Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This is your brain on drugs

To the four stoners smoking pot on the Brampton GO Station platform during the rush hour this afternoon...

Why are you doing drugs on the station platform during the rush hour?


Bus Rapid Transit - Low cost, high impact

Aside from Streetcar/Light Rail, Mayor Miller proposed a network of bus ways along major corridors to bring rapid(er) transit to all corners of the city. But what exactly does he mean? What is bus rapid transit or a bus way? Is VIVA an example? With this post, I hope to dispel some of the confusion.

Any bus can be used for a bus rapid transit route. Low floor buses are generally used for the accessibility features, ensuring universal access. Since they are normally used on high-demand routes, articulated buses are often the norm. In the case of VIVA, special buses in special paint schemes were used as a promotional tool, but this isn't the rule. Vancouver uses standard New Flyer D60LF models in unique paint for their B-Line service, and Grand River Transit does the same for it's iXpress service while Ottawa's Transitway uses D60LF and D40i models in the normal paint schemes.

Above is a standard Coast Mountain Bus Company bus in Vancouver. Below it is a bus used on the 99 B-Line route. The special paint is a type of marketing, allowing people to identify the premium service at a glance.

The ultimate form of bus rapid transit uses premium transit buses with unique paint schemes in the same way VIVA does.

Fare Collection
In order to reduce dwell times, bus rapid transit routes generally have proof-of-payment systems in place, letting passengers with valid tickets or passes board via all doors. On an articulated bus, this means loading time is up to three as fast. Some Van Hool double-artics can have five doors, further speeding up boarding times. For passengers who need to pay, ticket vending machines will be provided for them to buy tickets before hand. When a fare card system is in place, the reader will be either on board the vehicle or at the stop. VIVA's system is the ideal in this case.

Guide Way
Bus rapid transit can be considered rapid transit is because it operated independently of traffic. Normally this comes in the form of transit-only lanes on roads, only running in mixed traffic where absolutely necessary. A Spadina-style centre reservation is preferable, especially if local routes still use the road, but curb lanes can still work if the local police strictly enforce them. Usually, buses will get signal priority at intersections, allowing green lights to stay green longer if the bus is running behind. Another option is to construct a bus-only road running parallel to the travel corridor. Ottawa has done this in the outlying areas, with transit-only lanes in the downtown. In Adelaide, Australia, a unique guided bus way is in use, where buses drive onto a track and are taken at high speed into the suburbs.

Where there's is space, a transit only corridor can be used to provide rapid transit service between the suburbs and the city. In Ottawa (above), the Transitway parallels the major highways radiating from the city centre. In Adelaide, the O-Bahn (below) takes buses from the suburbs to the downtown with the efficiency of a railway.

For the inner city, phase two of VIVA is an example of bus rapid transit in its highest evolution. To connect the city to the suburbs, transitways are the way to go. In most cases, bus rapid transit guide ways are built to be rail-ready, in case capacity issues warrant upgrading to light rail.

In order to maintain the "rapid" part, bus rapid transit lines cannot stop at every stop along the route. Like VIVA, stops are only located at major intersections and major destinations. For transit-only lanes, a typical stop will consist of a roadside shelter, a ticket vending machine and a display indicating the arrival time of the next vehicle. Normally, a special sign will be used to distinguish bus rapid transit stops from local service stops. When a bus-only road is used, the stations can be much more intricate, with many more services available.

The station at Westboro on Ottawa's transitway has a platform for each direction with a walkway connecting the two sides. The facility is fully accessible, and serves 59 routes. Many stations on the outskirts of the city are build in a simillar style.

The station spacing used by VIVA is what bus rapid transit is designed to be. Local routes should still be operated to cover the gaps, but care must be taken to ensure they don't hold up the rapid transit services.

Care must be taken when talking about bus rapid transit services when compared to bus-only lanes. If buses stop at all stops along the route, it's not bus rapid transit in the truest sense of the word. Either way, this technology has a low setup cost, can deliver results immediately, and using a phased implementation, can be up and running in a few years. If we are truly too poor for subways, then bus rapid transit is an option that we should (are have) seriously consider.

I'll leave you with a series of videos about a bus rapid transit system being implemented in Eindhoven in The Netherlands. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 are here. Could we see it in the GTA? I sure hope so.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

I don't live downtown

Adeel, with his words that can be best described as prose, never fails to capture a snapshot of Toronto that inspires all who read his work. Click here to read more.

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Bus mishap injures woman - Brampton Guardian

Bus mishap injures woman

A 73-year-old Brampton woman suffered a concussion after she ran into the side of a Brampton Transit bus Wednesday morning, Peel police report.

The bus had just finished letting off passengers at the Bramalea City Centre station and was making a U-turn in the lot when the woman, who was running across the lot, ran into it.

She fell back and hit her head, according to police. She was taken to hospital and kept overnight for observation.

...Only in Brampton.

Please stick to the sidewalks and crosswalks at bus loops.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Long Lost Twins

As I said before, the new tokens resemble the cookies with the strawberry jelly in the middle. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Please don't eat the new tokens.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

They Kinda Look Like Cookies

To bring the fight to the counterfeiters, the TTC has introduced a new design for the token. They go on sale this Sunday, and old tokens will be accepted as fare until the end of the year. After that, you can exchange the old ones for new ones. The TTC has details of the exchange program.

Howard Moscoe had dubbed them the "Tiny Toonie Token", but he also pointed out that they look like those shortbread cookies with the cherry in the centre. I tend to agree.

The image is from the TTC via CBC via Transit Toronto.


Did You Feel That?

After pulling an all-nighter to finish a paper on public transit in Toronto, I was running on about 75 minutes of sleep. Of course, morning came far too soon, so I devised a brilliant plan to get at least another hour of sleep. Phase one was to sleep on the train. If I could get comfortable by Bramalea, I would have about 35 minutes of sleep on the run to Union. Phase two was to take the subway up to campus. Normally, I walk from Union to campus on Tuesdays, as it gets me to class at 7:50 - enough time to read the paper before the lecture starts at 8:10. By taking the subway, I could get to campus for 7:40 and sleep in the quiet, empty lecture hall. I ended up getting only forty five minutes of that hour, but a far more interesting story developed.

Normally I'm pretty good when it comes to sleeping on the train. Stopping for stations tends to wake me up, and I've never missed my stop to the point where I've become stranded. I woke up at around 7:35, to discover that we were holding on the lead to track six, about a hundred yards from the train shed at Union Station. I looked out the window to see the normal parade of trains passing by, but I noticed that several men in safety vests were walking around the base of the coach I was in. Then, the announcement came on.

The Toronto Terminal Railway, who operates Union Station and the tracks between Bathurst Street and Cherry Street, has been doing a fair bit of construction lately as part of a long term signal upgrading project. During the rush, the equipment straddles the outdoor platforms. However, last night, the contractor left a rather large (about 6 feet long and three feet in diameter) drill bit fouling the rails. Of course, we hit it.

For 20 minutes it was wedged under the fourth coach. Made of hardened steel, it was likely thousands of pounds. Heavy machinery was needed, but being in the middle of the rush hour, there would be no machinery entering the rail corridor. Somehow, they managed to move it enough to let us creep by at a snails pace. We finally arrived and began unloading at 7:45, twenty minutes late. There was minor damage to three coaches.

Rail travel is among the safest modes of transportation, and passenger trains in North America rarely derail. Incidents like this are very rare, but when they happen, there's nothing you can do but take them in stride. GO did an excellent job of keeping passengers informed, and cautioned that the steps may be damaged on the first few coaches. The contractor, on the other hand, I'm sure has a few choice words coming his way.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Residents furious with new transit terminal - Brampton Guardian

Residents furious with new transit terminal


What residents in a northwest Brampton subdivision thought was a park is now being turned into a major Brampton Transit terminal on Sandalwood Parkway, and that has homeowners saying they feel misled by the city.

Three baseball diamonds in Caterpillar Park on Sandalwood, west of Hurontario Street, have been in place for more than a decade, even before the subdivision to the west of the land was built. There was no sign on the property indicating a major transit facility was planned for the site.

That has residents like Brian Houselander upset and concerned about noise, emissions and property values.

"We took two years to find this property, find a good builder, and decided this is going to be our last house," said Houselander. "For six years we have lived here, just the baseball fields, nice and quiet on the weekends even at that, and no sign indicating this bus garage was going to be placed here. If I had seen that when I was driving by looking for this particular piece of property, I would never have bought here. You can bet this is going to decrease our home values considerably when it's finished."

His neighbours are equally upset about the prospect of having the bus terminal operating on the adjacent land.

Recently bought a house

"I think the key issue is, they didn't warn us," Houselander said.

Daniel Bielawski has just bought a home in the subdivision, which was built in 1998. He has yet to move in, and when he found out about the transit facility, he contacted Mayor Susan Fennell and city staff, asking if the decision could be reversed. He was told it could not. Construction has already begun and, despite the temporary baseball diamonds that have been on the site since at least 1996, the property is zoned "industrial" and was never meant to be kept as a park, according to city officials. The zoning has been in place since 1988.

The city has apologized to residents in a letter for not notifying them construction on the facility was about to begin last month, and in an e-mail to Bielawski, Fennell agreed a sign should have been on the property informing residents of what was in the future plans for the city-owned land. She said the land was never meant to be a park, but the diamonds were a "temporary use" until the transit facility was needed.

The master bedrooms in the homes backing onto the city land are all on the second floor, he said.

"When you walk up to the master bedroom and look out, all you're going to see is this bus garage," he said.

He said the buses will be coming and going all day, starting at 5 a.m. and going until 11 p.m. or midnight as bus drivers begin and end their regular shifts.

Traffic on Sandalwood Parkway is "nuts", he said, so the addition of bus traffic is going to make it worse.

Houselander said the best residents can hope for now is a tall enough berm between the homes and the terminal to block the view and any potential emissions, he said. That berm would have to be as high as the rooftops, which would make it 40 feet tall, he said, because the industrial land is 16 feet lower than the subdivision, and he is skeptical the berm can be built that high.

"And we would still have to live with the drone of the noise," Houselander said.

The city is in a rush to build the much-needed facility to accommodate the rapid expansion of Brampton Transit. The $28 million project has been put on an "accelerated" construction schedule that will see it completed in just 14 months. It is expected to open in the spring of 2008.

Noise-reduction measures

It isn't a public facility, but a secondary facility that will support 200 buses and contain a maintenance garage with 11 hoists, a control centre and an expanded customer service call centre.

A city works and transportation yard is located on the east side of the site, and it will remain.

The city said it will have noise-reduction measures, including a building designed to minimize noise impacts on the surrounding residential properties.

Diesel emissions will be mitigated, according to the city, and computer model testing done by the construction manager indicates it will meet all Ministry of the Environment air emission standards.

The city's only existing transit facility is at 185 Clark Blvd. and it is currently supporting a fleet of 190 buses, 40 more than its capacity.

Brampton Transit ridership is expanding at approximately five times the national average, according to the city.

Transit Director Sue Bass said she is confident ridership will break the 10 million mark this year. October was a record month, with 967,000 passengers, a 14 per cent increase compared to October 2005.

"This growth is causing extreme pressure for transit service increases to be planned and implemented at regular intervals," according to Bass.

Last year, Brampton Transit increased service by 25 per cent and moved to a grid-based system. This year, service was increased another 10 per cent.

The baseball diamonds on the site were removed and the lights and bleachers put in storage to be re-used at another site. Sports groups using the diamonds were re-located, according to city officials.

This transit garage has been in the works for years and is necessary to improve transit in Brampton, but with houses so close, the city should have done more to notify the residents, or should have relocated the garage to a more industrialized area of the city. Either further north, near the brick works, or somewhere along the heavily industrialized Steeles Ave. corridor.

One of my planning textbooks suggests that NIMBY-ism stems from members of the community feeling like they were unable to participate in the planning process. This is a clear example of that theory in action. So what can we do about these situations? I propose a three pronged plan:
  1. If you move to a house close to a nuisance land use, like an airport or rail yard, you do so at your own peril. It was there before you, don't expect it to change, and don't believe anyone who promises you it will change.
  2. The developer should show the secondary and subdivision plan for the whole area to prospective buyers, not just the land that the subdivision sits on. Trying to hide things from prospective buyers or telling them that a nearby nuisance is set to close down should be, if it isn't already, criminal.
  3. The planning process needs to be much more inclusive and give citizens many more opportunities to participate. While we cannot let proposals be killed because of citizen opposition, we must let citizens know that they can help make changes that will lead to a solution everyone can agree upon.

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TTC eyes driverless subway - Toronto Star

TTC eyes driverless subway
Automated control a 'bargain' at $750M, Moscoe says
Nov. 17, 2006. 11:59 AM

A computer driving our subway trains?

Driving them closer together and sometimes in opposite directions on the same track?

TTC chair Howard Moscoe thinks so.

He calls it automated train control and the only thing separating the city from his driverless subway idea is $750 million. That's also the cost of building only three kilometres of subway with three stations, Moscoe said, adding that his plan would immediately boost rider capacity without sinking a shovel.

The money would cover retrofitting the entire subway with a computer system that tells the train how far it is behind the train in front, when to slow down and when to speed up.

It would allow running trains closer together.

Moscoe says automation would increase rider capacity on the Yonge line by at least 40 per cent. And there are other interesting possible benefits too, including all-night service and something he calls the "democratization" of subway station management.

Moscoe suggested it's a more economical way to immediately boost ridership than building more subway lines and stations.

"It costs $242 million to build one kilometre (of subway), including the station. Automated train control will allow us to reorganize the way we think about the subway system."

But after hearing the price tag, Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, was skeptical, considering how cash-strapped the TTC is and how upset Moscoe got earlier this week after receiving only $1.46 million in federal funding for more security.

"Now he's got this wonderful idea that we want to invest three quarters of a billion dollars? Where's this money coming from?" said Kinnear, whose local represents 8,600 members.

The French town of Lille pioneered driverless trains in 1983 when it launched its light-rail system. Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Turin, Copenhagen and Nuremberg followed with driverless metros or streetcars. New York, Tokyo, Seoul, San Francisco and Toulouse also have automated subways or Light Rapid Transit systems.

In fact, the TTC's Scarborough Rapid Transit uses it on its smaller, mostly ground-level trains, though Kinnear says sometimes operators drive the trains because the automatic system works only 80 per cent of the time."

There are times when the computer for some reason, isn't able to be used or fails, then (people) drive it," TTC spokesman Marilyn Bolton said of the Scarborough RT, which TTC staff say was the first transit system in North America to go automatic in 1985. "I think there's nothing for the public to fear or we wouldn't be doing it."

Automated train control is already part of the TTC's subway spending plans, but Moscoe says it's not at the moment a budget priority. He told the Star he wants to make it one at the commission's next meeting Dec. 13.

Once automated, the only thing required of the operator at the front of the train would be to look out the window, ensure everyone is safely aboard and manually close the doors. The computer drives to the next station. The cost, in large part, stems from hooking the trains' acceleration, braking and door systems into the automated system.

The system would also allow the TTC to operate two-way, all-night service on only one track — say, from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. — as it could deftly navigate trains moving in opposite directions out of each other's way using short peripheral, or "cross-over" tracks that run off a main line about every five kilometres, according to one TTC source.

Moscoe sees a spin-off benefit from all-night service: Unlike the current schedule, where maintenance workers have only a few hours each night to work on both tracks, automated trains would leave the opposite track available for longer periods of time.

The system would also free up the second subway employee, the "guard," who looks out the window and manually opens and closes the doors.

With the guards antiquated, Moscoe says the TTC will have extra employees, and he proposes a new rank of workers to be filled: Station Master.

Under his plan, each subway station would be run by the manager who, along with input from a neighbourhood advisory council made up of volunteer transit users, local residents, the ward councillor and station employees, decides how to run that particular station.
There have been numerous critics to this plan, and they wall into a range of categories:

Bob Kinnear & The Labour Perspective
You cannot blame Bob for looking out for his union members. That's his job, afterall, to make use union members are paid well to do what they are hired to do - in this case, it's drive subways. However, I think the plan to create station masters is a wonderful idea. By working with area residents and councillors to improve the station grounds, it can transform the local subway station into a sort of neighborhood hub, much like the local park or community centre. It will boost the public image of the TTC and the employees, much like the days of old when the railroads and stations were a source of pride for the community.

The Safety Crowd
Don't forget that the Scarborough RT was only a "proof of concept". The technology of driver-less rapid transit has been very successfully implemented in Vancouver, in addition to other cities in North America, Europe and Asia. Some may argue that our snow poses a problem and may interrupt communications, but recent tests in New York have proven that a snow-covered third rail is not a problem.

Matt Forsythe, Montreal
This gentleman deserves an honorable mention for his comment.
It just seems like a recipe for disaster. Put in as many mechanical checks and balances as you like - there's nothing that can replace the security of a driver seeing that she's following too closely.
I suppose he didn't realize that Montreal's Metro is driven by a computer, with the driver only as a backup - the same setup being proposed here.

All in all, we have to make a choice. $750 million to upgrade the line to automatic control, or use that money to expand the system. It comes down to the cost implications of building subway extensions and upgrading them afterwards, weighed against building extensions and incorporating the upgrades into the original design. The "oops" theory, which states that changes become more expensive as the project nears completion, suggest that we should spend the money on the upgrades now. It will increase capacity by 40%, making the subway more attractive to the "its too crowded" camp.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Spit in the eye; A slap in the face

"Spit in the eye ... A slap in the face ..."

Those were the words of Howard Moscoe when it was announced that the TTC would receive $1.46 million in federal money for security upgrades.

"Based on our ridership, we should be getting one-third of the money. The TTC carries 85 per cent of all of the passengers in the GTA on its transit system. It's spit in the eye," he said. "It shows utter and complete disrespect for the citizens of Toronto. It's like handing a bum a dime and saying, `Go buy a cup of coffee.'"

Is Moscoe guilty of political grandstanding? When you consider that GO Transit got $5.3 million and $4.3 million went to Union Station, I would say that he's just stating facts. Hell, even Edmonton got $2.2 million.

When asked why the TTC didn't get very much money, Conservative M.P. Gord Brown, who made the announcement, said that "They may have been asking for more money under things that did not qualify under the criteria." Since when does installing 2500 security cameras cameras not count as "upgrading security equipment"?

Then, to add insult to injury, Brown added that since the TTC uses Union Station too, they will be able to share that money - The only TTC related items in Union Station are the signs pointing to the subway, which is not in Union Station.

Clearly, the federal government doesn't know a thing about the transit needs of Toronto. The polite thing to do would have been to get to know us before having it out for us?

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Monday, November 13, 2006

The Payment Gridlock - Toronto Star

Fare cards will remove payment gridlock
New transit fare card readers will move riders and traffic along
Nov. 13, 2006. 06:33 AM

One-third of a second.

That's the estimated time new transit fare card readers will need to process the transaction when you pay to ride.

We know the region-wide fare card is coming, and that Accenture will get $250 million to design and put it in place. But provincial Transportation Minister Donna Cansfield talked with the Toronto Star to give readers of this column a better idea of how it will actually work for riders, transit agencies and possibly in the retail sector.

The prospect of time saved should appeal not only to mass transit riders but also to those who drive their cars to work in the morning.

If you've ever idled on Queen St. E., waiting in the right-hand lane as a slow line of riders boards a streetcar in the left lane, you think for a fleeting moment about gunning the engine to make them all scurry aboard.

Or try remaining calm standing in an excruciatingly torpid line at the Union Station farebox, as someone at the front peers into the depths of her purse for exact change.

"When people talk about the gridlock on the roads, they forget about the gridlock on transit, moving in and out of stations. You're standing at the corner, people are fumbling for change, they can't get a ticket," Cansfield said. "It's a huge timesaver. It's one of the big pluses of the fare card system."

Under the provincially created Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, the fare card will debut on four Mississauga bus routes, two stations on the GO Transit Milton line and Union Station by the middle of next year. But not until 2008, when the system expands to Burlington and Oakville, will commuters enjoy the full technological capability of the network. By 2010, the system will allow travel from Hamilton to Oshawa using a single card. This is, of course, assuming the hesitant, cash-strapped TTC decides to get fully on board the project.

While kiosks in transit stations and elsewhere will allow you to top up the dollar value on the card, Rob Hollis, director of the system, said at a transit conference last week that there will be another way to fill what he calls the "e-purse."

Through a call centre or online, commuters will be able to set up an account and allow automatic withdrawals of a pre-set amount from a debit or credit card whenever the value falls below $10 or $20 or whatever the rider chooses.

"You never have to worry about having the proper amount," Hollis said. "Just travel and forget."

The card will also know where the commuter transfers and automatically adjusts fares depending on which system he or she transfers to. Transit agencies will be able to use that data to quickly track where riders are going and which stations are the busiest, and adjust service levels accordingly, Cansfield said.

The card — expected to be the same size or smaller than a credit card — will get you on the subway, bus or train. But what if you're feeling peckish while walking through Union Station? Maybe sometime in the not-so-distant future you could use the fare card to buy a coffee and muffin. "You could use it (when) you get your Tim Hortons," Cansfield speculated.

And when you drive to the library to pay a late fee, why not use that same card to pay for your parking spot, then hand it over as both identification and payment at the library?

"We actually secured the rights for software services for the entire province of Ontario," Hollis said. "So if the municipalities want to partake in this particular infrastructure, they can develop to other areas. We're looking forward to working with other markets."

The new fare card could be the thin edge of a multipurpose one-card future.

"Hong Kong is the poster child for this," Hollis added. "They have micro-payments in retail stores. They have parking. They use it as an identity card."

The ministry of transportation is exploring those options, though Cansfield says the priority is to make sure the transit application works the way it should before considering how the card could interface elsewhere.

The GTTA will have to brand the card that will probably feature a logo, Cansfield said.

Any ideas on what it should be called? And please, for the sake of all guys out there, don't suggest e-purse.
I'm glad that Minister Cansfield is pushing the fare card, and I'm glad progress is being made. It will save time by eliminating the huge line ups at the collector booths - more people will be able to use the automatic turnstiles, leaving the collector to deal with people who need help or directions. It will save passengers money, as people who use different services won't have to buy multiple ticket types (a huge step forward for GO passengers like me). It will also save the agencies money, as they won't have to print as many tickets or take a loss on counterfeit fares.

As for a name, I hope it isn't something unimaginative like the new name for the subway cars, the "Toronto Rocket". I would have suggested "Silver Meteor", but that name is copyrighted by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak).


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Streetcar vs Light Rail: Rumble in the Avenue

One of the things that has caused confusion in this mayoral campaign has been the difference between streetcars and light rail transit. In this post, I hope to dispel some of the confusion.

Streetcars and light rail share much more than politicians would have you believe. The main argument as to why streetcars are bad and light rail is good is that streetcars are not wheelchair accessible. This is a stretch of the fact. The reason that streetcars in Toronto are not accessible are because they were first appeared in 1977, when accessibility was not a concern. The ease of use by riders with special needs is not tied to the technology. Here's the facts:

Streetcars and Light Rail can use the same type of vehicles. The vehicles are low floor and wheelchair accessible with ramps, and can be equipped with all the convenience features of the new subway car order, such as automatic stop announcements and active route maps. Light rail lines tend to operate as point-to-point lines like the subway, so control stations are necessary at both ends and doors necessary on both sides. Streetcars tend to operate on lines which are enclosed loops, but there are no technical restrictions on this. A double ended car can operate on a loop line as necessary, with the extra doors and extra cab disabled.

Here's an example of a Bombardier FLEXITY Classic, a vehicle which blurs the already blurry line between Streetcar and Light Rail.
The FLEXITY family also includes the Swift, which Bombardier displayed in front of the Hummingbird Centre a few years ago.

Fare Collection
Streetcars in Toronto have always had the fare collected on board, but there is no set-in-stone rule that says this has to happen. Ticket vending machines can be installed at the stops to allow passengers to buy tickets before boarding, allowing passengers to board at all doors and reducing dwell time. Of course, fare inspection would be necessary to catch fare cheats. On light rail lines, proof-of-payment with ticket vending machines and fare inspections is the norm. Fare card readers can be used in the same way on either system - either with curbside readers or readers on board the train.

Guide Way
The first difference between Streetcars and Light Rail is the route it takes. Streetcars spend most of their time in street, and operate in mixed traffic. This leaves them open to delays caused by drivers who get in the way, but it does reduce the cost to construct the line. Light rail operates almost exclusively in reserved right of ways. They almost eliminate the delays caused by bad drivers and their construction can be tied to urban design products to beautify the area as whole. On the downside, they are more expensive, can only be constructed on streets wide enough to have lanes left for drivers, and have proven controversial in some cases.

There are other options for the guide way, including railway corridors, elevated sections and underground tunnels, but generally speaking, the line is classified by where the trains spend most of time, or by the network they are a part of. Here, we see a vehicle in Bordeaux operating in a right-of-way. Interestingly, this line uses an electrified third rail system that only powers the part of the track that the train is traveling over, eliminating the chance of a pedestrian being electrocuted.

For the purpose of this section, I will focus on the typical intermediate stop. For streetcars, this is in the form of a stop on the street corner. Depending on the ridership at that stop, benches and shelters may be present. For the most part, stops are placed as close together as bus stops are, allowing passengers to get off close to their destination. However, since the stops are on the corner and the rails normally laid in the passing lane, streetcar passengers must cross an active lane of traffic. A driver who doesn't stop for the open door can cause serious destruction. Where passengers would have to cross two active lanes, the TTC has installed safety islands where people can wait until the traffic light gives them safe passage.

For light rail, stops are built into the right-of-way much like the stops on the Spadina streetcar line, but larger. All stations have shelters and benches, with additional facilities depending on the type of right-of-way the station is located on. The stops are generally spaced at distances comparable to the separation between subway stations.

Light rail and streetcars have their differences, but these differences are ambiguous. Is the 501 Spadina a streetcar, or is it a light rail line? It has streetcar-like vehicles and uses streetcar-like fare payment, but it runs on a light rail right-of-way with light rail stations? Would changing one of those characteristics change the term we use to describe the line?

Light rail hasn't gotten a fair chance in this city because the drawbacks of streetcars are always used as arguments against it. That's the main reason why I've written this post - to compare the characteristics in hopes of dispelling the myths that streetcars are inherently bad. Ideally, we should choose light rail over streetcars, but we need to stop bashing streetcars in order to prop up its cousin.

I'll leave you with this video of the Portland, Oregon streetcar. Is it generally regarded as a streetcar, but it shows how technology usually associated with light rail can be used on the streets. The TTC has looked at system in Portland in the past, so don't be surprised if the future brings a blurring of the lines between streetcars and light rail in the GTA.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Eglinton Light Rail

A funny thing happened to me while riding the 63 Ossington Wednesday afternoon. I got stuck in traffic, and when you consider the traffic along Eglinton Avenue, it's no surprise. From a ridership standpoint, Eglinton Avenue deserves rapid transit in some form. Building such a line will not only move people faster along the street, but it will also benefit every corner of the city. Why? Because buses currently running along Eglinton will be re-deployed elsewhere, improving service on crowded routes and under-serviced areas.

For information on what I've proposed for the Eglinton Avenue corridor, click here. If we build a line to that alignment, we'll be able to remove buses from a number of routes to be used elsewhere in the city. Of course, we will need to run service in between light rail stops to maintain the local service like the 97 Yonge does, but even at 10-15 minute frequency (comparable to 97 Yonge), the savings are significant.
  • 32 Eglinton West - 44 buses can be reduced to 11 buses between Eglinton Station and Renforth & Skymark.
  • 34 Eglingon East - 21 buses can be reduced to 9 buses between Eglinton Station and Kennedy Station.
That's a savings of 45 peak hour buses, but there's more:
  • 86 Scarborough - Uses 21 peak hour buses. Resources can be moved elsewhere or reinvested in the route if service between Kennedy Station and Lawrence Avenue is reduced to the 10-15 minute service I discussed above.
  • 51 Leslie - Uses 7 peak hour buses. Resources can be moved elsewhere or reinvested in the route if service between Eglinton Station and Eglinton & Leslie is removed.
  • 54 Lawrence East - Uses 33 peak hour buses. Resources can be moved elsewhere or reinvested in the route if service between Eglinton Station and Eglinton & Leslie is removed.
  • 56 Leaside - Uses 5 peak hour buses. Resources can be moved elsewhere or reinvested in the route if service between Eglinton Station and Eglinton & Laird is removed.
  • 100 Flemingdon Park - Uses 18 peak hour buses. Resources can be moved elsewhere or reinvested in the route if service between Eglinton Station & Don Mills & Eglinton is removed.
In addition to all these savings, trip times are reduced because people get to rapid transit faster. Also, in the case of 56 Leaside, 70 O'Connor and others, passengers will have a choice of which direction to travel, as rapid transit would be at both ends. This helps reduce crowing by splitting the passenger loads over both directions.

Could this be the Eglinton Avenue of the future?

While some people believe that rapid transit only benefits those living along the line, but I hope I've shown that it's just the opposite. We should build a rapid transit line along Eglinton because it will benefit the riders of the various bus routes, but also because it will benefit the city as a whole.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What the experts suggest

From an article which appeared in the GTA section of the star today, here are some suggestions for transit in the GTA which have been proposed by renowned experts in the field. Most of the ideas are well founded, which is a difference from the average letter-to-the-editor.
  • Use the City of Toronto Act to expand taxing powers and put money into transit initiatives. - We may very well need to pass laws to make sure that taxes meant for transit actually go to transit. I fear they may end up in general revenue.
  • Stop making on-the-fly decisions. Get a proper long-term transit plan. - I have been advocating for a long term plan for years, but we need politician who will think beyond their term in order to back up such a plan.
  • Shake up the TTC, either replacing the commission chair or some of the commissioners with others not running for public office. - This depends on your opinion of politicians in general. Do you think they are evil and self serving, or do you feel that they are really good and responsible to the community at large? We definitely need to shake up the people sitting on the TTC and on council and add more community participation, but I'm willing to wait and see how the next TTC handles it.
  • Put dedicated bus or LRT lines along the Finch hydro corridor. - Can't complain, but I've got a few more places which might need BRT or LRT.
  • Build more bike lanes and more pedestrian-friendly streets. - And back it up with a transit system which supports cycling.
  • Improve the arterial road network. - Add transit priority lanes to every major artery, to ensure people who take transit have a level playing field with car drivers.
  • The city should endorse a provincially chartered subway development corporation with expropriation powers and the ability to issue long-term bonds. - This could come in the form of a Greater Toronto Rapid Transit Company, which could manage and expand GO, the subway and VIVA. This would leave local agencies to concentrate on running the systems within their borders while the major projects are co-ordinated by upper levels of government.
  • Tear down the borders that separates the 905 and the 416 areas. - This should be done by reducing the fare needed to cross the boundaries, and improving cross border travel so people don't have to transfer in some industrial district on the outskirts of the city.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Justification for a fare card

While waiting in line to buy my November monthly GO ticket, the woman in front of me asked the agent a question.

She had purchased a ten ride ticket from Toronto to Bramalea, but for the next few days, would be riding from Brampton. She wanted to know if she could purchase some sort of fare supplement to cover the extra fare zone. If she purchased single rides from Bramalea to Brampton, she would still have to pay the $3.55 base fare, in addition to the zone surcharge, so the agent recommended she purchase single rides for the entire trip and save her ten-ride.

If we had a fare card, this woman would be able to use the fare card for either trip. She would always pay the correct fare, no matter where she was going. She would not be restricted to which lines she could travel on either.

My monthly ticket is valid from Union to Brampton, as its the trip I usually take. This journey costs $6.55 one way. On occasion, if there's a long wait between trains, I'll head up to York Mills or Yorkdale and catch the bus from there. This trip costs $6.05, which means I waste 20 cents whenever I do that. On days when I cannot get parking I drive to Bramalea and take a loss of 85 cents. The simple solution is to buy three ten-ride tickets instead of one monthly. A friend and Brampton Transit insider, "Lady Jane", does this, but what happens if she accidentally punches the wrong ticket? With a fare card, she would only have to buy one ticket and I wouldn't waste money every time I choose transit.

Interesting little tid-bit:

Boston has been introducing it's own fare card, called the Charlie Card. Charlie is character from a song who became trapped on the MTA in Boston because he couldn't afford the nickle pay-as-you-leave fare. Click here for the lyrics, which I hope brightens up your day.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Another DRT update

Yesterday, CAW Local 222 member voted to accept the tentative agreement, officially bringing the Durham Region Transit strike to an end. Limited service will be restored on Friday, with full service returning on Saturday. According to news agencies and the DRT website, passengers holding October monthly passes can trade them in for one free month of transit (November or December) and get 10 free tickets as a bonus. It's a pretty sweet deal, but I hope it doesn't set a precedence that will come back and bite them in the butt.

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