixed price of our P3 models.

Like our contract packaging strategy for both Scarborough Subway Extension and Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, we expect to take a multi-package staged approach of delivering the Yonge North Subway Extension. That work would begin with an advance tunnels package that we expect to be procured using a classic DBF contract. Pending government approval, our hope is to have the RFQ for that procurement in market early next year.

Letter from Michael Lindsay, CEO of IO, October 14, 2021

The update contains projects from multiple ministries and agencies, and I have extracted the transit projects in the table linked below. This table shows the status of each project as it appears in the quarterly IO updates with the current changes highlighted in yellow.

Changes in this interation are:

  • The structure of the Scarborough Subway Extension has been changed from “TBD” to “Progressive Design Build” where first a partner is chosen with a Development Phase Agreement, and then a Project Agreement once design reaches the point of locking in the construction phase. Note that “Design Build” does not include operation and maintenance as the SSE will be part of the TTC’s subway system.
  • The Yonge North Subway Extension to Richmond Hill has slipped slightly for issuance of the Request for Qualifications and of the Request for Proposals, but this is offset by moving the contract award up from Fall to Summer 2023.

Several GO Transit projects are listed for award in 2021, but they have not yet been announced.

Beyond the works already in progress, no transit projects are up for award before Fall 2022. This means that if the Ford government is re-elected, they will have batch of ready-to-go announcements, but if not, there would be a last ditch chance to review some contracts either as to content (project details) or future operating principles (private vs public). Whether a Liberal or NDP government (or a coalition) would do this remains to be seen.

Ontario Line Downtown Segment: Consultation Follow-Up

Updated October 14, 2021 at 12:50 am: Metrolinx’ responses to the absence of material on Osgoode Station, and of the suggestion of “ballot stuffing” have been added.

After the recent online consultation session for the Downtown Segment of the Ontario Line (Osgoode to Corktown), several issues came to mind and I wrote to Metrolinx for clarification. They have not yet answered most of them.

The Depth and Complexity of Queen Station

The cross-section for Queen Station included in the presentation shows an Ontario Line deep underground. This station is deeper than the City Hall Station on the Relief Line which was located immediately west of Yonge Street.

Ontario Line

Queen Yonge Cross Section Looking North, Ontario Line. Source: Metrolinx

Relief Line

City Hall Station Cross Section Looking North, Relief Line. Source: Relief Line South Detailed Design

These two drawings are not at the same scale. The illustration below clips portions of each with scales adjusted to match. In both designs, the new structure leaves a gap below the existing station for structural support. However, with the Ontario Line directly under the Yonge Line, the concourse level (one above platform level) cannot share the same vertical “slice” that the Relief Line, offset from the Yonge Line, uses. This forces a deeper station than would otherwise be needed.

Metrolinx claims that transfer times between the two stations are actually shorter for the Ontario Line than the Relief Line, but this is hard to believe considering that OL riders must walk east or west at the concourse level just to reach an escalator upward from what would have been platform level on the Relief Line.

Note that in both cases, the level of the passageway under Queen Station (the remains of a never-used Yonge Station on a Queen line) connect to the circulation system of the new station. It is not clear, however, that the capacity of the existing passage, stairs and escalators is up to the potential level of transfer traffic. That problem is common to either design.

What Is Happening at Osgoode Station?

The meeting announcement clearly states that Osgoode Station would be up for discussion. This is a controversial site where Metrolinx plans to build a new entrance and access shaft where there is now a grove of trees on the northeast corner of Queen Street and University Avenue at Osgoode Hall. See: Ontario Line v Osgoode Hall. Trees on main streets downtown, let alone on an historic site, are not exactly common, and the Metrolinx plan verges on civic vandalism.

In particular, there is a proposal floating around at City Hall to substantially reconfigure University Avenue by extending the east sidewalk (shown below) into the northbound roadway. The trees at Osgoode Hall are an integral part of the new design.

This locations of station entrances for the Ontario Line are different than in the original Relief Line plans because the OL station box is shifted west. (See the article linked above for detailed layouts.) The Relief Line station ran from just west of University to York, with a new expanded entrance on the southwest corner at University and a completely new entrance at York and Queen. The Ontario Line station runs from west of Simcoe to University with new entrances through the Osgoode Hall lands and through an old bank on the southwest corner of Queen and Simcoe.

This is a controversial subject, and Osgoode Station was included in the announced meeting agenda. This agenda is still online on the meeting page. Clearly when this meeting was announced Metrolinx intended to include Osgoode Station.

That page now claims:

The presentation focused on timely updates for Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations. While this presentation did not feature an update on Osgoode Station, the panel welcomed and responded to questions about all four stations within the segment.

That is flatly not true. A few people asked about Osgoode Station’s absence from the presentation, but there was no substantive discussion because no material was presented.

Metrolinx has not yet posted any replies to the questions submitted online, but there is an added wrinkle in that regard. There had been a popular question about Osgoode Hall that ranked third on the list on September 28.

By October 12, this question had gained more support, but also a large number of down-votes pushing it well down the list. One might speculate that this is a question Metrolinx would prefer not to answer. In this age of challenged votes, we cannot tell whether any ballot-stuffing was involved. (See Metrolinx’ reply at the end of this section.)

I asked Metrolinx about Osgoode Station’s absence from the actual agenda, and here is their reply:

The Ontario Line virtual open house on October 7 did focus on the Downtown segment, which includes Osgoode, Queen, Moss Park and Corktown Stations. However, similar to other open houses we have hosted across the alignment, we did not feature an update on all stations in the segment.

As you noted, we did not include new information about Osgoode Station in the October 7 presentation. There are a few reasons we did not cover Osgoode in the presentation. First and foremost, we did not have significant updates to share about the station. Additionally, we aim to keep the presentations to 30-minutes to allow ample time for questions. Given that we had substantial updates to cover for all of the three other stations but not for Osgoode, we did not explicitly highlight this station during the presentation. Nonetheless, we welcomed questions related to all Downtown stations and will post responses for any questions we did not get to answer during the live event in the coming weeks. 

We look forward to bringing new updates and more information to the community about all stations across the Ontario Line as they are available. We also always welcome questions and feedback via email, phone, and social media. Anyone interested in learning more about any station can also visit our website or book a meeting with a community relations team member.

Email from Caitlin Docherty, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, October 12, 2021

To have no update on a controversial station site, if only to say “we have some ideas and we’re working on it”, suggests avoidance, not merely a desire for brevity. Moreover, there was no suggestion during the meeting of an alternate date when that site could be discussed.

This is not a trivial issue both in its own right, and because Metrolinx operates to a clock ticking quickly and inexorably on a compressed approval timetable. Delaying discussion makes real debate, let alone the possibility of modification, more difficult.

It is all very well to suggest that people can contact Metrolinx one-on-one, but this is not the same as a published community meeting where whatever claims Metrolinx makes are public and can be challenged. Even in public meetings, Metrolinx makes statements that can be charitably described as misinformed. They can claim to have “consulted”, ticking off a box in the legislated process, but without a public check on their accuracy.

Updated October 14, 2021 at 12:50 am:

Metrolinx has replied further:

Consultation is absolutely planned once we have new significant updates to share for Osgoode. During the virtual open house, we welcomed questions related to all Downtown stations and will post responses for any questions we did not get to answer during the live event in the coming weeks. 

I want to be very direct with the second half of your email. Metrolinx does not manipulate the votes in any way on Metrolinx Engage. We use the votes to gauge community interest and determine which questions we will have time to answer.

Email from Daryl Gonsalves, Community Relations & Issues Specialist – Ontario Line, October 14, 2021

I will take this at face value, but it is clear that somebody really didn’t want to have a discussion about the trees at Osgoode Hall.

More Questions

The following questions to Metrolinx await answers.

Queen Station

  1. At Queen Station, you stated that the transfer with Line 1, although obviously deep vertically, is shorter than from the originally proposed City Hall station on the Relief Line South. This is hard to believe. Can you explain further?
  2. Was there any reason for the change in the OL elevation other than the geometric constraint at Yonge caused by shifting the station eastward?
  3. From a construction point of view at Queen Station do you plan to dig two shafts down east and west of Yonge, and then mine inward from the sides?
  4. With the station at Yonge now being an entire level below the RL plan, what does this do to elevations at Osgoode and Moss Park compared to the original RL designs?

Moss Park Station

  • At Moss Park Station, you talked about meeting the fire code while only having one exit building. I have been trying to figure out the plan in the presentation deck. Am I right in thinking that there are two separate sets of vertical access from the common lobby area leading to different parts of the station? How do you achieve compliance with only a single exit point? This was a known advance question and simply including a station plan would have answered this.

Corktown Station Construction Effects

  • There was a passing reference re the construction disruption at Corktown where you talked about the possibility that the tunnel will be one straight bore from Corktown to Exhibition rather than two separate ones east and west of Yonge Street.
    1. Is this a decision being left to the south tunnels bidders? It obviously has significant effects on construction staging and the length of disruption at Corktown.
    2. On a related note, how do you plan to construct the segment between Corktown and the portal west of the Don River?

Station Finishes

  • There was a question about station finishes where the answer quickly pivoted to the joys of above-ground stations and sunlight. This has nothing to do with downtown, underground stations. Do you plan simple bare concrete stations for the Ontario Line or not?