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$100K TTC satisfaction guide slams streetcars

Posted by Aubrey Jax / February 21, 2014

TTC satisfaction surveyThe results of a $100K TTC phone survey of riders is in, and streetcars aren't winning any popularity contests. Rider satisfaction for streetcar users sits at 65%, which represents at 13% drop from last year. Buses, on the other hand, hover at 75% rating, while subways come in at 72%. Torontonians also take almost 10% less "pride" in the TTC if they're regular users of its streetcars compared to riders lining up for buses (subway rider's pride is up 3%), which is curious given their iconic status and the fact that service levels haven't actually changed since the last survey. Perhaps riders got fed up with the old models when the fancy new ones were revealed?

The survey also rates satisfaction in TTC staff's availability for help in the subway at around 50%, cleanliness around 76%, and length of wait times at 78% (cleanliness ratings dip to 71% on bus and streetcar). The TTC's chief customer officere Chris Upfold didn't seem too worried about the streetcar's bad rep when he talked to The Star, though - he's looking forward to our smiling faces when the new air conditioned cars roll out - on August 31st. At the end of summer. On Spadina. Keep reaching for that rainbow, I guess.

You can read the full customer satisfaction report here. Was it worth the 100K? Does this line up with your own TTC experiences?

Photo by Tom Ryaboi



Elysium / February 21, 2014 at 11:43 am
Of course this is true, currently...

Try squishing into one of the curent streetcars on King St, in 40C summerweather. Complete oven.

Once the new streetcars are on the road (air conditioning) they will be far more bearable.
Dad of Six / February 21, 2014 at 11:45 am
I'm just going to ride my ebike.
Steven / February 21, 2014 at 11:50 am
Wish streetcars would all be replaced with subways.
Jordan / February 21, 2014 at 11:53 am
Phone survey of riders? I've a feeling they just randomly called up folks in the city - and probably wasted 100k doing it. Seriously - when buses outweigh - well, any other form of transit - you know something is up.
Stacey / February 21, 2014 at 11:57 am
Tourists like the streetcars but not residents of TO. Only thing good about TTC is the Museum station platform and new queens park entrance.
Shawn / February 21, 2014 at 12:33 pm
I'd be shocked if ANY regular user of the Queen or King streetcar is remotely satisfied. And the College streetcar isn't that much better.
KG / February 21, 2014 at 12:33 pm
Museum Station looks like an oversized touristy gift shop.

Lakc of air conditioning on the current cars and poor line management make the service less than appealing. Ask riders about the Dufferin and Bathurst buses and they won't score too high either. Unreliable service frustrates people to no end. Then again, the subway hasn't been that stellar in that department either, notice it doesn't score much better than streetcars.
dan / February 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm
I do my daily commute by the St. Clair streetcar and I'm highly satisfied with the service. Of course, it runs in a right-of-way. Did the researchers parse out the results by route? Curious how St. Clair and Spadina users compare to mixed-traffic users.
Jeff / February 21, 2014 at 12:51 pm
"Service levels haven't actually changed"--- that's the problem. Demand has increased; crowding has worsened, but service levels haven't increasedd
Philip Cass / February 21, 2014 at 01:07 pm
I only use the TTC in the winter, E-bike to work the other time. Door to door, no parking fees, no waiting and not feel'n like a sardine!!
NotThatDave replying to a comment from Stacey / February 21, 2014 at 01:08 pm
It was the CITIZENS of Toronto who voted to keep the streetcars back a few years ago. Get back under your bridge.
canuckone / February 21, 2014 at 01:19 pm
$100K TTC phone survey???

Total waste of our money.
StreetcarsSuck replying to a comment from Stacey / February 21, 2014 at 01:26 pm
Stacey know's what's up. Spot on.
Krectus / February 21, 2014 at 01:26 pm
Anyone near the 510 is not surprised at all by this. The drop can probably be mostly related to the clusterfuck of construction all last year and that continues to shut down the bottom half of it.
W. K. Lis replying to a comment from Stacey / February 21, 2014 at 01:34 pm
As a resident of Toronto, I like the streetcars better than buses. However, I wish we could have the new streetcars sooner than later. (And more streetcars in numbers.)
ya / February 21, 2014 at 01:51 pm
i take streetcar every day and have no real issues with it whatsoever.

its transit. you take the good with the bad. and outside of some ill timed short turns or the odd overcrowded car, its fine.
flummoxed / February 21, 2014 at 01:52 pm
This year has been the first in which I've had to commute primarily by streetcar.

It's been a disaster. I can't believe that people are expected to rely on them for anything serious, including getting to work on time.

It's the usual sort of complaint - they arrive in groups of twos and threes or not at all. I routinely wait 20+ minutes for a streetcar that is scheduled to arrive every 5 to 7 minutes.

I'm not sure if this is how it's always been or this is the consequence of a particularly bad winter, but I've spent more than a few days waiting 30 to 40 minutes in -20 windchill to hate them.

I'm not sure why their relatively greater capacity matters when they don't arrive in a timely way. I'm also not sure why an option that performs poorly in the winter was chosen for a city that has long and bad winters.
Marc replying to a comment from dan / February 21, 2014 at 02:31 pm
Agreed, the St Clair ROW is super-duper. It breaks down, but so does the subway.

Spadina ROW is more of a nightmare though - it ALWAYS gets stopped at lights.
E. Toby Coke / February 21, 2014 at 02:50 pm
No surprise here.

I was a big streetcar supporter until my life got complicated (kids) and I started needing to be places on time.

Subways, LRTs, and buses (electric trolley, if that's your thing) are the only way to go.
CW replying to a comment from flummoxed / February 21, 2014 at 03:47 pm

If you have a smartphone I suggest download one of the many apps such as Rocket Man.

If you don't have a smartphone, but have a computer, use the basic Nextbus website before leaving home.

They don't help with short turns but at least if they say the next vehicle will be 30 minutes you can bet it won't come earlier. That's been my experience in non-rush hour traffic and at least given me the info to decide whether to use a different route or not.
rivie / February 21, 2014 at 03:59 pm
is it safe to say the complaints about streetcars are coming from car drivers? Me and most people I know agree that the best form of transportation in the city is streetcars hands down
tommy / February 21, 2014 at 04:11 pm
Surveys like this reek of MBA-PMP- bullshit. They tote the 'if you can't measure it, you can't manage it' mantra using these mystery studies and numbers without looking at details. Most of the numbers are flat line and can barely be used to justify changes. No one is surprised by the results, any rider would say the same thing.

If the TTC is serious about improving things they need to directly engage with actual riders in the system (no telephone BS), work on improving the little things (riders are notoriously picky), request/listen/act-on driver route complaints and start riding the system themselves. The TTC should have their managers do ride-alongs on all routes, at different points in the day, anonymously, to pick out pain points.
Ford Wackoooo! / February 21, 2014 at 04:55 pm
Transit is for loooosers! Except subways. So, if you want to be a loooooser, take transit! Loooosers looose, so go lose, losers!
W. K. Lis / February 21, 2014 at 05:16 pm
The new production streetcars are scheduled to be on 510 Spadina starting by the end of August, 2014. I would like to see the new streetcars run "express", without pickups or dropoffs between the Exhibition and the subway stations, during the CNE.
realityCheck / February 21, 2014 at 05:48 pm
Not surprised at all by the findings of this survey. The bottom line is that while there is a strong vocal minority who LOVE streetcars, there voice (on this site and elsewhere) is WAYYY out of proportion to their numbers. I'm not against streetcars, but the service on most routes is slow (even when you are on it) and you stand a good chance of being short turned. The routes with their own ROW are somewhat better, but not by much (last time I was on StClair the trip from Keele to StClair West took 25 minutes). Few people will say anything about streetcars because the backlash from the very vocal streetcar advocates can be quite intense. However, I will point out that former TTC GM Dave Gunn (perhaps the most widely respected TTC Boss of the last 50 years) authored a report on TTC operations in 2011 in which he flatly stated that the new streetcar purchase was a HUGE waste of money ... and that the same level of service could have been provided at about 1/5-1/10th the cost using articulated buses.He also addressed the fallacy that steetcar operations are cheaper than bus operations per passenger -- something which is only true if you don't factor in the costs of track repairs, which in Toronto seem to happen every few years. Now, I know the WKLis and Iskyscrapers of this site will likely jump on me for pointing this out... but I think Gunn's credibility (if not mine) on these issues is a lot stronger than theirs.
Spike replying to a comment from StreetcarsSuck / February 21, 2014 at 05:57 pm
Like you, Stacey only knows about what comes out of her nether regions (along with the whiny, overindulged tetchy people consulted for this survey) and that's it. And rivie's nailed it.

@W. K. Lis; what about the people who live on Bathurst that have to use the streetcar as well? And what if those people aren't going to the Ex?

As for the Ex, it's time for it to die anyway, as was suggested a few years ago:
Spike replying to a comment from StreetcarsSuck / February 21, 2014 at 05:57 pm
Like you, Stacey only knows about what comes out of her nether regions (along with the whiny, overindulged tetchy people consulted for this survey) and that's it. And rivie's nailed it.

@W. K. Lis; what about the people who live on Bathurst that have to use the streetcar as well? And what if those people aren't going to the Ex?

As for the Ex, it's time for it to die anyway, as was suggested a few years ago:
Nisi replying to a comment from dan / February 21, 2014 at 06:07 pm
I take the St. Clair streetcar every day too and I mostly like it - but I absolutely *hate* that they short-turn it at St. Clair West so regularly.

I have to go to Yonge and about 1/2 the time I'm shuffled off of one just to wait for the next one.

I don't understand why they can't get their act together and just name some as having the St. Clair West terminal from the outset so I won't get on it.
Luke / February 21, 2014 at 06:21 pm
I love streetcars!
Greg Hannah / February 21, 2014 at 06:28 pm
Toronto's streetcars are iconic. The problem is gridlock and streetcars moving slowly, and most importantly, "bunching". The new fleet will work out the bunching problem. Hopefully the King car will eventually be replaced with the Downtown Relief Line (DRL), but never - ever take away the Queen, College/Carlton/Gerrard or the St. Clair/Spadina cars with dedicated lanes! What a great way to see and get around the city, as a resident or as a tourist.
Pluckysod / February 21, 2014 at 06:43 pm
Love streetcars, and so would everyone who uses them if only the City would ban cars and trucks from their routes. It's not going to happen, I know, but every complaint about streetcars bunching or running slow is actually a complaint about cars and trucks clogging up the streets.
linden / February 21, 2014 at 06:49 pm
I don't understand how people, who use TTC daily, can say bus is better than a street car.Street cars accommodate more people and are safer. I find the buses are speeding; once I fell and hit myself very bad because the bus came to a sudden stop, after driving at a high speed. I can understand packed streetcar is not a pleasant experience but the same goes for a packed bus, not to mention all these inconsiderate people who does not care to step back and crowd the front door; and thus allowing less people on the bus compare to the street car.
patchris / February 21, 2014 at 07:37 pm
I zoom past streetcars on my bike. And I don't have to pay. And it takes me door to door.
Genevieve / February 21, 2014 at 07:52 pm
This may be the survey that I was called for a while ago. I said I was satisfied with streetcars.

The headline and article might be misleading. Did the survey ask if the people disliked streetcars, or the level of service that the TTC is giving on streetcar routes right now? Do they dislike the vehicle or the fact that they are often on congested streets with lots of cars and not enough streetcars?
andrewS replying to a comment from realityCheck / February 21, 2014 at 08:04 pm
1/10 to 1/15 the cost? An Artic bus costs a bit less than a million bucks, a streetcar six. If you have a 10km line with 10 streetcars on it, you have a total cost of about 80m for track and 60m for rolling stock, 140m total. The equivalent bus line needs twice as many vehicles for equivalent capacity, and they last half as long so you need 40 buses for equivalent capacity/lifespan. Don't get me wrong, 40m is a MUCH smaller number than 140m, but not 1/10.

However, optimistically speaking, you need 1.5 FTE for each extra bus for those times when capacity, not minimum interval, drives fleet usage. Those 20 extra buses need 30 drivers, at 100k pay + benefits + pension, that's 3 million bucks a year. Over the 30 years? 90 million bucks extra labour costs. Counting that out, you're much closer to cost equivalence. Team Bus is ahead by about 10 mil.

Then there is fuel. A bus gets around 3mpg, or 1km/L, or about 15 litres worth 18 dollars, each hour. A streetcar with 300KW motors running at 30% duty cycles uses at most 100KwH worth maybe 10 bucks. For 10 streetcars running 130 hours a week, you're at 1300 service hours per week, which works out to about 700k. The buses? 10 run 130 hours a week, 10 more 100/wk, 20 more for rush hours (50 more) so 1300+1000+1000 = 3300 service hours, or 3 million a year.

Add another 60 mil to the cost differential ... now streetcars are more cost effective.

Frankly, the popularity argument doesn't hold water either. The difference between 65% and 72% is barely beyond margin of error, it's really only a trivial difference. Do the poll again and those numbers will change almost as much as the difference between them.
Moaz Ahmad / February 21, 2014 at 10:26 pm
Of course people don't like streetcars. Look at the way the TTC is running them (like oversized bus-tanks). Frankly I'm not even sure if the TTC likes streetcars. And let's not forget why the CLRVs (and ALRVs) look like tanks ... they were designed to run at speeds up to 90km/h on 'LRT lines' ... the first of which would have been the Scarborough RT route.
Not Impressed / February 22, 2014 at 06:28 am
Seriously this outdated mode of transportation is nothing but a waist. TTC has spent billions of dollars on new tracks disrupting and destroying many businesses in the wake. What is wrong with these people, do they not look at what other cities are doing?

Streetcars have no value in this city other than possible keeping the King line so people can take a ride thru the past. Unless you are into traffic jams and always being late!

That money would have been better spent on eco busses and mini eco busses for those slower times that a full size bus is not necessary.

In this persons eye the TTC is a joke that is out of control making it the most expensive and least reliable transit system in the world.
E. Toby Coke replying to a comment from andrewS / February 22, 2014 at 06:52 am
@andrewS: why did you leave the cost of track and overhead wire out of your comparison?
greenmeansgo / February 22, 2014 at 10:01 am
Streetcars belong in the 1800's. TTC is the enemy of small business anyone driving and taxpayers in general . People should be more outraged at their spending. Some things should be left in the past. Great cities create new icons.
andrewS replying to a comment from E. Toby Coke / February 22, 2014 at 12:29 pm
@E tobycoke

I included tracks/overhead in my hypothetical 10km line - 80m out of the total 140m capital cost. The track is not actually particularly expensive, it tends to get wrapped up in bigger reconstruction projects that would be quite expensive on their own. In total the fixed infrastructure is indeed somewhere in the high single digit millions per km.

eg - the Sheppard East LRT is about a billion dollars for 14 km - but included in that is a couple hundred million for the underground terminal/tunneling under the DVP, a hundred million in yard costs, tens of millions in road widening, the actual LRT costs are 30-40m/km or so. The difference is primarily in that they're building complex stations (not seen on streetcar routes) and buying more rolling than my hypothetical example allows, plus there will be an interchange of some sort with whatever becomes of the SRT.
stopitman replying to a comment from greenmeansgo / February 22, 2014 at 01:24 pm
@greenmeansgo - I'd say cars and the massive government subsidy that supports are the enemy of small business and taxpayers in general. Cars have shown and continue to show on a daily basis how incredibly inefficient they are at moving people and goods all at extreme cost to the government through huge road subsidy, water/wastewater, and general service subsidies so that suburbs can exist.

If we did replace streetcars with buses, like some people suggest, you would have to run more buses than streetcars currently run. What would that mean? More traffic (doubling of transit traffic) and more bunching. Anyone here who thinks that streetcars or LRT are dead have their heads up their asses.

I should also note before someone suggests otherwise - I was born and raised in the "outer suburbs" of the GTA and am fairly capitalist (enough to scare the shit out of most fiscally "responsible" people), which is why I don't support massively subsidised highways and cities.
realityCheck / February 22, 2014 at 03:08 pm
@Andrew... Sorry if I consider Gunn's analysis to have more credibility than yours in terms of costs related to bus vs. streetcar operation. As with most streetcar advocates, your analysis seems to exclude any costs related to track repairs maintenance, which as most people are aware are not inconsiderable. Also, Gunn's analysis included costs related to storage and maintenance of the vehicle (not just the operation of the vehicle)...and referenced the need for the new facilities required to HOUSE the new streetcars. Once again, I am not against streetcars -- on spadina, they work well I think and they do have a certain charm. I'd also think they'd be more practical along King and Queen if those streets were one way. But the argument that they are less costly to operate is bogus and simply leaves out costs that streetcar advocates consider inconvenient. On a closing note, I'll mention that Gunn's report also highlighted the flexibility of buses... vs. the bottlenecks and problems created by streetcars when they are rendered inoperable.
squeakcarz / February 22, 2014 at 05:18 pm
whenever streetcars are not running and replaced by buses, i am surprised how much faster it is to get around. actually, i am not that surprised. it is also hilarious when a streetcar runs over a car, because they cant stop fast enough when someone cuts them off. also, if you are 3 streetcars behind that one, you are still screwed because its gonna be a while before that mess gets cleaned up. the new ones don't seem to have a car plow on them...not sure if they will stay pretty very long.
floo replying to a comment from Stacey / February 22, 2014 at 08:31 pm
Love streetcars - mostly. Wish the service was more reliable and more frequent (less overcrowding). That's about it. Travelling by streetcar feels more civilized than a subway to be honest. It's a happier experience.
idleatgreen / February 23, 2014 at 04:05 am
@stopitman Streetcars cant manouver. Case closed. They cause pollution because they cause traffic.ifyou drive a car you know what it.s like having to stop for them and wait for pedestrians to get on everyone forced to idle on green. They are a traggic nightmare waste of time its a big city and a fast paced world that needs cars you cant force everyone to rely on public transit esp when its as unreliable and slow as the ttc can be. You wanna move more people more efficiently? I.d favor double decker busses over the dinosaur streetcar.
tommy replying to a comment from realityCheck / February 24, 2014 at 04:18 pm
Streetcars are the enemy of small business?! How about you take a look at all the main thoroughfares with streetcar routes - they're LINED with small businesses. Streetcars cement a permanence and connection to the community, which fosters pedestrians who shop along the route.

This sounds like flowery language, but take a look at the Danforth, past Greek town. Once upon a time this was a flourishing area with shops and community - then the subway came. They ripped out the Danforth streetcar route, and with it the comings-and-goings of residents in the area. The area is a ghost town now with empty store fronts and crumbling buildings.
realityCheck / February 26, 2014 at 04:40 pm
@Tommy @Tommy, Please not IT WAS NOT ME who said that streetcars are the death of small business. However, let me respond to your claim that the removal of streetcar service (when the subway was put in) was devastating for businesses in the eastern part of the Danforth. Streetcar removal may or may not have been a factor BUT I would suggest that it cannot be the primary reason. Why? Because while the businesses on that stretch of Danforth have seen better days, it is also true that other sections along the Bloor Danforth line are positively booming (the nearby Greek Town, etc.) and those sections also lost their streetcar service. Also, there are various sections of retail space along streetcar routes where for a variety of factors (low density, proximity of big box retailers, changing shopping habits, even absence of parking), retailers are unable to thrive (one can find examples along College, Dundas, Queen, King, even St. Clair). Th poor health of businesses in the area you are talking about, in my view, has more to do with significant drop in density that has occurred in that area since gentrification got underway 20 years. The area used to be solidly working class, with more individuals per house, many of whom shopped locally, and in fact tended to walk to the shops (rather than use the streetcars). Many of those homes that might have once housed six people is now home to two, and sometimes even less. (PS. While I would never say that streetcars are the enemy of small business, THERE ARE many retailers along various streetcar routes who resent the frequency of TTC streetcar track maintenance and claim that it has had very negative consequences for their businesses. Along College and Dundas, work seems to be taking place every 3 years.)
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