Growing traffic congestion in Toronto is making it harder to keep buses and streetcars evenly spaced. To avoid big gaps between vehicles, the TTC is now trying a mix of old and new techniques. One big change involves taking managers from behind office computers that monitor service and assigning them to street corners.
Supervisors are moving from individual bus garages to a single monitoring location while others are being sent to key observation spots across the network.
Allen Chocorlan of TTC bus operations says two trials in 2009 showed that increased eyes on the street resulted in less customer complaints, as well as fewer assaults on bus drivers.
Streetcars are particularly vulnerable to traffic disruptions including vehicle collisions that block tracks. Customers can also gum up the works, often by not having the right fare. Despite having its own newly-expanded right-of-way, the 512 St. Clair line is not immune to delay and on-site managers still must talk with drivers to determine what is causing gaps or bunching.
James Fraser of TTC rail transportation admits service on the 512 was poor in January, but has improved a lot. He says, “The supervisor does build a relationship with the folks on the line, and that’s why … we’ve put some of our most experienced supervisors up there (on St. Clair) to make sure that they can deal with some of our operators that potentially don’t have the experience of the rest, give them pointers and make sure that they change the way that they’re operating.”
Will the portable data devices being tested mean that TTC riders can expect less crowding or short-turns?
Fraser says the machines can “give the supervisor on the route a tremendous advantage to know what’s coming at him. He can actually see where all the vehicles are on the line and know what adjustments he has to make to the cars as they’re going by. Are we there yet? No. Will that provide significant advantages? Yes.”
Knowing how much trouble the TTC has had improving reliability on the 501 Queen car I remain skeptical — but we can hope.
– Toronto-based transport writer Ed Drass covers transit issues every Monday; firstname.lastname@example.org.