Coming Soon: January 2022

The last week has been quiet on this blog as I took a break from writing and spent the holiday period both enjoying the season, to the degree that was possible, and watching a lot of online concerts.

But fear not! I bring tidings of, well, not necessarily great joy, but of articles in the pipeline, something for you all to read while sitting around the internet yule log.

Yes, there will be more service analyses including:

  • A few more reviews of short routes and their less than stellar service.
  • A review of major bus routes in Scarborough including the short-lived express services on Kennedy and Warden.
  • An update on the review of travel times on existing and proposed “red lane” corridors.

Of course it’s budget season, and I have an update on the TTC’s Capital Budget based on the presentation and discussion at their recent Board meeting. That’s waiting on feedback on some questions I posed.

City Council will have its own budget launch on January 13, and we will see just how deep a hole we are in for the coming year.

At its December meeting, Council endorsed the Net Zero 2040 plan aimed at getting the City’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions down to zero in two decades. This includes not just the municipal government and its agencies, but homeowners, businesses, drivers of all manner of vehicles and transit.

Transit makes a small direct contribution mainly through diesel exhaust, and this will decline as the bus fleet is electrified. The larger benefits lie in diversion of trips that might otherwise be taken by car. The City’s plan includes proposals for considerably more transit service, but this does not appear to have been endorsed by Council (along with other aggressive portions of the plan). There is certainly no provision in TTC capital or operating budgets for the scope of expansion required for the NZ2040 plan.

As I write this, I await replies to a series of questions posed to the City to clarify portions of their transit proposal.

With luck, this will be a year of modest recovery if the pandemic can be brought under control, but it will certainly not be a year of bold expansion, except for a few political egos tied to certain rapid transit construction projects.

At the end of January, this blog will celebrate its 16th birthday, and I will reflect on where we go from here in the anniversary article.

A happy 2022 to everyone!

16 thoughts on “Coming Soon: January 2022

  1. Thank you for sharing with the public the insights of your relentless, non-partisan experience and research. As we come out of a 2 year pandemic and begin to realise plans for the future of Toronto & the GTA your insights and analysis keep the actions of politicians, planners & developers under much-needed scrutiny.

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  2. With new leadership at ATU is there any possibility of seeking the union’s co-operation in encouraging their members to make an effort to provide service improvements that are rider oriented?

    How about a “pilot” to provide better service through initiatives such as eliminating convoys?

    Begin outside rush hours with an Operator practice of not going through any signaled intersection 2 buses at a time. Second in line stays for the next signal. Why? So riders making a transfer have a shorter wait time. Pull into a bus bay with 4 ways flashing and sit there.

    At times of low service expand this Operator effort at transfer points by observing if a bus is approaching and wait to see if anyone is wanting to transfer. Especially, if running ahead of time.

    Since TTC management seems to have little interest in fine tuning things perhaps the workers can do it.

    Steve: This is all such obvious stuff that it should be a basic part of any transit operation. There is, however, a problem in that getting any union to agree that its members are not already doing a perfect job is a challenge. At what point would the union be doing management’s job? There is an inherent conflict of interest, compounded by management’s unwillingness to admit that service now operated could be improved, and the Board’s unwillingness to hold everyone to metrics that would accurately reflect a “rider’s view” of service quality.

    TTC has a long history of being all about “good news” and being “the best in the business”. That’s a hard self-image to shake.

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  3. Hello Steve, I hope you had a good holiday and New Year’s day. Is there any word on when the vendors for this year’s hybrid electric bus order will start delivering?

    Steve: The RFP for the order has not even been issued yet, but will probably go out in Q2 2022 for delivery starting in 2023 according to comments at the recent TTC budget meeting.

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  4. Steve have a safe and healthy Happy New Year. I look forward to more of your posts this year 2022. Thanks for all you do for TTC news. This year the news was fantastic. All the best. Pleased to hear you took time off over the Christmas holidays.

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  5. Raymond [most likely freezing in Etobicoke THIS morning] gave a great brief summary of the central service problems of the TTC. The persistent lack of even, consistent service is a glaring long term problem. It’s as if union and management have no idea exactly what kind of business the TTC is actually involved with.

    Any industrial psychologist will tell you that when worker pride in their job, and company, goes out the window; EVERYTHING connected with that job will follow.

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  6. Yes, thanks Steve and also commenters.

    Hope everyone saw this good column I think was only online, not in print:

    In Canada, we like squandering billions it seems, because we can, and have, and get less-good result, because plan is a four-lettter word. Etc. Current feds won’t show too much resolve to defend rationality, nor question schemes it seems, because politics. Sigh.

    I would disagree with Steve that the transit is as ‘green’/low-carbon as all that. The building of transit facilities is very heavy construction, and there’s a massive amount of energy and of carbon in all that concrete and steel, and we tend to ignore all the contributions of concrete in our GHG accounts/EAs, oops. Which means that maybe by 2050 we might get around to acknowledging the aluminum also has some nasty GHGs associated with it in smelting, pfcs, that may as well be permanent GHGs, oops. (And yes, bikes use a lot of Al as well, so no real wonder we’re so embarked upon climate chaos etc.)

    Steve: I was thinking of transit operations being green, especially for surface modes like buses which are the subject of the electrification push. What really bothers me about the NZ2040 report is that it seems to completely miss the effects of subway construction, and equates big dollar spending on a few rapid transit projects with a commitment to green the transportation network. Then for comic relief, they project that the transit mode share will actually go down after all of this investment. Stay tuned for my longer review of the NZ plan.

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  7. Just a mention that the CBC interviewed Andy Byford. Mr. Byford (at 21:00) referred to Steve Munro, “my friend, who I know has done a lot for transit”

    I don’t know much about transit, but I think Steve has effectively pointed out TTC’s management failure of the bus fleet. I believe that Steve’s objective measures of performance would have impressed Mr. Byford. Mr. Byford never proposed bus metrics and was vague about fixing poor performance. The TTC only uses two measures 1) number of short turns and 2) arrivals at one point where the TTC fudges operations to make that measure looks good.

    Steve’s detailed data shows failures at a basic level i.e. having sufficient staff to work the schedule. And he points out the Board’s failure of proper oversight to address the issue.

    Steve: Before Rick Leary became responsible for the operation, there was interest in the sort of analyses I was doing among several people at the TTC, but they retired. Leary in particular seems far more interested in “stats” that show good results than in actually interpreting and reporting on what is actually happening on the street. If this were a budget issue, the Board would be all over it, but “technical” stuff like whether the service is any good, they just don’t want to know. The pandemic has provided a lot of cover for lacklustre operation and management, and it’s overdue that the TTC started to think how to win back riders with basics like reliable service.

    As for “my friend” Andy Byford, yes, we got along well although he too seemed content with the metrics management used even though they fudged a lot.

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  8. Happy holidays. I just want to point out that the Scarborough subway is not a done deal. I spoke with Ward 12 (Toronto-St. Paul’s) Councillor Joshua Matlow and he said that he plans to introduce a motion to revert to LRT. Matlow said that he hopes to use the Scarborough subway tunnel machines to expedite the construction of the Downtown Relief Line (DRL). Don’t forget that Ford might lose the election this year and therefore, Ford’s pet project (the Scarborough subway) is far from guaranteed.

    Steve: I think that Josh Matlow’s motion is doomed at Council, and neither of the opposition parties is going to undo the provincial commitment. It’s a provincial project and even if Council passed a pro-LRT motion, it would have no effect. There is a good chance the Speaker would rule such a motion out of order.

    Also, the tunnel design in Scarborough is different from the one for the Ontario Line and a major redesign of the OL would be needed to use the TBM (a single one) from the SSE to build the OL/DRL.

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  9. It’s been all downhill for transit in Toronto since Dave Gunn departed. He and I have discussed the situation several times in subsequent years and, to a limited extent, he still follows the Toronto follies through reports on CP24, which he watches at his home on Cape Breton. He’s not impressed nor is he interested in having anything to with transportation ever again.

    Toronto has long had the reverse Midas touch: Everything this city’s politicians and their flunkies touch turns to excrement.

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  10. Out of curiosity, does the streetcar division also suffer from operation management? I ask as there’s a lot more focus on bus operations but not as much detail is discussed about streetcar operations other than line management and padding of schedules. I always get the feeling that streetcar operations are intentionally hobbled by asinine reasons rather than dealing with it. I guess the best examples are slow orders on underground and under bridges with speed restrictions to 10 km/h. Or system wide slow order on all special trackwork. Who is the one who decides on these decisions and why is there never any follow up on trying to fix it? Who should be held accountable? I understand that there’s a engineer who heads the streetcar division but what is his role and duties? I hope he’s not another highway trained engineer.

    My other question, what is the current status of them fixing switches or has this once again been funded and magically been siphoned off for other projects? Subsequently, how is the upgrading of the overhead system to pantograph? Why is there no urgency?

    Cheers to a successful blog! I thoroughly enjoy reading your posting even if they are technical and data heavy but they are always conveyed in a way that a non-engineer or STEM student (eg. Myself 🙂 ) is able to grasp the analysis.

    Steve: I have lost track of who is in charge of streetcars these days with all of the shuffling in management. As for the analyses, streetcar routes have been something of a mess with all of the construction projects and diversions in 2021, although I plan to return to them in the next few months using the year’s worth of accumulated data. Ironically, some of the worst problems have been on the bus replacement services where nobody seems to care about route management and there can be extremely irregular service. This is always amusing given the history of streetcar abandonment arguments when one claim always was that buses were so much more flexible and could provide better service. They do benefit from the absence of the flock of slow orders and can fly through intersections where streetcars are forced to crawl.

    It is quite disheartening to look at movies of Toronto from the 60s when streetcars operate through special work at a reasonable speed, not at a snail’s pace. I asked the TTC about whether, as the condition of special work generally has been improved with new track construction, the pervasive slow orders could be replaced with spot orders where there really are problems. Their answer was the usual waffling about “safety” which is a get-out-of-jail-free-card for all questions whether it is appropriate or not. That said, I cannot help noticing how often there are delays reported as the catch-all “operational problems” at locations where there is special work, and I always wonder just what is going on. If we had this sort of thing in the subway, eyebrows would be raised about maintenance, but on the streetcar network nobody seems to care.

    Underpasses of course are related to the pole-to-pan conversion with Queen and Degrassi being a favourite location for delays. I’m wondering if, when the conversion is finally completed in 2022, anyone will remember that we don’t need the generic slow order any more. At this point, only King and Kingston Road are operating with poles, and there isn’t a lot left to convert. Some locations are no longer pole-compliant because of staggered overhead and even the removal of frogs at intersections. The whole process is taking a lot longer than originally planned.

    Regarding switches, the stop-and-proceed order for all facing point switches speaks both to sloppy operating practices by some operators, and the unreliability of the switch electronics first introduced for the ALRVs decades ago. I don’t have an update on the replacement program and am waiting for the detailed budget breakdowns to see how that project is staged. Covid has gotten in the way of a lot, and I dig under rocks to the extent info is available. The ones that have been saddest as an example are manual switches that are plugged and don’t even lead anywhere, but the bigger day-to-day problems are of course at Roncesvalles Carhouse where the 501 streetcars have to amble along The Queensway.

    I have included a lot of bus route analyses both to show how pervasive some problems like bunching are, and to move the focus beyond a handful of routes “downtown”. There are serious problems with service on many routes, and this adds to the woes of transit captive riders for whom walking or cycling is not a reasonable option, and, frankly, it should not be foisted on them. The fastest way to destroy transit’s credibility and political support is to provide service that people use only out of necessity, no matter how bad it might be.

    On data heavy posts and clarity, thanks for the compliment. I developed the need to write for a non-technical audience in my professional career which ended up as Ops Manager in a large data centre. When things went wrong, or when we needed to change something, it was useful to send out bulletins that explained things at both a non-technical level for general readers, and a more detailed level for those who wanted some of the gory background. I include a lot of data both for those who are interested in that level (often engineering and planning students, as well as some professionals), but also, quite bluntly to show that I am not cherry picking a few incidents and trying to portray them as typical of the entire system.

    Some readers really like charts (the “picture is worth a thousand words” viewpoint), some like numbers reduced to statistical measures, and I try to keep everyone happy. Some staff reports at the TTC and City are quite long, especially the budgets, and I try to ferret out the important points and link issues that might not be obvious to everyone.

    Thanks for reading!

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  11. Thanks again Steve and commenters. And to be clear, I’d like to have billion$$$ allocated for transit, but we need investments, not mere Big Spending, which yes, much of it is and has been for a longer time, as per Greg’s observation, and then some. As for Steve’s twitter observation about being unsure how to dig out of this mess, maybe a start is to adjust the thinking away from digging, ie. surface options, usually unexplored in a carservative place, and let’s hope that angry folks all over the city and province dump the Cons, though as Steve also observes, opposition parties/options are now part of our problem ie. gormless and what’s a few billion anyways? And it’s unlikely the current Council/Clowncil will reverse on the Suspect Subway Extension too; there was a 23-19 vote about five years ago that made it quite clear facts and logic were to be ignored when blowing the billions.
    Desultory, if not desulTory.

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  12. You note above that only the 503 & 504 streetcar routes are still using poles. I think that only a few diversion routes now need to be done (e.g. parts of Church & Victoria). Does the TTC have a firm date on which they will finish all the overhead conversions? (Of course, we all remember that only the first 40 (?) of the new(ish) streetcars were going to come with poles & pans!). I assume (correctly?) that none of the new order of cars will have poles.

    Steve: I await arrival of the detailed budget books which contain info about the timing and scope of all projects.

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  13. I wonder if we might see an article on the procurement of new ferries for Toronto harbour in the future… It’s as close to swan boats as we can possibly get!

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