Monday, March 02, 2009

The streetcar lovers - Les Aveugles

"There are none so blind as those who will not see" is a saying that - in different variants - has multiple roots. In 21st century Toronto - were this saying to be invented - it would be traced to the streetcar pushers. I don't mean the vehicles that the TTC runs out many times a day to push the a disabled streetcars along, but rather those who continue to foist - in other words "push" - these noxious, useless contraptions upon the general populace.

A dearly held falsehood among the streetcar pushers is that we (as a society) must endure the presence of these machines and their visually polluting wires, because they are magically able to carry untold numbers of passengers. The huge costs and poor service is the price we must pay to squeeze more souls along out thoroughfare.

The trouble is, it's not true - as I've written here before. Last fall this subject arose in a thread on on a the Metronauts discussion group. An individual named Karl Junkin started a discussion on subway construction. As invariably occurs, the discussion under a given post strays from the original subject - as does normal conversation for that matter.

At some point - after much discussion - I introduced the published fact that the highest 2-way achieved capacity for the TTC streetcar network - i.e. on the King St 504 route - was 3,450 pphpd (peak person per hour per direction) was about 1,700. This is documented in plan B&W in the TTC analysis of the the service on King St:

Commission Report - March 21, 2007

which states (page 9 or so) that the highest 2-way volume is 3,450 - the overall table I give here:

7-8 am: 2170
8-9 am: 3450 <==This is the high 9-10 am: 2680 3-4 pm: 1570 4-5 pm: 2860 5-6 pm: 3060 6-7 pm: 2510 Upon posting these official figures, I was subjected to replies ranging from disbelief, denial and ultimately verbal abuse. I eventually went down to King and Spadina to record the morning peak hour passenger counts. My raw data is as follows (time, count)

7:50 - 80
7:51 - 25
7:51 - 52
7:52 - 20
7:53 - 50 (ALRV)
7:54 - 15
7:55 - 28
7:58 - 85 (ALRV)
8:01 - 45
8:03 - 65
8:05 - 40
8:05 - 10
8:10 - 75
8:12 - 75
8:13 - 75
8:14 - 10

Which gives in total:

750 passengers in 16 vehicles over 25 minutes

Average = 47 passengers per vehicle
pphpd = ( 750 * 60 / 25) = 1800 ++

easily attainable y fewer regular buses than actually the number of streetcars I counted!

(++ In the earlier discussion - in my haste - I had added the figures up incorrectly to be 785.)

After I published these 1st hand counts, all hell broke lose. Mr. Junkin basically called me a liar - upon which I launched heavy barrages of well-deserved invenctive against the boy. The really good stuff was purged from the board.

The point of the mater is that:

1. The argument that we need streetcars for capacity is an out and out lie
2. The streetcar pushers are intent on hiding and denying this.

Steve Munro - chief streetcar pusher - did contact the TTC for a clarication of the published figure. To this day, they have not refuted this - and figures published by the TTC about the Queen Streetcar refute Junkin's assertions.

But these are the willfully blind. Facts, figures and logic don't seem to sway.

Recent TSO concerts

I have been lucky enough to attend two recent TSO performances.

The first was a Wednesday Masterworks with guest Midori. I saw Midori with the TSO about five years ago - and really enjoyed her playing. In the previous concert, she treated the audience to a good eight to ten minutes of Bach's Partitas as an encore.

Well - no encore in this year performance. This was quite understandable - as the Shostakovich Violin Concerto she rendered likely left little in reserve. This was a work I had never heard - live or on recording. The first movement was very slow. One of the reviewers thought it was played TOO softly. For me, that's hair splitting - long orchestral works should have different tempos in different movements. I enjoy the contrast.

The second and fourth movements were especially rousing. Midori plays masterfully. It was disappointing that there were so many empty seats (about 15% seats were not filled) - perhaps the Wednesday performances are like that.

On Saturday, it was Charles Duttoit conducting Berlioz' Damnation of Faust. This was a huge piece - with a full orchestra, multiple choirs and four solo singers. Despite it's length - and lack of a break - I enjoyed this immensely.

The only criticism is that Roy Thomson isn't set up to allow the subtitles to be projected. The audience were provided copies of the libretto. This resulted in a lot of distracting page turning. In addition, it's hard to read the page and focus on the orchestra, conductor and singers - you have to choose.