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 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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Public Transit 101 - Making Transit the Better Way

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