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TTC: Streetcar Network

drum118

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While it takes forever to replace streetcar tracks in Toronto, it takes a weekend to do so in Zurich.

I get the same thing from Australia folks, but you are doing 2 different style of track construction. TTC is looking at 50-75 years for the base with rail about 20-30 years compare to others who only go down to the roadbed about every 20-40 years. When TTC needs to replace rails, its a matter of a few days. Intersections on the other hand can be a month.

There are a fair number of ways building tracks system as well saying which one is the better up in the air.

Then, other systems do a full 24 hour of operation to get things done while TTC and Toronto do less because of noise keep people awake. Even railways in Europe shut the line down for a week or 2 and working 7/24 to get the work complete ASP.

As a note took a number of rides through this area as well walked and photograph it. One city I love to get back to.
 

lead82

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It is a balancing act but the city gets it wrong most of the time in my opinion. Take just one example of Spadina - There number of stops on the 510 between College and Bloor. It’s a distance of 1km. It has 4 stops: College, Willcocks, Harbord, Sussex. That’s an average distance of 250m. Way too close. Willcocks and Sussex can and should be removed as Harbord is a short walk from both. Yes it means a few passengers will have a slightly longer walk to their stop but the speed improves by not having the vehicle stop so many times and being caught up in traffic lights. This is just one example.
 

W. K. Lis

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It is a balancing act but the city gets it wrong most of the time in my opinion. Take just one example of Spadina - There number of stops on the 510 between College and Bloor. It’s a distance of 1km. It has 4 stops: College, Willcocks, Harbord, Sussex. That’s an average distance of 250m. Way too close. Willcocks and Sussex can and should be removed as Harbord is a short walk from both. Yes it means a few passengers will have a slightly longer walk to their stop but the speed improves by not having the vehicle stop so many times and being caught up in traffic lights. This is just one example.
Except that in Toronto, the Willcocks and Sussex intersections will not give true transit priority to the 100+ people on board the streetcars, but will to the single-occupant motor vehicle making a left turn.
 

Northern Light

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Except that in Toronto, the Willcocks and Sussex intersections will not give true transit priority to the 100+ people on board the streetcars, but will to the single-occupant motor vehicle making a left turn.

There's no real need for an intersection for cars at Willcocks.

There's very little through traffic. Its a small side street, and effectively a private road.

I agree Willcocks should come out as a stop.

Sussex is more complicated in that there is no true Bloor stop, but only one at the station, a bit north of Bloor and a level down.

I would remove Willcocks and Sullivan as stops on the route.

****

That said, I would agree that to make the route operate properly, the rest of the stops need true transit priority, none of this nonsense of stopping at a red, only to stop at the transit stop on the farside all over again.
 

reaperexpress

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Does anyone think we will we ever ride streetcars that move quickly, decisively, not slowing to to 5 km/h through intersections and turns, etc?
Will there be a TTC CEO who supports streetcars as a surface transit solution, and who fights TTS harder for streetcar priority, unlike the current disappointment from Boston?

The dissapointment from Boston was the one who pioneered these insanely generous schedules under his previous role as Chief Service Operator. In 2015 he added as much as 40 minutes to the scheduled round trip times of streetcar routes. The previous schedules had admittedly been a bit unrealistic, but this amount of extra time was massive overkill which created a host of new problems. On top of cars now crawling along at 15 km/h and stopping at green lights, they also massively overwhelmed the capacity at terminals, resulting in streetcars backed up down the street approaching terminals. At the time, I was working with the traffic signal priority system for streetcars, and that became a total mess because streetcars would just randomly stop within the detection zone, maxing out the priority system and messing up traffic in every direction. We design the system on the assumption that if the light is green and there is no traffic in the way, the streetcar will move forward at a reasonable rate. The new transit detection system being rolled out by the City will only grant priority to on-time or late vehicles, avoiding the issue of early vehicles totally screwing everything up.

They "created" rules, laws, and procedures for the streetcar for the "safety" of all. Unfortunately, in doing so, they effectively slowed the streetcar down to a crawl. Do the buses follow the same rules? Very unlikely it seems. Many procedures where put in "temporarily", until a problem is fixed, but the problem never seems to be fixed. The old stopping at each track switch is one such example. They keep deferring the fixes because it is not in the budget.

Increase the TTC budget so that we can have faster and smoother streetcar operations.

Actually, running faster would considerably reduce the operating budget because cutting the round trip time means that you don't need as many streetcars/operators to run a given frequency. It would also improve ticket revenues by increasing ridership demand. The TTC needs to hurry up and decide on a new switch and communication standard, so we can use switches from this century, and the operations group needs to rethink its obejective of eliminating all collisions with TTC vehicles - even those caused by people walking onto streetcar tracks without looking, or crossing roads during Don't Walk lights. Imagine if VIA trains weren't permitted to travel faster than the speed at which they could stop if someone jumped in front of the train while the gates were down: the train would be as slow as a bicycle and nobody would take it. Streetcars are an extremely safe mode of transportation, so making them so slow that nobody wants to take them can actually have a negative impact on safety in the city as a whole.
 
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reaperexpress

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Except that in Toronto, the Willcocks and Sussex intersections will not give true transit priority to the 100+ people on board the streetcars, but will to the single-occupant motor vehicle making a left turn.
There are no left turns at Willcocks or at Sussex. The only limitation to priority is the inability to accurately predict streetcar departure times from the near-side stops. Streetcars get up to 30 seconds of green extension, which is highest level of priority that is physically possible at that intersection. Once the light turns red for the streetcar, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to make it turn back to green sooner than normal, because the normal green time for Willcocks/Sussex is already the shortest possible duration which allows a pedestrian to cross the street.

If anyone's in the area and willing to watch a signal for a while, I'd be interested to hear if streetcars are getting priority over left turns at St. Clair & Dunvegan. Normally the left turn phase immediately follows the north-south pedestrian phase, but if they implemented the program I submitted, waiting/approaching streetcars during the pedestrian phase would cause it to skip directly to the east-west phase for St Clair before going back to serve those left turns. However, the priority may be conditional on headway so you may need to keep track on the times between streetcars to determine if an approaching streetcar is "early" or not.
 
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Northern Light

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There are no left turns at Willcocks or at Sussex. The only limitation to priority is the inability to accurately predict streetcar departure times from the near-side stops. Streetcars get up to 30 seconds of green extension, which is highest level of priority that is physically possible at that intersection. Once the light turns red for the streetcar, there is absolutely nothing that can be done to make it turn back to green sooner than normal, because the normal green time for Willcocks/Sussex is already the shortest possible duration which allows a pedestrian to cross the street.

If anyone's in the area and willing to watch a signal for a while, I'd be interested to hear if streetcars are getting priority over left turns at St. Clair & Dunvegan. Normally the left turn phase immediately follows the north-south pedestrian phase, but if they implemented the program I submitted, waiting/approaching streetcars during the pedestrian phase would cause it to skip directly to the east-west phase for St Clair before going back to serve those left turns. However, the priority may be conditional on headway so you may need to keep track on the times between streetcars to determine if an approaching streetcar is "early" or not.

You strike me as the sort of fellow who would know...........

Are there any intersections using real-time technology (cameras/sensors etc) to ascertain whether there are any pedestrians in or adjacent to an intersection?

I know there is some tech around cars for this.

It strikes me that we really ought to be able to make intersections an awful lot smarter than they are; such than any street that's completely empty one way can have its green truncated if there is any demand in the other direction (transit/pedestrian/car/bike)
 

reaperexpress

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You strike me as the sort of fellow who would know...........

Are there any intersections using real-time technology (cameras/sensors etc) to ascertain whether there are any pedestrians in or adjacent to an intersection?

I know there is some tech around cars for this.
In Toronto there weren't any examples when I last worked there (two years ago). There are apparently some intersections here in the Netherlands which have radar detection which can extend the walk light if they detect someone walking slowly enough that the normal clearence time wouldn't be sufficient. I haven't personally dealt with them, but it seems like a better solution than the braindead Toronto option of just using insanely long Flashing Don't Walk durations which has numerous disadvantages:
- preventing the signal from reacting in meaningful ways to the present traffic demands (including pedestrians)
- increasing the cycle length (and thus pedestrian delays)
- generally making the legal definition of the Flashing Don't Walk (you can't enter the intersection) less and less reasonable, since most pedestrians can actually enter long after the start of FDW and still complete the crossing without causing any issues.

The Netherlands uses a walking speed of 1.2 m/s for pedestrian clearance times, which is the same as Toronto's baseline standard, but Toronto has been moving increasingly to 1.1 m/s or 1.0 m/s on a case-by-case basis as a knee-jerk reaction to complaints. Those complaints are of course genuine problems which can be addressed, but I would prefer intelligent solutions which only create negative impacts on other road users, when there's actually a pedestrian there who benefits from that extra time.

As far as requesting a walk signal, it would be fairly easy to use existing camera detectors to trigger walk signals for pedestrians, but only if there are clearly distinct waiting areas for different directions, and you assume that all pedestrians want to cross the street. Since it would only work in a specific subset of situations, there wouldn't be much point in installing it at all, since pedestrians would still need to maintain the habit of pressing the pedestrian button to call the walk light. The intersections would still need to have pedestrian buttons anyway as a backup system for cases where the camera fails to detect someone.

It strikes me that we really ought to be able to make intersections an awful lot smarter than they are;

Yes this is basically my career objective. I've spent the last couple years learning Dutch traffic signal engineering, and I've identified numerous action items we could implement in Canada/USA to make our signals far more responsive to real-time conditions, and much safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I've started assembling them into a series of YouTube videos explaining each concept, but the problem is that after spending 8 hours working on traffic signals, the last thing I want to do when I get home is work more on (a video about) traffic signals. Hence why in the last two years I have only completed 1 of the 9 planned videos in the series. And also why I've still only completed 1 out of 3 videos about transit signal priority, four years after starting that series. Starting around November I'll be unemployed again so I'm thinking of just taking a few months and pumping out those videos, because I feel it's a huge knowledge gap in North America and youtube is a surprisingly effective tool for educating engineers and planners in Canada.

such than any street that's completely empty one way can have its green truncated if there is any demand in the other direction (transit/pedestrian/car/bike)

Signals actually work on the principle of extending greens, not truncating them. The obvious exception being priority interventions from transit or emergency vehicles, which do indeed truncate them. In general if a light is green but nobody is using it, it's because it has a fixed green time set somewhere and there probably isn't any detector at all for that direction.

If you're interested a technical description of the mechanisms traffic signals use to respond to traffic conditions (even in Toronto!), you could see my blog post here. You may also be interested in all the videos in my Traffic Signals playlist.
 
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Richard White

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There's no real need for an intersection for cars at Willcocks.

There's very little through traffic. Its a small side street, and effectively a private road.

I agree Willcocks should come out as a stop.

Sussex is more complicated in that there is no true Bloor stop, but only one at the station, a bit north of Bloor and a level down.

I would remove Willcocks and Sullivan as stops on the route.

****

That said, I would agree that to make the route operate properly, the rest of the stops need true transit priority, none of this nonsense of stopping at a red, only to stop at the transit stop on the farside all over again.

Wilcox and Sussex are useful when the station is closed to the public (while allowing cars to use the loop)
 

Northern Light

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In Toronto there weren't any examples when I last worked there (two years ago). There are apparently some intersections here in the Netherlands which have radar detection which can extend the walk light if they detect someone walking slowly enough that the normal clearence time wouldn't be sufficient. I haven't personally dealt with them, but it seems like a better solution than the braindead Toronto option of just using insanely long Flashing Don't Walk durations which has numerous disadvantages:
- preventing the signal from reacting in meaningful ways to the present traffic demands (including pedestrians)
- increasing the cycle length (and thus pedestrian delays)
- generally making the legal definition of the Flashing Don't Walk (you can't enter the intersection) less and less reasonable, since most pedestrians can actually enter long after the start of FDW and still complete the crossing without causing any issues.

The Netherlands uses a walking speed of 1.2 m/s for pedestrian clearance times, which is the same as Toronto's baseline standard, but Toronto has been moving increasingly to 1.1 m/s or 1.0 m/s on a case-by-case basis as a knee-jerk reaction to complaints. Those complaints are of course genuine problems which can be addressed, but I would prefer intelligent solutions which only create negative impacts on other road users, when there's actually a pedestrian there who benefits from that extra time.

As far as requesting a walk signal, it would be fairly easy to use existing camera detectors to trigger walk signals for pedestrians, but only if there are clearly distinct waiting areas for different directions, and you assume that all pedestrians want to cross the street. Since it would only work in a specific subset of situations, there wouldn't be much point in installing it at all, since pedestrians would still need to maintain the habit of pressing the pedestrian button to call the walk light. The intersections would still need to have pedestrian buttons anyway as a backup system for cases where the camera fails to detect someone.



Yes this is basically my career objective. I've spent the last couple years learning Dutch traffic signal engineering, and I've identified numerous action items we could implement in Canada/USA to make our signals far more responsive to real-time conditions, and much safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I've started assembling them into a series of YouTube videos explaining each concept, but the problem is that after spending 8 hours working on traffic signals, the last thing I want to do when I get home is work more on (a video about) traffic signals. Hence why in the last two years I have only completed 1 of the 9 planned videos in the series. And also why I've still only completed 1 out of 3 videos about transit signal priority, four years after starting that series. Starting around November I'll be unemployed again so I'm thinking of just taking a few months and pumping out those videos, because I feel it's a huge knowledge gap in North America and youtube is a surprisingly effective tool for educating engineers and planners in Canada.



Signals actually work on the principle of extending greens, not truncating them. The obvious exception being priority interventions from transit or emergency vehicles, which do indeed truncate them. In general if a light is green but nobody is using it, it's because it has a fixed green time set somewhere and there probably isn't any detector at all for that direction.

If you're interested a technical description of the mechanisms traffic signals use to respond to traffic conditions (even in Toronto!), you could see my blog post here. You may also be interested in all the videos in my Traffic Signals playlist.

Thank you so much for that!

I have bookmarked those links so I can take time to properly benefit from them.

****

On the narrow subject of truncating signals. I think the thing that drives any person nuts, no matter the mode of transport, is if you find yourself at a signal at 5am on a Sunday, you're the only vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian for kms any which way, and you're there at a red.

Obviously it would not impair safety if you went across (as pedestrians almost certainly would); but as a motorist (or transit operator) one can't be ignorant of a potentially serious and expensive ticket.
The fact the light has a 'useless' signal, to the value of no one, and can't self-correct seems a real issue in this day in age.
On the simple level, I don't understand why we don't use the principle of the 'flashing red' where you come to a stop, make sure its clear, then go.
That was quite common when I was young (late 70s) lights only cycled during the day and went to flashing red after a certain hour.

Absent that, we need a light that recognizes when its wasting people's time to no particular benefit.
 

ARG1

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They "created" rules, laws, and procedures for the streetcar for the "safety" of all. Unfortunately, in doing so, they effectively slowed the streetcar down to a crawl. Do the buses follow the same rules? Very unlikely it seems. Many procedures where put in "temporarily", until a problem is fixed, but the problem never seems to be fixed. The old stopping at each track switch is one such example. They keep deferring the fixes because it is not in the budget.

Increase the TTC budget so that we can have faster and smoother streetcar operations.
You know as they say - there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution...
 

W. K. Lis

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...

As far as requesting a walk signal, it would be fairly easy to use existing camera detectors to trigger walk signals for pedestrians, but only if there are clearly distinct waiting areas for different directions, and you assume that all pedestrians want to cross the street. Since it would only work in a specific subset of situations, there wouldn't be much point in installing it at all, since pedestrians would still need to maintain the habit of pressing the pedestrian button to call the walk light. The intersections would still need to have pedestrian buttons anyway as a backup system for cases where the camera fails to detect someone.

...

By "pedestrians", we should include the non-humans.

 

lenaitch

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Thank you so much for that!

I have bookmarked those links so I can take time to properly benefit from them.

****

On the narrow subject of truncating signals. I think the thing that drives any person nuts, no matter the mode of transport, is if you find yourself at a signal at 5am on a Sunday, you're the only vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian for kms any which way, and you're there at a red.

Obviously it would not impair safety if you went across (as pedestrians almost certainly would); but as a motorist (or transit operator) one can't be ignorant of a potentially serious and expensive ticket.
The fact the light has a 'useless' signal, to the value of no one, and can't self-correct seems a real issue in this day in age.
On the simple level, I don't understand why we don't use the principle of the 'flashing red' where you come to a stop, make sure its clear, then go.
That was quite common when I was young (late 70s) lights only cycled during the day and went to flashing red after a certain hour.

Absent that, we need a light that recognizes when its wasting people's time to no particular benefit.
Ya, I don't know why many large cities don't do that anymore. Maybe they had enough equipment with timer or control circuits that they gave up. Then again, far too many drivers have no clue what to do when facing a flashing signal set.
 

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