King Street Update: July 2018

This article is part of a continuing series tracking the behaviour of transit service on King Street during the pilot implementation of pedestrian and transit priority measures. The last update was in May, and I skipped June because there was little new to report.

Although we are now into the summer when conflicts with pedestrians and space constraints from recent takeovers of curb lanes with a variety of artworks and seating areas, travel times on King have not been affected. In fact, thanks to the re-activation of Transit Priority Signalling (TSP) at various locations on July 7, travel times have actually dropped during some periods.

Peak Travel Times

Continuing the tradition of these articles, here is the travel time chart for the 50th (median) and 80th percentile values westbound from Jarvis to Bathurst from September 2017 to the end of July 2018.

The collection of charts for five periods during the day for the two directions are linked here:

The following service disruptions show up in the charts above for the June-July period:

  • June 14, 20 and 26 eastbound: Congestion eastbound to University Avenue from 5-6pm (typically this is caused by north-south traffic blocking the intersection)
  • June 26 eastbound: Service held at Church Street just before 2pm (and therefore counting in the 1-2pm travel time stats) by a fallen overhead wire.
  • June 26 westbound: Service held at Peter Street at about 10:40 pm by a collision.
  • July 10 westbound: Service held east of Bathurst Street at about 1:15 pm by a collision.
  • July 25 westbound: Service held near Church Street just before 9 am. Reason unknown (no TTC eAlert was issued).

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Why Can’t I Get On My Bus (II)

Correction August 15, 2018: Off peak service for the Westway branch of 52 Lawrence has been corrected.

In Part I of this article, I reviewed the evolution of bus and streetcar fleet capacity measured by scheduled service over the period from 2006 to 2018. The central point was that there has been little improvement in the overall peak period capacity operated on the bus network for much of the past decade. On the streetcar network, two recent changes – the addition of buses to supplement streetcars and the replacement of old cars by new, larger ones – have provided some peak period capacity growth. However, in both cases, this growth is small seen over the long run. Off-peak service has improved more because the system is not fleet-constrained outside of the rush hours, but there is still a budgetary limitation which affects how much staff are available to operate these vehicles.

In this article, I will review several major suburban bus routes to compare service in January 2009 when the benefits of the Miller-era Ridership Growth Strategy had kicked in with service operated in January 2018. Given the results seen in Part I, it was no surprise that when I compiled this information, many routes have less capacity today than they did a decade ago and improvements where they do exist are not major. That is not a recipe for system growth. How did this happen?

First off, when Rob Ford became Mayor, he rolled back the RGS Service Standards and service just stopped improving. Several off-peak improvements were undone, but these affected periods outside of the range reviewed in Part I (mainly evenings and weekends). Ironically, the streetcar system suffered less because, thanks to the vehicle shortage (even a decade ago), the loading standards for streetcars in the peak period had not changed. There were few RGS improvements to unwind. When John Tory reinstated some of the RGS standards, this allowed growth to resume, but almost entirely in the off-peak period because neither the bus nor the streetcar fleets had spare vehicles.

Another more subtle problem lies in TTC scheduling. As congestion built up on routes, the reaction was to stretch existing headways (the space between vehicles) rather than adding more buses to a route. This responded to the vehicle crunch, but it gradually trimmed service levels across the system. Even though the same number of buses were in service, with fewer passing a point per hour the capacity of service riders saw declined. The TTC made excuses for this practice as simply running buses to the conditions, but the long term effect was to cut service to keep operational demands within the available fleet size.

The balance of this post summarizes the data for each route. The full set of tables is linked below as a PDF.

2009_2018_ServiceComparisons_V2

A few notes about these tables:

  • Services are grouped by corridor because, in some cases, more than one route operates along a street. For example, Lawrence Avenue West has been served by 52 Lawrence, 59 Maple Leaf and 58 Malton (now folded into the 52).
  • Service capacity is shown as buses/hour. The only adjustment for vehicle size is that articulated buses count as 1.5 so that 6 artics per hour is the same, from a capacity point of view, as 9 regular-sized buses. Where a headway is followed by the letter “A” in the tables, this means that artics are operated.
  • In some cases, routes have a branch where every “nth” vehicle takes a longer trip. For example, some of the services running through to York Region have every 3rd, 4th or 5th bus going beyond the “standard” destination. These do not provide net additional service where the branches rejoin in the same way as a branching route where half of the buses go one way and half the other. In other words, if a 5 minute service runs to Steeles and every 4th bus runs beyond on a 20 minute headway, the headway to Steeles is still only 5 minutes, or 12 buses per hour. These cases are noted with an asterisk “*” in the tables.
  • Some routes were affected by the opening of the Vaughan extension. In these cases, data are shown for November 2017, the last set of schedules before the routes changed, so that the evolution of service right up to that point is clear.

The information for these comparisons is from the TTC Scheduled Service Summaries:

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Why Can’t I Get On My Bus?

Recent years brought much hand-wringing from TTC Board members and management about falling ridership numbers. One oft-cited source for this is the combination of fare evasion and the under-reporting of fare payments by Presto. These are linked in that the multiplicity of fares and rules create situations where a rider can validly enter a vehicle without showing a pass or tapping a card. Indeed, there are a number of cases where Presto users are explicitly told not to tap to avoid double charging by software that cannot distinguish many types of valid transfer movements.

Riders, on the other hand, might be forgiven for wondering whether there is enough service actually on the street to carry them. There are two aspects to this problem. One is vehicle bunching, a topic I will explore in coming weeks in detail for several major suburban bus routes, and the other is the actual amount of service.

An important factor in the provision of TTC service is that, in general, it lags demand growth rather than leading it. When the buses and streetcars are full, the TTC runs more of them provided that there is headroom in the budget, enough vehicles and enough operators to actually field more service. City Councillors have a fetish for controlling headcount, and this is one major problem at the TTC – more service requires more drivers (not to mention other staff), but increases to the approved staffing levels are only grudgingly approved. The other big problem for both the streetcar and bus fleets is that the TTC does not have enough vehicles thanks to constraints on capital spending and increases in garage capacity.

I wrote about the TTC’s capacity crisis in an earlier post, but here I will turn to the long-term trends in service provision. This is of particular interest in an election year when competing claims will be made about the actions and policies of current and previous administrations.

All of the charts included in this article as well as the underlying data are consolidated in one PDF linked at the end.

All data here comes from the TTC Scheduled Service Summaries. An archive of these is available on this site.

Scheduled Fleet Capacity

When tracking and comparing capacity for the bus and streetcar fleet, simply looking at the number of vehicles or the distance they travel is not enough. Other factors are at play including the capacity of each vehicle type, and the degree to which schedule changes are in the peak of off-peak periods. Maintenance factors come into play as well because the size of each fleet is larger than the scheduled service.

As a starting point, I converted the scheduled service to a fleet capacity by taking the “standard” vehicle as “1” and scaling up for larger vehicles. Note that the intent is only to track the ratio within each mode and the associated routes, and therefore a basis of “1” can be used for both fleets.

  • Standard 12m low floor bus: 1
  • Articulated low floor bus: 1.5
  • Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV): 1
  • Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV): 1.5
  • Flexity Low Floor Streetcar: 2
  • Bus running on a streetcar route: 0.7

Therefore, for the purpose of the chart which follows below, if a Flexity is scheduled to operate, it counts as twice the capacity of a CLRV. One immediate problem with this is that the TTC does not actually operate as many ALRVs as the schedules call for. Recently, although nearly 30 ALRVs are supposed to operate at peak, one is lucky to find a dozen of them on the road. Conversely, where a conversion of a route from old to new streetcars is in progress, there may be more Flexitys in service than scheduled. Similarly, one can find cases where bus trips that are supposed to be provided by longer artics are actually operated by standard length vehicles. The discrepancy between TTC schedules and the real world cannot be helped, and we must take the scheduled numbers as the intended service for an historical review.

To put this in a political context, in January 2007 David Miller beginning his second term as Mayor. He was replaced by Rob Ford in the election in fall 2010. John Tory was elected in fall 2014. The effect of a new administration is not visible in the January schedules which are generally in place before the election is determined.

The increase in bus service capacity in 2009 is the result of the Ridership Growth Strategy which changed the crowding standards to allow for less crowded vehicles. There is some growth in off-peak streetcar service capacity, but little for peak periods because there were no spare vehicles.

Peak capacity on the streetcar network begins to grow in 2013 with the substitution of buses on Queens Quay during its reconstruction while the displaced streetcars went to other routes. A few years later the arrival of the first Flexity cars and the continued substitution of buses on streetcar routes allowed more service to be provided on the streetcar network. The 514 Cherry route began operating in June 2016, but its requirements were absorbed within the available fleet.

Peak capacity on the bus network has not grown much in recent years. The downturn in January 2018 was caused partly by the opening of the subway extension to Vaughan and partly by changes in TTC spare ratio policies that reduced the number of vehicles available for service.

The big changes in recent years came in the off-peak period when there are spare vehicles in both fleets to provide better service.

In brief, there has been little improvement in the peak capacity operated on the TTC network for several years. For streetcar routes, there is some improvement, but for bus routes, not much for almost a decade.

There are a few caveats that must be included here:

  • The bus fleet capacity has not been adjusted for the migration from high floor to low floor buses which reduced capacity by up to 10%. This was already well underway in 2006, but there were still over 800 high floor buses in scheduled service in January 2006. Conversion to low floor buses represents a loss of a substantial capacity which is not reflected in the chart above.
  • In the mid 2000’s, the TTC operated more contract service than they do today. The decline in buses running outside of the city boundary is around two dozen (AM peak) counted as fractional vehicles where the service inside of Toronto is part of TTC routes that continue to exist. The capacity of these vehicles is included in the total.
  • These numbers represent vehicles in service. TTC maintenance practices have increased the spare ratio in recent years causing the total fleet size and garage requirements to rise while the actual amount of service does not. Some recent bus purchases made in the name of service improvements actually went into enlarging the pool of maintenance spares. These spares do not contribute to in service capacity and therefore do not affect the charts.
  • As traffic congestion increases, routes overall slow down, and the amount of service (counted as passenger kilometres) a vehicle can provide goes down. More buses are needed to carry the same number of trips. This factor is not included in the charts which only look at how many buses are in service, not how far they actually carry riders. The net effect is that service from a rider’s point of view does not go up as fast as the fleet capacity. Although this varies by route, there is a system wide effect that slower travel times “eat” buses and streetcars that might otherwise be adding to service.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, September 2, 2018 (Updated)

The TTC will implement many service changes with the first of new fall 2018 schedules, with more (as yet not announced) to follow.

The September schedules also include a return to winter service levels. I have not included these in the summary except where other changes happen at the same time.

Updated August 1, 2018: The Express Bus Network service comparisons have been updated to include April 2018 (winter) service levels as well as the current summer services where these differ. In many cases, although the new service design is an improvement over summer service levels, there is little or no change from the winter service. This was already noted  in the text describing each route, but it was not reflected in the detailed spreadsheet comparing before and after service levels.

Updated August 1, 2018 at 10:40 pm: The original version of this post and the linked spreadsheet showed 503 Kingston Road reverting to bus operation in September. This is not correct. It will remain a streetcar route, but will terminate at its “traditional” York & Wellington location.

2018.09.02_Service_Changes_V3  [pdf]

Express Buses

In a previous article, I gave an overview of the new Express Bus Network that will be rolled out in coming months. The details of service changes for the first batch of routes are included in the spreadsheet linked above. In a few cases, the change is simply a question of rebranding routes with the new 900-series numbers, but in many service improvements are included.

  • 37/937 Islington will have additional peak service between Steeles and Islington Station.
  • 54 Lawrence East will have additional midday weekday service on the local branches. The 954 schedule is based on the old winter schedule for the 54E Express service.
  • 60/960 Steeles West changes are mostly the return to the winter service levels with minor adjustments for reliability.
  • 84/984 Sheppard West changes mainly reallocate buses between various branches, and extend the express service from Sheppard West Station to Weston Road.
  • 85/190/985 Sheppard East and STC Rocket changes create a new peak period express service to Meadowvale, and switch articulated bus operation to the express services leaving standard sized buses on the local services on weekdays. Weekend schedules are unchanged except for the rebranding of the 190 as 985A.
  • 102/902 Markham Road services are reorganized by reducing service on the local 102A to Centennial College, but adding more replacement service as the 902 express.
  • 134C/913 Progress service to Centennial College is changed to operate express in the peak direction (outbound in the AM, inbound in the PM peak) from STC to the college, and service will run more frequently.
  • 185/925 Don Mills is only a rebranding. There is no change to service levels.
  • 191/927 Highway 27 will see improved peak period express service, but this is mainly the restoration of winter schedules. Otherwise, this is a rebranding.
  • 195/935 Jane will see improved PM peak express service, but otherwise this is a rebranding.
  • 198/905 UTSC/Eglinton East has some service improvements, partly through restoration of winter schedules, but is otherwise a rebranding.
  • 199/939 Finch will see better peak service to Morningside Heights, but otherwise this is a rebranding.

Subway

On the subway network, there will be one additional gap train (for a total of 3) on Line 1 YUS during the AM peak, and winter schedules will return on Line 2 BD. A new route number, 600, has been created for internal use for scheduled construction shuttle buses which will operate from Arrow Road, Birchmount, Mount Dennis and Queensway Garages, with a smaller contribution from Malvern Garage.

Streetcars

The streetcar network will go through another shuffle of bus replacements in response to construction projects, the streetcar shortage and shifting demand for fall 2018.

  • 501 Queen loses its 5 AM peak trippers from Long Branch.
  • [Corrected] 502 Downtowner reverts to bus operation, while 503 operates peak only with streetcars and runs to York and Wellington, not to Spadina (Charlotte Loop).
  • 504 King and 514 Cherry revert to schedules from April and May 2018 respectively.
  • 505 Dundas remains a bus operation due to track construction at Lansdowne, and water main work east of Bathurst.
  • 506 Carlton returns to streetcar operation with a handful of AM peak period bus trippers.
  • 511 Bathurst switches to bus operation. Construction at Bathurst Station will require the streetcar loop to be shared between the 511 and 7 Bathurst buses.
  • 512 St. Clair becomes 100% low floor with some adjustments in the service levels.

Operations on 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina will be modified to improve service and eliminate bottlenecks at subway station loops. On the 509, all recovery time will be scheduled at Exhibition Loop so that streetcars do not wait on their scheduled departure time at Union. The recovery point for 510 will be shifted to Spadina and Bremner where layovers, if needed, will not block other streetcars at Spadina or Union Station Loops. A side-effect is that through riders may experience a delay at this location. This practice has been in place unofficially for some time during quieter periods on the route, but it does not deal with issues of washroom breaks and crew changeovers at the terminal stations.

Buses

Construction projects:

  • Work at Main Station will be complete by September, and all routes will revert to their standard arrangement there.
  • Construction at Bathurst Station will shift all bus operations to the streetcar loop.
  • Construction at Dundas and Lansdowne will divert the 47 Lansdowne bus via College, Dufferin and Queen both ways.
  • Construction continues at Lawrence West Station requiring extension of routes that normally terminate there to Lawrence Station.

Service on 29 Dufferin will be converted to articulated buses on Sundays. Further changes will occur in October with the Express Bus implementation on this route.

Service improvements include:

  • Better service on the 36B Finch West bus between Yonge Street and Finch West Station.
  • Better PM peak service to Steeles on 43A Kennedy.
  • Better peak and midday service on 63 Ossington.
  • Reallocation of buses between the two branches of 66 Prince Edward during peak periods to provide better service to Park Lawn Loop at the expense of service to Humber Loop.
  • Better peak service on 79 Scarlett Road which, combined with the return of winter service levels, will provide considerably more frequent service.
  • Better peak service on 88 South Leaside.
  • Better peak and midday service on 100 Flemingdon Park.
  • Route 123 Shorncliffe is renamed 123 Sherway, and a new branch via West Mall to Sherway is added during peak periods.
  • Better AM peak service on 165 Weston Road North.

The 21 Brimley route will shift from Birchmount to Malvern Garage, and the 102/902 Markham Road service will shift from Malvern to Birchmount.

TTC Launches the 900 Express Bus Network (Updated)

Updated July 26, 2018 at 1:15 pm: Stop locations added for September 2018 express routes.

Starting in September, 2018, the TTC will begin to roll out its Express Bus network, a scheme that has been in the works for a few years and is described in the Express Bus Network Study of June 2017.

The implementation will proceed over several months as schedules for the affected routes must be adjusted, and doing this as one “big bang” is more upheaval than TTC staff and management really need.

At the same time as services are revised, they will also be rebranded into a consistent 900-series of route numbers regardless of whether they are “E” branches of existing routes or are “Rocket” services in the 18x and 19x range. Only the 14x Premium Express services will retain their numbers.

Routes typically take the same number as the base route so that, for example, 954 is the express service replacing the 54E on Lawrence East. Where services run in a rapid transit corridor (current or future), they use the corresponding rapid transit number. For example, the existing 131E Nugget Express paralleling the SRT will become route 903. There are, of course, some exceptions just to keep those who try to memorize the entire list on their toes.

The new routes and numbers are listed in the tables below. Changes for September are firm, and they will take effect with the new schedules on September 2, 2018. Other changes are proposed, but not yet scheduled.

I will include service level details in a separate article on the overall September 2 schedule changes. Stop locations for the September changes follow the tables below.

Effective September 2, 2018

New/Revised Route
902 Markham Road Express (New)
913 Progress Express Partly replaces 134C Progress
937 Islington Express (New)
984 Sheppard West Express Replaces 84E Sheppard West
985 Sheppard East Express Replaces 190 Scarborough Centre Rocket
905 Eglinton East Express Replaces 198 UTSC Rocket
925 Don Mills Express Replaces 185 Don Mills Rocket
927 Highway 27 Express Replaces 191 Highway 27 Rocket
935 Jane Express Replaces 195 Jane Rocket
939 Finch Express Replaces 199 Finch Rocket
954 Lawrence East Express Replaces 54E Lawrence East
960 Steeles West Express Replaces 60E Steeles West

Effective October 7, 2018

New/Revised Route
929 Dufferin Express (New)
952 Lawrence West Express (New)
989 Weston Express (New)
924 Victoria Park Express Replaces 24E Victoria Park

Future Changes

Revised Route
900 Airport Express Replaces 192 Airport Rocket
903 Kennedy-Scarborough Centre Express Replaces 131E Nugget
941 Keele Express Replaces 41E Keele
944 Kipling South Express Replaces 188 Kiping South Rocket
945 Kipling Express Replaces 45E Kipling
953 Steeles East Express Replaces 53E/53F Steeles East
986 Scarborough Express Replaces 86E Scarborough
993 Exhibition Express [seasonal] Replaces 193 Exhibition Rocket
995 York Mills Express Replaces 95E York Mills
996 Wilson Express Replaces 186 Wilson Rocket

Stop Locations

The express stop locations for the September changes have been announced:

937 Islington

Northbound 937 buses operate EXPRESS from Islington Station to Rexdale, stopping only at Islington Station, Eglinton Avenue West, The Westway, Dixon Road, Monogram Place, Rexdale Boulevard. 937 buses operate LOCAL from Rexdale Boulevard and Islington Avenue to Islington/Steeles off-street loop.

Southbound 937 express buses operate LOCAL from the Islington/Steeles off-street loop to Rexdale Boulevard. 937 express buses then operate EXPRESS from Rexdale Boulevard to Islington Station, stopping only at Rexdale Boulevard, Westhampton Drive, Dixon Road, The Westway, Eglinton Avenue West, and Islington Station.

954 Lawrence East Express

This route replaces the existing 54E with the same route and stopping pattern.

960 Steeles West Express

This route replaces the existing 60E with the same route and stopping pattern.

984 Sheppard West Express

During peak periods, the express service will be extended from the existing 84E terminus at Sheppard West Station to Weston Road. Off peak express service will end at Sheppard West Station as at present.

Westbound stops: Sheppard Station, Brentwood Avenue, Bathurst Street (nearside), Bathurst Street (farside), Wilmington Avenue, Wilson Heights Boulevard, Sheppard West Station, Bakersfield Street, Keele Street, Sentinel Road, Arleta Avenue, Jane Street, Weston Road.

Eastbound stops: Bradstock Road at Weston Road, Sheppard Avenue West at Abraham Welsh Road, Jane Street (nearside), Jane Street (farside), Northover Street, Sentinel Road, Keele Street, Vitti Street, Sheppard West Station, Faywood Boulevard, Bathurst Street (nearside), Bathurst Street (farside), Easton Road, Sheppard Station.

985 Sheppard East Express

This route replaces 190 Scarborough Centre Rocket. The route will have two branches:

  • 985A will operate to Scarborough Centre Station as the 190 does today.
  • 985B will operate to Meadowvale Road during peak periods.

Local service on route 85 Sheppard East will be provided by standard buses, and artics will be used for the 985 services. One stop will be added on the common section of the route at Brian Drive / Consumers Road.

Eastbound stops (985B only): Brimley Road, McCowan Avenue, Havenview Road, Markham Road, Progress Avenue, Lapsley Road, Neilson Road, Breckon Gate, Morningside Avenue, Grand Marshal Drive, Conlins Road, Dean Park Road, Idagrove Gate, Meadowvale Loop.

Westbound stops (985B only): Meadowvale Loop, Meadowvale Road (farside stop), Idagrove Gate, Rouge River Drive, Conlins Road, Water Tower Gate, Morningside Avenue (farside stop), Brenyon Way, Neilson Road, Washburn Way, Malvern Street, Markham Road (farside stop), Shorting Road, McCowan Road, Brimley Road.

902 Markham Road Express

A new peak and midday express service will operate from Warden Station to Sheppard via Centennial College.

Southbound stops: Markham Road at Sheppard Avenue East, Progress Avenue at Milner Avenue, Centennial College Progress Campus, Markham Road at Progress Avenue, Markham Road at Ellesmere Road, Markham Road at Brimorton Drive, Markham Road at Painted Post Drive, Markham Road at Lawrence Avenue East, Markham Road at Blake Manor Boulevard, Markham Road at Eglinton Avenue East, Kingston Road at Parkcrest Drive, Kingston Road at McCowan Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Kingston Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Brimley Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Midland Avenue, St. Clair Avenue East at Danforth Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Birchmount Road, Warden Station.

Northbound stops: Warden Station, St. Clair Avenue East at Birchmount Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Danforth Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Midland Avenue, St. Clair Avenue East at Brimley Road, St. Clair Avenue East at Kingston Road, Kingston Road at Cathedral Bluffs Drive, Kingston Road at Parkcrest Drive, Markham Road at Kingston Road, Markham Road at Eglinton Avenue East, Markham Road at Blake Manor Boulevard, Markham Road at Lawrence Avenue East, Markham Road at Painted Post Drive, Markham Road at Brimorton Drive, Markham Road at Ellesmere Road, Markham Road at Progress Avenue, Centennial College Progress Campus, Markham Road at Sheppard Avenue East.

913 Progress Express

This peak period service will replace the peak direction trips now operated by 134C Progress between Scarborough Town Centre and Centennial College. Counter-peak trips will continue to operate as 134C.

Northbound stops (AM Peak): Scarborough Centre Station, Triton Road at McCowan Road, Progress Avenue at Markham Road, Progress Avenue at Roadway to Centennial College, Centennial College Progress Campus

Southbound stops (PM Peak): Centennial College Progress Campus, Progress Avenue opposite Roadway to Centennial College, Progress Avenue at Markham Road, Bushby Drive at McCowan Road (McCowan RT Station), Scarborough Centre Station

925 Don Mills Express

This service replaces the existing 185 Don Mills Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

927 Highway 27 Express

This service replaces the existing 191 Highway 27 Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

935 Jane Express

This service replaces the existing 195 Jane Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

905 Eglinton East Express

This service replaces the existing 198 UTSC Rocket and will have the same stopping pattern.

939 Finch Express

This service replaces the existing 199 Finch Rocket. Two stops will be added on Finch Avenue West at Torresdale Avenue and at Goldfinch Court.

TTC Board Meeting July 10, 2018: Part II

Since I published Part I of this review of the TTC’s July 10 Board Meeting, I have been remiss in finishing Part II which deals with various issues beyond system capacity planning.

This article includes information on:

  • TTC financial results
  • Counting “Rides”, not “Riders”
  • Presto
  • TYSSE Vaughan Extension Ridership
  • Scarborough Subway Extension Funding Reallocation
  • Queens Quay
  • Service Performance
  • Vehicle Reliability
  • Dufferin Bus Service Improvement
  • Junction Area Route Study
  • Ridership Growth Strategy

Several items in this article refer to material in the CEO’s Report for July 2018. Other reports cited include:

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TTC Board Meeting July 10, 2018: Part I

The July 10, 2018 meeting of the TTC was its last before the October 22 municipal election. When the new Council meets in early December, it will update the Councillor appointments to this Board and select a new Chair. Whether the existing Chair Josh Colle will return in that role remains to be seen, although he did not sound averse to the idea in his closing remarks. The political balance of the Board will depend on the new Council and on whether the Mayor feels more disposed to a better representation of the centre-left. The new Board’s first meeting will be on December 12, 2018.

The “Citizen” members of the Board (those who are not Councillors) will remain in place until Council deals with appointments to various boards and agencies early in 2019.

The TTC has appointed Rick Leary, who has been Acting CEO since Andy Byford’s departure, to the CEO’s position. Leary had strong support from the Board, and now he must deliver. It will be interesting to see how much of Byford’s style and work, if any, are carried over into this new era. [See Challenges For TTC’s New CEO].

A vital part of the Board’s responsibility (and through them, City Council’s) is a clear understanding of the future needs of transit in Toronto. This is not simply a case of planning a few subway lines, but of understanding how the network as a whole works and what its needs would be under various scenarios. This is especially true when addressing unmet needs of the existing system. From the CEO’s report:

In support of the City of Toronto’s ongoing focus on transformation, the TTC committed in the 2018-2022 Corporate Plan to undertake a comprehensive service review. In addition to assessing efficiency and effectiveness, the study will evaluate how best to provide services mindful of reliability, safety and system integration. Actioning this commitment will help inform deliberations of the newly-appointed Board in 2019. In tandem, as noted last month, we are also preparing an updated and comprehensive long-term Capital Plan that will provide full clarity on the TTC’s long-term capital requirements mindful of legislation, reliability, safety and service standards. The plan will be prepared over the course of 2018 and presented as part of the 2019 Budget process. [p. 8]

This woolly statement could be the basis for better understanding how the Capital Budget works and how its many projects fit together, or this could simply be a rehash of juggling costs back and forth to make the numbers come out right for City financial targets. If the TTC needs more money for bona fide projects, it should say so, and should make the spending levels and timing clear rather than hiding costs “below the line” or beyond the 10-year planning horizon.

Several items on the agenda bear on the TTC’s ability to carry riders, but they were not discussed or presented in that context. This is a fundamental problem for the TTC Board and for the new CEO.

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Challenges For TTC’s New CEO

Late in 2011, Andy Byford was hired by the TTC as Chief Operating Officer, a role in which he would understudy the then Chief General Manager, Gary Webster. Little did Byford know that he would inherit the top role faster than planned, in March 2012, after Webster was summarily fired for his failure to support the Scarborough Subway Extension at City Council. The term “to be Webstered” entered the Toronto lexicon as a synonym for what happens to those who speak truth to power.

The position of CGM was renamed as Chief Executive Officer in keeping with common use in business. As such, Byford launched a five-year plan to remake the TTC in his image, a process for which Toronto eventually won the American Public Transit Association’s “Transit System of the Year” award in 2017. Although frequently misrepresented, this award was not for the best transit service on the continent, but for the achievement of a management turnaround plan.

In late 2017, Byford became President of New York City Transit Authority, a role he had long dreamed of having, despite frequent claims in Toronto that he wasn’t planning to leave. This opened the TTC’s CEO position, and the former Deputy, Rick Leary, has been Acting CEO since Byford’s departure.

What challenges does the new CEO face? Broadly, these fall into three categories:

  • The political situation at Queen’s Park is in flux with a new Conservative administration headed by a Premier for whom subways answer every question, and who has talked of shifting responsibility for Toronto’s rapid transit network to Ontario from the City of Toronto.
  • Toronto’s Council and Mayor send mixed signals on transit’s importance for the city’s economic prosperity and the good of its citizens, while keeping the TTC hostage to a tax-fighting dogma that demands ongoing restraint in budget and subsidy growth.
  • The long-term effect of policies by all governments has been a wide gap between the funding needs – both capital and operating – and the money the TTC is actually allowed to spend. Many “big ticket” items are special projects like subway extensions, funded in part for their political benefit, but the hole left in day-to-day project funding continues to deepen.

Underlying all of these is a basic question: what is the TTC supposed to be?

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Bombardier Undermines Streetcar Credibility

Updated on July 5, 2018 at 8:00 am: Minor typos corrected. Explanation of replacement service as Flexitys displace older cars clarified.

Over the past day there have been a number of media comments, articles, tweets triggered by the announcement that 67 of Toronto’s new streetcars must return to Bombardier to repair bad welding. This started with an article by Ben Spurr in the Star, with a followup by Spurr and a Globe article by Oliver Moore. I’m sure there are others, but they will do for now.

The problem is described, briefly, in the TTC CEO’s Report released on July 4 as part of the agenda for the Board’s July 10 meeting.

As of June 25, the TTC has 80 Bombardier low-floor streetcars available for service. Unfortunately, we have learned that frame imperfections were found on assembled sections of the 67 vehicles manufactured before 2017 at Bombardier’s facility in Mexico. It is important to note that these welding deficiencies pose no safety threat. Bombardier has agreed to make the required repairs by removing cars from service and sending them to the Bombardier Welding Center of Excellence in La Pocatière, Quebec for repair.

We are working with Bombardier on a repair schedule that will have minimal to no impact on our service to customers. All vehicles will be repaired by the end of 2022.

[From “current issues” on p 6]

There is an inconsistency in the size of the fleet reported by Spurr and repeated by Moore. Although the CEO’s report says they have 80 cars, the number 89 has been used in media reports. This discrepancy is likely due to how Bombardier and the TTC count deliveries. Car 4488 was delivered to TTC Hillcrest today (July 4), and this makes a total of 88 cars in Toronto. (4401 was a prototype and is back at Bombardier for retrofits.) However, the highest car number actually in revenue service, and therefore formally accepted by the TTC, is 4482. This may seem like railfan trivia, but keeping track of just how deliveries are going is an important part of knowing how the roll out of new vehicles is actually progressing day-by-day, not in infrequent updates from the TTC.

The chronology of the problem has also been confused somewhat, and I have to own up to misinterpreting Spurr’s recounting of TTC information until this was sorted out in emails with TTC spokesperson Brad Ross.

  • 2015: TTC and Bombardier identify welding problems at the plant in Mexico where frames for the new cars are manufactured. This was one of the key problems that delayed the early shipments of cars to Toronto. TTC refused to accept cars whose parts would not fit together when they arrived at Thunder Bay for final assembly. In time, this manufacturing problem was corrected, or so it was thought.
  • June 2017 (quoting Spurr): “Company representatives said the problem is a “lack of fusion” in some of the welds on the car’s skeleton, particularly around bogie structures and the articulated portals where different sections of the articulated vehicle are joined. The company says it brought the issue “under control” last June and it won’t be repeated in future deliveries.”
  • October 2017: The TTC becomes aware that repairs would be required according to Ross as quoted by Spurr. One must ask what the TTC’s quality control inspectors were doing in Mexico between June and October.
  • February 2018: 4466, presumably the last car completed with bad parts, is delivered to the TTC. This is a rather long span after Bombardier’s claim that the issue was under control in June 2017.
  • July 2018: TTC and Bombardier announce the need to send the defective cars to a Bombardier plant in Québec which is their “world centre for excellence in welding”. In other words they are giving the job to people who should know what they’re doing.

There is a further inconsistency in that the TTC CEO’s report talks of 67 vehicles manufactured before 2017 in Mexico. This is clearly a typo and the date should be 2018.

If the problem finally escalated to TTC management in October 2017, this was during the Byford era, but there was no report of the problem publicly. If we are to believe tweets from members of the TTC Board, Councillor Mihevc in this case, he was unaware of the need for cars to return to Bombardier until this report broke a few days ago. This begs the question of how much the Board is actually in touch with critical issues on the system they govern.

Teething problems with new equipment are common, although Bombardier has a particularly checkered record in that regard and was dropped from a subway car bid by New York City due to problems with a previous batch of cars. In Toronto, the new TR subway trains continue to have problems, although the worst of these have been ironed out. On subway car orders, riders do not usually see the effect of equipment troubles because the TTC has its older fleet to fall back on, not to mention a generous pool of spare trains, and service gets out to the lines. The streetcar network, starved far too long for new cars, does not have this luxury, and Bombardier’s screwups are in plain sight affecting the transit network.

(One might also recall reliability problems with hybrid buses that could be regularly found parked around the city after going disabled. Again, the full effect is not visible to riders because the TTC maintains a large spare pool to cover for these failures.)

Both Bombardier and the TTC state that the problem is not a safety issue for existing cars, but that over time the poor welds would led to premature failure of cars that are supposed to last 30 years. In a particularly bizarre comment, Bombardier spokesman Eric Prud’Homme is quoted by Moore as saying that this recall spurs interest only because of previous problems with the order and that welding problems are “not uncommon” in the industry. Well, yes, maybe, but when they are on a scale requiring that cars be shipped back to the manufacturer, this is a different problem from minor corrections that can be performed at the customer’s site. And, of course, any retrofit that takes cars out of service reduces the pool available to replace the aging CLRV and ALRV streetcars.

The process is expected to require 19 weeks which is subdivided as:

… 19 weeks total for the repairs: 2 weeks to ship the cars to La Pocatière, 12 weeks for maintenance, 2 weeks to ship back to TO, and then 3 weeks for commissioning. [Tweet from @benspurr]

If the cycle time at Bombardier is 12 weeks (delivery each way and commissioning can take place in parallel with repair work), and there are 17 cycles (4 cars x 17 cycles = 68 cars), then this will take almost 4 years (204 weeks) and will complete in 2022. (I include this detail because the initial impression was that the repairs alone would take 19 weeks, not 12, leading to a mismatch between the proposed end date and the length of the project anyone could calculate.)

If there are only about ten cars out of the fleet at any time (in transit either way, or in commissioning activities when they return), the TTC will get by with the proviso that some of the older cars, likely the smaller CLRVs which although older are more reliable than the ALRVs, will stay in service longer. Ideally, they should be scheduled on peak-only runs so that most of the service is provided by the Flexitys on hand.

Politicians and others with their own agendas have seized on this latest setback to say “maybe we should bus some routes permanently” or just get rid of streetcars. With a hostile government in Queen’s Park, this could be a problem especially if Doug Ford decides to meddle in control of the TTC.

It is important to understand what is possible with the fleet the TTC should have available as well as the planning issues about the streetcar corridors in Toronto.

Buses are now operating on the 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton routes, as well as on a Broadview shuttle replacing a small part of 504 King during track work. Streetcars will return to Carlton in September, possibly with some bus trippers, and likely to Dundas sometime in the fall depending on car availability. 511 Bathurst will revert to bus operation in September because of major construction work on the bus roadway at Bathurst Station, and the 502/503 Kingston Road service will also go back to buses. It should be noted that between them, the peak requirement for streetcars on 502, 503 and 511 is only 28 CLRVs plus spares, and this makes these routes easy candidates for bus substitution because relatively few vehicles are needed for any one route.

The streetcar system has been fleet constrained since the mid 1990s. Ridership losses of the early 90s recession allowed service to be cut back to the point that the 510 Spadina line could open using existing spare cars in the fleet, and the planned rebuild of about 20 PCCs was not required. Since then, there has been no capacity for growing demand, and if anything this has fallen through added congestion on major routes and the gradual decline of fleet reliability and availability. The TTC would like to retire the last of its old cars in 2020, although that may not now be possible.

Toronto is fortunate in that the order for Flexitys represents a considerable addition to potential capacity over the fleet it will replace. The old fleet contained 196 CLRVs and 52 ALRVs. Counting the ALRVs as 1.5 cars, this is the equivalent of 274 CLRVs. The 204 Flexitys counting as 2.0 cars each represent 408 CLRVs. This means that the TTC can improve service capacity rather than simply replacing it one-for-one.

This has been a boon on King Street where the capacity of service provided is now considerably improved even though the number of cars operating has stayed almost unchanged.

The 204-car fleet (or 194 if one takes 10 out of the pool for rotation to Bombardier), can provide service improvements, but it cannot replace the full streetcar service on a 1:1 basis. The table below shows the vehicle requirements for all routes assuming streetcar operation at current service levels, or at a recent level when streetcars were in use. The total cars is 214 which clearly cannot be handled by the Flexity fleet if old cars are substituted 1:1. (Allowing for spares at 20%, the total fleet would have to be 257 cars, and this is roughly the level that an added 60 cars would provide.)

However, that would represent a doubling of capacity on the affected routes, and this is well above what is needed in the short-to-medium term. The tradeoff, if replacement is less than 1:1, is that headways (the time between cars) would widen.

For example, on a 2:3 basis (two new cars for three old ones, a capacity increase of 33%), the fleet requirement would go down by 50 cars (one third of the 153 CLRV/ALRV total below). This would bring the total requirement, just barely, within a 204-car fleet. Headways on affected routes would grow by one third. For example, the peak headway on 511 Bathurst would go from 4.5 to 6.0 minutes. This will inevitably affect ridership just as the replacement of CLRVs by ALRVs did years ago on Queen.

A more generous replacement rate of 3:4 (a capacity increase of 50%) lessens the effect on headways, but requires more cars than are available while maintaining a spare pool of 20%.

An important question is the degree to which additional peak service could be provided by the surviving CLRV fleet, or if bus trippers or replacements are the only viable solution. The smaller the replacement vehicle, the more are required. Moreover, if buses are used, this draws vehicles from an already-strained fleet that cannot meet demands on the bus network.

“Why use streetcars” is a question posed by some. A vital issue for City Planning is that growth in the population and in travel demand will occur disproportionately in the old city and along the streetcar corridors. Service will have to be substantially improved to handle future demand that is expected within the next decade.

The streetcar network once provided considerably more service on some routes than it does today. Demographic shifts and ridership lost to service cuts, not to mention a declining fleet of streetcars, have stretched peak headways in some cases quite substantially. But the capacity is there to carry more riders if only the TTC had the vehicles to operate and the City had the will to fund transit service at higher levels on key routes.  (This is also an issue on the bus network which has its own artificial, budget-driven limitations.)

Ed Keenan, writing recently in The Star, noted that the 506 Carlton car once carried 60,000 riders per day, but has fallen back by 2014, the last year for which the TTC has published ridership stats, to 39,700. In all the hand wringing about the effect of fare systems on ridership, the TTC has lost track of a basic driver of demand: the quality and quantity of service. The infrequent publication of stats does not help in tracking of demand, but even those numbers hide latent demand that simply does not show up out of frustration. The King Street Pilot has shown what can happen when service and capacity improve, and the TTC is proud of their success, but substantial movement beyond King is a political minefield.

Fortunately for Toronto, the streetcar infrastructure is in good shape unlike the situation years back when it declined through less-than-ideal maintenance from which the system has only recently recovered. Likewise, Toronto lost its trolley coaches (electric buses to those too young to remember) in part because the system was allowed to decay by management who wanted rid of this mode and colluded with alternate technology providers to bring this about.

Another requirement for new streetcars waiting in the wings comes from the proposed Waterfront extensions west to Humber Bay and east at least to Broadview. This perennial wallflower project has not attracted funding support, and Waterfront Toronto is reduced to planning for a BRT right-of-way that might, someday, mirror the Queens Quay West design with streetcars.

Toronto’s challenge now will be to decide whether Bombardier can be trusted with an extension to its existing Flexity order (the fastest way to get more cars and build up service), or if a delay to seek bids from other builders is the way to go. In the best political tradition, the Board will consider a recommendation from management that this decision be put off to early 2019 when the financial situation for new streetcars will be clearer.

This brings me to funding from Queen’s Park which is unlikely from an avowed streetcar hater, Doug Ford, now Premier. But, that said, Toronto needs to remember that many capital projects have little provincial money in them, and there is also funding from the Federal government. Toronto needs to decide what it needs, and cobble together funding for its many projects where this can be done. It won’t be easy with competing demands for subway expansion and for the renewal of the existing Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, a great deal of which is “below the line” in the unfunded portion of the City’s capital plans.

Expansion of streetcars or LRT, whatever one might want to call them, has always been an uphill battle in Toronto for various reasons including the idea that streetcars are old fashioned and just  get in the way. Tell that to major cities around the world running and expanding their networks. Toronto needs more capacity to move people on many corridors with easy access to transit, something a few subway lines alone can never achieve. Buses at the density required to replace streetcars will only worsen congestion, not relieve it.

Bombardier, through its ongoing cock-ups with provision of new streetcars, has been no friend to the Toronto system. We must get past this with, if need be, a new supplier of vehicles so that the system can grow. Bombardier’s incompetence should not be used as the justification to retrench and, by implication, eventually dismantle the streetcar network.

 

Broadview Avenue Reconstruction Summer 2018 (Updated August 9, 2018)

This summer, the TTC will rebuild the special work at the intersections of Broadview with Dundas and with Gerrard, as well as replacing the tangent track between these two locations. Minor repairs are also planned between Gerrard and Danforth.

This post will track the progress of the work.

As of August 9, the TTC has announced that the intersection will reopen to traffic and normal routes for 504 King, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton will resume on Sunday, August 12 at 7:00 am.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

By the fourth day of the project, the old intersection had been demolished and the new concrete foundation was nearly ready for the new track.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

On day seven, the intersection is fully in place, and work is in progress on various connecting tracks.

 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

These photos illustrate the first stage in replacing track that was built with the now-standard three-layer technique. At the bottom is a concrete slab, and in the middle layer are steel ties with mount points for Pandrol clips that hold the rail in place. The top  layer of concrete goes from the top of the ties to the rail head.

In the first photo below, the machine is cutting away the concrete between a pair of rails to the depth of the first layer and throwing the spoil into a dump truck. The second photo shows the resulting structure with the rails still in place, but only a narrow band of concrete on either side. In the third photo, the remaining concrete is broken away from the track.

 

Friday, July 13, 2018

The photos below work north from Dundas Street. In some of them, the old track has been removed while it others it remains in place. The last photo shows the result after the track is removed with the connection points for the Pandrol clips exposed but not yet cleaned up for new track installation.

 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The photos below show the progress of attaching new rail strings to the pre-existing structure.

In the first and second photos, the attachment points for the Pandrol clips are exposed, but the rail strings have not yet been placed.

In the third photo, the rail is positioned on the ties, and the rubber vibration insulation has been placed around the rail.

In the fourth photo, the clips have been installed locking down the rails.

In the fifth photo, covers have been added over the clips, and concrete work (in the foreground) has already begun. A gauge bar is used to verify the rail spacing. Although the attachment points for the clips effectively dictate the gauge, there is a bit of play, and the rail is checked and adjusted if necessary before the concrete pour.

In the sixth photo, the concrete pour is underway north from Dundas.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Demolition of the old intersection at Broadview & Gerrard is well underway. Work began on July 24.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Most of the concrete foundation is in place ready for track to arrive.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The central diamond had been placed and part of the southern quadrant was roughly in position when I visited about noon. The diamond is unusual in that it is not a 90 degree crossing, and there the curve coming out of the east side begins within the diamond itself. Also, the intersection slopes from south to north.

The only other intersections with a non ninety degree diamond are at Bathurst & Queen, Dundas & McCaul and College & Spadina.  [Thanks to reader “Max” who pointed out the Dundas/McCaul location, and L. Wall who pointed out Spadina & College both of which I missed in the original article.]

August 2, 2018

At midday, the intersection was almost completely assembled with only the approaches still in progress. The City of Toronto tweeted yesterday that the intersection work is ahead of schedule and should open on August 20.

Great news! Broadview & Gerrard St E expected to fully reopen by Aug 20, ahead of schedule as crews make excellent progress on TTC track replacement. Thank you for your patience during this work. [Tweet from @TorontoComms August 1, 2018]

Diversions in Progress

The assembly of the intersection will likely take the balance of the week through to August 4, and then there are the connection tracks to the adjacent structures. Once concrete is placed, it would be about a week before before traffic could return. This has now been announced for August 12.

504 King and 505 Dundas buses have shifted to use the roads connecting to Gerrard at St. Matthews. 506 Carlton buses divert via River, Dundas and Logan both ways. When the intersection reopens to traffic, the replacement bus service will operate on the normal route. Streetcars return to 504 and 506 on Sunday, September 2.

Ooops!

The TTC has confirmed that although the Board approved addition of a north-to-west curve at this location back in 2010 (along with other changes), corporate amnesia caused this to be omitted from the current work.