So You Want To Own A Subway (2018 Edition)

Among the many promises made by the Progressive Conservative Party in the run-up to the June 7 election is a scheme to upload the Toronto subway system to the province with the intention of relieving Toronto of this ongoing cost. This was also part of their 2014 campaign, and it is born no doubt from the Ford brothers’ assumption that (a) this could be done cheaply and (b) Toronto would save money overall. The pot is sweetened this time around with the guarantee that Toronto would keep the fare revenue and operate the system. The overall tradeoffs in operating and capital costs are not entirely nailed down.

Oliver Moore in the Globe has written about this proposal wondering whether it is actually workable. The quotes below are taken from his article.

The Tories are framing the upload largely as an accounting exercise, making it easier to find funding and thus facilitating transit construction. The province would pay an estimated $160-million annually for major capital maintenance on the subway network, taking an obligation off city books.

Under the proposal, the Toronto Transit Commission would keep operating the subway, with its board setting fares and the city retaining revenues. Expansion planning would be controlled by the province, although Toronto and Ottawa would be asked to help fund construction.

Note that the proposal is silent on the operating cost of the subway. There is something of a myth that the subway “breaks even”, but this is not true, especially for the more-recently opened segments. It is a matter of record that the Sheppard Line loses money, and the TTC estimated that the operating impact, net of new fares, of the Vaughan extension would be $30 million per year.

If the province builds a new subway line, would Toronto, through the TTC, still be on the hook for paying its operating cost?

Any concept of “breaking even” requires that fares be allocated between surface and subway routes and this is an impossible task. One can propose many schemes, but they all have built-in biases because a “trip” and a “fare” are such different things. The situation is even more complex as an increasing number of riders pay through some form of pass all the way from the yearly Metropass (formerly called the “monthly discount program”) down to the two-hour transfer.

How Much Does The Subway Cost?

The estimated value of an upload to Queen’s Park of $160 million/year is woefully inadequate because the TTC’s capital budget for ongoing maintenance is much, much larger. There is much more to owning a subway than collecting billions in construction subsidies. Despite the frequent claim that “subways last 100 years”, they require a lot of ongoing maintenance and replacement of subsystems. With the exception of the physical tunnel and station structures, a large proportion of the older subway lines has been completely replaced or undergone major overhaul at least once since they opened. Line 1 YUS is on its third generation of trains, for example.

I wrote about this four years ago, and this article is an update of my earlier review.

A big problem arises for anyone taking a superficial look at the TTC’s books because so many projects are not funded, or are not even part of the approved “base budget”. They are “below the line” or, even worse, they are merely “proposals” of future works that might find their way into the official list. Looking only at current, approved funded projects ignores a large and growing list of projects that, for political convenience, are out of sight, the iceberg below the water line.

Slogging through the TTC’s Capital Budget is no fun, but somebody has to do it. You, dear readers, get the digested version of hundreds of pages of reports. Thank you in advance.

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TTC Contemplates Earlier Subway Closing

At the TTC’s Audit & Risk Management Committee meeting of May 29, 2018, staff presented a report entitled Internal Audit Quarterly Update: Q1 2018. That is not the sort of title that would prompt avid late-night reading, but one item within the report sparked a brief conversation between the committee and staff.

There are several issues related to the management of overnight work in the subway which requires a variety of resources including staff, work cars, power cuts and central supervision to keep all of the crews from tripping over each other. One part of the ongoing audit work is to review the systems (many automated, but some manual) used to schedule and track the work plans, but another issue raised was the relatively short maintenance window within which work can be done. Responding to a question, staff advised that they are reviewing the operating hours of the subway to determine whether changing these hours could improve the productivity of overnight maintenance work.

Here are extracts from the report:

Audit Observation #3: Track Level Maintenance Window

TTC’s revenue subway service hours limit the nightly maintenance window, which impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of track level work and exposes subway infrastructure to accelerated deterioration.

Limited Track Level Maintenance Window

Per an international CoMET/Nova benchmark study of “Metro Key Performance Indicators (2016 data)”, TTC ranked fourth amongst 34 participants in terms of subway service density or network utilization – a standardized method that measures operated passenger capacity compared to network size. This KPI reflects the ‘intensity of utilization of the metro network’, which is a function of train frequency, train length and car capacity. The study asserts high train frequency may reflect a good use of fixed infrastructure, but the intense impact on asset utilization should be warranted by ridership demand, i.e., recognizing the need to balance competing objectives of making subway service more available for customers versus the costs associated with accelerated deterioration of subway infrastructure and assets due to an increase in daily use. The study comments that TTC offers relatively high levels of capacity primarily due to larger trains and higher frequencies across its entire, relatively small network.

TTC track level work starts once the system is fully cleared of revenue trains. TTC’s subway system is closed to the public at 1:30am and opens at 6:00am on week days and Saturdays, and at 8:00am on Sundays. However, trains continue to run through the system until approximately 2:30am and re-enter the system at around 5:30am, leaving an average total available daily maintenance window of 180 minutes (300 minutes on Sundays as service preparation starts around 7:30am).

Night shift work typically runs from 10:30pm to 7am, including a 30-minute unpaid meal break. Per discussion with Subway Infrastructure management, track level set-up activities typically start at 2:45am and Transit Control requests crews to complete work and start clearing the track at 5:00am. Work activities expected to be performed out-side of this track level access time period include employee roll-call, safety-talks/briefings, work car preparation, and tools maintenance, etc.

[…]

In a Nova comparison study, “Track Possession Timings ” (2014), it was noted that given TTC’s subway service hours, and taking into account estimated time required for set-up and safety check activities, as well as post work preparation for service, TTC workers’ total available time to work productively at track level was between 30 and 225 mins less than the other ten participants. Further, the average maintenance window of these other participants was almost 2hrs longer than that of TTC.

If the maintenance window was to be increased by 2 additional hours, 5 nights a week, Audit estimates the opportunity for improved productivity by SI’s Track Maintenance and Structure Maintenance Sections alone to be valued at approximately $3.38 million. Such a change would also reduce overtime and potentially the need for weekend closures by these two groups. Based on payroll data, Track Maintenance and Structure Maintenance incurred overtime costs of $4.58M and $1.26M respectively in 2017. Structure Maintenance Management estimates that if the maintenance window was to be extended by 2 hours, 5 nights a week, the annual overtime for this Section could be reduced by 75%, which in 2017, would be equal to approximately $945K. It is reasonable to assume productivity improvements and material overtime savings could be realized by other groups that complete maintenance and capital project work at track level if the maintenance window is extended.

[pp 8-9 of Attachment 3, at pp 27-28 of the document]

Note that the “other ten participants” are not listed nor are the relative service levels of their transit systems mentioned to indicate whether they are valid comparators for Toronto.

A proposed action plan appears a few pages later in the report:

Audit Observation #3 – Management Action Plan Considerations:

To maximize and optimize the track level maintenance window, Management should:

  • Evaluate actual ridership and revenue associated with TTC’s late-night subway service (after midnight runs) to ensure current intensity of service and impact on subway infrastructure (and vehicle) asset maintenance costs are warranted.
  • Conduct in-depth analysis of TTC’s current subway infrastructure asset management approach, resource planning and crewing methods, work car dispatching techniques and work methods to identify opportunities for maximizing productivity and transparency of resource utilization at track level.

This was striking on at least two counts.

First, there is no recognition in the report that closing earlier is anything more than a question of sending trains back to the yard earlier, and no mention of providing replacement service. It is no secret that night buses on Yonge and Bloor-Danforth are very heavily loaded after 2 am and, if anything, more service is needed then. A similar problem occurs during the early part of the day before the subway opens. The auditors also seem to be unaware that there is no night service to replace the University-Spadina subway, and this is difficult (as users of Spadina shuttles know) because the subway does not follow an arterial road like Yonge or Bloor.

If two hours were added to the shutdown period, the amount of bus service required to replace the subway would be substantial, and it is likely that ridership would be lost thanks to the relative inconvenience. Moreover, there would be knock-on effects for users of connecting bus services who would face much longer journeys to their connection points on a surface bus, and who might also face a decline in service thanks to the unattractiveness of the night bus replacement for the subway.

This change could actually trigger a system-wide retrenchment of service hours.

Second, there was absolutely no intimation that anyone at the meeting was aware of just how severe the impacts of this proposal would be on riders, nor was there any attempt to defend their interests. Indeed, the focus is on making the maintenance teams more efficient and saving millions without considering the offsetting costs and potential lost revenue.

Some of the basic assumptions in the text quoted above are wrong, notably a claimed closing time for the subway of 1:30 am. In fact, the closing time varies across the system. There is a scheduled meet of the last northbound, eastbound and westbound trains at Bloor-Yonge at about 1:54 am that has been in place since the BD line opened in 1966. Stations close as these last trains make their way outbound to terminals. One might hope the auditors would check with TTC planners or even simply look at their own website.

The last train eastbound on Line 4 Sheppard does not leave Yonge-Sheppard station until 2:14 am.

It is quite clear to anyone who actually rides the subway late at night that it does not close at 1:30 am across the network. This is only the start of a process that continues until about 2:30 am, and some trains have to return to their overnight storage locations even later. The maintenance window varies depending where one is on the network.

The comment in the report about “accelerated deterioration of subway infrastructure and assets” is a function of the very frequent service the TTC provides across the entire subway system at all hours with trains every 5 minutes or better until almost the end of service. How much extra wear and tear this represents since the subway opened in 1954 might be of interest, but this service level is a matter of TTC Service Standards. One could argue that full service is not required, based on demand, beyond a core portion of the system late at night. However, I dare any politician to stand up and tell suburban Toronto that they will lose their frequent service just because the trains are not full.

Another issue here is that actually running the trains is only part of total subway costs, and unless one can also drop staffing levels associated with stations, security, line supervision and on-call maintainers, the saving of running, say, only half of the service beyond a turnback point such as Eglinton is small. The same consideration applies to running less frequent service generally – the trains are only part of the overall operating cost.

It is important to note that this “accelerated deterioration” is a function of frequent service over long hours, not some side-effect of inefficient maintenance procedures as one might erroneously read the audit report.

I hope that if there is a detailed study, it will take into account the benefits of good late night and early morning service on the subway, not to mention the requirements for substantially improved night bus service. Indeed the existing night service needs improving, but languishes thanks to a combination of indifference and budget restraints.

It is only a few years since the TTC began Sunday service at 8:00 am rather than 9:00 am in January 2016.

In a Nov. 4, 2015, letter to the Board, Mayor John Tory and Chair Josh Colle wrote:

“As a vibrant and growing city, Toronto does not conform to a traditional Monday to Friday schedule … Our businesses are open, our cultural centres are operating and the engines of our economy remain in motion. The people of Toronto should be able to move around this city with ease — seven days a week — and the TTC plays an instrumental role in providing this mobility.”

Early Sunday openings are the latest service improvement to be introduced in recent months, following this year’s expansion of overnight service and all-day, every-day service across the city, implementation of ten-minute-or-better service and reduced off-peak crowding on bus and streetcar routes.

Someone should send a copy of this letter to the auditors who appear to be incapable of making a full evaluation of the effects of their recommendations or even appreciating the seriousness of what they propose. “Efficiency” in one department does not mean better service for the organization and the City as a whole.

TTC Route Service Quality Tracking

The TTC has posted a new report on its Customer Service page which displays the route-by-route on time departure scores for the past three years. Reports of this nature were promised in the “Customer Charter” but have been missing since the first quarter of 2015.

There is no explanation of what these scores actually mean, although this can be gleaned from the comparable system wide-scores in the CEO’s Report.

This KPI measures adherence to scheduled (59 seconds early to five minutes late) departure times from end terminals. [p. 38]

The overall values for the bus and streetcar systems (from the CEO’s Report) are shown below.

The bus system does somewhat better than the streetcars, but on time departures still sit in the 80 percent range, and trends for the past three years follow a similar pattern.

For the streetcars, barely half of the service is “on time”. The real problem for both modes is the definition of what is measured, where this is taken, and over what period.

When there is a six-minute window in which a vehicle is considered to be on time, but when the scheduled gap between cars anywhere below about 9 minutes, then pairs of vehicles can operate across a route and still count as “on time”. For example, if departures are scheduled at 12:00 and 12:09, but the actual times are 12:05 and 12:08 (one five minute late, the other 1 minute early), it does not take long for this to coalesce into a pair of vehicles. For a 6 minute headway, the pair can leave a terminal together and be “on time”. That the TTC cannot achieve better stats even with such a generous metric for streetcar lines which tend to have frequent service is a bad starting point.

The next problem is that this measure is taken on an all-day basis and only at terminals. There is no breakdown of whether service is more or less “on time” during peak periods, midday, evening or weekends, not to mention that service once vehicles leave a terminal can be nothing like the terminal departures. This was shown in my recent analyses of service on 505 Dundas and 505 Carlton bus operations, and there are similar problems throughout the system. Most riders do not actually board at the terminals, and so the gapping and bunching they experience is worse than that reflected in the official stats.

Finally, “on time” is a meaningless metric for riders on frequent routes where the schedule per se is of little interest, only that a bus or streetcar appear “soon” and that there is room available when it does. The word “they” should never apply to transit vehicle arrivals, but this is all too common as every route analysis I have performed (many published here) show where bunching is common even on wider scheduled headways.

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Shuffling Bus Routes in The Junction

The TTC has a proposal for reorganizing its bus service in The Junction and is seeking feedback for a report to the TTC Board this summer.

The maps below are clipped from the TTC’s site and their resolution is limited by what is available there.

Two major changes involve creating through services on St. Clair and on Dundas:

  • On St. Clair, the 127 Davenport bus would be extended west from Old Weston Road to an on-street loop via Scarlett Road, Foxwell and Jane Streets. This would replace the 71A branch of Runnymede that now terminates at Gunn’s Loop as well as the 79B branch of Scarlett Road. All 71 Runnymede buses would run north up Runnymede, and all 79 Scarlett Road buses would follow the current 79A route via Foxwell and Pritchard.
  • On Dundas, the 40 Junction bus would be extended west to Kipling Station replacing the 30 Lambton bus which would terminate at Runnymede Loop. A short turn 40B service would loop via Jane, St. Clair and Runnymede as another part of the replacement for the 79B Scarlett Road service.

The 80B Queensway service that terminates at Humber Loop late evenings and Sundays would be eliminated and buses would operate to Keele Station via Parkside Drive at all times. This through service to the subway was in place during the reconstruction of the loop, but the 80B reappeared on April 1 using an on-street connection to the Queen car at Windermere/Ellis.

The TTC site is silent on a few issues that could bear on how this reorganization will be received by riders:

  • There is no before/after service plan showing bus frequencies on the existing and planned routes.
  • When the railway underpass at St. Clair and Keele closes for reconstruction and widening, this will shift the western terminus of 512 St. Clair to Earlscourt Loop (at Lansdowne), and the proposed 127 Davenport service through to Scarlett Road will not be possible.

There is also no mention of the proposed 512 St. Clair extension to Jane Street which dates back to the Transit City days, but is for all practical purposes a dead issue. That extension was premised on the idea that streetcar service on St. Clair would operate from a carhouse to be shared by the Finch and Jane LRT routes. The Jane LRT is nowhere to be seen, and in any event would be a standard gauge line making its use by TTC gauge St. Clair cars impossible.

Assuming that the Davenport bus is rerouted along St. Clair, this would remove service from Townsley Loop which has been in service since 1924. It would also eliminate the planned connection by the Davenport bus to the SmartTrack St. Clair/Keele station, although this transfer connection would remain possible at the Keele/Weston/St. Clair intersection.

Those Vanishing Streetcar Stops

Readers who follow me on Twitter will know that the question of which streetcar stops are being removed has been a simmering issue for some time. The question has become less “what is the list” than “why is it impossible to get the list”.

A related matter is the degree of consultation, or not, that preceded implementation of the changes.

Several changes for The Beach (Queen Street East and Kingston Road) were announced in an email newsletter from Councillor McMahon, and the format of the list, complete with stop numbers, made it clear that this was a TTC document.

TTC will proceed with the following streetcar stop relocations on May 13 to support the deployment of new streetcars:

On Kingston Road:

  • Move the westbound stops #2786 (Malvern Avenue) and #2799 (Walter Street) to a new stop at the midblock pedestrian signal at Glen Manor Dr
  • Remove the farside westbound stop #2801 at Woodbine Avenue to a new stop nearside of the same intersection

On Queen Street:

  • Move the stops at Kent Road, and Woodward Avenue, to new stops at the pedestrian crossover at Woodfield Road
  • Move the eastbound stop #3055 at Laing Street to a nearside location at Alton Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6807 at Kippendavie Avenue east to the signalized intersection at Elmer Avenue
  • Move the eastbound stop #6815 at Scarboro Beach Boulevard and the eastbound stop #6812 to the signalized intersection at Glen Manor Drive
  • Move the stops at the unsignalized intersections of Lee Avenue and Waverley Road to the signalized intersection at Bellefair Avenue
  • Move the westbound stop #6818 at Sprucehill Road closer to the pedestrian crossover at Beech Avenue

Courtesy of the fact that the TTC’s own website contains out of date information about stop locations while the list in NextBus is current, it did not take long to track down the remaining changes, but the bizarre part of this is that repeated attempts to simply get a list from the TTC ran aground.

Today, I took an inspection tour of the affected locations to verify what has happened, and here is my list:

On King Street:

  • Stops both ways at Trinity Street removed
  • Eastbound stop at Fraser replaced by a new stop at the signal at Joe Shuster Way where there is already a westbound stop.

On Queen Street (in addition to the above):

  • Stops both ways at Connaught removed. (How will operators ever change cars without a transit stop?)
  • Westbound stop at Simcoe replaced by a new stop at the signal at St. Patrick. Now if only the TTC would put an eastbound stop there to replace the one they dropped in the last round at McCaul, and thereby break up the long gap from John to University.
  • Eastbound stop at Gladstone farside replaced by nearside stop. [Thanks to a reader for spotting this.]
  • Westbound stop at Beaconsfield shifted east a short distance to align with the new traffic signal at Abell St.
  • Eastbound stop at Wilson Park shifted west one block to Triller where there is a crosswalk and an existing westbound stop.

On The Queensway:

  • As a result of the restoration of streetcar service to Humber Loop, the stop at Parkside is back in service. This is reflected on NextBus but not on the TTC’s own site.

On Dundas Street:

  • Westbound stop at Crawford shifted one block to Shaw Street where there is a traffic signal and an existing eastbound stop.

On College Street:

  • Stops both ways at Clinton removed. (Thanks to readers who pointed this out in the comments.) [Updated May 18, 2018]

Now that wasn’t hard at all, was it?

(There may be more that I have missed, and if anybody spots one, leave a comment and I will update the article.)

What is not clear is the degree to which local councillors or residents were consulted about this change. This gets us into a rather murky bit of TTC management bafflegab. When the original proposal was before the TTC board in May 2014, there were motions amending the staff recommendation including:

Chair Augimeri moved that the Board:

1. authorize staff to proceed with the recommended changes to the stops in the staff report where consensus has been reached; and

2. refer the remaining stops identified in the staff report back to staff for further consultation with local Councillors and for report back to the next meeting.

The motion by Chair Augimeri carried. [Minutes of May 28, 2014 Board Meeting, Item 14]

It is quite clear that the Board intended that the proposals in the report had to be accepted by those affected. (For the record, there never was a follow up report provided by staff.)

The current round of changes includes several stops that were not part of the original list. When I pressed TTC management on what appeared to be a lack of notice of the change, not even bringing the scheme to the Board for approval, I was told that the 2014 motion was by an old Board and the staff were no longer bound by it.

Say what? Management can simply make up whatever policy they want when the Board is replaced in a new term of Council?

This is not a question of a nerdish railfan wanting to track the locations of stops, but of a much larger issue that will affect many parts of the City when the TTC turns it attention to bus routes. Some of the stop spacings on bus routes are embarrassingly short, and if the same principles are followed as for streetcars, a lot of buses won’t stop as often, or as conveniently as they do today.

Many of the changes are quite reasonable and take into account the fact that there are now both crosswalks and traffic signals at locations where they did not exist when the transit stops were first installed. This type of change has less to do with new streetcars than simply reflecting the updated street design.

Another justification for elimination of stops in the 2014 round was that this would speed service. In fact, the effects were minimal because many stops that were dropped were not at traffic signals, and they did not represent much delay to streetcar service. This time around, most changes are relocations.

Memo to Councillors with bus routes: Pay attention to what the TTC is up to in your ward.

Metrolinx Mulls Fare System Changes (Updated)

At the April 26, 2018 Metrolinx Board Meeting, two of the public agenda items dealt with changes in fares and in the fare collection system:

Presto Mobile is a new smartphone app that is intended to become a single point of access to Metrolinx services including fare payment and trip planning.

On the fare integration front, Metrolinx is contemplating the effects of funding announced in the 2018 provincial budget to subsidize lower fares for short GO Transit trips, and for cross-border fares between Toronto and the 905-area municipalities.

For the sake of discussion, this article assumes that the provisions in the budget will actually be implemented regardless of which party forms the government after the election in June.

Updated May 7, 2018 at 9:50 am: Metrolinx has confirmed that the double discount for GO+TTC fares would still apply to the new $3 fare within Toronto.

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TTC Proposes Service Improvements for Fall 2018 (Updated)

Updated May 9, 2018: Information about the planned changes has been updated based on the staff presentation at the May 8 Board meeting.

Contrary to the penny-pinching approach urged on the TTC by budget hawks, where only routes that were 30% above standard would be improved, the changes will bring all bus routes that are above the Board-approved loading standards below the approved maximum. This will be achieved through a combination of better availability in the bus fleet and reallocation of service from routes and periods which are below the standard. The sequence of implementation will likely be:

  • September: Express routes
  • October and November: Peak and Off-Peak improvements

The staff proposals were amended by a Board motion directing that one additional gap train be provided on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina in both peak periods starting in September. This will bring the total to 4 AM and 1 PM gap trains.

The TTC Board will consider proposals to improve service on their network at its meeting on May 8, 2018. No doubt, there will be many cries of  “Huzzah” and tub-thumping pre-election speeches about how Toronto continues to improve its transit service.

There is not much new here for those who have been following the 2018 budget process. This is merely the implementation stage of changes that were included in the Council-approved budget earlier this year.

Previous articles/items on this topic:

There are four groups of improvements:

  1. Improve service reliability on Line 1
  2. Relieve peak crowding on bus routes
  3. Relieve off-peak crowding on bus routes
  4. Implement new express bus services

The changes will be implemented, for the most part, in fall 2018, and therefore have only a four-month effect on the budget. The costs are projected to be $5 million in 2018 and $15.5m in 2019, offset by revenue from new riding of $2m in 2019. For the 2018 budget year, $3m comes from a Council-approved bump in the TTC’s subsidy, and the remaining $2m from spending redirected from other, unspecified, areas within the TTC.

The new riding generated by the changes is projected to be 848,000 in 2019, of which over 60% would come from the new express services. By 2021, this is expected to rise to 1.1 million rides that the TTC would not have seen without the improvements. Many more riders will benefit from less crowded service, at least assuming that the TTC, with adequate funding, stays on top of crowding problems.

Stirring all that together means that the net new requirement for funding in the 2019 budget will be $8.5 million.This implies that the “redirection” of funding in the TTC budget is a permanent change, not a one time efficiency or deferral.

It is important to contrast this with the cost of opening the Vaughan subway extension ($30m annually) or the fare freeze (a comparable amount). The TTC has used its vehicle shortage as a convenient excuse to avoid service improvements with the argument “even if you gave us the money, we couldn’t run the service” response. In fact, what money the TTC does manage to scrape together is going to underwrite service on the subway extension and politically motivated fare policies.

Although there is an intent to reduce crowding, this will only occur on the most badly-overcrowded of routes, and in effect the TTC has made its “standards” worse by only addressing problems on the most badly crowded parts of their system.

Moreover, there is still no ongoing reporting mechanism to allow tracking of crowding by route and time period so that the degree to which the TTC fails to achieve its standards is clear for all to see.

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TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, May 13, 2018

The May 2018 service changes bring:

  • Addition of two AM peak “gap trains” on 1 Yonge-University-Spadina and other operational improvements.
  • An update to the schedules for service on the King Street Pilot to reflect the improved travel time on the street and to reduce vehicle queues at terminals.
  • Changes to all routes serving Main Station during construction that will close the loop to transit vehicles.
  • Diversions of the Parliament and Carlton routes around track construction at Gerrard & Parliament.
  • Changes to Don Mills bus schedules to reflect actual operating conditions and Crosstown construction effects.
  • Seasonal changes to reflect declining ridership to post-secondary institutions during the summer.
  • Summer improvements including extension of 121 Fort York Esplanade to Cherry Beach during all operating periods, improved weekend service on 92 Woodbine South, and later service to the Zoo.
  • There is a new summer route 175 Bluffers Park on weekends between Kennedy Station and the park’s parking lot.
  • Service cuts and running time reductions on 6 Bay.
  • Weekend reliability improvements on 96 Wilson and 165 Weston Road North.
  • Weekday reliability improvements on 199 Finch Rocket.

2018.05.13_Service_Changes

Here are the highlights:

1 Yonge-University-Spadina

Two “gap trains” will be added to the morning peak schedule to provide additional service as needed southbound on Yonge. One train will be stationed in Eglinton pocket track, and the other on the hostler track at Davisville.

Trains leaving service in the evening to Wilson Yard will now do so southbound from Vaughan rather than northbound at Wilson. This avoids conflicts between the yard movements and southbound service.

King Street Pilot

Running times on 504 King will be reduced during almost all operating periods, and the saving will be converted into slightly shorter scheduled headways with no change in total vehicles. The four peak period ALRV trippers will be replaced by six CLRV trippers. Flexity cars will now be formally scheduled to cover part of the service with priority going to runs that stay out all day.

514 Cherry service will be improved during the AM peak, weekday early evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday early evening periods by the addition of one or more cars.

Peak period crewing practices will be changed to step back operation to reduce terminal delays.

Main Station

Main Station Loop will be closed until September 2018 for construction. During this time routes serving the station will be reorganized:

  • 20 Cliffside and 62 Mortimer will be interlined as a single route from Broadview to Kennedy Station.
  • 23 Dawes will be extended west to Woodbine Station.
  • 64 Main will be extended north to Eastdale.
  • 87 Cosburn will loop on street via Danforth and Chisholm.
  • 113 Danforth and 135 Gerrard will be cut back from Main to Victoria Park Station.
  • 506 Carlton will be extended east to Victoria Park Station via Gerrard covering the mileage of the shortened 135 Gerrard route.

Parliament & Gerrard

During the reconstruction of this intersection, buses will divert:

  • 65 Parliament will divert via Sherbourne between Dundas and Carlton.
  • 506 Carlton will divert via Dundas between Sherbourne and River.

Bay Bus

Service on 6 Bay will be reduced by the elimination of one or two buses during most operating periods, and headways will be widened as a result.

This route suffers from excessive running time as shown in a previous analysis I published, and I will be updating this with current data in May.

Who Will Pay For SmartTrack?

Toronto’s Executive Committee will consider a series of reports on the proposed SmartTrack project and related matters at its meeting on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

These reports set in motion several aspects of the GO/RER/ST program, although the primary focus is the funding the the new SmartTrack stations which is a city responsibility. This article deals with the main report and the first two attachments.

Attachment 3 is a compilation of the information on the proposed new stations that has already been discussed in my previous articles on the public meetings.

Attachment 4 explains the link between SmartTrack and plans for significant changes to the road network in the St. Clair, Keele, Old Weston Road area including widening of St. Clair through the railway underpass and extensions of various roads to fill gaps and provide additional paths for traffic flow. The new station at St. Clair and Old Weston/Keele would be constructed based on the new layout, and work on these projects will be co-ordinated.

Attachment 5 was prepared by Metrolinx. It sets out the status of the many changes to various rail corridors that are within the City of Toronto.

Attachment 6 illustrates the planned new south platforms and concourse at Union Station, an expansion project separate from the renovation of the existing station now underway. Of note in the design is the replacement of four tracks by two making room for a pair of much wider platforms than in the older part of the station. From a service design point of view, these tracks and platforms will likely be the new home for the Lakeshore services as this will allow them to operate along the south side of the rail corridors free of interference with traffic from the more northerly corridors like Milton/Kitchener/Barrie to the west and Richmond Hill/Stouffville to the east.

(Metrolinx has already talked about the need to consolidate trackage and platforms in the old part of the station to improve capacity both for train service and for passengers, but that is beyond the scope of the city reports.)

The current report deals only with the SmartTrack stations. Specifically it does not address:

  • The Eglinton West LRT which, having replaced a part of the original SmartTrack scheme, is still bound up with ST as part of the total budget number for this project.
  • Operating and maintenance costs for GO/ST service.
  • The cost to the city of “fare integration” or even exactly what this will mean.

A further problem, as I discussed in a recent article, is that recent changes in the Metrolinx/GO service design for various corridors has changed the mix of local and express trains on which the SmartTrack scheme rests. Metrolinx has still not explained how they will operate the number of trains the city report claims will stop at all of the “local” SmartTrack stations, and they are quite testy on the matter when pressed. For its part, the city assumes a service level (and hence attractiveness of service) greater than what Metrolinx has, so far, committed to operating.

The works that are included in the report are:

  • Six new GO/SmartTrack stations at Finch, Lawrence East, Gerrard/Carlaw, East Harbour, Liberty Village and St. Clair/Old Weston.
  • Additional city requirements for station facilities that are not strictly required for operation of the transit service.

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Queen’s Park’s Long Overdue Move on Fare Integration

The recently-announced Ontario Budget includes a lot of spending on transportation that transit riders in the GTHA can only hope to see delivered by whoever is in charge at Queen’s Park after the June 2018 election. Even though the budget is as much about vote-getting as about actual governance, it is worth looking at what the promised fare changes would bring if they are implemented.

From the press release:

  • Beginning in early 2019, the province is reducing the cost of GO Transit trips to just $3 for PRESTO users who are travelling under 10 kilometres anywhere on the GO network
  • All GO Transit and Union-Pearson Express trips anywhere within the City of Toronto will be reduced to $3
  • With proceeds from Ontario’s cap on pollution, the province will also provide fare integration discounts of up to $1.50 per ride for anyone who travels between the York, Durham, Brampton and Mississauga transit networks and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), saving regular commuters up to $720 every year
  • PRESTO card users travelling on GO Transit between Union Station and stations near Toronto, such as Port Credit, Malton, Pickering, Ajax or Markham will see fare reductions.

As with any announcement, “the devil is in the details”, and I fired off a series of questions to clarify how this might all work. Responses came back from Metrolinx.

Q1: Regular GO Transit riders now enjoy a monthly cap of 40 fares on their travel. The 36-40th trips are at a discount, and from 41 onward, they are free. Will this apply to the new $3 fare? In other words, is there an upper limit of 40 x $3 = $120 to a rider’s cost of using GO within the 416, or is it open ended like TTC fares where there is no cap unless one buys a pass?

A: Details on this will be worked out as part of our implementation planning and work.

Q2: There are now co-fare arrangements between the 905 systems and GO, as well as between GO and TTC. If someone makes, for example, a YRT-GO-TTC trip, what discounts apply? Are the cofares cumulative?

A: YRT-GO Co-Fare, GO-TTC DDF. Yes, cumulative.

Q3: By analogy to Q1, if a rider makes a three-legged trip regularly, thereby becoming entitled to free rides for the GO segment after 40 trips, what happens to the co-fares? Do they still apply, or does the rider pay full 905 plus TTC fare in this case? The potential savings are “up to $720 per year”. Is this simply a calculation based on 20 commutes for 12 months, or will it be a capped saving?

A: Details on this will be worked out as part of implementation planning and work.

Q4: If someone has a Metropass (or its Presto equivalent), they are not entitled to the TTC-GO co-fare. Is it correct to say that their monthly cost would be the cost of the pass plus $3 times the number of GO trips taken within Toronto?

A: For adults, yes.

Q5: For clarity, is the $3 fare a flat rate even if riders transfer from one GO service to another, such as from Lake Shore to UPX, but stays within Toronto for their trip?

A: Yes as long as [the] individual uses the GO readers for their UP Express trip.

Q5a: If part of their trip is inside Toronto, but a second leg goes outside, does the $3 apply to the “inside Toronto” portion? Example: Rough Hill to Union to Weston is all inside Toronto, but Rouge Hill to Union to Airport is not.

A: Fares for any trips to and from Toronto Pearson Airport remain unchanged.

Q6: The co-fare for GO-TTC is relative to an assumed $1.50 per full adult fare with lower co-fares for those getting discounts like Seniors. Will the same apply to the 905-416 co-fare?

A: Details on this will be worked out in conjunction with the transit agencies.

In brief, the only thing that is nailed down so far is that discounts between each leg of a trip are cumulative so that, for example, a Miway rider travelling to a station within the $3 GO tariff zone and thence to a TTC route will get the Miway co-fare discount, the new low GO transit fare and the GO-TTC discount. Also, transfers between GO services do not attract another fare provided that the trip stays within the city.

Every thing else is to be “worked out”.

There are a variety of scenarios one can construct including the combined effects of bulk fares (passes) on 905 systems, the existing GO Transit monthly fare caps, and whatever co-fare/discount arrangements will exist. Anyone trying to work out the permutations has my sympathy. From the Metrolinx point of view:

The reason these changes will only be introduced in early 2019, is because Metrolinx needs time to work with our transit partners to ensure the various scenarios and all fare rules are in place. This budget provided Metrolinx with direction to move forward on fare integration. [Metrolinx email]

Leaving aside the question of whether the government in place for the 2019-20 budget will support whatever fare scheme Metrolinx comes up with, there are also obvious questions about the implications for service crowding and for possible changes needed in local route networks, mainly on the TTC, to provide better connections with GO stations. The lower fares may look attractive, but actually using the service could be challenging within Toronto.

  • On Lakeshore West, most inbound trains run express from Clarkson to Union with local trains only every half hour in the AM peak. The same arrangement applies outbound on the PM peak.
  • On Lakeshore East, there is a similar pattern with express trains skipping all stops from Rouge Hill to Union, and local trains running roughly twice/hour in the peak, albeit on an irregular headway. Some additional service is provided at Danforth (Main) and Scarborough stations by the Stouffville line’s trains.
    • TTC services in southern Etobicoke and Scarborough focus on the Bloor-Danforth subway, and actually reaching the GO stations (or using the TTC as a connecting service from them) is not easy.
  • On the Milton corridor, trains operate only in the peak period, peak direction although for someone at Kipling Station, the all-local service now operated would actually be better than what is provided at, say, Mimico on the Lakeshore West corridor.
  • The Barrie corridor and the Vaughan subway extension are in direct competition with each other, although service is far more frequent, especially during the off-peak, on the subway than on the hourly GO train, and the GO stations within Toronto are not well-served by the TTC network (other than the connection point at Downsview Park station).
  • The Richmond Hill corridor, like Milton, has only peak service, and its stations within Toronto are poorly served by the TTC.
  • The Stouffville corridor has all-day service with stations that potentially could connect with TTC feeder routes at Steeles (Milliken), Sheppard (Agincourt) and Eglinton (Kennedy). As on Lakeshore, the tradeoff will be for a faster trip bypassing the subway.
  • The Weston corridor is a special case because it hosts not only the GO Kitchener service but also the Union Pearson Express (UPX) trains which provide the most frequent of GO services within Toronto.

The fare reductions for trips from the near-Toronto stations in the 905 could shift some travel away from the subway, although few of the stations are well-located for this purpose. The Richmond Hill corridor is the most obvious of these, but the limited service there does not offer a lot to diverting demand.

As a follow-up question, I asked Metrolinx whether they had any demand studies to show travel patterns with the new fares, to the degree that these are known. Their reply is pending, and I will update this article when I receive further info.

It is well-known that the demand models are sensitive to three factors: trip speed, service frequency and fare level. This came out quite clearly in the background studies for SmartTrack and the Scarborough Subway where ST would succeed in drawing significant riding only if it operated frequently and cheaply, as originally touted in John Tory’s campaign. Just how many riders the lower GO fares, by themselves, will attract remains to be seen. A related problem, of course, is the question of train capacity if many actually shift to GO.

Not to be forgotten in all of this are the cross-border travellers between the 905 and 416 (in both directions) for whom a discounted fare will be a benefit. However, if this is only available to riders paying the full adult fare in each jurisdiction, this could undo the benefit now enjoyed by pass users who will not get any further discount. This would be particularly important if a pass holder took many “local” trips on the TTC in addition to cross-border trips into the 905.

In general, riders who already enjoy some sort of discount like seniors and students will benefit far less from the new tariff.

Whether any of this will come to pass is purely speculative at this point given the tenuous status of the current government and the well-known, vague bluster of their principal opposition.

Metrolinx (and by implication its political masters) have wasted years on pursuit of “fare integration” schemes that began with the premise of revenue neutrality to limit the government’s cost through added subsidies, and with the underlying view that distance-based fares were the end state at which they would aim. Had the option of added subsidy and reduction of short-haul GO fares been part of the mix a few years ago, the entire debate over fare integration could have taken a completely different path and a new tariff would already be in place.

Transit policy should arise from reasoned, open evaluation of alternatives, including those that may require an “investment” to make them work, not from a deathbed change of heart by an unpopular government facing defeat at the polls.