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jozl

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I often wonder if we need a new way to conceptualize how we deal with mass transit. The catalyst that always gets me thinking that there must be a better way than the "Better Way" is Toronto's woeful taxi cab system. It's way too expensive, which is bad for the general public, pays lousy wages, which is bad for taxi drivers, and is tangled up in an arcane licensing system that makes some people rich while screwing the rest of us. Terrible.
So, I wonder, if my musings are at all feasible. I suppose it would take an army of number crunchers and systems analysts to determine that.
The most expensive factors in a transit systems are capital costs, which include the purchase of subway trains, street cars, buses, and the paths they run on, be they tunnels, streetcar tracks or public streets. The second most expensive factor is the cost of operating the system, which includes wages and maintenance.
What if we weighted the system toward the latter of these two factors (wages and maintenance) and cut way back on the former (tunnels, trains and streetcars)?
Toronto already has a very comprehensive system of streets and boulevards, the maintenance of which is already dealt with within current revenue streams. What if we used those streets as the basis for bolstering mass transit in a different way?
Say the TTC purchased 2,000 hybrid or fully electric van sized vehicles that seats from 6 to 8 people. For arguments sake, lets say each vehicle costs $80,000. So 2,000 of them would cost 160 million dollars. Let's also say the TTC had to hire 3,000 drivers and 500 support staff to drive these vehicles at $85,000 per year which would total about 300 million dollars per year.
What if each van were constantly circulating loosely fixed routes, including residential neighborhoods, that allowed them to stop anywhere they were flagged down or requested via cell phone text and then proceed to a predetermined subway stop or major landmark such as Union Station, TD center, Eaton Centre, etc. I look at it as a feeder system which is plugged into the main "trunk" system. It could possibly replace, or at least, offer an alternative to busses and LRT's. I'm thinking of a public mass transit adaptation of New York's excellent taxi cab system. Think of it as thousands of small busses constantly circulating through city streets as opposed to huge and expensive sparsely spaced busses lumbering along main thoroughfares on unreliable schedules. In other words, transit comes to us instead of us going to mass transit. The system would cost a fraction of what a new subway or LRT would cost and it could be up and running in a relatively short time. The system could be tracked via GPS and once a van is full it could be indicated electronically and continue uninterrupted to its final destination. There would be another van close behind. Mind you, our streets would be full of these things but reserved lanes at certain times could accommodate the added congestion. Besides, presumably, this system could replace thousands of private vehicles downtown.
I realize there are tons of other considerations I haven't mentioned or even thought of but my musings might have some merit. I just read an article in the Star that stated even if our provincial and city politicians were able to agree on a final comprehensive transit plan for the GTA it would take ten years of environmental studies and planning before construction would even begin. It also stated that there is no funding in place and any plans would likely take 20 years to build out. That makes 30 more years before anything is realized. It seems to me that we need to rethink mass transit and use the infrastructure we already have to its fullest capacity. My idea might be unworkable but we need to think outside the tiny box we're stuck in.
 

calimehtar

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I disagree that this is a reasonable alternative to good mass transit - I can't see the Yonge subway replaced by a hundred minibuses.

But I am intrigued by the possibilities of combining GPS with small-scale transit as you describe it, especially in suburban areas. With a good computerized system it should result in an ideal combination of something like bus public transit and taxi. Go2go has some elements of this idea too, in that the ride is there to take you whereever you want if you need it, assuming you're in the home zone.

Furthermore, imagine if the TTC had a good ride planning app that was used by a large percentage of the population, maybe in combination with a system at stops that requires you to specify your destination electronically. If the TTC had simultaneous knowledge of the location of every vehicle, and the position and destination of every rider, at minimum it would allow them to optimize routes - keep the right level of service on all routes at all times, and find alternative routes based on demand.
 

innsertnamehere

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EAs require about 2 years to complete, and one year to issue contracts. Lines would start construction about 3 years after receiving funding provided they aren't "shovel ready". (I.E. the Hurontario LRT or Yonge extension which both have their EAs done)
 

jozl

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calimehtar, I'm not proposing that this would replace mass transit, it would just be another aspect of it. There's never been any serious consideration given to combining the two systems (taxi and mass). GPS, as you've pointed out, can be a key component. The TTC should be considering all options.
 

ssiguy2

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Although I'm not really sure if such a system would be workable I commend you on "thinking outside the box" which Toronto refuses to do. Remember we are talking about a city that won't use any of it's current rail corridors for transportation and one that has no HOV lanes except the little one on the 404 which was the provinces doing not the City's.

Many cities are getting imaginative about their transit solutions realizing that the tried and true methods of yesterday often do not make sense in a modern economy with completely different demographics, commuting patterns, labour mobility, workplaces, enviornmental standards, acessibility needs, and construction costs. This is a city where, despite endless documents and "bold new plans" that come out every 3 years like clockwork, it's transportation with the small exception of the Stubway is exactly the same as when I went to U. of T. in the late 1980s.

I have often tried to offer alternatives but am ussually laughed at as some dreamer. Toronto is a city that has gotten old before it's time.
 

JayBeeGooner

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No offense, but proposing a poor man's PRT system is not "thinking outside the box". Our road network is congested enough as it is, without adding thousands more electric vans to the road.
 
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ssiguy2

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It IS thinking outside the box.

Whether you, I or anyone else thinks it is doable is completely irrelevant. The issue jozl was raising is the idea of getting creative with Toronto's transportation woes. Toronto has so far to catch up little alone being a leader in transportation that ALL options should be on the table.

Toronto has neither the time nor resources to wait for yet more senior level funding or 10 year projects that uniformally come in behind schedule and over cost estimates. Contrary to wait Miller and the boys think, LRT is not viable, cost effective, or reliable enough to be considered on many of it's routes but saying so is near heresy for all the touchy-feely policy wonks.

Vanpools, maglev, HOV, HOT, monorail, LRT, BRT, EMU, DMU, ICTS, PRT, subways, GRT, gondola, elevated, underground, at grade, rail ROW, Hydro ROW, street ROW, PPP, 100% private lines,................nothing should be considered off hand nor a sacred cow if Toronto's transportation needs are to come into the 21st century little alone reclain it's title as the "can-do" city or the "city that works".

Proof is in the, Toronto's reliance on "tried and true" transportation has gotten it no where in the last quarter century and has brought the city to a near screetching halt.
 

jozl

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ssiguy2 you hit the nail on the head, thanks. I would love to see a comprehensive, extensive subway system in TO but the funding for it has too many political hurdles for it to happen in the foreseeable future. It might have been affordable in 1950 but not in 2013. I see so many underused systems and segregated corridors that it makes me wonder if anyone, or, any agency has really considered integrating the infrastructure that is already in place. What about a gondola running along the DVP as an alternative to the downtown relief line? Is it viable? No one knows because no one has ever done a comprehensive study on its viability. The same is true with my taxi service musings. I don't think we are as "bankrupt" in terms of mass transit choices as is touted. Toronto is a wealthy city lacking only in vision.
 

ssiguy2

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I was hoping I represented your intent and I'm glad I did.

I do, however, disagree with Toronto only lacking the vision as there is so many other hurdles Toronto has to cross. One being political will.

Making up pretty new lines on pretty new map, regardless of where the lines go or the technology they use, is the easy part but getting the politicians and bureaucrats onboard is quite another. They are ussually not concerned with Toronto's transport woes and far more so with the next election and will do anything to avoid any controversy no matter how much sense it makes.
The easiest thing to do is nothing and Toronto excels at that. It is far easier to get re-elected when working on cruise control.

Back in the 70's when Ontario's "Big Blue Machine" Tory party ran the province for what seems for ever, Premier Davis was asked why his steady as she goes Tory governments kept getting into office he offered up a sad but very truthful response.........."because boring work" and unfortunately he was right on the money.

Another problem is with Torontonians themselves. Somehow they feel "everyone" {meaning everyone else in the province" owes them something and the idea of actually having to cough up any money for their own transportation needs is meant with complete indignation. Torontonians know damn fine that they are going to have to pony up a very good chunk of change of their OWN money to get the city moving again but they just don't want to.

Another problem is how the GTA's transit system are run like fiefdoms where fare integration is a non-starter, Metrolinx is accountable to no one, and the TTC and GO don't even acknowledge each other's existence. This is made much, much worse by the fact that Toronto considers transit and highways as completely incompatible and are to be run independently and not as a coordinated system. This is why Toronto has no HOV lanes but Vancouver has many huge HOV and Bus-only lanes...............because Translink is a TRANSPORTATION authority and therefore things are coordinated as such.

You are right that Toronto definately lacks vision but it is much more than that that grinding the city to a halt.
 

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