Public Transit 101 - Making Transit the Better Way

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Transit activist and advocate Steve Munro addresses important questions about how to make transit the better way and the choices and challenges for Toronto. Questions that will be answered: What are …

Transit activist and advocate Steve Munro addresses important questions about how to make transit the better way and the choices and challenges for Toronto. Questions that will be answered: What are some of the key transit challenges facing our city region. What decisions are needed to build a transit system? How do these choices shape the role of transit?

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  • 1. Public Transit 101
    • Who is Steve Munro?
      • Transit activist/advocate since 1972
      • Jane Jacobs Prize Winner 2005
      • Transit blogger since 2006 (www.stevemunro.ca)
    • What is this webinar about?
      • Policy decisions for planning, building, operating and funding public transit
      • What are the options?
      • Thinking beyond the sound bite
      • Thinking beyond the coming municipal election
  • 2. What is Transit’s Purpose?
    • Context defines the debate
      • Do you see transit users as “us” or “them”?
      • Is your goal to minimize cost or maximize service?
    • Transit has value and benefits for the city
      • Mobility is a public right and service
      • Environmental and land use benefits
      • Avoidance of 2 nd and 3 rd cars in households
      • Enables access to jobs, school, recreation
  • 3. Networks Are Important
    • People do not travel on one route, they use a network
    • TTC is designed around transferring
    • Artificial boundaries exist between transit agencies
      • Service territory
      • Regional vs Local services
      • Direct rides vs forced transfers
        • Grid vs hub-oriented services
      • Fare structures
      • Conflicting philosophies of purpose and quality of transit
      • Schemes for change address perceived problems of existing arrangements, but don’t necessarily built the ideal network
  • 4. Building a Network
    • Past planning limited by funding
      • Pick one line for this decade
      • Political rivalry trumps best planning choices
      • No view of end-state network because even a staged completion is too remote
      • Limitations of political and economic cycles on the planning and funding horizon
  • 5. Project vs Network Analysis
    • Looking at a project in isolation misses the connections and the larger effects
      • Typically done this way because nobody expects more than one project to be completed
    • Example: Richmond Hill Subway Extension
      • Effect on demand on Yonge Subway
        • Heroic efforts needed to handle new ridership
        • New, more sophisticated signal system
        • Many more trains (plus crews, carhouses, maintenance)
        • Stations cannot handle added load (Bloor-Yonge)
      • Need to review alternative, concurrent changes to see which provide the best combined solution
        • GO
        • New downtown subway line
  • 6. A City of Networks
    • TTC Surface System (grid)
    • TTC Subway System (core-focused, but supports grid and off-peak travel)
    • GO Rail System (radial, mainly peak-period)
    • GO Bus System (feeders and some routes across the grid)
    • Transit City (reinforce the grid outside the core)
    • Metrolinx (mixture of radial and node-to-node)
    • Much is planned, but little is built
  • 7. TTC
    • Surface grid network with all-day service on almost all lines
    • Rapid transit supports the grid but is core-focussed
  • 8. GO Transit
    • Rail system is mainly peak direction, peak period, core oriented
    • Poor local connections for other trip types
    • Under 20% of all riders use bus routes
  • 9. Metrolinx Regional Plan
    • Mixture of radial and node-to-node lines
    • Challenge of serving diffuse travel in the GTA
  • 10. Toronto Transit City Plan
    • Support the grid and extend major transit services throughout the city
    • Included in Metrolinx Plan
  • 11. Toronto is Two Cities
    • The Transit City
      • Service is nearby, frequent, fairly reliable
      • Trips are fairly short
      • A “transit lifestyle” without a car, or with minimal car use, is possible
    • The Auto City
      • Longer walks to service, longer waits for buses
      • Longer trips are more sensitive to delays caused by service and by connections
      • Weather is a greater factor
  • 12. The “Transit City” Within Toronto
    • Generally formed of areas close to the subway and downtown – mainly the “old” city
    • Rapid transit has pushed into “new” territory, but with a different form (widely spaced stations, dependence on feeders and parking, hostile pedestrian environments)
    • Decline in urban route reliability affects transit’s ability to support a transit lifestyle
    • Pushing the boundary outward needs more than transit changes
  • 13. The Auto City Beyond Toronto
    • Transit mode share is much lower in the 905 than in Toronto
    • Service is heavily oriented to peak travel, especially to feeding GO for commuter trips to downtown
    • Design philosophy is “drive to transit”
      • Metrolinx “Big Move” requires a fundamental change in the role of suburban transit
      • Shift to “Mobility Hubs”, transit feeders, cycling and walking
      • Even with these changes, a “transit suburb” is unlikely to form soon
  • 14. The Three Cities Conundrum
    • Best transit serves most affluent riders
    • Planning focus easily pulled to 905 commuters rather than inside-416 demands
  • 15. Transit Service Quality
    • “ Good enough” is not good enough
    • Transit must hold and attract riders rather than being resented as a second choice
      • Reliability
        • Show up when expected
      • Frequency
        • Waiting should not pose an obstacle
        • Waits should be predictable
        • Service is adequate to provide reasonable comfort
      • Connectivity
        • Simple transfers
        • Network that multiple travel patterns beyond core area commuting
      • Cleanliness
        • Riders feel the system cares about itself
      • Customer Service
        • Information about both regular and unexpected events is available and up-to-date
        • Staff treat passengers well, and are well-treated by their management
        • Riders are both customers and the source of political/funding support
  • 16. Off-Peak Service is Important
    • Transit is more than a commuter service
      • Off peak riding on TTC is greater than peak (about 60% of all rides)
      • Wider options for times and types of trips
      • Better utilization of transit infrastructure and staff
      • Reduces dependence on autos for peak travel
      • Land use can affect viability of off peak service by limiting demand
    • Fundamental differences in transit’s role in the 416 and the 905 (including GO)
  • 17. Rivalry for Road Space
    • Do roads exist mainly to move cars or to move people?
    • What is your priority for users?
      • Transit / Pedestrians / Cycling
      • Driving lanes / Parking
    • If we take space away from cars, is this “good planning” or “a war on cars”?
    • Approach will vary depending on the neighbourhood and the type of street
    • Conflict between people passing through and people living in neighbourhoods
  • 18. Transit Financing
    • Three major budget areas
      • Capital (State of Good Repair)
        • Examples: maintain infrastructure, replace vehicles
      • Capital (Expansion)
        • Major new facilities: subways, LRT, commuter rail route and capacity expansion
      • Operations
        • Day to day service plus routine maintenance
  • 19. Capital (State of Good Repair)
    • Funding from a variety of sources at City, Provincial and Federal Levels
      • Gas taxes
      • Time-limited programs
      • City makes up the shortfall for TTC
        • Some is borrowed, some is capital-from-current
      • TTC total is about $400-million annually and growing
      • Mainly provincial money for GO with some contributions from municipal level
  • 20. Capital (Expansion)
    • Each project gets its own funding
    • Substantial political and “process” overhead to get agreement and approval for each project
    • Funding shares vary by project
    • Spadina Subway extension (4 partners)
    • Transit City (Mainly provincial with federal money on Sheppard East; provincial funding uncertain due to budget problems)
    • GO Transit (All provincial)
    • Metrolinx “Investment Strategy” for sustained funding
      • Future operating budget implications of network expansion
  • 21. Operating
    • TTC fares cover about 70% of total budget (roughly $890-million out of $1.4-billion)
      • A small amount of revenue comes from advertising and rentals ($50-million)
      • City covers the remainder ($440-million)
    • GO fares cover about 78% of total budget (roughly $301m out of $387m)
      • Subsidy comes from province
    • Other cities and countries typically have much higher subsidies, and transit is viewed more as a public service
    • Profitable systems are located in dense cities where transit is the only option. Subsidies may flow through other paths such as real estate revenue.
  • 22. Fares
    • Many schemes/philosophies for fare structures
      • Flat fare (e.g. TTC)
      • Time based fare (“two hour transfer” or limited use pass)
      • Distance based fare (zones or mileage)
      • Concession fares (class of rider)
      • Bulk discounts (weekly, monthly flat rates)
    • What is the purpose of the fare structure?
      • What kind of travel should it support/encourage?
  • 23. Fare Collection
    • Collecting fares costs money
      • Media distribution, cash handling, electronic system operation and maintenance
    • All-door boarding vs pay-enter
      • Cost of service delays and lost vehicle capacity vs need for roving fare inspectors
    • Evolution of media
      • Tickets, tokens, cash
      • Magnetic strips (tickets, swipe cards)
      • Stored value card
      • Smart card
        • Proprietary vs “Open” systems
    • Technology should enable a fare policy, not dictate it
  • 24. Regional Financing Issues
    • Fare consolidation and elimination of boundaries requires a revenue sharing agreement.
      • Do we attempt to maintain a 70% revenue target as services increase into less profitable areas?
    • If fares are reduced for short trips (e.g. just across a border), should they be increased for long trips?
      • What are the implications for trips from the outer 416 (the “third” city)?
      • Average TTC trip is about 10km.
    • Substantial increases in commuting traffic by transit are “good”, but growth in GO train traffic requires much better local transit as feeder/distributor systems in the 905.
    • Who pays for upgrades within the 416 triggered by growth in transit travel from the 905?
    • How should growth in capital and operating costs be funded?
  • 25. Challenges for Public Transit
    • Quality of transit service vs funding
    • The political will to shift the auto/transit balance on roads
    • Customer service
    • Financial integration and fare structure across the GTA
    • Long term funding stability and system planning
    • Interagency and intergovernmental relations
    • Confidence in transit’s ability to provide an alternative to auto travel and absorb a substantial proportion of growing travel demand
  • 26. Other Topics for Discussion
    • Transit as a planning tool
      • Will politicians actually shape land use?
    • Governance
      • Politicians or “Experts”?
      • Open or closed access?
      • Local or provincial control?
    • Alternative revenue sources (taxes, tolls)
    • Labour Relations
    • Private Sector Involvement
  • 27. Transit as a Planning Tool
    • Toronto Official Plan assumes almost all travel growth will be on transit
      • Much population growth will be in areas that do not have rapid transit today
      • Redevelopment of underused industrial and commercial lands in the suburbs
      • Good transit reduces the need for car ownership, road space and parking
      • Development form should be pedestrian oriented both for neighbourhood quality and easy transit access
    • Political will to shape development around transit is weak
      • Existing pattern is car-centric and the development industry wants more of the same
      • Problem is bad in the 905, but not unknown in the 416 because transit lags rather than leads
      • Waterfront is potentially a “downtown suburb”
  • 28. A Long Term Planning View
    • Planners alone cannot defend the long-term view
    • Politicians must embrace ongoing support for transit
      • Fix tomorrow’s problems, don’t just patch up yesterday’s complaints
      • Build a consensus that transit expansion and mobility are essential
      • Make plans election-proof by treating transit as an essential part of public services, not an “extra” that can only be afforded in good times
      • Ensure transit plans survive economic cycles
    • Plans go back 50 years or more, but very little has been built because the political and economic cycles are shorter than the study-approve-fund-design-build cycle for major transit facilities
  • 29. Transit Governance
    • TTC is a separate corporation from the City, but is owned and controlled by it through Council appointments to the Board
      • 9 Commissioners are all Council members
      • City influences policy through budget review of subsidies and planning review for major projects
    • In the 905, transit is generally managed by committees of local Councils and is not a separate corporation
    • Metrolinx/GO is a Provincial agency with a board appointed by Cabinet
  • 30. TTC Commissioners
    • TTC Board was once all “citizens”, not politicians
    • Prominent members of the business community
    • The Board evolved into a home for politicians-in-waiting, defeated candidates and the well-connected
      • Politicians without accountability
    • Council ended this practice when the TTC strayed into business activities beyond running a transit system
    • TTC controls annual budgets of $1.4b (operating), $400m (capital) plus expansion projects (Spadina Subway Extension is $2.6b)
    • Large public spending requires transparent public oversight
  • 31. Metrolinx Board
    • “ Metrolinx I” (2007) was mainly a political Board with regional Chairs and Mayors, and a minority of non-politicians
    • “ Metrolinx II” (2009) has no politicians; most members do not have a transit or planning background
    • Almost all Metrolinx decisions are taken in private with only pro-forma public discussion of some issues
    • No mechanism for public interaction with the Board or challenge to its actions
    • Fundamentally different philosophy of accountability and transparency compared with the municipal sector
  • 32. Who Should Run Transit?
    • Politicians or “Experts”?
      • Actual experience suggests that “experts” will not be the primary source for board members
    • Local or Provincial control?
      • Local bodies understand local concerns
      • Who is paying?
      • Who represents the riders?
    • Open or closed access
      • Municipal agencies are open by law
      • Provincial agencies are closed
      • Requirements for a large-scale planning exercise (the Regional Plan) are completely different than for ongoing operations where customer and citizen involvement are essential
  • 33. Alternative Revenue Sources
    • Who should pay?
      • General levy vs targeted tolls/taxes
      • Gas tax, road tolls and congestion fees only hit motorists (and consumers indirectly through shipping costs)
      • Should motorists bear the full cost of building and supporting transit?
      • What happens in a future world of expensive energy and falling auto use?
      • Why should those whose travel is unlikely to be aided by transit expansion bear the cost of funding transit construction and operation?
    • General revenue (all Provincial tax sources) may be constrained by competing demands
    • Sales taxes are a common approach in other regions as a transit funding source
      • Everybody pays
      • Good transit is a benefit to businesses as well as people
      • “ World class cities” have good transit networks
      • Predictable funding that grows with the economy
  • 34. Alternative Revenue Sources (2)
    • Development charges
      • Funds are generated from new development and from corridor-specific taxes
      • Development takes a long time and the initial public investment may not be repaid from this source
      • Parts of some corridors are not suitable for new development (parks, public institutions, stable residential/commercial areas)
      • Why should lands along a corridor pay for transit capacity serving people who move through it from other areas?
  • 35. Labour Relations
    • TTC labour relations are a classic “us vs them” situation with rigid management and unions
    • Both parties have a bad understanding of the effect of poor labour relations on the quality of their “product” and on public support for their services
    • Political/media environment is anti-union, values “gotcha” journalism, and inflames both the riding public and the organization
    • Need to distinguish between problems inherent with “unions” and those of the organization generally
      • TTC has a long history of always blaming someone/something outside of the organization
      • Problems don’t exist, only “fault” for causing them
      • Finger-pointing takes precedence over finding solutions
    • Should the TTC be an “essential service”?
      • Not a life-threatening situation like police, fire, health care
      • No guarantee of labour peace (work to rule may disrupt service)
      • Costs are typically higher for essential service workers through arbitration
      • Is this designation seen as a way to ensure service or to punish the union?
  • 36. Outsourcing
    • Private sector sounds good in theory, but this presumes an experienced, altruistic service provider
    • Contract management is not simple
      • All expectations, criteria must be defined up front
      • Potential for cost creep through change requests
      • Unplanned future costs due to poor contract definition and demands for additional funding
      • Contract management becomes a new function within the “public” transit agency
      • Lack of transparency in political oversight due to “commercial confidentiality”
      • Policy discussions may take place in private without public review or input
  • 37. Outsourcing (2)
    • Competition as a cost limiter
      • Actual experience is that small companies consolidate into large ones giving the private operators the upper hand in negotiations
      • Rapid transit systems are too expensive for small companies to run, and these are typically taken on by consortia or large companies
    • The system cannot be allowed to fail
      • Contractor may demand additional payments for claimed extras
      • Contractor may fail to provide all expected services and presume cost of litigation or penalties will not be pursued by the City
      • In the worst case, contractor may walk away (example: London, UK)
    • No guarantee of strike-free operation