Transit Workers Deserve Protection

My latest for NOW Toronto: Coronavirus: Strike ups pressure on TTC to protect drivers

A simmering dispute between TTC management and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 boiled over when a small number of drivers at two divisions refused work on health and safety grounds. The core of the dispute is the difference between each party’s idea of what protection is “needed”, and the union’s claim that TTC has been slow and inconsistent in provision of safety gear. That is an issue that extends beyond the Covid pandemic, but the breadth of potential exposure in this case is much greater than environmental concerns in some work locations.

The problem also affects maintenance workers who, by the nature of their jobs, may have difficulty maintaining the 2 metre separation. Most of the public discussion has been about drivers, but the maintenance workers are just as important because without them vehicles and drivers never get out of the garage, and track and signals just don’t get fixed.

Update: After the article went online, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green (@TTCStuart) tweeted:

1/3 We have received the first shipment of multi-use disposable polypropylene masks – washable up to three times. We have 15,000 now with another 10,000 arriving Monday. Another 75,000 of these masks will be coming over the next three weeks.

2/3 These masks are being distributed to bus divisions now and are intended as an interim measure while we manufacture and distribute reusable cloth masks over the next two to three weeks. That work is already underway.

3/3 This weekend, bus operators will receive two masks each to start along with their gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. All operators will be supplied with masks in a phased approach and are optional to wear.

The intent is to roll out this program first at the bus divisions because drivers there have the greatest potential exposure to the public, then to the streetcar divisions.

TTC Repeats Penalty-Free Offer for Monthly Pass Cancellation

The TTC is repeating its offer, first made in mid-March, for monthly pass subscribers on Presto to cancel their subscriptions without penalty. This must be done by April 22 when the automatic renewals for May will kick in.

A still-outstanding question is whether the TTC will offer partial refunds for the March passes which most riders were unable to use after many businesses and other activities were curtailed or closed. According to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green, this matter has not been decided yet.

Streetcars Return to 505 Dundas on April 20, 2020 (Updated)

With the switch to buses on the 511 Bathurst, the 505 Dundas route will resume streetcar operation on Monday, April 20, 2020.

Service on the 504B King and 505 Dundas to Broadview Station will be replaced by buses for one week from Sunday April 19 to Saturday April 25 for track work on Broadview at Wolfrey and neighbouring areas. This could also include modification of the overhead on Broadview between Gerrard and Danforth for pantograph operation. New poles have appeared at several locations where curves that are not pan-compliant are still in place.

504B King streetcars will loop via Parliament, Dundas and Broadview. The 504A service will continue to operate to Distillery Loop.

505 Dundas streetcars will loop via Parliament, Gerrard and Broadview.

A shuttle bus will operate between Broadview Station and King & Parliament.

Work at Broadview Station on the extended 504 King platform is nearly complete, and this should relieve some of the streetcar queuing on Broadview outside of the station, an important consideration once the 505 Dundas streetcars are added to the traffic there.

511 Bathurst Switches to Bus Operation

Three major construction projects will affect the 511 Bathurst route through 2020:

  • Reconstruction of the bridge over the rail corridor south of Front Street.
  • Track replacement on Bathurst from south of Dundas Street to north of Wolseley Loop.
  • Track replacement at Bathurst Station Loop.

Beginning April 20, buses will replace streetcars on Bathurst for the remainder of the year. At the south end of the route, because of the configuration of the intersection at Lake Shore/Fleet and Bathurst, the buses will divert via Fort York Boulevard as shown in the TTC notice below.

For the track replacement between Dundas and Wolseley Loop, welding of rail into strings was supposed to begin soon, but this has been postponed (as has similar work on Howard Park east of High Park Loop). The construction periods for these projects have not yet been announced.

At Bathurst Station, track replacement on Bathurst Street and inside the station itself is planned to occur between June 21 and September 5. During this work, routes 511 Bathurst and 7 Bathurst Bus will divert to Spadina Station. Arrangements for the 307 Bathurst Night Bus have not been announced.

TTC Service in the 1950s

My collection of Scheduled Service Summaries has been updated with scans of three versions from 1954, 1956 and 1959.

Of interest among these is the expansion of the suburban bus network, and the very high level of service on routes in the “old” City of Toronto. The Yonge Subway existed between Eglinton and Union, but all other transit was surface routes with streetcars and buses.

Open the page linked above, and scroll down to the bottom. Note that this page is included under the “Reference Material” navigation tab if you are looking for it in the future.

King Street Update: March 2020 Part I

This is the first of three articles updating information in my series of posts last fall [Part I, Part II, and Part III] with data to March 31, 2020.

In the first part of this series, I will review service reliability from the point of view of travel times across the “pilot” area between Bathurst and Jarvis Streets. In the second part, I will turn to reliability from the point of view of headways consistency and service gapping. Finally, I will turn to service capacity.

As I have worked through the data, I cannot help having the sense of looking back at a very different city, one that had busy streets full of transit riders. This will return, eventually, but it will be a long climb that has much more to do with scientific advances in disease control than transportation planning.

The effect of the city’s shutdown is evident in data for March 2020 as traffic and riding disappeared, and so, to some extent, did service.

Service changes during this period affecting the King Street corridor included:

  • November 25, 2019:
    • The 14x Express routes were shifted to King Street from Richmond and Adelaide Streets to use a less-congested path through the core area.
    • Two Christmas extras were added on 504 King between Charlotte Loop (Spadina) and the Distillery.
    • Service on 503 Kingston Road was improved by the consolidation of 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road as one route.
  • January 2020:
    • 508 Lake Shore operated, for a time, with buses in place of streetcars due to a shortage of vehicles.
  • Mid-March 2020 (reduced riding and staff availability):
    • 504 King service declined.
    • 503 Kingston Road service was cut back to a shuttle between Bingham Loop (Victoria Park) and Woodbine Loop (at Queen).
    • 508 Lake Shore and 14x Express routes ceased operating because they are peak period trippers.

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Transit in a Time of Crisis

My latest piece for NOW Toronto looks at how the transit industry, and Toronto’s TTC and GO systems, are affected by and reacting to the Covid-19 crisis.

Not included in the NOW version are hyperlinks to the websites of many transit agencies I cited. Here they are. To the degree possible, given varying navigation paths of each website, the links go to the page with information about service and fare changes.

TTC Asks Riders to Time Shift (Updated)

Updated April 1, 2020 at 10:30 am:

This morning, the TTC announced extra service on several routes to address crowding. The list below is taken from the Twitter feed of Stuart Green, TTC Media Relations, who describes this as a work in progress.

The first set of numbers below were in Green’s original announcement, but they have changed over the course of the morning with a total of 71 buses added as of about 7:40 am. By 10:30, that number rose to 89. The second set is taken from TTC service alerts. These numbers have been changing hourly as vehicles are shifted from route to route as needed. For current details, follow @TTCHelps on Twitter.

Route 7:00 am 10:30 am
300 Bloor-Danforth Night 5
320 Yonge Night 4
29 Dufferin 4 5
35 Jane 6 13
37 Islington 3 3
39 Finch East 4 21
41 Keele 4 12
44 Kipling South 2 5
52 Lawrence West (Airport) 2 7
96 Wilson 4 8
102 Markham Road 4 8
117 Alness-Chesswood 2 2
119 Torbarrie 2 1
123 Sherway 2 2
165 Weston Road North 3 2

Supervisors will direct additional buses to where they are most needed.

The TTC now asks riders to shift any non-essential trips until after 8 am.

Original post:

The TTC asks early morning riders to shift their travel, if possible, due to congestion on several routes before 7 am. Riders are requested to shift non-essential trips after 7:30 if possible.

The affected routes are:

  • 29 Dufferin
  • 35 Jane
  • 41 Keele
  • 44 Kipling South
  • 96 Wilson
  • 102 Markham Road
  • 117 Alness-Chesswood
  • 119 Torbarrie
  • 123 Sherway
  • 165 Weston Road North

The location of these routes and the time period of the crunch says something about the drop in riding by classic commuters, but shows the need for transit in areas well away from the core.

Revised TTC Service Changes: Sunday, March 29, 2020 (Updated)

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, some changes planned for the schedule period beginning March 29 will not occur.

Notably, the planned resumption of streetcar service on 505 Dundas will not take place. The overhead conversion on this route is in a half-completed state from trolley pole to pan-friendly wiring.

  • Curves on Broadview from Gerrard north to Danforth have never been upgraded for pantograph operation even though the tangent wire was converted some time ago.
  • The section of the route between Parliament and McCaul has been converted completely for pans, and is not compatible with trolley pole operation.

The TTC has not announced what service level will be provided by the continued bus operation on 505 Dundas.

Updated March 27, 2020 at 5:15 pm:

According to TTC service change pages, the operation of streetcars on 511 Bathurst and buses on 505 Dundas will continue to late April.

Concurrent operation of streetcars on both Bathurst and Dundas would have stretched the streetcar fleet, but the real problem was the beginning of planned work at the south end of Bathurst including bridge construction that would have forced bus conversion of the 511 anyhow. This was to start in March, but has been deferred until May.

The TTC also plans a reduction in 504 King Saturday streetcar service, again due to fleet availability problems. This stems from a planned increase in service on 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina to deal with the Bathurst Street bridge work that would have pushed Saturday requirements above the AM peak level. With the bridge work shifted to May, the changes on 509/510 were deferred, but the change on 504 was left in place. All of this of course is subject to future schedule adjustments in reaction to reduced demand.

Other planned construction affecting the Bathurst route this year includes tangent track from south of Dundas to north of Wolseley Loop, and special track at Bathurst Station Loop.

The Scheduled Service Summary for March 29 to May 9, 2020, shows the service as originally designed. When any additional details of changes are announced, I will update this article.

TTC Changes Fare Collection, Trims Service – But What of the Future?

Updated March 28, 2020: The TTC has changed its policy for Wheel-Trans and now only accepts payment by Presto. See the March 27 update for Wheel-Trans.

The TTC implemented several changes to its fare policies and service in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Their focus is on protection of workers and passengers by physical distancing and eliminating most interaction between them.

Fares & Fare Collection

All bus passengers will board and leave via the rear door except for riders who require the access ramp at the front door. Operators will keep their protective barriers closed, and the fare boxes will not be available.

On buses except for Wheel-Trans, the TTC will not accept cash, tokens or tickets and will not issue paper transfers. Only Presto will be accepted. Streetcar and subway riders can use fare machines.

The TTC asks that riders pay with Presto “where available”, but it is unclear whether riders without cards will ride free. The Star’s Ben Spurr quotes TTC spokesperson Stuart Green:

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said riders who don’t have Presto will be asked to pay when they arrive at their destination if they’re headed to a subway station.

He declined to answer directly when asked whether riders who don’t have Presto and don’t pay will face a fine from transit officers, but said the “focus of fare inspectors right now is on customer service and education.”

Updated March 24 at 2:12 pm: An exchange on Twitter:

But how does one board a bus if cash is not being accepted?

@TTCHelps: You can just walk on. No one will stop you. We’d like you to pay your cash fare at a connecting station or streetcar if possible.

A well-known problem with Presto is that places where riders can obtain one and load money are much thinner on the ground that the old TTC ticket agent network, particularly in the suburbs where bus transportation dominates.

The deadline for cancelling the auto-renew on monthly or 12 month passes on Presto has been extended to 11:59 pm, Friday, March 27. The TTC will waive cancellation fees, although Presto might still issue an automated warning email.

Service Changes

Because weekday ridership has dropped by over 70 per cent, the TTC is reviewing its resource requirements. The following routes no longer operate, and their vehicles will be reallocated where needed.

  • All 900-series express bus routes, except for the 900 Airport, 903 Kennedy-Scarborough Town Centre, and 927 Highway 27.
  • All 140-series Downtown express routes.
  • The 176 Mimico GO bus and 508 Lake Shore streetcars.

The 503 Kingston Road route had been cut back to a shuttle between Queen & Kingston Road and Bingham Loop at Victoria Park. The extra service it provides on Queen and King Streets is not needed. An obvious future change would be to run the evening/weekend configuration of the 22A Coxwell Bus during all hours. This sort of tweak will no doubt be repeated in other parts of the system.

Regular service will continue every 10 minutes or better on most of the affected routes, for now.

Vehicle arrival predictions will be out of whack until the online schedules are updated to match the revised services.

A full list of changes is on the TTC’s website.

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