SETAC – South Etobicoke Transit Action Committee

TTC subway riders to get better, faster service after Thanksgiving

By: Tess Kalinowski Transportation reporter, Published on Mon Oct 06 2014

The TTC is adding trains to its rush-hour service and tweaking subway operations behind the scenes to give riders more breathing room in the peak hours and cut journey times in off-peak hours. Transit users will also spend less time sitting at terminus stations following a series of operating changes that kick in immediately after the Thanksgiving weekend.

The improvements come at no additional costs, will relieve crowding in the short term and lead to greater subway reliability in the longer term, says the TTC’s new deputy chief operating officer, Mike Palmer. The most obvious change will be the addition of two trains during the rush hour on each of the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth Lines. With each train carrying about 1,200 riders, there will be more space on the platforms and in the subway, he said.

Palmer has also tweaked the adjusted train and crew scheduling so that operators will be able to finish their shifts on time more often. The reduced overtime costs will help pay for additional train crews.

Other measures will be less obvious to riders, but Palmer, who worked in operations on the London Underground for 29 years, is convinced they will translate into better customer service. Once fully implemented, the TTC should be able to put through its target of about 25 trains an hour on the rush-hour service rather than the 21 or 22 it achieves most days now.

Trains will no longer be allowed to sit in terminus stations at Kennedy, Kipling, Finch and Downsview. A new rule will require them to move off the platform within 30 seconds of a green signal.

“We know what really cheeses customers off is a train hanging around at a terminus. There may be a good reason for that but it’s slowing the service down, so we want to get these trains out as quickly as possible because as soon as they’re out the next one comes in,” he said.

The TTC is changing the way crews switch trains at the end of the subway line — a practice called step-backs. At terminus stations such as Kennedy or Downsview, the operator and train guard normally get off the subway and wait for the next train to arrive before getting back to work. That gives them two or three minutes between trains to go to the washroom or have a drink of water. But if the trains are running late, which is often the case, the operators don’t have enough layover time to get that break and they end up boarding the next train late.

To get those trains off the platform sooner, the TTC is implementing double step-backs for its crews. That means the crew that just got off the train waits two trains before returning to work, giving them “a more realistic” break and allowing another crew to move the train off sooner. Another key change will be the way trains go in and out of service after the rush. For years, the TTC has sent trains departing service all the way to the end of the line at Kennedy or Downsview before turning them back to the yards at Greenwood and Wilson. The effect has been a queue of trains waiting to get into the storage yards, taking up platform space at the terminus stations and slowing in-service trains to a crawl as they await their turn at the end of the line.

Starting Oct. 14, about a third of the trains heading out of service will go straight to Greenwood or Wilson. That should speed up service along each line.
“These platforms at Downsview and Finch and Kipling and Kennedy are really valuable space and I need to use them as efficiently as I can,” said Palmer.
He admits there will be an inconvenience factor for customers riding the trains just after rush hour. They will sometimes be asked to get off the train at Wilson and wait for the next subway to take them to the end of the line. Eastbound riders on the Danforth line will be asked to exit at Pape and wait for the next train to Kennedy.

But Palmer says he’s absolutely convinced the changes will ultimately get those riders to their destination sooner because the trains will be moving faster…

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