As much as I might not have believed it, the TTC has been one of Toronto greatest success stories of 2008, and it’s all about the little things. Despite a sudden and nasty strike in April and many long-standing complaints, the TTC has moved convincingly in the right direction this year. It’s a qualified success story, as there’s still much to do.
• There were two major service improvements this year, in February and in November. The February improvements mostly addressed some of the deferred improvements to ease crowding and improve minimum headways on core routes, while the November improvements set a minimum 30 minute service level on all routes, every day, 18 hours a day. Some routes went from rush hours only to full service literally overnight.
The next step, if there is funding available, would be to increase this minimum to 20 minutes (originally promised, but deferred to at least November 2009), but perhaps a minimum 15 or 10 minute service standard on the core routes might be another idea worth considering – some core routes, like 41 Keele, run with frequencies worse than 20 minutes in evening periods. Other ideas in the works would be an expansion of the express bus network, an idea that could act as a transition step between plain old bus service and higher-order transit.
• The TTC’s ridership finally broke the previous record set in 1987 (463.5 million rides) to 465 million rides from November 2007 through November 2008.
• A promise of a fare freeze for 2009, welcome after a rather steep fare increase this year (increasing the base price for a Metropass by $9.25). Hopefully, this will not jeopardize improvements next year by constraining the budget.
• Gadgets! The new next streetcar displays at Spadina and Union Stations are a nice touch, even though there are some problems – the one at Union doesn’t display times for the 509 Car, and the one at
Union Spadina Station doesn’t yet distinguish between cars turning at Adelaide/King, and those headed to Queen’s Quay and Union Station. The next train displays at Dundas Station are neat, but not that necessary, as the subway is generally reliable and trains always come within 5 minutes.
Then there’s Red Rocket, an unofficial iPhone app. I still refuse to get an iPhone thanks to the overpriced cellphone monopoly, but the idea is inspired, and has proven to be popular. For its part, the TTC has been much more lax towards unofficial homages like rap songs and wall decals these days.
• The Downtown Relief Line has crept back into the public consciousness, and is now discussed and debated in detail again by serious transit advocates. At least in my opinion, such a line is now needed, particularly with not only Transit City construction expected to start next year, but also the promised Yonge Subway extension deep into the 905 to Highway 7 in Richmond Hill. However, the TTC only plans to start in 2018, and is pushed back in the Metrolinx regional transit plan to the 25 year timeline.
• The sudden (but legal this time) 2-day strike that stranded passengers on the evening of April 25, going back on their promise of 24-hour notice, blaming the victims due to “dangers of assaults from angry and irrational members of the public.” Of course we were angry, but TTC passengers proved Bob Kinnear wrong when were no assaults were reported once service resumed starting Sunday afternoon after back-to-work legislation. But the strike has been largely forgotten, at least until the next time around.
• TTC signage is still a mess, and the May 2008 edition of the subway maps was an epic fail. Also, some TTC maps are comically out of date. However, TTC Communications Director Brad Ross promised here that new station vicinity maps are coming in 2009, and the latest edition of the subway maps (September 2008) have brought back the old fonts and station address formats after posts here and originally at 299BloorCallControl.
• The TTC’s website got a much needed facelift, but more work has to be done to bring up to expectations. Once easily accessible planning documents such as the service summary were unavailable for months after the relaunch. However, we are going to eventually see a trip planner next year.
• Of course, there are still outstanding problems with line management, with the 501 Queen Car the most noted example.
There is a lot the TTC can – and should – improve upon, but there is some reason for optimism.
Photo by eskimo_jo