Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quick question...

On the Georgetown line, midday service consists of a train running between Union Station and Bamalea every two hours or so. Because of the West Toronto Diamond construction and the forthcoming Georgetown South Service Expansion we probably won't see regular (hourly) service for the next three to five years. In fact, the construction might make the existing runs less reliable than they are today.

My question is this:
What if the trains every two hours were replaced with coaches running every half-hour from Malton, Bramalea, Brampton and Mount Pleasant until the construction is finished?
There are a group of people who don't like taking buses (I never really understood them), but there are also a number of people who choose to drive because they don't want to have to choose between being fifteen minutes late or being an hour and forty five minutes early. Will the people attracted by a 300% service increase result in a net increase when weighed against those who will only take the train?



At 2/28/2010 1:05 p.m. , Anonymous Gregory J said...

My hunch is that the number of people who use the Georgetown line will rise a little bit (maybe 20%) after the service increase, but for the most part, the same 30-40,000 people who currently take it will be spread out over more trains. So you'll have the illusion of less passengers rather than more. (Consider smaller trains??)

The current schedule is really inconvenient for a lot of people. I think you'll see the biggest increase in passengers between 8am and 10am. Currently, if you miss the 7:43 train, the next train won't get you downtown until 9:55, and that window is just too big.

For some reason, I always get nauseated on the GO Transit bus.

At 2/28/2010 1:05 p.m. , Anonymous John D said...

I think it would really depend on reliability as far as travel times. My experience with driving in the GTA is that long trips can vary in length by up to an hour. The train may be late or not running, but it takes about the same amount of time no matter what.

At 2/28/2010 1:06 p.m. , Anonymous John D said...

Also I can read on trains, but trying that on buses gives me motion sickness. Being able to read and work on the train is a real plus over the bus or driving.

At 2/28/2010 1:09 p.m. , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...


Recently, they introduced a bus trip between the 10:25 train and the 12:15 train, and my experience is that it runs with a crush load. I suspect that most of the people on board are redistributing from the other trains, but one cannot deny that it fills the kind of gaps you're talking about.


In my experience, the buses outside of rush hour generally run on time. It's only during the peak hours that I've seen extensive delays, but there's no question that the chance of a random breakdown of the transportation system is much higher on the roads.

I can't say that GO buses make me sick... I'm usually asleep within six minutes.

At 2/28/2010 1:10 p.m. , Anonymous Gregory J said...

This is getting slightly off topic, but I think one of the factors that needs to be considered with regard for regional public transit is that we do live in a service economy, and there is very little flexibility in work schedules for service industry workers. A lot of service jobs have strict 3 strikes policies for tardiness.

I think what happens is that service industry workers are often nervous about putting their livelihoods in the hands of the public transit systems, and they see driving as improving their sense of empowerment and personal responsibility.

I used to know a guy who lived in High Park and worked as a barista at the Harbourfront Centre. He drove his truck to work everyday and paid a premium for parking (I imagine it cost him a significant chunk of his earnings!). Asked why, he always said he didn't trust the TTC to get him to work on time.

Regional Transit usually runs on schedule, but if you happen to miss your regular train/bus, the infrequency could have more serious consequences.

The focus really needs to be on morning commutes. GO could probably continue to offer the current level of service in the afternoons and evenings because most people have more flexibility in their evening schedules, but morning services need maximize their frequency. But then, I'm just speaking from conjecture and anecdote. I might be wrong.

At 2/28/2010 1:13 p.m. , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

I don't think you're wrong at all... In fact, I think you're hitting on the whole point of this post. We do have to be able to trust the schedules, but better frequencies will mean that if we happen to miss the bus then the next one will be along in a few minutes.

The million dollar question is:

Is very frequent service on lower-order transit better than infrequent service on higher-order transit?

At 2/28/2010 1:14 p.m. , Blogger Andrae Griffith said...

It's time for me to reveal my hand:

I wrote this post based on rumours that I had heard, which have no been all but confirmed.

The midday trains between Union and Bramalea will be cancelled, and replaced with hourly (and in some cases half-hourly) buses between Union and Georgetown. One branch will operate express to Malton and local to Bramalea, while the other branch will operate express to Steeles/Rutherford and local to Georgetown. Bloor, Weston, and Etobicoke North will be skipped.

This is due to the construction of the Dufferin Jog and West Toronto Diamond projects, which will likely become more disruptive in the near future. I wouldn't be surprised if this continued until after the Georgetown South Service Expansion is completed in 2014-2015.

At 2/28/2010 1:15 p.m. , Anonymous Sara K said...

I will explain to you the perspective of somebody who doesn't like taking buses: it's rather simple, really. I get bus-sick on long bus trips. It's worse if I try to pass the time by reading or getting some work done. So by the time I get where I'm going, I have to spend twenty minutes recovering my "not-wanting-to-die-from-sick" status.

@ Gregory: I've worked in the service industry *a ton*, and you're absolutely right. Service industry employers are notorious for their lack of compassion. Prior to getting my car, I can remember some memorable panic attacks I had when I missed the bus that was going to get me to work an hour before I had to arrive . . . and that meant that, by the time the next bus got me there, I was going to be twenty minutes late. And no matter what the transit system was like, my boss was going to hold *me* responsible, even though my other non-car-owning colleagues would have been totally understanding about the system sucking. But they don't have the power.

Assuming I had no other choice, I'd choose very frequent service on bus transit rather than infrequent, probably-gonna-screw-you service on GO Trains. Even more likely, I'd probably just go to Toronto in the morning when GO service is frequent, bring a book, and hang out downtown for a few hours. It's not like Toronto is boring or anything.

But until the workplace system as a whole recognizes that system factors beyond individual control can't be blamed on an individual who relies on transit to get to work, it's going to be hard to convert car drivers to transit riders. The problem is wider than just transit-related.

At 2/28/2010 1:17 p.m. , Anonymous Gregory J said...

Sara, good points.

Imagine a future where we could track all public transit activity: buses, trains, streetcars, etc. in real time on our mobile phone GPS and on the transit authority's website.

Such a system would give us a lot more advanced warning of service delays and missed connections, and greatly empower consumers. It would also allow us to quickly identify alternative routes, and the transit authority could respond to problems more expeditiously.

Employers could monitor and review transit routes as well, lending employees more credibility in the event of systemic delays.

At 4/10/2010 5:10 a.m. , Anonymous GTA Watchers Ontario said...

of Course Metrolinx coming out with a report in time for the May 24 Weekend eh !!!

Yes it's not easy tracking it all ...



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