Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Munro let's cat out of bag

I don't normally reference other writer's blogs. Today, I thought I'd make an exception by highlighting a recent post on Steve Munro's blog. In case you've never heard of Mr. Munro, he's the person most directly responsible for 'saving' Toronto's streetcars. Munro convinced the TTC to keep streetcars in service because they provide greater capacity than buses.

Now I don't believe that assertion has been borne out. All the evidence points to buses providing equal or perhaps slightly better capacity - all other factors being equal.

Well - in a recent post:

Service Quality: What tax cuts don't give us

Munro points out the service failings of the the streetcar system.

"...I arrived at Queen and Spadina on a southbound 510 just in time to see not one, not two, but three 501 Queen cars leave westbound. Hmmm. Not a good sign. As things turned out, the next 501 (actually two of them) did not show up for 25 minutes, and the first car was going only to Roncesvalles. Fortunately for me, the Gladstone is not in Long Branch."

Well - not lucky for other people.

"...On the trip home, a bit after midnight, the eastbound 501 showed up reasonably promptly and the trip across Queen was uneventful. We pulled up to Broadview just behind a 504 King car, the one that should have taken me home. Did it wait for transfer passengers from the 501? No. At least the following 504, about 10 minutes later, was not short turned (this happens regularly late at night when I attempt this route home)..."

This happens all the time - rather than being isolated incidents.

Munro admits:

Service on the Dufferin bus seemed to be running smoothly any time I peeked out the door or window from the bar at the Gladstone [please note how this demonstrates my commitment to monitoring the TTC, and the places I will lurk to do so].

This is the experience of many TTC riders - bus service is more reliable and faster. I've talked to a number of people who ride on St. Clair West. During the (all too) brief period during which the TTC was running buses, service was more reliable and way faster than on the normal streetcar service.

Munro is truly dedicated to transit. I admire the time he's devoted to the issue. He seems far more knowledgeable that many of those actually running the system. However, Munro's made his intellectual bed by adviocating streetcars (and now "LRT") before other options. It would be difficult to climb down from the position given the history.

1 comment:

Steve Munro said...

The last time I went to the Gladstone, I waited for the Dufferin Bus southbound at Bloor for 20 minutes in the afternoon rush hour. Eventually, I got a ride from a friend who passed by in her car. So much for the reliability of bus service.

The problem with a lot of the streetcar service is that there isn't enough of it and what there is is poorly managed. Moreover, the streetcar routes took a disproportionate hit back in the 1990s during the system-wide cutbacks, and it's no surprise that people think bus routes are more reliable.

When the TTC replaces streetcars with buses, there are always far more buses at closer headways than the streetcars they replaced. This is related to my concern about new larger streetcars where we may see headways stretched even further.

It's the wait and the uncertainty that drives riders mad, and you can do that with buses as easily as with streetcars.