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TTC looking to innovate, grow ridership past 2014 levels

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) board will meet on Thursday to discuss ridership — how to move customers more reliably, make public transit seamless, and innovate for the future.

It’s a big topic. The TTC doesn’t just want to retain their current ridership. According to the TTC, ridership hasn’t grown since 2014, with about 535 millions trips each year. They want to see it grow along with the changing network.

“Over the past decade, major shifts in demographics, travel behaviour and technology have changed how people travel in cities,” the report reads. “The transportation system has shifted from a traditional model of owning a car or using public transit, to a “mobility as a service” system where one either owns their car or accesses a sharedcar/bike alternative.”

The goal of the TTC will be to focus on reliability, mobility, and innovation in order to increase ridership. To do this, the board will approve three initiatives:

  • Provide more surface routes to relieve overcrowding on busses
  • Implement two-hour transfers
  • Implement a discounted fare for PRESTO customers combining TTC and Go Transit/UP trips.

These three initiatives were discussed months ago by the board, as well as city councillors, so chances are they will pass at the meeting this Thursday. Other ideas mentioned in the report include a U-Pass for students, partnering with car-sharing services, and launching public awareness campaigns.

The board will also discuss a corporate strategy that will create a five-year plan “to be a transit system that makes Toronto proud.” This plan focuses on moving transit quickly, including looking at measures similar to the King St. Pilot to relieve congestion on certain routes under the Surface Transit Priority Plan. “Measures that keep transit moving include dedicated right-of-way like we currently have on the 510 Spadina and 512 St. Clair streetcars: queue jump lanes that let transit bypass other traffic at key intersections and traffic signal priority, which reduces dwell times for TTC vehicles by holding green signals longer or shortening red signals.”

There is also a goal to be 100 per cent emissions free by 2042!

New York Transit Agency needs Andy Byford

I actually missed the TTC last weekend.

I travelled to New York for a few days of broadway shows and incredible food. Unfortunately, it was a tad brisk outside. The tall buildings, while impressive, created wind tunnels that nearly caused some severe frostbite. Despite New York being an extremely walkable city, my travelling companion and I decided to take advantage of the relatively cheap seven-day pass and take the subway to as many destinations as we could.

And man, the time we wasted trying to figure that sucker out.

The New York transit system is rather large, which is great. You can get almost anywhere using public transportation, whether that’s uptown Bronx or downtown Brooklyn. You don’t have to live centrally in order to explore the entire city. You also don’t have to pay a separate fee for transitioning into each neighbourhood or region (great for your wallet). However, because it is so big, it can be difficult to navigate. As the person responsible for the transit map, I couldn’t tell which lines went where. Sure, simply having the green or yellow lines go North-South makes sense, but certain trains only went so far down the line, and where that line ended wasn’t indicated clearly on the map. A few times my group got confused and ended up on the wrong train, including getting stuck in a slow-moving loop with no one else on the car! 

To make things even more confusing, not all trains stopped at all local stations. The map showed not only coloured lines (which were easy), but also lettered and numbered trains that were unique. I still don’t understand what each of those letters mean.

The biggest problem, however, wasn’t the confusing maps. You can get a sense of how it works after a few days and the metro staff were able to give us some decent directions. The problem was the communication once you were on the train. Unlike the TTC, most of the trains didn’t have any sort of map displayed inside the vehicle to indicate where on the line you were and what stops were next. This,  in addition to an extremely muffled and inaudible announcer who said the stop names out loud, meant you had to rely on visual cues — difficult for a tourist unfamiliar with the area. I was constantly looking out the window to find the stop names to confirm my location, something that was incredibly difficult to do when the train was packed.

Finally, there was the emergency system — or rather the lack of emergency system! I won’t go into the story leading up to why it was necessary for someone to pull the emergency breaks on one of the subway cars, but the gist of the matter is that it DIDN’T WORK! A loud, annoying alarm went off, but the train didn’t stop. No one walked down the cars to see what was the matter, and no one showed up once the train arrived at the platform. It was completely useless technology! Luckily, this emergency wasn’t life-threatening.

Oh, and there was no emergency button or intercom either.

There were plenty of other things that bugged me, like basic public transportation etiquette. No one moved to the centre of the train, so it took forever to get on. Passengers sat in the middle of two seats and refused to move. People listened to music so loud everyone on the train could hear the lyrics. In Toronto, we complain about the slightest inconvenience, but in New York, commuters seemed to thrive on disrupting the people around them.

Like I said — I really missed the TTC.

Andy Byford appeared in Toronto exactly when the city needed him. It looks like he is going to New York at the right time as well. Best of luck to you sir; you’ll need it!

December data shows King St. pilot working

Ridership has increased on the King St. streetcar during the morning commute by 25 per cent, according to city data.

Last week, the City of Toronto released the December statistics for the King Street Pilot. It showed an increase in ridership and an improvement in traffic times. In total, reliability has increased by 33 per cent — a shocking statistics only two months into the study. Prior to the pilot, travel times varied at an average of 10 minutes. Throughout December, that average was reduced to 6.7 minutes.

Afternoon rush hour has also improved by about four minutes in each direction, therefore the city is adding more buses along the 504 and 514 routes to accommodate the increased ridership.

“The benefit of pilot projects is that they allow us to learn as we go,” said Councillor Joe Cressy. “We’re able to make improvements, adjust to fill gaps and continue to evaluate options and work together to ensure the pilot works better for everyone.”

For those concerned about traffic on parallel streets, the data shows vehicle travel time on neighbouring streets was only minimally affected. The city will now be offering up to two hours of discounted parking around the corridor to help support local businesses. Ninety parking spaces will be added to side streets in the area to replace the spaces that were removed.

Store owners have reported a decrease in sales since the pilot study began back in November, and have complained rather publicly about how the transit-first policy is impacting their finances. The city will now be measuring point of sale data and providing that information in February’s data set. This will allow staff to determine once and for all how businesses are being affected by the pilot.

“We are dedicated to making sure King Street works for everyone,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement. “I believe these updates to the Pilot will help transit riders, businesses and drivers. I remain committed to listening to everyone about this project and making changes where they make sense.”

The “Everyone is King” design competition will continue until spring 2018 in an attempt to introduce new and creative public art instillations to fill empty spaces along the corridor.

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time.

‘Everyone is King’ aims to appease Toronto business

Businesses along King Street in Toronto are not happy. They have reported a decrease in sales since the pilot study began back in November, and have complained rather publicly about how the transit-first policy is impacting their finances.

A coalition of business owners are even considering legal action against the city if it doesn’t allow cars full access to the corridor on nights and weekends.

To counter these complaints, Toronto Mayor John Tory launched a design-build competition for the public spaces along the pilot. The hope is that these public spaces and the initiatives that are tied to them will encourage more people to visit King St.

The competition is called “Everyone is King” and calls for ideas on how to animate the curb lanes (15 to 140 metres in length) of the corridor.

“I am pleased we have seen improvements to the efficiency of King Street as part of the downtown transportation network,” Tory said in a statement. “I want to make sure that King Street remains a great place to eat, shop, gather and be entertained during this pilot. This program will encourage people to continue to come out to King Street.”

Local businesses are also being given the opportunity to claim additional space outdoors to support their stores, such as a patio. Any space not claimed by a business will be transformed into something the public can enjoy. Some of these installations will include warming stations, ice sculptures, fire performers, and artwork. Food will be provided through an initiative called “Eats on King”, which hopes “to promote local quick and full-service restaurants in the King Street Transit Pilot Area” on Feb. 19 and March 29.

The mayor reminded residents and businesses that King street is open to car traffic; albeit limited to certain intersections. Drivers may use any of the designated pickup and drop-off locations, and there is $5 off parking in the area around the pilot thanks to a partnership with the Toronto Parking Authority, available until November 2018.

While I understand the complaints by businesses, it is also important to note there may be external factors in play, such as the horrendous weather Toronto has experienced over the last month or the fact that most people are broke after the holidays. And remember, the pilot study began only two months ago, and people are still trying to learn the rules. Give them time to adjust.

Despite the complaints and potential law suite, the first set of transit and traffic data released in December showed improved transit service during the afternoon rush hour. Travel time has reduced from 25 minutes to 22 minutes eastbound, and 24 minutes to 19.7 minutes westbound.

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time. It began on Nov. 12.

New Data will be released on Jan. 12.

Toronto: Metrolinx reaches new contract with Bombardier for Crosstown

Over the holidays, Metrolinx negotiated new contract terms with Bombardier, the transit agency responsible for producing light rail vehicles for Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) system. According to a press statement, these new terms offer “significant financial penalties for Bombardier if they fail to deliver quality vehicles on-time.”

“This clearly resets the relationship with Metrolinx under its new leadership, and provides a clear path forward to ensure certainty on the technical and financial obligations of both partners,” a Bombardier press statement said.

Bombardier is contracted to manufacture 76 light rail vehicles, which is 106 less than the original contract for 182.

“We want our suppliers to succeed,” Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said in a statement. “The new agreement provides compelling incentives for Bombardier to allocate the right resources and attention to the production of our Eglinton vehicles.”

The new agreement includes performance deadlines and a new late delivery penalty. Bombardier has also committed to be more transparent when it comes to production plans and progress, which means that Metrolinx will have the opportunity to address progress on a regular basis. Bombardier will ensure vehicle quality is sustained throughout the lifespan of the vehicles.

The GO Transit Operations and Maintenance contract was extended by 18-month.

In May, the provincial government signed a new agreement with Alstom Canada to provide vehicles that would be used on the Eglinton Crosstown. Alstom is still contracted to manufacture 61 cars, but they will be used on other transit lines such as Finch West LRT.

“We have always been resolved to find a clear negotiated path forward, one that delivers value to all parties, and foremost to the people of Ontario. Bombardier is fully committed to the Metrolinx project and to the people of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA),” said Benoit Brossoit, President, Americas Region at Bombardier Transport. “I look forward to working with Metrolinx’s CEO, Phil Verster’s, to advance this project and ensure that riders have the most efficient, comfortable and reliable transit system in the world.”

Dear Santa: the women of Toronto, Canada, deserve more

Dear Mr. Kringle,

The head office of Women’s Post is situated in Toronto; therefore much of our news coverage occurs in this city. Toronto is our home — and we can see it needs a little extra help. The staff at Women’s Post is hoping that you, Nick, may be able to help us all out.

This is what is on our Christmas list:

More women on boards: This was a topic of great debate throughout 2017 (yay!), but it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference. The European Union announced a proposal to make it mandatory to have 40 per cent of non-executive members on company boards to be women. This, unfortunately, does not include managerial or executive roles on boards.

Meanwhile, in Canada, very few boards are gender equal (and even less female dominated). Women hold approximately 14 per cent of all board seats and only 26 per cent of open board positions are filled by female applicants. A McKinsey & Company study in 2016 showed that only six per cent of Canadian CEOs are women. A new organization was formed this year to help tackle this issue.

Nick, can you please help us! Instead of dreaming of sugar plums this year, can you help private and public leaders, CEOs, and board executives dream of a company that represents everyone? Let’s have people of all genders, sexualities, and races represented on boards — and not just in non-executive roles!

More funding for things that matter: Infrastructure, transit, education — three things that will help our country, and the people who live in it, grow. All levels of government have pledged a certain amount of money to help municipalities develop new routes and lines for public transportation, but it’s not nearly enough. People are desperate for housing, whose prices have skyrocketed throughout the year in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto with no hint of dropping back down.

Sure, the federal government has announced funding for a National Housing Strategy, and $4.8 billion in transit funding has been earmarked for Toronto, but all of these promises come with a) a timestamp and b) a political commitment. Politics always gets in the way. For example, the Ontario government refused to allow Toronto to collect money from tolls because it could affect votes in the 905 area.

Canada is a prosperous country, and Toronto is better off than other cities. But, there is still work to be done and our politicians may need a little bit of help. How about it Nick?

More women in politics: Canada may have a gender-equal cabinet within the federal government and the Ontario government, but there more to gender parity than representation within a single entity. For beginners, women are still underrepresented as elected representatives to begin with, sitting at only 26 per cent nationally.

More women need to be encouraged to run for all aspects of public government. Politics are unforgiving for women. There seems to be some strange double standard in which women are questioned about their capabilities (and wardrobe) much more than men. This scrutiny makes it very difficult for women to commit to a public service campaign. What if you change that Nick? Can you remove the gendered lens through which people view politicians? That would go a long way to encouraging more women in politics.

End sexual assault and harassment: Forget the celebrity aspect of the #MeToo campaign for a second and lets visit the statistics. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada released the rate of self-reported sexual assault in 2014, and it was about the same as it was in 2004. In 2014, there were 22 incidents of sexual assault for every 1,000 Canadians over the age of 15. This equates to 636,000 self-reported incidents.

This figure only gets more disheartening when you remember that only one in five cases report assaults to the police.

Now, I know you cant do much about this Nick, but is there a way you could spread your holiday spirit around a bit so that people are more kind and compassionate towards others? Maybe if people were more compassionate, they wouldn’t look at women as objects and treat them with such violence?

Nick, I know our wish list is long and complicated. I know it may be impossible to full fill these requests. But, it would mean the world if you could try. We believe in you!

Best,

The staff at Women’s Post

P.S. We promise we have been good this year!

Toronto deputy manager John Livey retires

Toronto deputy manager John Livey will be retiring from public service on April 4, 2018.

Livey was responsible for corporate oversight and administrative governance. He has overseen collaborative city-wide initiatives and projects including city planning, transportation, engineering, and construction.

“John is known as a principled leader with a commitment to innovation and excellence,” said City Manager Peter Wallace in a statement. “He has always faced obstacles and challenges head on, with a drive to deliver the best possible results for the residents of Toronto. His determination and hard work will certainly be missed.”

Some of Livey’s notable achievements, according to the City of Toronto, is his role in the Port Lands development and implementation plan, the transit file including Smart Track, Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension, Relief Line, and Scarborough Transit Network. Livey was also responsible for the city’s emergency response during the 2013 ice storm.

He was also a strong supporter of the new motherlode transit network and Rail Deck Park, two initiatives that strived to connect neighbourhoods and regions to the downtown core.

“It has been an honour to work for the City of Toronto,” said Livey. “I would like to thank my many staff teams, senior management colleagues, Mayor Tory and the Members of Council with whom I have had the privilege to work. I know that City staff will continue to advance city-building initiatives through innovation and a commitment to continuous improvement.”

Livey joined the City of Toronto in 2011 after serving as Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Markham. He also worked with the Region of York.

The city will begin the hiring process in early 2018.

Woman of the Week: Meg Davis

Meg Davis loves to witness change in a neighbourhood. It’s her passion — to watch a vibrant community evolve over the years. As Chief Developent Officer of Waterfront Toronto, Davis gets to see this kind of transformation on a daily basis.

Davis has worked for Waterfront Toronto for the last 10 years, and says the change within the neighbourhood is heartwarming.

“When I arrived here we had a couple small parks and wave decks, which were stunning and beautiful and got a lot of attention, but we hadn’t built a building yet,” she said. “In the last 10 years we’ve built an 18-acre park in the West Don lands, Pan Am athletes village, condos in the West Don lands, [and] East Bayfront. People are starting to build down here and one of the things we have started is programming. Cultural events, the sugar shack program, partnering with Luminato — we are really animating the waterfront.”

The waterfront, a 46-kilometre stretch of Harbourfront property along Lake Ontario between Etobicoke and Rouge River, is constantly transforming. Waterfront Toronto is a public advocate and steward of this revitalization process. It was created by all three levels of the Canadian government with the purpose of overseeing and implementing strategies to transform the area.

One of the things Waterfront Toronto stresses is the difference between redevelopment and revitalization. Redevelopment, Davis explains, refers to the selling of land to the highest bidder, regardless of what they plan on doing in the area.

“Revitalization means achieving public policy objectives such as reducing urban sprawl, providing transit, reducing carbon emissions, contributing to economic vibrancy, addressing affordability and providing excellent public realm and architecture by leveraging public land,” she said.

It’s this kind of urban development that Davis is passionate about. Her love of urban planning was encouraged by a geography teacher in high school, whose lesson plans focused on urban affairs. “It really grabbed me. I took as many courses like that as I could,” she said.

Her education is mixed. She has an Honours Bachelor degree from Western University in urban development, a Master’s in business Administration from the University of Toronto, and recently completed an Executive Leadership Program. She started her career as a junior planner with Bramalea Limited, focusing mostly on real estate. From 2005 to 2007, Davis acted as Director of KPMG Canada, focusing on public-private partnership projects, including $1 billion long-term care facilities and the sale of Highway 407.

“I love the physical aspect of it,” she said. “I love to see things come up from the ground and take shape. For me, the use of P3s were a unique opportunity to see how the government and the private sector could come together.”

This is especially true of Toronto’s waterfront, which Davis describes as essentially “one big P3.” Waterfront Toronto is putting a large emphasis on affordable housing within its neighbourhoods, and using that as a foundation for planning.

“You can have affordable housing and expensive condos, [but] if you don’t provide the public spaces, it’s not a place anybody wants to live,” she said. “You can’t squander the opportunities – being by the water is unique in Toronto and you have to make it a complete community.”

As Chief Development Officer, Davis is responsible for leading the development of all lands controlled by Waterfront Toronto. She is particularly proud of the Pan Parapan Am Games Athlete’s Village in the West Don Lands, which was transformed after the games into affordable rental housing, vibrant retail properties, student housing, market condominiums, and public art. Davis says it advanced revitalization of the neighbourhood by over five years.

“We are really animating the waterfront. I think the transformation is huge,” she says.

Davis helps co-chair the Women’s Leadership Initiative ULI Toronto. They are working on a speaking series that will help promote the voices of women in real estate, which she says is still a heavily male-dominated industry.

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Early data shows King St. pilot a success

The first month of the King Street Pilot program was a success — the transit corridor has seen improved service during rush hours and drivers were only affected by a few minutes.

The first set of transit and traffic data was released Tuesday by the city. Over the next year, the City of Toronto will be analyzing the impact on transit service, flow of traffic on parallel streets, and the effects on cyclists, pedestrians, and local businesses. The statistics provided Tuesday only represent the first two weeks of the study.

The data found that transit service during the afternoon rush hour has already significantly improved. Travel time has reduced from 25 minutes to 22 minutes eastbound, and 24 minutes to 19.7 minutes westbound.

Drivers have seen variations of a plus or minus one minute, which is impressive considering the first two weeks resulted in a big learning curve for drivers, who were no longer allowed to drive straight through an intersection along the stretch of the pilot. The data also looked at streets parallel to King St., as drivers are forced to turn right  at each respective intersection. So far, those corridors are not being clogged with cars.

“Measurement is vital to the King Street pilot, and will ensure we can make any necessary adjustments so the street and surrounding area works for transit customers, cyclists, pedestrians, drivers and business owners as well as local residents,” said Mayor John Tory in a statement. “We also appreciate the feedback of local businesses, transit users, and the taxi industry and will continue to address any concerns as quickly as possible.”

The King Street pilot runs from Jarvis to Bathurst. The corridor funnels drivers to parallel east-west routes like Queen St., Richmond, Adelaide, Wellington, or Front, while still allowing local drivers to access the street for short periods of time. It began on Nov. 12.

Data will be released every month on that same date.

Toronto’s Rita Skeeter is after TTC CEO Andy Byford

Why are certain journalists given leeway to sensationalize issues that are in fact non-issues? They twist words to create “a trap for fools” hoping to slingshot their career to international heights. Sensationalists get forgotten over time, while journalists dedicated to the truth, who don’t deal in opinion but report fact, always seem to survive the test of time. They don’t give in to the lure of fame by twisting words and creating controversy.

The latest witch hunt has been led by Jennifer Pagliaro at the Star – she’s determined to find scandal to build her name and slingshot into international fame, and now that the Toronto Transit Commission’s CEO Andy Byford is heading to New York, she has found the perfect opportunity to get recognition south of the border.

Pagliaro has taken a line that Byford quickly sent in a text message and twisted it out of context to such a degree it would make even the trashiest tabloid journalist squirm.

The text she is trying to make into a scandal was written in haste by Byford as he was preparing for his usual grilling at city council. Note the word preparing and think about how challenging it would be to face 40 councillors all with extensive questions (some whose lips move when they read, and others who grandstand on anything that could turn into an issue). Remember that Byford has to give council a full accounting of every decision he makes. His staff prepare briefing notes to help him prepare for committee and council meetings. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be consumed with “preparing” prior to such a grilling!

The text that Pagliaro and Councillor Matlow are trying to build into a scandal was sent by Byford to Matlow over a year ago as he was preparing for a council meeting. It reads “We have prepared a BN (briefing note) at the Chairs request and for the Mayors office.” This was an obvious mistake, and most at city hall knows the TTC does not prepare briefing notes for the mayor. In fact, it likely was meant to say “We have sent a BN at the Chairs request to the Mayors office.” If one were in the middle of preparing for a large council debate, it is easy to see how the word “prepared” might slip into a text sent in haste. But, it is also common knowledge that TTC staff prepare briefing notes for their CEO. Anyone who’s spent time at city hall knows the TTC does not prepare briefing notes for the Mayor!

I find it impossible to believe that Matlow would not have realized Byford’s text message had errors in it. It’s no secret that Councillor Matlow has yearned to be on the board of the TTC. I’m sure the man salivates over the sensitive information he’d have access to if he had a board position, and dreams of ways he could twist and sensationalize it. Instead of questioning Byford on the obvious mistake in his text message – which most councillors would have done, Matlow hid the text message, putting it into his arsenal to be used at a later date. (Who would save a text message for over a year if they didn’t want to use it for something devious?)

But, let me take this back to journalistic integrity – because the real issue is apparent on any given day at city hall. Those of us in the media cringe when we see Councillor Matlow and reporter Jennifer Pagliaro whispering and snickering together in council chambers. Don’t get me wrong, councillors and reporters talk all the time, but to see the two of them together constantly sends off warning bells. And to read an article today by Pagliaro that so obviously props up Matlow by sensationalizing this ridiculous text message has me shaking my head.

Many of us in the media have watched Matlow try to stir up controversy over the Scarborough subway, he’s suggested scandal and corruption since he first realized it would get him on the news. I wouldn’t doubt he’s behind those who pushed for an Auditor General investigation – but that issue backfired on him! The auditors report clearly states that there was no evidence that the TTC CEO Andy Byford or his staff deliberately misled council, or were influenced in any way by the Mayors office. It found that in fact there was no political interference at all.

Instead of chalking Byford’s text up to a typo, Pagliaro has become enthralled by Matlow’s grandstanding … like a hen attracted to a peacock. Determined to create scandal out of an error in a text message, she has never questioned why Councillor Matlow did not clarify the text message with Byford, or why he held on to it for so long, or the fact that this typo led to a witch hunt that proved completely vacuous. I’ve seen her at city hall whispering to Matlow too many times to count, so I know that she’s had plenty of time to question him. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if the real scandal at city hall may lie between this councillor and reporter!

But what bothers me most is that one of the best CEO’s of the TTC that Toronto has had is leaving our city with very little recognition of the fantastic job he has done in improving our transit system. From timing to signalling, efficiency to improving overall customer service, Andy Byford moved the TTC ahead decades.

He was accessible and responsive to a fault, and I think he trusted that any typo he might make in a text message sent in haste would not be secreted away and used to create a scandal. That Jennifer Pagliaro and Councillor Matlow are trying to use Byford’s good reputation to slingshot their own careers is beyond pathetic.