Archive for November, 2009

Almost Official: SRT to be Converted to LRT

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

According to Steve Munro, during the press scrum after yesterday’s Metrolinx public meeting, John Howe, Metrolinx General Manager of Investment Strategy and Projects, was asked about the technology choice for the SRT.  He stated that Metrolinx and the TTC are agreed that the SRT line should be converted to LRT technology, that the cost of the LRT and RT options were approximately equal, and that the ability to integrate the SRT into the new LRT network was beneficial.

This combined with the TTC’s move to study this conversion (see my September 30 post on this), makes this pretty official. What remains is for the TTC to hold public consultations that reflects LRT conversion. Hopefully, that will come soon.

I should also note, that another benefit of this decision that was not mentioned by Howe is that while the cost of LRT and RT options for the existing line are about equal, the cost of LRT for the extension of the line is significantly lower, as I reported in October 2008.

Even if the proposed design, with a fully isolated right of way, were retained, LRT technology will lower the cost. With LRT, it is possible to make some changes that will reduce the amount of total isolation (shorter tunnelled section, and no need for complete fencing for at-grade sections) that will in turn further reduce the cost. I do hope, that the alignment of the extension is not changed to place it in road medians like other Transit City routes will use. A converted SRT will be a nice showcase for a truly rapid LRT line in Toronto.

TTC Riders’ Strike

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

While not exactly an LRT issue, I thought I would comment on the proposed TTC Riders’ Strike this Friday, November 13.

It would be nice to not have any fare increases (heck, it would be nice to not have any fares!), the cost of things keeps going up and there is no sustained operational funding coming from upper levels of government. Perhaps if there was a serious effort to lobby those levels of governments during the not-too-distant elections, we might see some change at the fare-box. My big concern is that the proposed fare increase is somewhat misdirected at the most loyal users of the system. The occasional user who pays a cash fare will see an increase that is just over 9%, token users will see a jump over 11%, and Metropass users will see a jump that is nearly 16%! Do we really want to encourage transit use and all the wonderful ‘green’ thoughts that come with that?

I won’t go on anymore about the proposed increase itself, as what I wanted to comment on is the idea of a riders’ strike on Friday. I am not a fan of boycotts of something with the idea that doing so will alter the pricing of the item, particularly when the item is not exactly discretionary. We have all seen the “don’t buy your gas from X on Tuesday and they will have to lower their price” boycotts. In theory, these should work, but the theory does not take into account some of the strongest characteristics of basic human nature: apathy and laziness. Boycotts against products and companies have worked, when the underlying issue was some form of outrage besides price. These work by leveraging other traits of human nature that can bring out greater numbers and can be sustained for a longer period of time. Outrage over a change in the price of something quickly dies when that change is relatively normal. If we woke up tomorrow to find gas at $2.50 per litre, I suspect there will be some very serious action taken by some and oil companies will react to it. I suspect they are aware of that - it is the “put a frog in boiling water versus put it in warm water and slowly raise the temperature” issue.

That said, I will say that the proposed Riders’ Strike on Friday is not a bad idea. They are not trying to get everyone to avoid the TTC on Friday. Hearing the sound of crickets at Bloor-Yonge station on Friday is not their intent!

The intent is to demonstrate what effect a fare hike could have on ridership. The proposed fare increase is not going to drive hordes of people from the TTC, most will just pay the increase because they have no choice, or what choice they do have is has other issues they would rather not bother with. At the same time, an increase in fares will result in some people re-assessing what their options are and some will find other alternatives. Maybe only 5%, or perhaps as much as 10% might find alternatives.

A boycott that aims to demonstrate this effect can easily reach its goal. That is likely to have a few more politicians sit up and take notice.