A Cat’s Cradle of Transit Plans (Updated)

Updated June 6, 2016 at 11:30 pm: The chart of the demand profile for the Eglinton East LRT has been updated by City Planning to correct an error in labelling where inbound and outblound values were reversed. The new chart has been placed into this post, and the link to the source pdf has been updated below.

Public consultation sessions are coming to an end on the “motherlode” of transit projects (as they were described earlier this year by Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat). This process will soon bring a consolidated set of reports and recommendations for Council. So far, the presentations have been subdivided between various projects.

A major challenge for politicians, the media and the general public is to sort out all of these schemes and to understand how they all fit together. This is not just a question of how we will finance all of the projects, but of how each project and the choices made for it will affect everything else. Where typical studies in Toronto might have wrestled with whether a new line should go under street “A” or “B”, and where the stations might be located, today’s work requires understanding of how the network will evolve over time and how it will work as a whole in a few decades.

The process is complicated further by having municipal (City Planning & TTC) and provincial (Metrolinx) components, and the secretive nature of Metrolinx studies means that some vital information about its projects is not yet public. The Metrolinx reports are expected to appear on their Board’s agenda for June 28, and this implies public availability sometime in the preceding week.

The consolidated City reports should be available on June 21 when a briefing session is to occur at City Hall a week before the June 28 Executive Committee meeting.

Continue reading

A Messy “Reset” For Waterfront Transit Planning (Updated)

The first of two public meetings on the City of Toronto’s so-called “reset” of transit plans for the waterfront was held on May 25, and a second is to follow tonight (May 26).

The presentation deck from these meetings is now available online.

Updated May 27, 2016 at 5:30 pm: The preliminary evaluation grids for various routing options have been added to this article following the original discussion of each section of the study. This raises an obvious question of how options can be scored before important factors such as demand projections, design and costing are known, and whether the preliminary scores will bias the discussion and evaluations to occur in Phase 2 of the study. Scroll down to the end of each section for the additional material. (Apologies for the resolution. The grids are not available online, and I am limited by the quality of the paper copies distributed at the meeting.)

There is a lot of material to digest here, and the process is not helped by several factors:

  • Council has imposed a very short timeframe, considerably less than would normally be taken for the scope of work.
  • All proposals that have ever been on the table for the past few decades and a few new schemes are up for discussion, including some that should have been discarded quite early in the process. In part this is due to the many incomplete studies of various sections of the route that never got to the point of killing off the unworkable options.
  • The City and consultant staff presenting this material are not intimately familiar with the details of many proposals, nor with the history of how they came to be part of past studies.
  • Conflicting goals of previous studies, not to mention of today’s Councillors and community groups, make a “one size fits all” solution impossible.
  • Beyond identifying a few locations where GO/Metrolinx might add stations in the Lake Shore corridor, there is little discussion of the role GO/RER can and, equally importantly, cannot play in handling travel.
  • There is very limited origin-destination or demand information with which to validate or compare proposals, or to put them in the wider context of competing demands for transit funding.
  • A vital consideration for any network is the effect on travel times. After spending millions (or even billions), how would the speed and capacity of travel have improved?
  • The real meat of any discussion remains for an as-yet unapproved “Phase 2” study that would include [text taken from the presentation]:
    • Feasibility studies (including but not limited to demand forecasting, operational assessments, further developed cost estimates);
    • Potential Environmental Assessment(s) or amendments to existing Environmental Assessment(s);
    • Pursuing the implementation of short term strategic improvements that minimize long term throwaway costs; and
    • Advancing a Business Case and pursue funding opportunities.

As someone who has worked for years in hopes of better transit service to the waterfront, all of this is quite disheartening. So many competing ideas are on the table, so many competing priorities, and so little desire to spend pervades the discussion. We may end up with nothing at all.

Growth in the Waterfront

The need for better transit to many parts of the waterfront is quite obvious to anyone who looks at the forests of new condo towers along the water and neighbourhood close by to the north. Much of the projected population growth in Toronto is located in the southern part of the city (an area considerably bigger than the traditional “downtown”), but transit improvements there always come second (at best) to proposed expansion elsewhere. Where suburban subway boosters take a “build it and they will come” approach to subway advocacy and treat rapid transit as a trigger that will, they hope, bring new population and jobs, the waterfront already has both, and is growing apace without adequate transit support. Improved transit to the eastern and western waterfront rank in the top five performers of the City’s “Feeling Congested” study.

201605_PopEmpGrowthto2041

201605_PopEmpGrowthto2041_Chart

This growth will not all arrive “tomorrow”, but it certainly will build in over coming decades. Already, access by transit across the waterfront is inadequate, and this will only get worse as time goes on.

Continue reading

Spring and a PCC Arrive at Harbourfront

With Victoria Day weekend and the arrival of unquestionably late spring weather in Toronto, people are turning out in droves on Queens Quay: pedestrians, strollers, bladers, cyclists, streetcars and more than a few bewildered motorists.

The TTC will operate one PCC on Sunday afternoons from now through Labour Day weekend on the route. No fare is charged, and a free transfer is possible to the subway at Union Station.

TTC Service Changes Effective June 19, 2016

Many changes will affect TTC operations with the onset of summer schedules for 2016. These include both the usual seasonal changes to service levels, several construction projects affecting routes, and the restructuring of routes serving the waterfront.

Updated May 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm: Preliminary information on construction diversions at Broadview Station has been added to this article.

2016.06.19 Service Changes

The information in the spreadsheet linked here is organized into three sections:

  • Routine, mainly seasonal, changes
  • Groups of changes related to specific projects and route reorganization
  • Construction project calendar

20160619Map514Changes

The 514 Cherry streetcar route begins operation running via a short spur south from King to Distillery Loop. Initially this will run with a mix of Flexities and CLRVs pending an increase in the fleet of new cars. Eventually track on Cherry will extend under the rail corridor and south into the Port Lands, but that is a project still years away and subject to the usual wrangling at Council about capital spending priorities.

In the 2016 Budget, the TTC Board and Council chose not to fund the new service with additional money, and so this operation will be implemented by cutting service on the outer ends of the 504 King route. Peak service will operate every 8-9 minutes, and off-peak periods, the line will operate on a 15 minute headway with five cars. A blended service on King is impractical given the large difference in frequencies between the 514 and 504 routes. Whether the Cherry cars actually pull out onto King into gaps and carry passengers, or merely slip in behind King cars and let them do the work remains to be seen.

The 172 Cherry Street bus has been replaced by an extended 72 Pape over a new route serving Queen Quay East, and by a new 121 Fort York – Esplanade bus that will operate on, at most, 15 minute headways, a considerable improvement over the former 172 Cherry.

Sunday Stops

The TTC continues its program to remove Sunday Stops from the system with removal of stops at the following locations.

20160619SundayStops

Streetcars Return due to Bus Shortage

With the onset of construction season, and despite the summer service cuts, several streetcar routes will be partly or completely replaced by buses: 512 St. Clair, 511 Bathurst, 506 Carlton. This will be offset by the return of streetcar service to the 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road Tripper lines, as well as full streetcar service on 504 King with no bus trippers. Service will likely revert to combined streetcar/bus operation in September thanks to the late deliveries of new Flexity streetcars by Bombardier.

Construction Work on College Street

Several projects on College Street West have been timed to occur over the summer of 2016.

  • Special track work replacement at Bathurst and at Lansdowne
  • Removal of safety islands at Bathurst eastbound and at Bay Street both ways
  • Expansion of the safety island westbound at Bathurst
  • Water main upgrades on College and on Lansdowne
  • Streetscape improvements on College

The effects of these will be:

  • 506 Carlton will operate with buses in the west and streetcars in the east on weekdays, and with buses over the entire route on weekends. The weekday services will overlap between Church and Bay. This will continue throughout the summer.
  • 47 Lansdowne will divert around the construction area via Dufferin Street.
  • 511 Bathurst will be operated by buses until the next schedule change at the end of July diverting around construction via Spadina between Harbord and Dundas.
  • The 509/511 bus shuttle on Fleet Street will be replaced by the 511 bus service.

Details of the service diversions are in a separate article.

When streetcar service returns to Bathurst Street, the cars will operate into Exhibition Loop so that through service is provided until the Labour Day weekend. In September/October, service will be cut back again to Fleet Loop for a track replacement project in Exhibition Loop.

St. Clair Construction

Major construction work at St. Clair and St. Clair West Stations will require removal of streetcar service over the summer and early fall. The approach ramps at St. Clair West were not rebuilt during the line’s reconstruction, and the track must be replaced. The entire 512 route will be operated with buses through the summer, and streetcars will return from St. Clair West to Keele in September. Full streetcar service will resume on the Thanksgiving weekend in October.

Buses will not be able to enter either station during this project. At St. Clair Station, all bus service will loop on street via Avoca, Pleasant Boulevard, Yonge and St. Clair with transfer connections at the Pleasant Boulevard entrance. At St. Clair West Station, the 90 Vaughan bus will be extended south to Bathurst Station, and routes 33 Forest Hill and 126 Christie will be interlined. All buses will make an on street transfer connection at St. Clair West.

Broadview Station Construction

The bus loop at Broadview Station will be rebuilt over the summer and all bus services will loop on street via Erindale, Ellerbeck, Danforth and Broadview using an on street transfer. Given the frequent congestion of streetcars on Broadview awaiting entry to the station, the bus service will add to the congestion at Danforth northbound. The arrangement of on street stops for the four bus routes affected here has not yet been announced. Running time has been added to allow for the around-the-block loop except in cases where there was already enough recovery time in the existing schedule.

Updated May 24, 2016: Brad Ross at the TTC has provided the preliminary construction notice for the service and street changes. In addition, the Brick Works shuttle bus which normally loads on Erindale outside of Broadview Station will be relocated to Chester Station.

Bayview Services Reorganized

Peak period frequent service on 11 Bayview now ends at Davisville & Bayview, but this will be extended to Sunnybrook Hospital with every second bus running through to Steeles.

The 28 Bayview South route serving the Brick Works now operates only on weekend daytime hours, but will provide service during all periods.

Victoria Park North

Service in York Region on Victoria Park will now be provided by York Region Transit. The 24D Victoria Park branch to Major Mackenzie will be dropped and all service will turn back at Steeles Avenue. The 224 Victoria Park North route will cease operation.

Richmond Street Construction

All Downtown Express services will divert westbound from Church to Peter while Richmond Street is rebuilt from Victoria to York. Whether there will be any provision to assist the left turns west-to-south at Peter that will block 501 Queen Service (itself forced to divert and turn south at Spadina for water main construction) remains to be seen.

Waterfront Transit “Reset” Phase 1

In November 2015, Toronto Council directed that a consolidated review be conducted of the many overlapping proposals for transit improvements in the waterfront .

City Council direct City staff, working with the Toronto Transit Commission and Waterfront Toronto, to undertake a Phase 1 review of waterfront transit initiatives and options, and provide a status update to Executive Committee in the first quarter of 2016, such review of waterfront transit initiatives and options to include the proposed ShoreLine (closing the gap on the dedicated streetcar right-of-way between St. Joseph’s Hospital and Exhibition Place), the relocation of the Humber Loop, the Park Lawn – Lake Shore Transportation Master Plan currently underway, the possibility of a new GO Transit stop at Park Lawn, the proposed Legion Road extension, the proposed AM peak turning restrictions on Park Lawn Road from the Gardiner Expressway, the Mimico By the Lake Secondary Plan (Mimico 20/20), the Long Branch Avenue Study, and 2150 Lake Shore Boulevard West (former Mr. Christie bakery site).

Although this motion dwells extensively on the western waterfront, all of the proposals for improvements between western Etobicoke and Woodbine Avenue in The Beach are under review.

Two public meetings will be held to present the initial status of the review and solicit comments.

Central Location
Date: Wednesday May 25, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Open house begins at 6:00 p.m., followed by a presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Location: 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8 at Brigantine Room at Harbourfront Centre (major intersection is Queens Quay West and Lower Simcoe Street)

West Location
Date: Thursday May 26, 2016
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Open house begins at 6:00 p.m., followed by a presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Location: 95 Mimico Avenue, Toronto, ON M8V 1R4 at John English Junior Middle School in the auditorium (closest major intersection is Royal York Road and Mimico Avenue)

At this point, the specifics of options for various segments of the waterfront are only at the conceptual stage. The intent is not to choose specific alignments because factors such as future demand, construction and operational issues, interaction between proposals and cost will be dealt with in detail in a Phase 2 study, if approved, later in 2016.

Presentation materials for these meetings are not yet available online. When they are published, I will update this article.

This phase has a very tight turnaround because a report will go to Executive Committee as part of the overall review of transit proposals on June 28, 2016, and thence to Council in July.

Toronto Council Endorses Transit Plan, Seeks Background Details

At its meeting of March 31, 2016, Toronto Council passed several motions relating to the proposed rapid transit plan for the city.These evolved first as a set of staff recommendations, then amendments at the Executive Committee and finally amendments at Council. The changes along the way give a sense of how the attempt at a general approach taken in the new transit plan by staff can be warped into an emphasis on individual projects while losing sight of the overall purpose. This is not new in Toronto’s political theatre, but the city and region are at a crucial time when the “big picture” of the transportation network is essential. The challenge for those who would lead this process is to find a responsible balance between wider priorities and local concerns without making every decision only on political merits.

Many of these motions involve requests for additional reports, and at one point there was some concern about whether city staff could actually handle the workload. One might ask whether the city should be making such important decisions if staff are unable to produce sufficient background material and simply want approval trusting their recommendations. While studying issues to death is a well-known delay tactic, rushing decisions without all the details is a classic method of railroading through decisions the city might regret later. There is certainly nothing wrong with asking for a more thorough study of items that have been omitted, provided that the same requests do not surface over and over again.

If anything, Council has been woefully underinformed on transit options, priorities and tradeoffs, and such an environment “debate” often has little to do with the real world. Will every Councillor read every page of every study? No, but at least the material will be there to answer questions, support the good ideas and counter the dubious schemes. We hear a lot about “evidence based planning”, but this can be a double-edged sword where “evidence” might not support fondly-held proposals.

This article groups Council’s motions by topic so that readers do not have to sort through the relationship of recommendations and amendments.

Continue reading

TTC Board Meeting Follow-Up: March 23, 2016

The TTC Board met on March 23. In earlier articles, I have already reviewed the agenda, and discussed ridership statistics.

Arising from the debate on ridership, the Board passed a motion to revisit the whole issue of actively pursuing ridership growth. The motion by Commissioner Shelley Carroll reads:

That TTC staff report back to the Commission by the third quarter of 2016 with a development plan for a comprehensive multi-year strategy to address current ridership stagnation and to achieve a steady rate of ridership growth annually thereafter.

This is particularly important going into the 2017 budget year when there will be pressure to accommodate both the start of new expenses for the Spadina subway extension (TYSSE) and strong growth in the Wheel-Trans budget. Debates and decisions about which options might be pursued to improve transit and attract riders need to have more background than the annual need for politicians to have something to announce. At the very least, changes should be thought out with specific benefits beyond the photo ops.

Continue reading

New Service for the Waterfront and King Street

At its meeting on March 23, 2016, the TTC Board will consider two reports on major revisions to transit service in the Waterfront and on King Street.

The changes will address a backlog of route and service issues in one package:

  • Through routing of the 72 Pape bus from Pape Station, suspended during construction at Union Station, will be restored, albeit on a different route.
  • Additional service will be provided on Queens Quay East by the 72C Pape to Union Station branch, although this is likely to be infrequent.
  • A new route, 121 Fort York – Esplanade will be created composed of the former Esplanade portion of the 72 Pape (later 172 Cherry) bus route plus an extension serving the Railway Lands and Fort York.
  • A new streetcar route, 514 Cherry, will operate as an overlay to the 504 King car replacing some or all of the supplementary bus service between Dufferin Loop and the new Distillery Loop on Cherry Street south of Mill Street. This service will operate with Flexity streetcars, subject to availability.
  • The conversion of 511 Bathurst to low floor operation will be delayed by about three months.

The changes will be implemented on June 19, 2016. The detailed service plans have not yet been published, but there is some information in the staff reports.

Continue reading

TTC Board Meeting Review: February 25, 2016

The TTC Board met on February 25, 2016. This article is a review of some of the reports and discussions at that meeting. For the full list, please refer to the agenda.

In this article:

As part of an update on cycling initiatives, the Board passed a motion asking staff to work together with the City on improved parking facilities for bicycles at subway stations. An article on this appeared on Torontoist’s website.

Continue reading

A Rainbow of Rapid Transit

In Toronto’s never-ending fascination with new transit maps, the City Planning department has released a vision for our rapid transit network as it will be in 15 years.

201602_15YrPlan

Despite much talk of “evidence-based” planning, this is a very political map, and I cannot help remembering then-Premier David Peterson’s announcement of 1990 (not long before he lost an election and Bob Rae wound up as his much-surprised replacement) that amounted to a chicken-in-every-pot map.

There is nothing wrong with network-based planning, and indeed I have been beating a well-worn drum on that subject for years. But let us also remember that the Scarborough Subway exists because of the political clout of Brad Duguid, a former City Councillor, now Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development. Mayor John Tory, in Toronto Life, cites Duguid as saying that “if anyone tries to cancel the [Scarborough] subway, they’ll do it over his dead body”. “Evidence” apparently includes having a large cudgel to keep wandering pols in line.

The map also includes the Mayor’s pet project, SmartTrack, and it’s no wonder that he steers clear of the Minister’s position given the need for a provincial agency, Metrolinx, to accommodate SmartTrack on their network.

All of this is part of the “Motherlode” of public consultation sessions now running in various places around the City, and through Metrolinx in the wider GTHA. Background information and links to related material are available at Toronto’s TransitTO web site.

Continue reading