This article is a continuation from:
I posed a series of questions to TTC media relations to clarify some of the presentation and discussion at the December 20 Board meeting. Here are their answers.
When Does Better Service Resume?
This question was asked before the recent Covid surge and associated rise in absences from work.
Q: There is some confusion in the language used in the Opex report and by various speakers about the point at which 100% of pre-pandemic service would be restored. Variously this has included:
“by Q2” implying a target date at or near the beginning of the quarter
“in Q2” implying a targer anywhere up to June 30
“given the capability based on demand” for Q2 implementation
In your press release, Chair Robinson is quoted:
“The 2022 budget approved today gives us the flexibility to increase service up to pre-pandemic levels, in response to demand, while funding key sustainability and service improvement initiatives – all without raising fares for our riders,” said TTC Chair Jaye Robinson.
This does not even mention a return to full service in Q2.
Which version is correct? Have you budgeted for 100% in Q2, but may not actually operate it depending on demand levels?
As a related note, when the Nov 21 cuts were announced, there was an intention to begin reversing these in January. No service memo for the January Board has been issued yet. Will it be coming out soon and will some of the cuts start to be reversed?
A: We predicted a return to pre-pan levels would begin IN Q2 as demand increases…if it increases by then based on current realities. So the budget allows for that in Q2, not by Q2.
All service planning is being done based on demand AND workforce availability. So we are planning for scenarios. With ridership now back down to 40-ish per cent and Step 2 in effect, we don’t expect an increase in demand.Email from Stuart Green, Senior Communications Specialist, Media Relations and Issues Management, Corporate Communications, January 6, 2022
Although the point is now rather moot, the original intent was to ramp up through Q2, not by Q2. Much now depends on how quickly the current wave recedes and ridership recovery returns to its former path.
It is now a matter of record that there were no service restorations in January 2022. The mid-February changes have not yet been announced.
Line 5 Crosstown Operating Costs
Q: The full year cost of running Line 5 as cited as $63 million based on deltas in 2022 (startup costs plus initial operation) and then in 2023 (to full year operation).
The statement was made that the TTC will “operate and maintain” the line, but my understanding is that significant chunks of the project will be handled by Crosslinx notably vehicle maintenance, tunnels and station infrastructure.
Could you clarify which aspects of Line 5 Opex are actually included in that $63 million?
The TTC replied:
A: The City, in an Agreement in Principle dated 2016, agreed to receiving 100% Fare & Non-Fare box revenue and in return the City would pay all Operating & Maintenance costs for Line 5. Maintenance costs have already been pre-determined and identified for the next 30 years in the Project Agreement between Metrolinx and CTS. The TTC budget process is identifying the combined operations and maintenance costs for Line 5.
So yes, Crosslinx is doing the work, but the agreement the City signed sees the TTC pay them for it.Stuart Green, op. cit.
This means that the costs payable to Metrolinx for Line 5 should now be known for the next 30 years, but it is not clear if the TTC actually has these figures. Some enterprising Councillor (or even TTC Board member) might usefully ask for this information so we can see what future cost increases, if any, are baked into the Line 5 agreement.
The Status of Run-As-Directed Buses
Q: Rick Leary cited RAD operations as being 140 buses.
First, based on schedule info, there were 140 crews, not 140 buses, and the maximum RADs in service at any time was maybe 60, not 140.
Second, these buses were also used as subway shuttles and other fill ins for emergencies and were not always available as unscheduled extras on busy routes.
Third, my understanding was that the RAD crews were stripped from the schedules on Nov 21 as a workforce reduction measure.
Are these statements correct, and if not, what is the actual situation?
The TTC replied:
A: Still clarifying with Service planning.Stuart Green, op. cit.
Answers to questions about the Capital Budget will appear in my pending follow-up on that item from the Board meeting.
“…Non-Fare box revenue…”
Is this just advertising or is there planned to be “corner store” type concessions in the Eglinton Crosstown stations along the lines of many of the existing subway stations? Or anything else?
Steve: Advertising and any rentals. The challenge in some stations will be to have enough traffic to warrant a newsstand operation.
The Global Times: China has unveiled a brand new, state-of-the-art Fuxing bullet train, said to be the world’s first intelligent and autonomous high-speed train with a top speed of 350 kilometers per hour and a 5G live broadcast studio on board, to serve the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, here in Canada, we still have two TTC staff driving decades old trains with one staff member just to open and close the doors. We also have streetcar drivers running to the middle of intersections with metallic bars just to change the switches manually like they used to be done over 150 years ago in Europe. Canada is seriously lagging behind. With the exception of the German speaking countries, the whole west is lagging behind. We need to change this or risk being classified as a third world country in the future.
Steve: “Decades old trains” with two staff. The T-1 trains on Line 2 date from the mid 90s and are scheduled for replacement when they reach their 30th birthday (and their design life) in the mid to late 2020s. They will be equipped with ATC and Line 2 will switch to one person automated operation once they are in service. This is already in place on Lines 1 and 4 which operate with trains that are, except for early prototypes, less than ten years old. (Line 1 is only partly one person and ATC at present, but the TTC intends to complete this conversion once the whole line is on ATC sometime late in 2022.
It is easy to point to China, a country that spends billions on new rail infrastructure, for modern equipment and state of the art operations. I am quite sure that somewhere in that country there are subway cars that are two decades old as, indeed, the now brand-new trains will be in their time.
And I really don’t give a damn about 5G broadcasts onboard. That has nothing to do with the quality of service the trains provide to move people.
And Toronto, thank goodness, is not trying to impress the world with Olympic games and associated infrastructure.
As for manual switches, the problem is not inherent to streetcars, but to the TTC’s outrageously long implementation of a working switch (and signal) control system, something that has been available in Europe for decades. The problem is TTC culture and the idea that we can make do with the way things are.
Re: “…Non-fare box revenue….” Some “out of the box” thinking is needed.
Mount Dennis should become a Destination. People would go there for more than just connecting to the LRT. Set up weather protected areas where people walk in from the street and pass by rows of ATM’s and Bank Kiosks. Wash and Fold laundry drop off. Dry cleaning drop off and pickup. Postal parcel drop off and pickup. Courier pickup and drop off lock boxes. Convenience Store (bigger than typical Subway stand but smaller than a plaza store). Some of the people going there will not even ride the TTC. It will be their destination. They will spend their money to the benefit of the TTC in return benefiting convenience and choices.
Steve: I think that the first problem is “where people walk in from the street”. It is not clear that the station building is located conveniently to Weston Road and to people who will live there and use the type of services you describe.
Another example is the distinction between services located inside of the paid area and services outside of it. If you have to pay a TTC fare just to get to the Post Office, there is not going to be a lot of walk-in trade.