Transportation in Toronto: Achievements & Prospects

On November 18, 2014, I spoke as part of a panel on this subject at the University of Toronto. Other speakers were Leslie Woo from Metrolinx and Stephen Buckley from the City of Toronto.

The text linked here was my originally prepared text from which I departed somewhat in spots either due to comments made by other speakers, or time pressures.


Posted in A Grand Plan, Transit, Urban Affairs | 15 Comments

TTC Service Changes Effective Sunday, December 21, 2014

There are only a few changes for the Christmas schedule period this year, notably the return of full service on the Queen streetcar to Long Branch.

The summary linked below also includes a diagram of the schedule plans over the holiday period.


Posted in Transit | 6 Comments

The Creeping Presence of Buses on 504 King

Toronto’s streetcar shortage is about to show up quite graphically on the King car where many peak trips now operated by streetcars will change to buses. This begins with the schedule change on November 23, and continues with the January 4, 2015 schedules. Also, in January, 508 Lake Shore PM Peak service is discontinued.

                                   Oct 12     Nov 23     Jan 4
                                   2014       2014       2015
                                   Veh Hdwy   Veh Hdwy   Veh Hdwy
AM Peak
Dundas W to Bview Stn (CLRV)       32  4'00"  32  4'00"  33  4'00"
Dundas W to Bview Stn (ALRV)        7          7          7
Dundas W to Bview/Queen (CLRV)      8          4
Ronces/Queen to Bview Stn (CLRV)    3
Ronces/Queen to Bview/Queen (CLRV)  2          2
Ronces/Queen to Bview/Queen (Bus)             11         20
Lake Shore (CLRV)                   3          3

PM Peak
Dundas W to Bview Stn (CLRV)       45  3'10"  40  3'30"  38  4'00"
Ronces/Queen to Bview/Queen (CLRV)  3   6*                2
Ronces/Queen to Bview/Queen (Bus)             12         18
Lake Shore (CLRV)                   6          6

* Most trippers make only one trip. For the PM Peak in October, 3 cars make two trips each.

These changes are alleged to be due to the shortage of streetcars, a situation that is not helped by the late deliveries of new Flexities from Bombardier, as well as the resumption of full streetcar service to Long Branch in late December. However, there are a few anomalies in the plans.

  • The reduction of cars in service comes entirely from CLRV runs even though the TTC has repeatedly claimed that it is the ALRV fleet which is the less reliable.
  • The TTC is widening the off-peak headways on King by extending running times without adding vehicles, and claims that this is needed because of the “shortage”. Of course, there is no shortage of vehicles off peak, only the will (and budget) to operate more of them.

The TTC has still not produced a fleet plan showing expected deliveries for new streetcars, their proposed rollout on the system, and details of extending the lifespan of the ALRVs as mentioned recently by CEO Andy Byford.

… we are taking another look at our fleet plan to maximize the number of higher capacity, articulated streetcars, or ALRVs, on King (and Queen) before the new streetcars enter service on these routes. We had originally intended to retire the ALRVs first as they are less reliable than the standard-sized cars, but our 2015 budget request will seek funding to extend the life of the ALRVs to maximize capacity and mitigate crowding.

Second, we are reviewing the roll-out plans for the new streetcar to see if sufficient vehicles can be delivered in time for earlier deployment onto these two major routes, rather than the current plan of 2016/17. [Toronto Moves November 7, 2014]

With the uncertainty on the TTC budget status at Council until well into 2015, and the lead time to implement new schedules, we can expect to see bus operations continue on King until at least late spring 2015.

[I will publish full details of the January 2015 schedule changes by the end of November.]

Posted in King Car, New Streetcars, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 22 Comments

Perspectives on Regional Planning and Transportation: A France-Canada Forum

This forum will take place on November 17-19 at the University of Toronto and it includes two public events for which tickets are still available.

On November 17, a panel of Paul Bedford, Brad Graham and Zack Taylor will discuss “Regional Planning in Toronto: Achievements and Prospects”.

On November 18, a panel of Stephen Buckley, Leslie Woo and I will discuss “Transportation in Toronto: Achievements and Prospects”.

Six visitors from Europe will respond to both panels.

A lecture by Catherine Barbé, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Société du Grand Paris, on November 19 has been sold out for some time.

For more information: France-Canada Forum

Posted in Transit | Comments Off

At Last! 4404 Arrives at Hillcrest

Car 4404, the second “production” low floor streetcar, has finally arrived in Toronto.

The TTC still does not have an updated delivery plan for Bombardier to supply the production run of cars. Meanwhile, 4401 and 4402 continue operating as training cars while 4400 and 4403 provide revenue service.

On a brighter note, Andy Byford recently wrote about changes in the fleet plan which will see ALRVs kept in service longer and more cars made available for service on King and Queen. The rollout plan may also be changed to advance the appearance of new low-floor cars on these routes.

Photo courtesy of Mike Filey:


Photos courtesy of Harold McMann. CLRV 4075 tows 4404 from the delivery ramp to the shops.



Posted in New Streetcars, Transit | 27 Comments

Another Look at A Grand Plan

Warning: This post will be offensive to those with sensitive egos.

In recent months, probably thanks to the election campaign, I have acquired a few “followers” who have enough working brain cells to put together rants on a daily basis. They decry my antipathy to anyone-but-Chow, subways, SmartTrack, and various other schemes claiming that I am eminently unqualified to run this blog. One regular writer even claims that I should “resign” so that some more enlightened soul can be “elected” by the readership to mind the store.

One wonders what part of a personal domain name this person (or persons) does not understand, or the idea that the marketplace will determine whether writings here have credibility and influence.

Those with nothing better to do but criticize almost certainly have not put in the decades of watching, commenting, advocating, consulting and even occasionally getting paid (!!!) for their thoughts on transit. Early in this blog’s history, back in March 2006, that little agency called “Metrolinx” did not yet exist, and in anticipation of its creation, I wrote an article about how the region’s transit should evolve.

I gave credit to other organizations, notably the Toronto Board of Trade, as well as the army of professionals and amateurs with whom I have discussed transit over the years.

The plan included:

  • Much more extensive use of the rail network for improved GO service.
  • Much improved service on the surface bus and streetcar network including an increased bus fleet and purchase of an accessible low-floor streetcar fleet.
  • An Eglinton LRT line including an underground section from Leaside to Keele including service to Pearson Airport.
  • A Don Mills / Waterfront east line [Since 2006, I have come to think that a full subway would be better south of Eglinton as the line would be entirely grade separated anyhow. As for the waterfront, the planned development between Yonge and the Port Lands is now much more extensive and requires far more than a DRL or SmartTrack station to serve the entire site.]
  • Various other LRT lines including one in the Weston corridor using the space that has now been consumed by the UPX trackage.
  • A Yonge subway extension north to Steeles.

… and much more.

The plan isn’t perfect. My opinion of some lines has changed over the years, but the basic premise has not. Toronto must think of transit as a network with many parts, not just a bauble here and there to get someone through an election, or a showpiece for one municipality or transit operator.

Yes, I’m an advocate for LRT, a mode that other cities were building while Toronto wasted four decades on the anything-but-LRT attitude that dates back to Bill Davis. I make no apology for that, and only wish we had built more over the years rather than pursuing pipe-dreams and fighting over the selection of new routes.

By now, we could have had a network of LRT lines plus frequent GO service in two or three corridors serving Scarborough. What we got was the Toonerville Trolley to STC.

Some folks see me as a critic, a nay-sayer who denigrates new plans and opposes “progress” (a word that usually means building what they want). I have seen plans come and go, a lot of false starts, and too many cases where small-scale, short-term thinking wasted opportunities for real progress on transit. Far too many hobby-horses, far too much vote-buying, and far too much fiscal fantasy about something-for-nothing transit systems.

So the next time you feel like leaving a really snotty comment here about how I don’t care about anyone outside of downtown, how I am single-handedly responsible for the decline of civilization as we know it, take a few moments to polish off your resumé. Tell us all what you were doing for the past 40 years, and how carefully you have thought about the transit system. Then start your own website.

Posted in A Grand Plan, Beyond 416, GO Transit, Transit, Urban Affairs, York Region | 61 Comments

The Challenge of Improving Subway Service (Updated)

On Wednesday morning, November 5, 2014, the TTC suffered two major delays on the subway system. One was a complete shutdown of service between St. Clair West and Union Stations, and the other was a period of very slow operation approaching Broadview Station westbound.

Updated November 10, 2014 at 5:00pm: The TTC has now provided an explanation for the delay on the University subway. See the body of this article for details.

The morning commute was painfully difficult for everyone on the subway, and these incidents inevitably raise calls for “someone to do something” so that they won’t happen again. That’s an easy political call, but one requiring a deeper understanding of the underlying problems. This is not just about the physical state of the signal system, or the TTC’s ability to respond to major events, or the long-standing question of subway capacity, but a mixture of all of these. Quick fixes would be nice, but if they were available, Toronto would not be in the transportation mess it faces after years of inaction, denial and pandering for votes to the detriment of transit everywhere.

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Posted in Service Cost and Quality, Subways, Transit | 36 Comments

Bathurst Street Track Construction 2014 (Updated)

The last major track project for 2014 on Toronto’s streetcar system is underway on Bathurst Street. During the first phase which began October 20, Wolseley Loop just north of Queen Street will be replaced. The second phase will run from November 3 to 20 for the replacement of the intersection at Dundas Street.

Updated November 10, 2014: Work at Dundas and Bathurst has progressed to the point that the new intersection almost completely assembled. Photos have been added at the end of the article.

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Posted in Bathurst Car, Transit | 36 Comments

How Unreliable Is My Service? (Updated November 1, 2014)

November 1, 2014: Results for third quarter of 2014 have been consolidated into a new table below.


Third Quarter 2014 Update:

The statistics have not changed much from the second quarter. One issue with many routes operating on wide headways (night services and express routes) is that they have consistently low performance values. Such routes should, of course, be measured for on-time performance, not headway adherence, because missed vehicles have a far graver effect on would be riders than on a route that operates every 5 minutes. Express-to-downtown routes (the 140 series) should be measured for on time performance in their catchment areas. Their headway once they are on the express leg of their journey is of no consequence to riders.

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Posted in Service Analysis, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 88 Comments

TTC Service Changes for November 23, 2014

The service changes effective November 23, 2014 primarily deal with the end of many construction programs and the return to “normal” schedules. There are a few minor service improvements as well as reversals of cuts related to the bus shortage, but overall the service now on the street is what Toronto will see for the remainder of 2014.

Service improvements that had been planned for fall 2014 have been deferred because there is a shortage of vehicles, and this is compounded by greater than planned construction-related service.

Regular service hours per week are up 1.2% for November-December 2014 over the corresponding period in 2013. However, unplanned construction services consume resources that otherwise could have provided a further 1% improvement in regular service.

To reduce the scheduled requirement for streetcars, some trippers on 504 King will be replaced by buses. This sets the stage for the resumption of 501 Queen service west of Humber Loop on December 22 when, for the first time in over two years, the entire streetcar network will be in operation. The problem will persist until deliveries of new streetcars resumes and allows full streetcar operation. (As I write this, a revised delivery and implementation schedule has not been published by the TTC.)

Other factors in actual-vs-budget comparisons for November-December include:

  • The delayed retirement of high-floor, lift-equipped buses with low floor vehicles. This would have required more service to compensate for the lower capacity of the low floor buses.
  • Additional running time on the subway introduced in the October schedules. This increased the number of trains in service during peak periods.
  • The reduction in service hours due to articulated bus roll outs has been less than expected because the order of route conversions is different than planned, and running times on converted routes proved to be longer than expected requiring more vehicles to maintain headways.
  • Conversion of the 501 Queen and 504 King routes from ALRV to CLRV operation to permit retirement of the ALRVs has not happened. This would have required more service hours by the smaller CLRVs.


Posted in King Car, Queen Car, Service Cost and Quality, Transit | 25 Comments