Queen/Coxwell Reconstruction

Since the Labour Day weekend, the TTC has been rebuilding the special work at Queen and Coxwell.

This location is interesting because it also includes Coxwell-Queen Loop, with one of the tightest curves on the system, and an exit track that merges into the west-to-north curve.

TTC Service Changes Effective October 15, 2017

The service changes for the October-November period are relatively minor.

On the streetcar network, provisions for construction diversions on 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton end, but for 501 Queen and related routes a new project at McCaul plus the ongoing streetcar shortage leave service in that corridor with temporary schedules:

  • 501 Queen streetcars will operate from Neville to Roncesvalles, but they will divert via Church, King and Spadina for about three weeks during the reconstruction of the intersection at McCaul.
  • 501L Long Branch and 501M Marine Parade bus service continues as it was in September.
  • Bus trippers have been shifted from King to Queen where they will operate between Woodbine and Sunnyside.
  • Kingston Road services 502 and 503 continue to operate with buses.

The 511 Bathurst route continues to operate with buses although the introduction of Flexitys on 512 St. Clair is releasing CLRVs that could be redeployed elsewhere. How quickly streetcars will return to temporarily bused routes remains to be seen.

Although schedules for routes at the Renforth Station (formerly “Gateway”) were altered in September, this facility is not yet complete and routes continue to operate to their former termini.

2017.10.15_Service_Changes

Queensway / Lake Shore / Humber Update

Construction work on The Queensway, Lake Shore Boulevard and at Humber Loop ran into a number of problems and design changes that will affect the date when streetcar service will be restored west of Sunnyside Loop. These include:

  • An unexpectedly high water table south of Grenadier Pond
  • Difficulty in concrete removal for some of the track on Lake Shore
  • Design changes at Humber Loop to address various issues that were not picked up in the original project.

Richard Wong, the Head of Streetcar Maintenance and Infrastructure, advises:

There is a higher than expected water table along the stretch of the Queensway from Ellis Ave to Colborne Lodge Dr.  Construction started to the east of Colborne Lodge and should have progressed westerly towards Humber Loop.

Due to the water table issue, construction proceeded westerly to Colborne Lodge Dr. where it had to be suspended.  To allow engineers time to evaluate the situation and develop a solution, construction then resumed to the west of Ellis Ave and will move westerly to Humber Loop.  Construction between Colborne Lodge and Ellis will resume at the tail end of this project.  In total, there is approximately 2 months of slippage in the schedule for this part of the Queensway project.  This slippage may affect the Q2 2018 commitment of reinstating streetcar service from Roncesvalles to Humber Loop.  TTC staff is working with the contractor to investigate options to recover time.

With respect to the Lakeshore, construction was slow and was expected in the area that is currently being worked on.  This is due to the type of concrete.  Concrete in this area was originally poured in one batch (monolithic pour).  Monolithic concrete requires chipping to break it up.  This method of removing old concrete is time consuming and messy.  As construction continues to move east, TTC expects to move from monolithic concrete to layered concrete.  That is, during TTC’s last track replacement program, concrete was poured in layers and separated by bonding agent.  This allows the concrete to be cleanly milled down to an exact depth.  Milling work is faster and more accurate which will speed up construction time.  At the moment, TTC staff do not anticipate slippage in schedule for this project. [Email of August 30, 2017 via TTC’s Brad Ross, Executive Director – Corporate Communications]

The CEO’s Report in the September 5 Board agenda includes a project status page for surface track work including this project, and some of the remarks on it prompted me to delve further. [See p77 of the report which is p79 in the linked PDF.]

From the project status page:

Anticipated completion for the Humber Loop project has been moved to Q2 2018 due to the following unmitigated risks:

  • condition of Metrolinx bridge struts is unknown
  • unknown condition and location of some utilities
  • several third party approvals are required in order work to proceed

Management Action Plan:

  • alternate track structure design in progress to mitigate deteriorated struts
  • leveraged Executive support to expedite third party approvals
  • work has been phased to allow return of the Queen St portion of the 501 route to Humber Loop by Q1 of 2018

The TTC replied:

There were a number of challenges that resulted in more time needed for the completion of Humber Loop, as it is is directly adjacent to the following infrastructure:

  • CN/GO rail lines
  • Gardiner Expressway
  • Hydro Towers and Vaults
  • Condominium Development

It is also constructed on re-claimed land.  As a result, numerous 3rd party design reviews and approvals were required.  These included:

  • Hydro One
  • Metrolinx
  • City of Toronto (Forestry, Transportation, Water)
  • Toronto & Region Conservation Authority
  • Ministry of Environment

During these reviews and approvals, stakeholders (including internal TTC stakeholders) identified opportunities to combine initiatives during this construction, including:

  • Investigation of the Gardiner Expressway underpass struts (& potential remediation)
  • Reconfiguration of the underpass walkway
  • Inclusion of additional spur tracks to accommodate the new LFLRV lengths
  • Improved landscaping of the loop

Due to the above challenges and opportunities, additional time was added to the construction schedule to ensure we capture all of the requirements. [Email of August 31, 2017 from Brad Ross]

The current status of construction on The Queensway as of August 31 is:

  • Parkside to Colborne Lodge: Track installation completed. Overhead poles in place.
  • Colborne Lodge to Ellis Avenue: Minimal work completed due to water table problems.
  • Ellis Avenue to South Kingsway: Right-of-way grading and pole base installation in progress. Track formerly stored between Windermere and South Kingsway has been moved to the streetcar lanes in front of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
  • Humber River Bridge: The centre span used by streetcars has been rebuilt, but is temporarily hosting all road traffic while the north (westbound) and south (eastbound) spans and approach ramps are under construction. This work has progressed to the point that some concrete placement has been done.
  • Humber Bridge to Humber Loop. Pole base installation in progress.

On Lake Shore, demolition of the track from Dwight Ave eastward has crossed Symons Road which was expected to be the point where there is a transition from monolithic concrete to discrete layers. New track is in place from Dwight to approximately Lake Crescent.

For updated construction photos, please see my article with galleries tracking this work.

The long-suffering riders of the 501 bus service west of Sunnyside will have to deal with this arrangement for several more months and will not see streetcar service until mid-2018. This will all get nicely settled until 2019 when the project to rebuild King/Queen/Roncesvalles will be launched together with construction of a streetcar right-of-way from Parkside Drive to Roncesvalles.

 

TTC Service Changes Effective September 3, 2017

The September 2017 schedule changes primarily involve the reversal of summer service cuts to many routes with only minimal service improvements. This continues the TTC’s policy for 2017 of constraining service growth in the face of lower than budgeted ridership, as well as the shortage of vehicles.

Construction projects continue to affect route 501 Queen and will do so for many months to come:

  • Streetcar service is restored between Russell Carhouse (at Connaught) and Sunnyside Loop.
    • This will be affected in October when the intersection of McCaul and Queen is rebuilt requiring a diversion.
  • A bus shuttle will operate from River to Neville Park due to the reconstruction of the intersection at Coxwell and Queen.
    • This will also require the continued operation of buses on the 502/503 services on Kingston Road.
    • Through streetcar service to Neville Park will resume with the October schedules.
  • A bus shuttle to Long Branch will operate from Dufferin Loop, and Marine Parade will be served by its own local shuttle to Windermere.
    • Construction on The Queensway will prevent streetcars from operating to Humber Loop until the end of the year.
    • Streetcars will not operate west of Humber Loop to Long Branch until mid-2018.

With the return of ALRVs to the Queen route, 504 King will operate primarily with CLRVs, and the peak period trippers will mainly be buses, not streetcars. The effective capacity of the route will fall because of the lower capacity of CLRVs and buses versus the streetcars that have been used over the summer of 2017. This will be minimally offset by a small reduction in headways during all operating periods thanks to trimming of the running time. King cars now enjoy extended layovers leading to queues of vehicles at terminals thanks to an overly-generous schedule. The number of streetcars in service remains the same, but on slightly shorter headways.

New low-floor Flexity streetcars will be deployed on 512 St. Clair starting in September, subject to availability. The schedule will be based on CLRVs until new car deliveries reach the point where the line can be scheduled as a Flexity route.

The TTC plans to begin using Flexitys on 504 King late in 2017 subject to availability.

Between them, the King and St. Clair routes require about 60 CLRVs at peak. Allowing for some capacity growth with Flexitys, this translates to about 45 of the new cars, plus spares. It will be some time before both routes are converted, assuming Bombardier achieves their ramped up delivery rate in fall 2017. They are already slightly behind schedule with only two of three planned cars for July 2017 out the door in Thunder Bay, and they have not yet implemented the additional shifts/workforce to produce cars at a higher rate effective October 2017.

The northbound stop at Broadview & Danforth will be removed allegedly in the aid of transit priority signalling. In fact, this is a location where the substantial green time afforded to east-west traffic on Danforth makes the idea of “priority” for transit movements difficult to swallow. There is already an advanced green northbound for left turning motor traffic. Given the layovers now enjoyed by streetcars at Broadview Station, it is not clear just what this priority will achieve, but removing the stop will annoy the many riders who now use it. The southbound stop remains in service.

Other construction projects include:

  • 54 Lawrence East: Water main construction west of Victoria Park has completed.
  • Renforth Station opens: 32 Eglinton West and 112 West Mall are rerouted into the new regional terminal.
  • Kennedy Station: The schedule change to accommodate Crosstown construction is implemented for weekend service on 86 Scarborough.
  • Long Branch Loop: All buses will loop via the streetcar loop during reconstruction of the bus roadway.
  • 123 Shorncliffe: Additional running time to accommodate a City paving project.
  • 506 Carlton: The only remaining construction area/diversion is on College between Bathurst and Lansdowne. This will end in October.
  • 505 Dundas: The diversion between Bay and Church will end in late September or early October depending on progress of the road works east of Yonge.

The 400 Lawrence Manor and 404 East York Community Bus services will be extended. For details, see the TTC’s July 2017 update on these services.

2017.09.03_Service_Changes

What Is The Scheduled Service Capacity on Queen Street?

This article is a follow-up to my previous piece on 501 Queen Capacity and the staff response to a query at the TTC Board Meeting of June 15, 2017.

At that meeting, Commissioner Joe Mihevc asked whether the capacity operated by buses on Queen Street was the same at all hours as the streetcars that had been replaced. Staff, after a bit of hesitation, replied that it was. The exchange is available on YouTube.

My reaction to this gets into the territory of “unparliamentary language”, but at the time I tweeted:

The term “porkies” will be familiar to Andy Byford and any of his team from across the pond. I moderated this later on to suggest that staff were “badly advised”, the standard political excuse when a Minister is attempting to extricate him/herself from accusations of misleading the House.

Unfortunately, the actual schedule data do not back up staff claims. In the table below, note that the vehicle capacities are taken from the TTC’s Crowding Standards.

In graphic form, the scheduled capacities are:

In almost all cases, and certainly during all periods when the route is busiest, the scheduled capacity of bus service is less than that of the streetcar service.

An explanation of the February to March change in streetcar capacity is in order here. For the March schedules, the TTC planned on a service diversion that did not actually take place. Because they have no spare cars, they make up the extra running time by stretching the headway between vehicles thereby reducing the line’s scheduled capacity. In some off=peak periods, spare vehicles are added to compensate, but not during the peaks.

On a vehicles/hour basis, the buses come much more often than the streetcars because more of them are needed to provide the same service. If the buses can maintain an even spacing (which they don’t as demonstrated in my previous analyses), the shorter wait time contributes to riders’ impressions of better service when in fact there is less capacity on the route.

The one caveat I will make with respect to scheduled capacity is that the TTC is chronically unable to run ALRVs where they are scheduled. This has been a long-standing problem going back to well before any issues with vehicle shortages. Service Planning schedules a capacity based on larger cars, while Operations sends out shorter ones that are overloaded. This is no excuse for perpetuating the under-capacity situation with the replacement bus service.

In coming weeks, some of the currently surplus running time in the bus schedules will be eaten up by construction on Queen west of Spadina, and on Lake Shore west of Humber Loop. The surfeit of vehicles we now see on Queen at its terminals and salted away in places like Wolseley Loop will likely vanish.

As for TTC Staff, I asked for an on the record comment from Brad Ross, Executive Director of Corporate Communications. His responses were:

Thanks for your comments.

followed by

We will review, we just don’t have time today.

The charts above are intended to detail my claim that the scheduled service has declined based on the TTC’s own schedules to save TTC staff the difficult work of looking this up themselves.

As for the actual capacity provided on the street, there are charts covering the peak periods in my earlier article. These are based on TTC vehicle tracking data and reflect the actual mix of vehicles and headways on a day-to-day basis.

When a reply arrives from the TTC, I will update this article.

The Evolution of Streetcar Service from 1980 to 2016

Transit service on many of Toronto’s streetcar lines has declined over past decades and, with it, riders’ faith in and love for this mode. Unreliable, crowded service is considered the norm for streetcar routes, and this leads to calls to “improve” service with buses.

The historical context for this decline is worth repeating in the context of current debates over how Toronto should provide transit service to the growing population in its dense “old” city where most of the streetcar lines run.

When the TTC decided in late 1972, at the urging of City Council, to reverse its long-standing plans to eliminate streetcars by 1980 (when the Queen Subway would take over as the trunk route through the core), the level of service on streetcar lines was substantially better than it is on most routes today. Any comparison of streetcars versus buses faced the prospect of a very large fleet of buses on very frequent headways roaring back and forth on all major streets.

Service in 1980 (when the system was originally planned for conversion) was substantially the same as in 1972, and for the purpose of this article, that date is our starting point.

Ten years later, in 1990, little had changed, but the City’s transit demand was about to fall off a cliff thanks to a recession. During this period, TTC lost much riding on its network including the subway with annual travel dropping by 20% overall. It would take a decade to climb back from that, but various factors permanently “reset” the quality of service on streetcar routes:

  • During the recession, service was cut across the board, and this led to a reduction in the size of fleet required to serve the network.
  • In anticipation of the 510 Spadina line opening, the TTC had rebuilt a group of PCC streetcars, but these were not actually needed for the 509/510 Harbourfront/Spadina services by the time Spadina opened. “Surplus” cars thanks to the recession-era service cuts were available to operate the new routes.
  • Since 1996, any service changes have been  made within the available fleet, a situation compounded by declining reliability of the old cars and the anticipation of a new fleet “soon”.
  • By 2016, the fleet was not large enough to serve all routes, and bus substitutions became common.

Some of the decline in demand on streetcar routes came from changing demographics and shifting job locations. Old industrial areas transformed into residential clusters, and the traffic formerly attracted to them by jobs disappeared. Meanwhile, the city’s population density fell in areas where gentrification brought smaller families to the houses.

The city’s population is now growing again, although the rate is not equal for all areas. Liberty Village and the St. Lawrence neighbourhood are well known, visible growth areas, but growth is now spreading out from both the King Street corridor and moving further away from the subway lines. This creates pressure on the surface routes in what the City’s Planners call the “shoulders” of downtown.

As the population and transit demand have rebounded, the TTC has not kept pace.

The changes in service levels are summarized in the following spreadsheet:

Streetcar_Services_1980_To_2016 [pdf]

510 Bathurst: In 1980, this route had 24 cars/hour during the AM peak period, but by 2006 this had dropped by 50% to 12. In November 2016, with buses on the route, there were 20 vehicles per hour, and with the recent reintroduction of streetcars, the peak service was 10.6 ALRVs/hour, equivalent to about 16 CLRVs. Current service is about 1/3 less than it was in 1980.

506 Carlton: In 1980, this route  had 20 streetcars/hour at peak, but by 2016 this was down to 13.8.

505 Dundas: In 1980, service on this route had two branches, one of which terminated at Church after City Hall Loop was replaced by the Eaton Centre. On the western portion of the route, there were 27 cars per hour, while to the east there were 15 (services on the two branches were not at the same level). By 2016, this was down to 10.3. [Corrected]

504 King: This route, thanks to the developments along its length, has managed to retain its service over the years at the expense of other routes. In 1980, there were 25.2 cars per hour over the full route between Broadview and Dundas West Stations with a few trippers that came east only to Church Street. Despite budget cuts in 1996 that reduced service to 16.4 cars/hour at peak, the route came back to 30 cars/hour by 2006. Service is now provided by a mixture of King cars on the full route (15/hour), 514 Cherry cars between Sumach and Dufferin (7.5/hour), and some trippers between Roncesvalles and Broadview. Some 504 King runs operate with ALRVs and most 514 Cherry cars are Flexitys.

501 Queen/507 Long Branch: In 1980, the Queen and Long Branch services operated separately with 24.5 cars/hour on Queen and 8.9 cars/hour on Long Branch at peak. By 1990, the Queen service had been converted to operate with ALRVs and a peak service of 16.1 cars/hour, roughly an equivalent scheduled capacity to the CLRV service in 1980. By 1996, Queen service was down to 12 ALRVs/hour of which 6/hour ran through to Long Branch. Headways have stayed roughly at that level ever since. The Long Branch route was split off from Queen to save on ALRVs, and as of November 2016 6.3 CLRVs/hour ran on this part of the route. Bus replacement services are operating in 2017 due to many construction projects conflicting with streetcar operation.

502 Downtowner/503 Kingston Road Tripper: In 1980, these routes provided 15.6 cars/hour, but by 2016 this had declined to 10/hour.

512 St. Clair: In 1980, the St. Clair car operated with a scheduled short turn at Earlscourt Loop. East of Lansdowne, there were 33.3 cars/hour on St. Clair. By 1996 this was down to 20.6 cars/hour. The next decade saw an extended period of reconstruction for the streetcar right-of-way, and service during this period was irregular, to be generous. By 2016, the service has improved to 21.2 cars/hour, but this is still well below the level of 1980.

What is quite clear here is that the budget and service cuts of the early 1990s substantially reduced the level of service on streetcar routes, and even as the city recovered, the TTC was slow to restore service, if at all. The unknown question with current service levels is the degree to which demand was lost to demographic changes and to what extent the poor service fundamentally weakened the attractiveness of transit on these routes. The TTC has stated that some routes today are operating over capacity, but even those numbers are limited by the difference between crowding standards (which dictate design capacity) and the actual number of riders who can fit on the available service. It is much harder to count those who never board.

In a fiscal environment where any service improvement is viewed negatively because it will increase operating costs, the challenge is to turn around Council’s attitude to transit service. This is an issue across the city and many suburban bus routes suffer from capacity challenge and vehicle shortages just like the streetcar routes downtown.

The bus fleet remains constrained by actions of Mayor Ford in delaying construction of the McNicoll Garage with the result that that the TTC has no place to store and maintain a larger fleet even if they were given the money to buy and operate it. Years of making do with what we have and concentrating expansion funding on a few rapid transit projects has boxed in the TTC throughout its network.

Transit will not be “the better way” again until there are substantial investments in surface fleets and much-improved service.

The Cost of Running the Queen Car

Update: Minor changes were made to add some details to the costings presented here at about 10:10 am on June 14.]

The debate over which type of transit vehicle should operate on Queen Street, and by implication on the wider streetcar network, will inevitably get into the question of the cost of streetcar operations. The TTC has cited large ongoing costs of the bus operation:

This summer, the TTC is spending an extra $1 million per month to run buses on the route, according to TTC spokesperson Brad Ross. It also takes 60 buses to provide similar service to the 501 Queen’s usual 45 streetcars.

“Queen is a good example of a route where streetcars make good sense because of the capacity that they offer you in the downtown to reduce congestion,” Ross said, adding that Toronto’s streetcars produce lower emissions than buses.

[From CBC News Toronto]

The ratio of buses to streetcars in this quotation is somewhat misleading for a few reasons:

  • The bus service is scheduled with extra running time in anticipation of construction delays, although the actual construction has not yet begun. This is responsible both for the accumulation of large numbers of buses at terminals.
  • The replacement ratio of 1.3:1 is well below values the TTC normally uses in comparing transit modes, and in their own crowding standards. The design capacities of vehicles for service planning is 51 for a standard bus, 74 for a standard-length streetcar (CLRV), 108 for a two-section articulated streetcar (ALRV) and 130 for the new low floor Flexitys. This implies a replacement ratio of 1.45:1 for CLRVs, 2.12 for ALRVs and 2.55 for Flexitys. These numbers would be adjusted downward to compensate for faster operating speeds with buses, if any, although that adjustment would vary by time of day and route segment as shown in my analyses of operations on the route.
  • The capacity of scheduled bus service is less than the scheduled capacity of streetcars at the beginning of 2017. Service for 501 Queen is based on the capacity of ALRVs.
  • The actual streetcar service on Queen before buses began taking over was scheduled to use 33 ALRVs and 7 CLRVs (November 2016 service). The CLRVs were dedicated to the service between Humber and Long Branch Loops.

The TTC’s methodology for allocating operating costs to routes is based on three variables:

  • Vehicle hours (primarily the cost of drivers and related management and overhead costs)
  • Vehicle kilometres (part of the day-to-day cost of running and maintaining buses including fuel)
  • Vehicles (part of day-to-day costs for work such as dispatching, routine inspections and maintenance, cleaning)

The cost of routine streetcar track maintenance is included in the vehicle kilometre cost. This does not include major projects such as the replacement of track which are funded from the Capital Budget.

The factors for the two modes as of 2015 were:

                   Per Hour      Per Km        Per Vehicle
                                                 per Day
     Buses         $ 92.30       $  1.88       $  150
     Streetcars    $ 95.40       $  3.42       $  515

     [Source: TTC Service Planning via Stuart Green in TTC Media Relations]

As 2015 costs, these numbers contain almost no contribution from the new Flexity fleet, but they will be influenced by the cost of maintaining decades old CLRVs and ALRVs. The hourly component of streetcar costs is probably influenced by the relatively higher level of route supervision on that network than on the suburban bus routes.

The TTC’s most recently published detailed statistics for their network date from 2014. (The lack of timely data on route performance is an ongoing issue, but one that is separate from this article.) For 501 Queen, the daily factors for 2014 operation were:

     Vehicle Hours    595
     Vehicle Km     9,100
     Vehicles          36

The number of vehicles listed is lower than the peak requirement, and this will affect the calculated cost as discussed below.

When the streetcar costs are applied to these factors, the daily cost of the Queen car comes out to just over $100k (2015).

     Hourly costs     $ 56,763  53.3%
     Kilometre costs    31,122  29.2%
     Vehicle costs      18,540  17.4%
     Total            $106,425

Adjusting this for the higher number of streetcars actually shown in the schedules would add 4 vehicles (40 vs 36) at a daily cost of $2,060.

On an annual basis (taking one year as equivalent to 305 weekdays, the factor used by the TTC to account for lower demand on weekends and holidays), the Queen car costs about $32.5 million (2015) to operate.

Update: This does not include the cost of the 502 Downtowner nor the 503 Kingston Road Tripper cars. Annualizing the premium for bus service quoted by the TTC to $12m/year puts the relative cost by their estimation in context.

The important point here is that the hourly costs account for about half of the total, and so any calculation is most sensitive to the number of operators required to provide service. Larger vehicles have a strong advantage over smaller ones. Also, larger vehicles mean lower costs for vehicle distance travelled and per vehicle costs, but it is not certain that for a large-scale change in fleet composition that these cost factors would remain stable depending on just which cost components are allocated to each category. For example, a carhouse costs the same amount to operate whether it has 200 small cars or 100 large ones in it. Extrapolation to an all-Flexity environment should be done with care.

In the case of a bus operation, provided that the average speed could be increased during peak periods, this would reduce the total vehicle requirement and bus hours, but it would not change the bus kilometres in comparison to buses scheduled at the same speed as streetcars. (Fewer vehicles travelling at a higher speed run up the same mileage.) The big difference would come in vehicle (operator) hours because of the lower capacity of buses.

The problem of projecting a replacement cost then becomes one of “twirling the dials” of various factors to determine what the replacement service might look like. One obvious starting point is that this must be based on normal route conditions, not on the non-standard schedules now in use for the construction period. Possibilities include:

  • Using an ALRV:Bus replacement ratio of 2:1
  • Using a lower replacement ratio such as 1.5:1 (a sensitivity test to determine how costs would change with larger buses)
  • Using the 2:1 capacity ratio, but assuming a higher average speed for buses
  • Using the higher capacity of Flexitys

The results from these assumptions should be taken with considerable caution because it is far from certain that the cost factors can actually be relied upon across the different vehicle types and usage patterns.

  • On a 2:1 replacement ratio, the cost of bus operation is about 50% higher than for ALRVs. Costs allocated per vehicle are lower, even though there are more buses, but this is more than offset by higher costs for the hourly and mileage components.
  • On a 1.5:1 replacement ratio, the cost of buses is about 10% higher than for ALRVs.
  • On a 2:1 replacement ratio, but with a 10% increase in average speed, bus costs go down about 8%, but are still about 1/3 higher than the cost for ALRVs.
  • For Flexity operations, assuming cost factors are unchanged (valid for hourly costs, but mileage and vehicle costs are another matter), the replacement bus service would cost about 75% more than the streetcar service.
  • Flexity costs fall by 1/6 relative to ALRVs because of the larger Flexity design capacity. This is a comparatively small saving on Queen because the route is already scheduled (if not actually operated) as if it had the larger ALRVs on it. If we were looking at 504 King, for example, the schedule is based on CLRVs and so the replacement by buses would require many more vehicles proportionately than for the Queen route, and replacement by Flexitys would require many fewer vehicles to provide the same scheduled capacity.

[Note: I have deliberately not published exact numbers here because this is only a rough estimate subject to alteration as and when the TTC refines its cost base and the assumptions behind a comparative service design. Also, it is based on 2015 cost data and 2014 schedules.]

These costs do no include major capital projects including ongoing renovation of streetcar track, and one-time costs to bring infrastructure (notably the overhead power distribution system) up to modern standards.

The annual cost of surface track and special work (intersections) varies from year to year based on the scheduled work plans. The average for tangent track over 2017-26 is about $21 million/year although the amounts for 2017 and 2018 are particularly high due to the extent of planned work in those years. From the point where the TTC decided to retain streetcars in late 1972 until 1993, their track construction was not of a standard required for the long life expected of rail assets. Track was not welded, untreated wooden ties were used, and there was no mechanical isolation for vibration between the track and the concrete slab in which it was  laid. The result was that roadbeds fell apart quickly and the lifespan of the infrastructure was about 15 years.

Beginning in 1993, the TTC changed to a much more robust track structure using a new concrete base slab, steel ties, welded rail and rubber sleeves to isolate the track from the concrete around it. The structure is designed so that when track does need to be replaced, only the top layer, the depth of the track itself, needs to be removed. New track can be attached to the steel ties that are already in place. Conversion to this standard across the entire system is almost completed, and track reconstruction costs will drop due both to longer lifespan and simplified renewal work.

The average for special work over 2017-26 is about $14 million/year. Starting in 2003, the complex castings were set in a vibration-absorbent coating. Construction techniques have also advanced so that intersections are pre-assembled and welded off-site and then trucked to street locations for installation in large panels. The most recent intersection, Dundas and Parliament, went from initial demolition of the existing track to full assembly of the new intersection in one week. (Further work was required to complete other road upgrades, and new intersections are typically allowed to cure for a few weeks so that the concrete does not suffer vibration before it has properly set.) With a roughly 30-year cycle for special work replacement, the TTC is only about half way through rebuilding all of its intersections to the new standard.

Update: The Queen route represents about 28% of the track in the streetcar system, and so is responsible for about $10m of the annual capital work averaged over its lifetime. This is a relatively high proportion for one route, especially in relation to the amount of service operated there. 504 King, for example, is much shorter and has considerably more service than 501 Queen.

The cost of track replacement is essentially a fixed value that varies little with the level of transit service, although some of the lighter routes could turn out to have greater lifespans. This capital cost, therefore, represents an investment in the future of the streetcar system and the ridership growth that it could accommodate if only the TTC ran enough service. (The frequency of many routes is very much lower today than it was a few decades ago, and there is a lot of room for growth as residential density builds up along these routes.)

I will review the TTC’s Capital Budget for streetcar infrastructure in the next article in this series.

Any examination of streetcar replacement with buses must consider a variety of factors, but most importantly must look not at the streetcar system as it is today with service levels essentially frozen at or below the levels of two decades ago, but at what it can become as the backbone of travel in the growing “old” City.

Comparison of Streetcar and Bus Operations on 501 Queen (Part IV)

In this section of my review of bus and streetcar operations on Queen Street, I turn to a comparison of operating speeds by each type of vehicle over the route. The charts presented here show operating speeds for the first week of May 2017 (streetcar) and the second week (bus) between Neville Loop and Roncesvalles.

By way of introduction, here is one page from a set of charts.

On this chart, streetcar data are plotted in orange and bus data in blue. The streetcar data are “on top” so that bus data peek out from behind showing the peaks where buses are operating faster than streetcars.

Each chart set has many pages, one for each hour of the day from 6:00 am to midnight. The values plotted give the average of vehicle speeds along the route. The example above shows vehicles westbound on Queen during the PM peak hour of 5:00 to 6:00 pm. The chart should be read from left-to-right, the direction of travel. (Charts for eastbound operations have the same layout, but should be read from right-to-left.) The sawtooth form of the chart arises from locations where vehicles stop and the spaces in between where they are in motion.

Approaching a stop, especially one where there is a backlog of traffic from the stop, there will be a gradual decline in speed, but then a fast pickup afterward as the vehicles move off. Locations with serious congestion and queueing will show up as an extended area of low speed corresponding to vehicles creeping forward to the stop.

The evolution of traffic speeds over the day can be reviewed as an animation by stepping back and forth through the pages. This shows both the rise and fall of speeds hour-by-hour and the change in the degree to which buses operate faster than streetcars in some locations.

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Comparison of Streetcar and Bus Operations on 501 Queen (Part III, Updated)

Updated June 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm: A new set of charts has been added at the end of this article to display the service capacity actually operated at various points and times on Queen in a manner that more clearly slows what is going on. The original charts have been left for reference.

This article continues the comparison of bus and streetcar operations on 501 Queen by reviewing the capacity of service actually provided on the route.

The chart below shows the hourly scheduled capacity of the route for its basic service in the central part of the route. This does not include the contribution of any trippers, only the regular service passing Yonge Street in each direction.

For all but the last two entries (May and June 2017) service is scheduled to be provided by ALRVs which have a design capacity for planning purposes of 108. For the last two months, service is provided by buses with a design capacity of 51.

There are minor variations from fall 2013 to February 2017 that are mainly caused by schedule changes related to whether or not the route operates as one continuous Neville to Long Branch line, or if it is broken at Humber. For the through service, headways are slightly different because of the need to blend service on the two branches.

In March 2017, running time was added to the route to accommodate a construction diversion that was not actually implemented. This was done only by stretching the headway, not by adding cars to the route thanks to the overall shortage of streetcars. The result was a drop in both the cars/hour value and the scheduled capacity.

In May 2017, streetcars were replaced by buses, but thanks to the shortage of buses, the capacity of the scheduled service was well below the level that streetcars had been providing. Although there were many more vehicles/hour, their much lower capacity meant that the scheduled capacity was below that of the streetcar service (especially when February 2017 or earlier is used as a base). The reduction was 17% in the AM peak and 27% in the PM peak, and this on a route that (a) the TTC knows is running over capacity and (b) has not had a service increase for many years thanks to the shortage of streetcars.

Providing equal capacity would require that buses operate more frequently than they are now scheduled to do.

This type of scheduling has been used in many places across the TTC system where requirements for extra running time have  been achieved by running vehicles less frequently.

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Comparison of Streetcar and Bus Operations on 501 Queen (Part II)

This article continues a topic begun with Part I regarding the replacement of streetcars by buses over the entire Queen route due to several construction projects affecting the route this summer.

In the first article I reviewed vehicle tracking data for April 2017 when Queen was operating with streetcars between Neville Loop and Roncesvalles with data for May 7-31 after the route had been converted to buses. This look at month-long averages gives an initial impression that buses are faster under certain circumstances (period of lighter load and less traffic congestion), but this prompted me to look at other data to see if the pattern was consistent. What quickly appeared was that April 2017 was an unusually bad month for the route, and so average travel times in some areas were pushed above what is seen in other periods.

This article explores a more detailed look at historical travel time patterns on Queen. Apologies to readers who only want the highlights. I have included many charts in this post because some of you like a lot of detail and the ability to “look under the covers”. An important consideration here is that there is a great deal of variability in conditions on any route, and averages do not tell the full story.

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