Ferry? – Where is the entrance?

These are comments I submitted to Waterfront Toronto in response to the public viewing of concepts for the Ferry Terminal and Park renovation. Refer to Waterfront Toronto to see the displays

  1. None of the 5 submissions pay attention to the ‘entrance’, or ‘entrances’. The Bay Street entrance should be ‘iconic’, to be highly visible when walking south on Bay Street, or along Queens Quay. Whereas in the past, strangers at Bay and Queens Quay would ask ‘where is ferry?’, it should, with any changes, become very obvious, and iconic.
  2. The Bay Street entrance should embrace the full width between buildings, and utilize park access on both sides of the private driveway, perhaps with signage across the existing private pedestrian bridge. The driveway itself could be narrowed as it meets Queens Quay, widening the public path on both sides.
  3. Various submissions include other public entrances, namely York Street, and Yonge Street (west side of Yonge slip). This is excellent.
  4. One submission has a bridge across the Yonge slip facilitating access from the east side of the slip also. Excellent. This connects then to the promenade going east.
  5. Entrances other than Bay should by design be subordinate but related to Bay. Thus giving the Ferry and Park a much stronger presence.
  6. KPMB plan utilizing second public recreational level over ferry related space is also excellent, and very attractive. The wavy woodwork is the statement visible from the water, and it might well be the necessary iconic theme carried over to all the entrances.
  7. On a secondary level, some nautical flavor might be added.
  8. The size of the pool/skating area might be reduced by moving the northern boundary south, so as to enlarge (widen) the connection to the York entrance.
  9. The ferry is used mostly in summer and summer weekends, when throngs of visitors, with kids, strollers, carts, bbqs, coolers, and more, trudge down Bay Street, negotiate very dangerous traffic at Lakeshore Blvd, then queue for an hour, all on their way for a day out on the ‘islands’. What else can be done for their comfort and safety?
  10. Consider closing Queens Quay to through traffic on summer weekends, to reduce traffic and enhance safety for the thousands. Do it by forcing QQ westbound traffic up Yonge and eastbound up York. Access to addresses between Yonge and York can be made via Yonge, Bay and York.
  11. While rebuilding the park sounds fun and improves the waterfront, the construction disruption must be taken into account now. Queens Quay re-do has been and still is an ‘iconic’ mess. Every target imaginable has been missed. It is grossly unacceptable and we need much better. Assess your abilities now and if you cannot do much better, then don’t do it – what we have is better than years of mess. At the very least construction should be limited to non summer periods, and if running into more than one winter, be divided into distinct phases, perhaps with distinct contracts for each winter period, with absolutely no construction or construction mess for the summer.  Bay ViewSEatQQ_20141006_113738
Posted in Traffic | Leave a comment

Bi-mode multiple units

Metrolinx recently issued an RFI for future locomotives/rolling stock, and while including bi-mode (electric and diesel) locomotives, and electric MU’s (multiple units), it appeared to omit bi-mode MU’s.

Until now there has been little on offer anywhere in the world in the way of bi-mode MU’s. But that changed recently with the commencement of manufacture by Hitachi of a large order for IEP (Intercity Express Program) trains for the UK. These trains are being supplied as either electric or bi-mode.

One important characteristic of the IEP trains is that the two versions are identical except for the addition of diesel generators, which are placed in some of the cars of the bi-mode MU. The UK DfT (Dept for Transport) are purchasing both electric MU’s for use where there is power, and bi-mode MU’s for where there is no power.

The bi-mode MU’s are particularly well suited to routes where the power is available only part way, since the train runs in electric mode as far as it can, then diesel generators are started to continue into non electrified areas. If, over time, electrification is extended, and the diesel generators are not needed, they can simply be removed.

The UK trains are single level and diesel generators are under-floor, similar to UPX. In your case you would want bi-level cars to maintain the existing high capacity, such that the diesel generators would need to go over the wheels, or next to them in the space of a bathroom, and removable as a skid from the side of the car. In the UK case, most diesel generator maintenance is to be done by swapping them.

Based on my readings in the industry press, the UK DfT (department for transport) have spent considerable time and effort to develop a train best suited to their needs and a far cry from initial offerings from bidders. While your bidders might not take such developments seriously initially, do your due diligence, and with the prospect of a large order, suppliers could well do you proud.

A good article on the IEP is found in Modern Railways, a UK industry print journal, titled ‘IEP operations’ of February 2014, p44

Posted in Traffic | Leave a comment

Congestion Makes Pedestrians Safer

Pedestrians do not hit cars, its ALWAYS the other way around. A collision between a car and a pedestrian inevitably results in pedestrian injuries, often serious, or death, irrespective of fault. At the extreme, a driver, especially a truck driver, may not be aware a collision has occurred, while the victim is dead.


We know also that the seriousness of the pedestrian injury increases as does the speed of the vehicle, such that the slower the speed, the lighter the injury. That is behind the 30 kph  maximum speed in residential areas campaign. We know too that the front body shape of most cars serves to deflect a pedestrian at that speed or less, and minimize injuries.


If we go one step further and consider that if the vehicles were stationary, then collisions would not occur and neither would injuries. Obviously, you say, but keep in mind that the stationary condition exists to an ever larger extent in what we call congestion, or gridlock. Yes, congestion, which drivers hate, serves a positive purpose in making pedestrians safer.


So perhaps then, as pedestrians, we should embrace congestion, and recognize its contribution to safer streets and our well-being.

Sketch Congestion Man 20141108_102251

Posted in Pedestrian | 1 Comment

PATH Elevated Pedestrian Walkway

Yesterday witnessed the installation of the second of two shiny glass pedestrian bridge spans to extend PATH from Union Station to Queens Quay. The first span, from the SW corner of ACC over Lakeshore, but under the Gardiner, to the NE corner of 1 York, which is under construction next to the now diminutive Harbour Commission building. The new PATH then runs south inside the East end of that building, and jumps again across Harbour Street to the north side of Waterpark Place, which is now all but complete, and thence inside that building to its south side and Queens Quay.

This picture shows the second span going in yesterday morning.


What I find quite marvelous about this is that it is above ground and has a view. It snugs in just under the Gardiner, yet is well clear of Lakeshore traffic. To accommodate maintenance of the underside of the Gardiner deck, the span slides laterally out of the way. This new PATH route is not yet open to the public, but we might hope it will be soon.

This picture shows the first span from ACC across under the Gardiner.


I was never a fan of the underground PATH, rarely making use of it, in part because of there being no view, and also the lack of orientation to the streets above. Whereas I guide myself by the compass and streets, PATH’s chosen orientation was by bank tower and retail store names. So the elevated PATH is a joy that I will definitely use, and especially in the winter, when walking outdoors is problematic given poor snow clearing.

Lakeshore Boulevard is a nightmare for pedestrians, which does not promise to go away. If I had my way I would close the Gardiner but leave it there and rename it Lakeshore Boulevard, then put all the current Lakeshore traffic up there, then convert the ground level into a human scale space, free of the danger, noise and pollution. A dream yes, but alas, not likely. What is likely is closing and removing the Gardiner, and somehow squeezing all those lanes of horrible dangerous fast hostile traffic into a new version of Lakeshore Boulevard, the photo-shopped images of which exclude trucks, whereas in fact they would be more numerous than now.

This picture shows the horror of Lakeshore traffic.


But given the horror that crossing Lakeshore/Harbour is for a pedestrian, the PATH bridge conjours new ideas, namely adding more such bridges to provide pedestrians, residents, commuters and visitors, with safe and comfortable alternative ways of getting about. Imagine, from the southerly exits of the Bay Street Teamways (under the station), pedestrian ramps or stairs rise gently southwards and curve toward the centre of Bay Street, and tuck under the Gardiner, and on beyond Harbour Street, and then descend toward Queens Quay, or continue on to connect with the Island Ferry Terminal. All that traffic horror left underneath.

Posted in Traffic | Leave a comment

Subway Shuttle Bus Failure Speaks Volumes

Incredulous today to find hundreds of people waiting at the corner of Yonge and Bloor for non existent shuttle busses supposed to provide a replacement bus service between Bloor and Lawrence for the closed for maintenance subway. A parade, would you believe, was given precedence over the busses, and Yonge Street was closed for that parade, for about an hour.


Incredulous that somewhere in City Hall these decisions get made, that amidst all the talk about transit’s importance, there are people making them, in this case determining to prioritize a parade over a major transit route, and in so doing demonstrating vividly the City’s attitude to the transit user.


Incredulous too that no effort appeared to be made to accommodate both, with the parade using half the road for instance and the busses the other half, or the parade taking another route.


The transit rider, in this system of ours has no champion, no one to speak for them, to argue for them. In the closing of the King streetcar this week for TIFF, the City film office, who as I understand it approve and facilitate virtually every request that is made to them, said TTC were consulted and agreed.  The TTC however advise their staff ‘did raise objections but were not the decision-maker’. So how vociferously did the City film office and the TTC object to a plan that would quite unnecessarily disrupt and delay 50,000+ riders each day. Am I wrong to think that neither party gives a hoot for the transit rider.


And the future prospects look no better. Amongst the offering of Mayoral candidates, we hear talk all day about big fixes such as new Subways or joining GO lines together as solutions, none of which will make an iota of difference inside 5 years. The myriad short term improvements such as POP, priorities, crowding, and more busses are the low hanging fruit, the easy and quick and inexpensive solutions that make a difference within the next council term and not a maybe for one after.


The present structure, the TTC, its Board and other involved City departments, without representation for the rider, is a failure. We need to make Transit a truly ESSENTIAL service. I suggest to rid the TTC board, and introduce a ‘regulator’, an independent function that represents the rider and reports directly to council. The regulator would establish transit standards, measure compliance, receive complaints, determine costs, and have teeth to require compliance by other departments. The regulator, for capital projects would present council a priced list, leaving council to raise and assign funds but not to cherry pick the list.


We need, may  suggest, an independent Ombudsman like role to oversee all parties, represent the user, investigate complaints and publicly report findings, and report directly to Council. That individual should have substantial experience in transit planning and operation.

Posted in Traffic | Leave a comment

Dont Trash Transit – We need it.

This week King Street will be closed between Spadina and University for four days including two working days. Reason? Film festival! The many restaurants in this strip are to take over the road and expand their seating on to the street. The King streetcar service will be trashed for the duration and time consuming diversions are in order for all those using the City’s busiest streetcar line.  This is Toronto giving the finger to all those riders.

King Street looking West

King Street looking West

My walk along King this morning showed very little paraphernalia in the way of the streetcar, and what was in the way could easily be repositioned a little to make way.

Quite obviously, and contrary to what we keep hearing, transit is not top priority, as this and many other instances attest. Put more bluntly, the many riders who are affected are treated as second class citizens, the ‘essential’ service on which they rely is trashed on a whim. And make no mistake, this is not just a film festival thing, it happens all the time, for cranes, for films, and events of all kinds.

Taking on the film festival will inevitably evoke a chorus of derision, reminding us how important TIFF is, its value to the city, none of which I disagree with. But to so fail to accommodate the daily 20,000 riders is beyond unreasonable.

It will take at least 15 years (2029 or later) to plan and build the Downtown Relief Line, which, depending on its location, might well relieve the King streetcar somewhat. But now, today, the service is stretched beyond capacity, and every stop should be pulled out to increase its capacity further, anticipating the still larger numbers who will want to use it. But the best we can do is facilitate events that trash it without a thought to the transit rider.

Council last week approved 750 stories of new office and condo construction. A building takes 3-4 years to build start to finish which means lots of  it will be occupied about 2018. But the Relief Line is still 2029. That’s still 11  or more years before the Downtown Relief Line is ready.

One would hope the TTC would be the champion of the ‘rider’, it’s client, and fight tooth and nail for their interests. Not so unfortunately as instead they appear to acquiesce and remain silent, likely the manifestation the board’s unwillingness to properly serve the transit rider in favour of other agendas. Its sad too that the event sponsor, Tiff in this case, cannot itself figure out that trashing transit is not reasonable and not ask for it. Transit could very very easily have been accommodated with virtually no impact on the event, what is called a win win.

To me, compromise is entirely possible, but does not appear to have been considered. The streetcars could very well continue to operate, with the placement of intermittent temporary railing sections. These free standing railing sections could be placed every say 10m on both sides of the two tracks in the center of the road. The railing purpose is to remind and orient party goers of the active right of way, and the intermittent placement  avoids a feeling of constriction and allows crossing with ease. Alternatively, several of the railing sections could be linked together, followed by a larger gap. Streetcar speed could be kept to about 30kph and the bell used in crowded sections. This leaves two sidewalks and two full traffic lanes for extra restaurant seating and pedestrian walking.

Further, streetcars could very well continue service during a great many other events, acknowledging their essential nature.

The King streetcar is one of several major east west transit routes, since there is not and will not soon be subways. It’s all we have got. It has to work ever better every day for 15 years. So it is time for one and all to adopt an ‘Essential Means Essential’ approach to transit.

Posted in Transit | 1 Comment

Congestion Charge as a Traffic Management Tool not a Revenue Tool.

London has a well known Congestion Charge, which effectively limits traffic volume in the core of the city, to a level where the traffic that is there can get around with some ease. It has been in effect for some years, and the charge for a car is currently set at 11.50GBP (over $20.00) per day. See London’s website and Wikipedia.

The discussion in Toronto over the last year has centered on possible charges, the so called Revenue Tools, that might be implemented to produce revenue, to pay down transit improvements. Little thought has been given to the impact such revenue tools might have, if any, on traffic volumes. I suggest that given the worsening congestion, it is time to look at some mechanisms specifically to limit traffic, and not revenue related. Instead of ‘Revenue Tools’, lets call them ‘Traffic Management Tools’, and which belong in a traffic control tool box.

A congestion charge is one such tool, designed to reduce traffic volumes in the core at times it is most congested. This might be possible to a degree using Parking Taxes and Highway Tolls, two of the proposed Revenue Tools, but I suggest it is necessary to focus in directly at the problem, which, by my observation, is TOO MUCH TRAFFIC. The congestion charge in London is proven to reduce traffic, and moreover, it’s charge is adjustable and its perimeter flexible.

London’s charge applies to vehicles observed in a specified area between stated times of day and days per week. It is categorically not a toll gate – license plate readers are scattered throughout the charge area, so it is not a question of getting in, but of being observed when in. There are also a variety of exceptions, with for instance deep discounts for vehicles licensed to addresses within the charge zone.

In Toronto, such a charge should apply to an area where congestion is a major problem, which is obviously downtown. We can debate how far out to go, but College/Carlton to the Lake, Spadina to Sherbourne, might be a good start. The purpose of the charge is to discourage some drivers, enough drivers, to lighten the traffic volume so that the roads work and congestion is all but gone. Instead of driving, a displaced drivers might carpool, use transit, or not travel at all. I would suggest the charge commences at a relatively inoffensive $5.00, and consider adjustments yearly based on results and user and resident feedback to that point. The high-tech nature of the apparatus used to monitor traffic would allow considerable flexibility in adjusting fees, times, etc.

Payments would be deducted through an account like a Presto account, or paid on-line by the next day, after which it goes to collection and cost increases.

Depending on how such a system is set up, delivery services, if required to pay a charge, might be persuaded to deliver to A charge zone addresses before the charge start time, such as before 7am.

A congestion charge then is not proposed to raise revenue, but very specifically, to manage traffic. Based on London’s experience it would pay for itself but not produce significant revenue. It is a very focused charge aimed to reduce traffic.

Reduced traffic emanating from the charge would have, in Toronto’s case, quite a list of positive effects. Drivers who choose to pay the charge would spend less time in traffic congestion, and their productivity would increase. Transit vehicles would get around faster, and given quicker round trip times, would be able to offer increased capacity with same number of vehicles, with virtually no extra cost.

Toronto does its best to ‘manage’ traffic with half a tool box. Road improvements, adjusting traffic signal timing, and restricting turns may help a bit, but congestion is uncontrolled. A Congestion Charge is a traffic management tool, a very important tool that should be in the traffic management tool box. Otherwise there is no end in sight, as the downtown population and vehicle counts continue to grow, and commuters flood in. When I look at the approaches to the Gardiner ramps in the evening, I wonder how much longer those back-ups can get, or how much time drivers will sit in them? Is there a break point? I suspect the next thing to happen is some major downtown employers will start to make noises about moving, as congestion eats away at productivity, leisure time and tempers.

So let’s ‘manage’ the traffic as we manage most other things.

Posted in Traffic | Leave a comment

A new blog

Does the world really need another blog? Maybe, if I can add a dimension not well covered by others. That extra dimension will be my technical viewpoint and wide range of technical interests. That’s certainly a dimension missed by most media, most of whom seem to be in a dumbing down race, with us along with them.

Sketching is kind of a lost art; one more thing that interests me, so I will change the header from time to time, and maybe one day add some water colors to it.

I look forward to your comments.

Posted in Traffic | 1 Comment