TTC Proposes Cherry Street Service Revision / Surveys Riders (Updated)

Updated November 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm: The TTC will be conducting a “Meet the Planners” session at George Brown College on Dockside Drive on Tuesday, December 1 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. There has already been a similar session at Pape Station.

Route 172 Cherry was split off from 72 Pape a few years ago due to congestion from construction at Union Station. The question now is how to put the routes back together again, or indeed, if they should be in their original form.

The TTC has a survey active on its website until mid-December 2015 to poll riders on proposed changes to service mainly in the eastern waterfront.

The current arrangement of routes is shown in the map below (taken from the survey):

MapExisting

This arrangement provides a fairly large loop through downtown and acts as a parallel service to the 504 King car for riders along The Esplanade and in the Distillery District. It was particularly useful during the recent Pan Am Games when service here was substantially improved because the route served the Athletes’ Village.

However, the connection between the 72C Pape and 172 Cherry services is not good. It is not a scheduled connection and the two routes operate on different headways. Moreover, the Port Lands is not exactly the best place to connect between routes at night or in bad weather. Splitting the routes also effectively eliminates a direct link from the Danforth subway to Queens Quay East and the Distillery District.

The new proposed route structure is shown below:

MapProposed

Route 72 Pape would be confined to the shuttle between Queen and Danforth, with route number 172 belonging to a revised Cherry bus that would operate via Queens Quay rather than using The Esplanade. The 172 would loop via Bay, Front and Yonge. It is unclear what the service level on 172 would be or whether this would be blended with the 72 Pape bus on the common section.

A new route 121 would operate on Front and The Esplanade between Parliament and Bathurst.

Service to the Distillery District along Mill Street would cease to exist, and the Distillery District would only be served at a distance by the 172 Cherry bus on Lake Shore and by the new 514 streetcar on Cherry itself.

The 514 car would operate from Dufferin Loop via King to Cherry Street, although given TTC scheduling, many of these cars could well short-turn without serving the outer ends of their route.

The 514 is less a new service for Cherry than a supplementary service for King, although this is not how it was presented in the 2016 Operating Budget. Indeed, provision of this map could have informed the discussion about streetcar service on Cherry considerably more than the way it was presented as a small spur off of King that would attract no new riders.

The survey itself is interesting because it asks, among other questions, whether this route structure would encourage people to use the TTC more. What is missing is a direct question about whether this arrangement is more convenient, not to mention any indication of service frequencies on which any discussion of “convenience” inevitably turns. There is a big difference between a line on a map and whether service is worth planning on and waiting for. One obvious question is whether the new routes – 172, 121 and 514 – would become part of the 10 Minute Network.

The survey claims that the new 172 Cherry route on Queens Quay would improve service to George Brown College (GBC), but it misses two important points:

  • The primary service to GBC, the 6 Bay bus, loads diagonally opposite from the likely stop for the 172 at Bay and Front. The option of taking whichever bus shows up first is not available to riders.
  • Similarly, westbound from GBC to downtown service would not use the 6 Bay stop within the loop at the college, but would speed past likely using the stop on Queens Quay well west of Sherbourne.

Looping through Dockside Drive in both directions, and a revised loop at Union Station should be considered if this is to be advertised as an “improvement” to GBC service.

The 121 bus as an alternative to the streetcar service on 509 Harbourfront only makes sense if it is quite frequent and reliable, not if this is a one or two bus shuttle showing up now and then for whoever happens to be passing by.

This is a good first attempt, but more thorough community feedback is needed than just this survey, and the TTC has to be more forthcoming about how each neighbourhood along the proposed routes would be affected.

Port Lands Planning Update

Waterfront Toronto, together with the City of Toronto and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority, are conducting several studies that will shape the future of Toronto’s eastern waterfront for decades to come. Recently, they held a series of open houses to outline the current status of their work and to solicit feedback. The materials from these sessions are available on the Port Lands Consultation website, and you can provide feedback through the “Discussion Questions” links.

This article deals primarily with the transportation component, given this site’s focus, but with some introductory material to set this in context.

Illustrations here are taken from five sets of display panels. Note that these are large pdfs.

Two large areas, the Port Lands and the “South of Eastern” district, are the subject of three studies in this consultation round:

  • A planning framework for the multi-decade redevelopment of these areas into the fabric of the city.
  • A transportation and servicing master plan.
  • A precinct plan for a new community to be called “Villiers Island”.

Other parallel studies affect this area:

  • The Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Environmental Assessment (EA)
  • The Lower Don Lands Infrastructure EA
  • The Gardiner Expressway study
  • The SmartTrack and GO/Regional Express Rail (RER) study
  • The Relief Line study

Lest this seem like overkill and an undue focus on one area of the city, remember that the amount of land involved is equal to much of what we now call “downtown” between Bloor and the Lake. This is not a small area, and converting it from primary uses as a port and light industry to a much more mixed-used and higher density set of communities requires careful planning and a lot of infrastructure. Work on this has been underway for almost a decade, although it was almost derailed during the Ford era. Continue reading

TTC Budget Meeting: November 9, 2015 (Updated)

Updated November 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm:

The Budget Committee meeting was not the best-organized or well-informed of TTC meetings thanks to a combination of factors. It was held in the boardroom at TTC headquarters which is no longer configured suitably for such events and cannot handle a large presence by the media who were out in force anticipating a story about 2016 fares. Almost all of the material was presented by one person who, unfortunately, trusted to memory rather too often and got the odd fact wrong as the meeting wore on. Moreover, there simply was too much material to absorb in the manner it was presented.

Committee members, for their part, tended to view the situation through their personal lenses of which hobbyhorse needed attention. This did not necessarily make for a broad view of TTC issues, and many erroneous assumptions, often uncorrected, crept into the debate.

We will go through this and much more all over again at the November 23, 2015 meeting of the full Board when we can also expect a very long parade of deputations on the subject of fares.

The entire exercise of having a Budget Committee has been useful, up to a point, in that some Commissioners have been exposed to the gory details, but they remain confused, and we have yet to see an actual philosophical discussion of just what the TTC should be as a basis for the budgets for 2016 and beyond.

The following motions were approved by the Committee:

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SmartTrack Update: Many Reports, Many Unanswered Questions (Updated)

Updated October 21, 2015 at 9:30 am:

The Executive Committee spent a few hours discussing this report. As the morning wore on, it was clear that Mayor Tory was becoming unhappy with questions about his scheme. By the end of the debate when he spoke, he said:

I think a number of the questions raised by members of council today are perfectly legitimate questions which I’m sure our staff have taken note of and if they weren’t already being asked and answered, those questions, they will now be.  I just hope and I sense a generally positive sort of sense around here but I hope that we don’t get into being either sort of Douglas or Debbie Downer about these things. [Adapted from a quotation in the Toronto Sun]

Tory went on to say that he had “a mandate” from voters to build SmartTrack in a manner distressingly reminiscent of Rob Ford’s “mandate” to tear up Transit City. The problem with both claims is that voters did not elect Tory or Ford for those specific purposes, but in a reaction against the previous administrations, particularly in Tory’s case. Moreover, that “mandate” does not mean that the platform necessarily made sense as proposed, only that it was an attraction to voters that a candidate had concrete ambitions. We have already seen Tory backtrack on his claims that Toronto did not need more bus service (responding to Olivia Chow’s half-hearted support for transit), and there is no reason for SmartTrack to be treated as a divine plan on stone tablets.

As answers from staff to various questions made abundantly clear, there is a lot of work to do between now and first quarter 2016 when all of the details are supposed to return to Council. Staff went out of their way to avoid giving any indication of the way preliminary work might be headed lest they be drawn into a debate about “conclusions” before the supporting studies are in place.

The Executive Committee made a few amendments to the report’s recommendations:

1.  Requested the City Manager to forward the report (October 15, 2015) from the City Manager for information to the Toronto Transit Commission, the Ministry of Transportation, Metrolinx, the City of Mississauga and York Region.

2.  Requested the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to report to the Planning and Growth Management Committee on the results of the public consultations arising from the Preliminary Assessments of the Smart Track Stations, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report (October 15, 2015) from the City Manager, particularly with respect to the development potential of new stations.

3.  Requested the City Manager to work with Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx, and GO Transit, to develop a One Map Strategy where by major intersections and/routes of these transit operators are shown on future hard copy and electronic local and regional transit maps, once SmartTrack routes and stations are established.

The first recommendation is the original staff proposal simply to transmit the update report to other agencies. The second arose from a concern by Councillor Shiner, chair of the Planning & Growth Management Committee, that implications of and potential for redevelopment around SmartTrack stations be understood as soon as possible. During debate, he spoke about the success of development a long the Sheppard line, an ironic stance considering how strongly he had opposed development around Bayview Station when it was at the design stage.

The third recommendation arose from Councillor Pasternak, who never tires of advocating the “North York Relief Line” (otherwise known as the Sheppard West extension to Downsview). His desire is that maps show all of the projects that are in the pipeline during studies, not just the one that happens to be the subject of debate.

A notable absence in the staff presentation was any reference to the Scarborough Subway Extension as an alternative route for travel to downtown. That presentation covered substantially the same information as the background reports, but it included a few new charts about comparative travel times with SmartTrack in place.

STvsTTC_TravelTimes1

The important difference between this map [at p23] and the Tory SmartTracker website (which shows comparative travel times) is that the TTC includes the access and wait times for SmartTrack in its calculations. This reduces the proportionate saving over a trip. Another issue, of course, is that many riders do not work at Union Station, and taking SmartTrack there would be an out-of-the-way trip. This is not to downplay what SmartTrack might do, but to point out that if ST is to be part of a “network”, then advocacy for it must look at how it benefits all of the trips originating in some part of the city (say northeast Scarborough), not just those that conveniently lie on its route. This will be an issue in comparative ridership projections for ST and the Scarborough Subway Extension because those who are bound for midtown will almost certainly have a shorter trip simply by taking the subway rather than ST.

The original article follows below:

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A “Reset” For Waterfront Transit Plans? (Updated)

Updated October 15, 2015 at 10:20 am:

Because the options for the Waterfront West line are not fully explained or explored in the City report, I have added the drawings of the options from the Environmental Assessment to the end of this article.

A few weeks ago, I reported on a presentation at the TTC Board meeting by Deputy City Manager John Livey on the status of various rapid transit plans and studies. This was by way of a preview of reports that were expected at the City’s Executive Committee meeting on October 20, 2015.

One of these reports has now surfaced on the subject of Waterfront Transit, while another on SmartTrack is still in preparation. (Reports on the Relief Line and Scarborough Subway studies are not expected until the new year pending results from the UofT’s new demand model.)

The new report proposes a “reset” in the status of the many waterfront studies and proposals given that many of them are incomplete or out of date. The area of study will be south of Queensway/Queen from Long Branch to Woodbine, although there is passing mention of Scarborough which has its own collection of transit problems in the Kingston Road corridor.

The fundamental problem along the waterfront and areas immediately to the north is that population and plans for development continue with no end in sight, while transit planning, such as it exists at all, looked much further afield for signature projects. Moreover, origins and destinations in the present and future waterfront are not conveniently located along a single line where one scheme will magically solve every problem. Transit “downtown” is not simply a matter of getting to King and Bay. There is a mix of short haul and long haul trips, and a line designed to serve the first group well almost certainly will not attract riders from the second.

There has been significant growth in many precincts along the waterfront, including South Etobicoke, Liberty Village, Fort York, King/Spadina, City Place, South Core, and King/Parliament.  Further, significant growth is planned for emerging precincts, including Lower Yonge, East Bayfront, West Don Lands, North Keating, Port Lands and the First Gulf site.  There is currently a latent demand for transit south of Front Street as witnessed by transit loading on the King and Harbourfront streetcar services.  King Street, for example, represents the most southerly continuous east/west transit line and is regularly experiencing near or at-capacity conditions through much of the weekday peak periods.  The extent of latent and anticipated future demand creates an imperative for defining a long-term transit solution as soon as possible. [pp 1-2]

Better transit on King and Queen, whatever form it might be, will address demand from redevelopment of the “old” city north of the rail corridor, but it cannot touch the “new” city south to the lake. Service on the rail corridors (Lake Shore and Weston) can address some longer trips, but with constraints on both line capacity and service frequency. Despite politically-motivated claims, the GO corridors will not be “surface subways” with service like the Bloor-Danforth line, and GO service is constrained to operate through some areas that are not well placed relative to the local transit system.

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A Frustrating Update on Transit Expansion Plans

The TTC Board received an update from City and TTC staff on the status of major transit expansion plans in Toronto at its meeting of September 28. The presentation was largely delivered by Deputy City Manager John Livey with backup from Mitch Stambler, TTC’s Head of Service Planning. Also at the table, but notable for her silence, was the Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat. A contingent from Metrolinx, another agency studying transit expansion, was in the public gallery, but they did not participate in the presentation or discussion.

This session was a prologue for a report coming to Toronto’s Executive Committee on October 20, 2015, but a great deal of detail remains to be fleshed out. This proved frustrating for the Board members on two counts. First, the lack of detail prevented the TTC from making informed comment on the plans, and second, the process itself has largely bypassed the TTC Board and concentrated work at the City and Metrolinx.

To some extent, the TTC has itself to blame for this situation. During the Ford/Stintz era, meaningful policy debates at the TTC were rare, and the TTC ceded responsibility for large scale planning to the City of Toronto under Keesmaat’s department. At the political level, staying informed about issues is a comparatively new desire by Board members (not to mention some members of City Council) when the issues are more complex than a dumbed-down subways-subways-subways mantra. They have a lot of catching up to do.

Detailed reports on four major projects will come before the TTC and Council over coming months, and these will inundate members with not only a great deal of information but force some hard decisions about just which projects, and at what scale, the City should pursue. These are:

  • The Relief Line
  • The Scarborough Subway Extension
  • Waterfront transit
  • GO/RER, SmartTrack and TTC service integration

ExpansionPlanMap_6

The situation is complicated by parallel work at Metrolinx, an agency with very different goals from the TTC and the City, and by the inevitable political wrangling over the relative importance of projects. Whether any reports coming forward from staff will be trusted, especially in an environment where Councillors and the Mayor routinely dismiss “expert” advice that does not suit their biases, remains to be seen. Equally difficult will be the question of whether the reports are spun, in advance, to suit specific outcomes rather than presenting “just the facts”.

One difficulty already lurking in the wings is the question of demand modelling. The University of Toronto together with City Planning is developing a new model for GTHA travel. This is much more ambitious than current models in that it covers the entire region and models travel over the entire day, rather than focussing on AM peak flows. The model also allows for route and mode choice by incorporating considerations of fares and line capacity (crowding). At this point, the model is still being calibrated and validated, a process that uses known historical data (from the 2011 Transportation Tomorrow Survey) to confirm whether the model generates flows that accurately mimic what actually happened. (The TTS is conducted every five years by UofT on behalf of municipal and provincial agencies, and the next set of data will reflect demands in 2016.)

Draft results for the new projects and network will not be available until October 2015, and a report on details will not come to Council until the first quarter of 2016. One suspicion is inevitable given this delay: is the “calibration” intended to produce a desired outcome? That’s a tricky question both because it speaks to the independence of the process and also to the way in which the model is used. For example, a model may well reproduce past behaviour perfectly, but that’s a known target and the context for it (then-existing transit, road and land use configurations) are a matter of record.

Future modelling depends not only on the nuts and bolts of the model itself, but of the assumptions put into its configuration. A well-known example of flawed modelling was for the Sheppard Subway in which unduly rosy assumptions about job numbers and locations gave the subway a projected demand well above what it actually achieved. The further one goes into the future, the cloudier the view becomes, and the presumed distribution of population and employment can involve political as well as basic economic dimensions. If, for example, the concentration of jobs in the core area and the polarization of high and low income housing concentrations continues, this has profound effects on future demand. Moreover, such concentration may not suit politicians who view their own turf as the rightful place for future growth.

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The Evolution of Service on Queens Quay

The new, improved transit right-of-way on Queens Quay has been in operation for a few months, and it has had its share, and then some, of problems. These included confused motorists, pedestrians and cyclists who could not figure out the new lane arrangement and signals, more than a few autos stuck in the tunnel entrance at Bay Street, and a streetcar collision thanks to an open switch at the Spadina/Queens Quay Loop.

When the design for the new road was still on the drawing boards, a red flag went up for transit watchers with the number of traffic signals, some fairly closely spaced. The “old” Queens Quay’s signals had their problems, and just to get a semblance of “priority” the detectors for approaching streetcars were moved further and further away from the signals in the hope that they would be able to cycle to a transit green before the streetcar actually arrived.

The streetcars returned, but the signals were, at first, on a standard program with no provision for detecting transit vehicles, although this changed in mid-June with the installation of the new, permanent traffic controllers.

Has there been an improvement? This article reviews current and past operations of the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina cars running on Queens Quay.

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TTC Board Meeting July 29, 2015 (Updated August 3, 2015)

The TTC Board will meet on July 29, 2015, and various items of interest are on the agenda. These include:

  • The monthly CEO’s Report (Updated August 2, 2015)
  • A presentation by Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat (Updated August 3, 2015)
  • Faregates for PRESTO implementation
  • Purchase of new buses and implications for service growth (Updated August 1, 2015)
  • Improved service standards for off peak service on “frequent” routes
  • Proposed split operation of 504 King during TIFF opening weekend (Updated August 2, 2015)
  • An update on Leslie Barns
  • Excluding Bombardier from eligibility for future contracts (Deferred to September Board meeting)
  • Council requests related to Lake Shore West streetcar service (Referred to TTC Budget Committee)

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Queens Quay West Reopens As A Grand Boulevard

After nearly three years of construction, Queens Quay West saw its official re-opening today. After all of the digging, the dust, the new utilities and track, the constantly shifting road lanes, and the construction barricades always somewhere, in the way, the street is now almost complete. A few odds and ends remain for cleanup in the fall, but you need to know what these are to even spot them along the way.

Toronto now has a new type of street – one with generous space for pedestrians, a wide separated pair of cycling lanes, a transit right-of-way and a two-lane road for cars. No longer a speedway (it’s amazing what years of construction can do to “evaporate” traffic), but a space shared among everyone. In these early days, some motorists are confused about where their lanes actually are, especially when turning onto Queens Quay from the north-south streets. Pedestrians have not yet quite figured out where to stand at intersections, and cyclists are getting used to their own sets of traffic signals. But with luck it will all work out.

The street itself is a cut above the usual for Toronto with patterns throughout granite pavers covering not just the public sidewalk but most of the private lands between that narrow strip and surrounding buildings.

Politicians who attended were suitably impressed, although the usual amount of back-patting (“look what my government did”) was inevitable, especially from the federal representative, Finance Minister Joe Oliver. The challenge is to get the same pols on board for the Queens Quay East project now that everyone can see just what the “new Queens Quay” is all about, and to have a more generous attitude to the value of good street design rather than minimalist utilitarianism, beyond the criticism of the most arduous opponents of “fat” in public projects.

One notable transit improvement is that the “transit priority” signals actually work, although I’ve been told there remains a tiny amount of tweaking to be done. For its part, the TTC has still not fixed the switches at Queens Quay & Spadina so that they operate automatically, and they are paying someone to do point duty there. The line has been open for months, but never let it be said that the TTC rushed into anything.

Here is a gallery of photos from the first day with all of the barricades down.

The Gardiner, SmartTrack and the Scarborough Subway

Three major projects face approvals at Toronto Council and Queen’s Park in coming months.

  • Should we replace the Gardiner Expressway with an at-grade boulevard between Jarvis and the Don River?
  • Should “SmartTrack”, John Tory’s signature campaign plank, form a U-shaped line from Markham to Pearson Airport providing both regional and local service in parallel with GO Transit?
  • Should the Bloor-Danforth subway be extended through Scarborough in place of the once-proposed LRT network, via which route and at what cost?

None of these is a simple problem, and they are linked by a combination of forces: polarized political views of what Toronto’s future transportation network should look like, very substantial present and future capital and operating costs, and competing claims of transportation planning models regarding the behaviour of a new network.

On the political front, Mayor Tory is playing for a trifecta against considerable odds. Winning on all three would cement his influence at Council, but it is far from clear that he will win on any of them. Council is split on the expressway options, SmartTrack has already sprouted an alternative western alignment, and the Scarborough Subway fights for its life with alternative route proposals and the threat of demand canibalized by the Mayor’s own SmartTrack plans.

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