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GO Transit: Service thread (including extensions)

smallspy

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I'm not talking about drivers as a narrow slice, I'm talking about drivers who are willing to use transit even occasionally as a narrow slice.
I think that there's one big thing that you've overlooking, and it's not a minor issue.

Traffic into Toronto is now (thought to be) so bad that people will actively try to avoid it.

I bet you that if you were to poll most daily commuters on the GO lines why they switched over, a majority of them would say that the reason why they use GO is because driving into the City has become more trouble than it is worth. Hell, there is at least one blog dedicated to just this. (http://www.thiscrazytrain.com/)

Because of this, much like @crs1026 wrote, the answer isn't simple - Metrolinx do need to continue to cater to the auto driver, and especially in the suburbs. They have no choice in the matter.

But they could also be taking steps to make the stations more accessible to everyone, and not just auto drivers. Locate the station buildings near major cross streets, and improve pedestrian and cycling access. Make access to the bus loops more streamlined, and not requiring a mile-long reroute to get to them.

Dan
 

crs1026

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^I would bet that the modal GO user outside the 416 is a family that has not one, but two cars. One car sits at the GO station during the day, for the reason @smallspy cites.... at least one member of the family works on a GO line, and doesn't want to drive to work (doesn't always imply working downtown, either....403 from Oakville to the Airport is no picnic at rush hour. If there were good transit, people would use it rather than drive). But, the moment they return from their day's work.... into the car they go, and that's where they live the rest of their day. Outside of the area bounded by Humber River, Lawrence Ave, and Vic Park, you can't get your kids to doctors and dentists, and/or dance lesons, and/or little league, on a local bus, let alone on foot or by bike. Or buy groceries, or anything else. At the moment, most peoples' evenings demand an automobile because there are just too many places family members need to go to, and in too many different directions, in a single evening.

This has to change, but we can't make pretend changes.... we actually have to reconfigure communities (that we have just built, in many cases) to make that possible. And we have to reconfigure transit, too. 45-foot low floor diesel buses are a really unpleasant conveyance, and they don't work in leafy suburbs with curvy back streets, and they especially don't work when you overload them. Or when you run minimum evening service and hope people will wait 20-30 minutes for the next one at the point in their day when they most need to get home and go to bed.

I agree that local transit and regional transit need to be better integrated, but that alone won't solve Grimsby, or anywhere else. We need a new suburban footprint, and then integrate GO into that.

- Paul
 
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Disparishun

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When you look at suburban GO stations (bus or train), these should really be minor hubs that take advantage of their often-ample station land to have local buses handle transfers, as well as at least some walkable proximity to amenities. Instead they are often total ghost towns that require a cab ride to get to or very careful timing with local transit, and are often pretty disconnected from local transit agencies' networks.
This is spot-on imho. Thinking back to my days as a GO train commuter some years ago (Rutherford on the Barrie line), what I was constantly wishing for was a café and a gym or maybe a public library on-site -- instead of fighting for a place in line to exit the station, I'd gladly have offset my departure time, and waited till traffic thinned, by heading from the train tracks to a workout or to sit and have coffee instead. And turning GO train stations into destinations would help to enhance their transit connectivity in turn.

Why can't Metrolinx collaborate with municipalities to collocate new public libraries with GO stations? Or apply some of what they've learned with Union Station to create retail opportunities? I mean, these are high-traffic passing points with captive crowds waiting with nothing to do.
 

smallspy

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And we have to reconfigure transit, too. 45-foot low floor diesel buses are a really unpleasant conveyance, and they don't work in leafy suburbs with curvy back streets, and they especially don't work when you overload them. Or when you run minimum evening service and hope people will wait 20-30 minutes for the next one at the point in their day when they most need to get home and go to bed.

- Paul
There's a very big problem with this point.

Regardless of the size of the bus - 30 feet long, 35 feet long, 40 feet long, 60 feet long - over 80% of the operating cost of the vehicle is the driver.

This is why about 90% of the buses built nowadays are all 40 foot long versions, and not the smaller ones. Considering the slight differences in fuel economy, and the concerns of standardization and ease and consistancy of maintenance, it simply doesn't make economic sense to stock different size vehicles.

Why can't Metrolinx collaborate with municipalities to collocate new public libraries with GO stations? Or apply some of what they've learned with Union Station to create retail opportunities? I mean, these are high-traffic passing points with captive crowds waiting with nothing to do.
Probably because most people waiting at the peak times - I'm talking at the rush hours here - are only at the station for a couple of minutes at most. The ridership levels at other times, when people are more likely to be hanging around and waiting for the next train or bus, are not likely high enough to support those businesses.

While I don't disagree with you in theory, the concern for the business owners and operators is that there needs to be a critical mass of traffic to justify any given business. So, the question becomes - how do we make the station enough of a destination to support the traffic those businesses require?

Dan
 

crs1026

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There's a very big problem with this point.

Regardless of the size of the bus - 30 feet long, 35 feet long, 40 feet long, 60 feet long - over 80% of the operating cost of the vehicle is the driver.

This is why about 90% of the buses built nowadays are all 40 foot long versions, and not the smaller ones. Considering the slight differences in fuel economy, and the concerns of standardization and ease and consistancy of maintenance, it simply doesn't make economic sense to stock different size vehicles.
The biggest problem is simply getting transit away from this mentality. "Won't" and "can't" are different things.

Most transit properties justify a bus route on some sort of fares/hour formula. The threshold usually does not demand a 40-foot bus loaded to capacity. Even if the bus is smaller, if it carries x people an hour, it meets the economic threshold.

Penetration into neighbourhoods would generate riders. Backlash against big noisy 40 footers on back streets, and the operational difficulty of worming down those streets, is what keeps transit on main arteries. Sure, as labour costs rise, the 40 footer with standee load is most profitable, but that doesn't mean the alternatives are all uneconomic.

I'm sure there are limits, but what's disappointing is how little "try" goes on in the GTA.

- Paul
 

mdrejhon

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But they could also be taking steps to make the stations more accessible to everyone, and not just auto drivers. Locate the station buildings near major cross streets, and improve pedestrian and cycling access. Make access to the bus loops more streamlined, and not requiring a mile-long reroute to get to them.
This is a major reason why the Hamilton-Niagara Town Hall question exists.

Modifications that creates a major downgrade for transit users, needs to be re-evaluated based on how it affects all modes.

Including co-operating to make modifications (e.g. either GO #20 stops at Eastgate, or getting HSR to extend #10 B-Line Express to Confederation), even if it requires Metrolinx funding small modifications at Eastgate Mall (to help #20) or Metrolinx funding modifications at Confederation (faster easier HSR bus access). It's a shame there's no pullover bay on Centennial and a stairway built into the underpass' pedestrian sidewalk to more directly walk onto Confederation station grounds. That could save over 200 meters of walking without every single HSR bus needing to turn into Confederation station (some should, but not all).
 

smallspy

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The biggest problem is simply getting transit away from this mentality. "Won't" and "can't" are different things.
You're right - "won't" and "can't" are two different things. But there's also the question of funding - and the fact that it frequently pushes a "can't" to "won't".

Most transit properties justify a bus route on some sort of fares/hour formula. The threshold usually does not demand a 40-foot bus loaded to capacity. Even if the bus is smaller, if it carries x people an hour, it meets the economic threshold.
It's usually fares versus cost per hour - not capacity. If the cost to operate a 30 foot vehicle is almost the same as it is to operate a 40 foot vehicle, but the 30 foot bus costs more to maintain because it's non-standard or is built to a less-durable standard, why wouldn't they use a 40 foot bus?

Penetration into neighbourhoods would generate riders. Backlash against big noisy 40 footers on back streets, and the operational difficulty of worming down those streets, is what keeps transit on main arteries.
Completely untrue. There are a lot of places where buses, full-sized and otherwise, meander down side streets. Even in Toronto.

What keeps them off of the side streets and in the neighbourhood has a lot more to do with the built form of the neighbourhood, the street layout of the neighbourhood, and the fact that taking the bus off of the main street to service, say, 2 additional riders would be to the detriment of the other 20 or so onboard.

Sure, as labour costs rise, the 40 footer with standee load is most profitable, but that doesn't mean the alternatives are all uneconomic.
But labour costs are already there regardless of the size of the vehicle. That's the problem.

As an example, I believe that the TTC budgets about $100k per 2000 hours of service. The cost of the driver is something like $85K of that. (No, the driver doesn't pocket that - his/her labour is included in that, but there are also lots of overheads built into that too, such as training, benefits, etc.) That means that the bus itself is only costing them $15K. Say that a 30 foot bus would only cost them $10K for those 2000 hours of service - you can see that there isn't a huge savings by going to a smaller vehicle.

I'm sure there are limits, but what's disappointing is how little "try" goes on in the GTA.

- Paul
While I agree with you on many things Paul, I don't think that this the hill for you to die on. There are far more pressing issues - like getting increased, sustainable funding for all of the transit agencies. Or getting Metrolinx to pull their proverbial head out of their ass.

Dan
 

crs1026

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It's usually fares versus cost per hour - not capacity. If the cost to operate a 30 foot vehicle is almost the same as it is to operate a 40 foot vehicle, but the 30 foot bus costs more to maintain because it's non-standard or is built to a less-durable standard, why wouldn't they use a 40 foot bus?
I’m not sure why the cost of the bus is an issue. Certainly an outrider vehicle might cost more than the standard 40 footer, and the daily costs might be similar - which would look bad on the spreadsheet, because the mini model is only hauling half the load for the same money. But as you note, labour is the bigger cost.

Being an old guy I remember when TTC bought a small fleet of 35 footers and 96 inch wide 40 footers for certain routes. And they did some odd things on Armour Heights and perhaps other routes with off brand buses (my seniors memory has lost the details). I’m not sure that was a headache or big ticket cost item, but neither did that leverage anything forward.

I’m thinking less about TTC than I am about the 905 where first mile/last mile is a much bigger issue. You have to walk a long way into some of those subdivisions, and a big bus won’t get in there. I give TTC a lot of credit for putting a bus stop pretty close to most peoples’ homes. A transit guy from a faraway place reminded me recently just how many bus routes Toronto has compared to everybody else. Easily taken for granted.

While I agree with you on many things Paul, I don't think that this the hill for you to die on. There are far more pressing issues - like getting increased, sustainable funding for all of the transit agencies. Or getting Metrolinx to pull their proverbial head out of their ass.
Hey, you get the opinion you pay for ;-) In the context of GO, my beef is, a lot of funding is there, but it’s going to building new parking garages. Diverting that investment to first mile/last mile innovation is a hill I’d fight for.

Every time I ride a transit bus I hate it....cramped, no legroom, poor use of space, pushing past people even under light loads. There must be a better way, if we could innovate.

As for Grimsby, I will admit, even forty footers would be a big step forward.

- Paul[/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
 

Streety McCarface

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Every time I ride a transit bus I hate it....cramped, no legroom, poor use of space, pushing past people even under light loads. There must be a better way, if we could innovate.
I mean, this isn't necessarily a bus problem (says a person with a username alluding to a streetcar foamer), because the design and crowding standards are set by the suppliers and heavily adjusted by the agencies that run the vehicles themselves. If an agency crams 60 people into a 40' bus with 39 seats regularly, of course the stigma that buses are always crammed is going to prevail no matter how inherently flawed the design is. As a regular user of the iON, I find it really difficult to get by people even in light loads of <75 passengers (given that the freedoms are supposed to fit 250). It's not a fault of the technology, it's mainly the fault of the layout of the vehicle. I can get on an ALRV and not find it as difficult to get by those 75 people, heck, it'd probably be easier to get around on a CLRV or a K-Car than a flexity. Likewise, I can get on a bus with far fewer seats and have a much easier time getting past people.

Also, the legroom is worse on the flexities than almost any bus I've been on.
 

Neutrino

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I keep banging on about this - but we desperately need high density development within a 700 metre radius of all GO stations. Preferably mixed use, but high density residential with integrated retail, schools, community centres and so on would be a great start.
 

tmlittle

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I mean, this isn't necessarily a bus problem (says a person with a username alluding to a streetcar foamer), because the design and crowding standards are set by the suppliers and heavily adjusted by the agencies that run the vehicles themselves. If an agency crams 60 people into a 40' bus with 39 seats regularly, of course the stigma that buses are always crammed is going to prevail no matter how inherently flawed the design is. As a regular user of the iON, I find it really difficult to get by people even in light loads of <75 passengers (given that the freedoms are supposed to fit 250). It's not a fault of the technology, it's mainly the fault of the layout of the vehicle. I can get on an ALRV and not find it as difficult to get by those 75 people, heck, it'd probably be easier to get around on a CLRV or a K-Car than a flexity. Likewise, I can get on a bus with far fewer seats and have a much easier time getting past people.

Also, the legroom is worse on the flexities than almost any bus I've been on.
The biggest disappointment with flexity design for me is the set of 4 facing seats. When 4 people are actually sitting in the seats it feels much more cramped than the comparable seats on most buses. And while the lack of seats in general compared to buses is good for cyclists and mobility device users, it's still not great for overall service quality as with the high student population, when people don't have a seat they can't keep their bag on their lap. It also doesn't really make sense for a system like the ION where ridership is nowhere near capacity and isn't projected to be for quite some time. Design wise I will concede that with the aggressive segmentation of the vehicles it's much more difficult to put in lots of seats than in a fixed-body vehicle like a CLRV. Lack of seats seems more viable for Toronto where these vehicles will probably see higher ridership anyway, but the passenger flow problems you mentioned are sure to be a problem at rush hour on lines like the Crosstown.
 

crs1026

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^The prevalence of backpacks is an interesting case study. It’s a case of designers having not changed their paradigm despite changes in the user population. Backpacks were a lot less common even 25 years ago. They present huge challenges for all forms of transit, which still assume that customers especially commuters had perhaps a newspaper and maybe a flat, flexible briefcase. Courteous riders take packs off their backs, but they remain unwieldy. Pretty hard to stuff under one’s feet when the seats are so tight. Bulky even if held by hand, put the on the floor under crowded conditions and you may not be able to bend down to retrieve it.

Overhead racks, anyone?

I find that people just generally haul more ‘stuff’ around with them these days. Even baby strollers have grown in size, so while there may be more space allocated on low floor vehicles than the older models, it is used up very quickly.

The quad seats may not be optimal, but I still find there is more ‘circulating’ space on a Flexity than on a transit bus. On today’s buses, the space between the front wheels is a pinch point - even a couple of standees in that space means one has to push aggressively to get past. If the people in the “accessibility” zone have walkers or buggies, the pich point extends right to the rear doors. And the “back porch” area with steps is not standee friendly. At least Flexities have more handholds and leaning spaces where one can try to squeeze out of the way.

I don’t have a better design, but there must be one.

- Paul
 
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smallspy

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If the people in the “accessibility” zone have walkers or buggies, the pich point extends right to the rear doors.

- Paul
This reminds me of a very, very interesting regional dynamic that I've noticed.

In Toronto, if a parent with a child in a stroller boards the bus, they will sit in the accessible seats with the stroller in the aisle. As you point out, this creates a pinch point and frequently requires people to brush past to get to the back of the vehicle.

In Ottawa, if a parent with a child in a stroller boards the bus, everyone sitting in the accessible seats will get up and move, the parent will flip the accessible seats up and out of the way, and then usually stand in the accessible space with the stroller - freeing up much floor space for everyone else and allowing everyone to easily make their way to the back of the vehicle.

Dan
 

Northern Light

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This reminds me of a very, very interesting regional dynamic that I've noticed.

In Toronto, if a parent with a child in a stroller boards the bus, they will sit in the accessible seats with the stroller in the aisle. As you point out, this creates a pinch point and frequently requires people to brush past to get to the back of the vehicle.

In Ottawa, if a parent with a child in a stroller boards the bus, everyone sitting in the accessible seats will get up and move, the parent will flip the accessible seats up and out of the way, and then usually stand in the accessible space with the stroller - freeing up much floor space for everyone else and allowing everyone to easily make their way to the back of the vehicle.

Dan
I asked the TTC to address this very issue with its bus design, by moving from having 'benches' in the accessible area, to flip-down seats, as they do on the Toronto Rockets.

I have noticed in one of the newer generations buses that they did in fact introduce this, albeit with a rather more cumbersome design (pull up on a yellow handle allows you to lower the seat, rather than just a simple spring system)

My notion was if the areas seats were clear by default, a parent with a stroller could insert said stroller w/no hassle and depending on its size, maybe pull down the last seat and sit beside said stroller.

Curiously, they did this with only one set of seats on the bus I saw, rather than all the blue seats.
 

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