On December 16, the TTC will receive an update on the status of the Transit City projects. This post is a brief synopsis along with my own comments on the progress, or lack thereof, on this plan.
This is a long post, and I have placed the break here for those who don’t want to read the whole article. The Eglinton LRT is covered here including comments on the December 2009 version of the design presented at recent open houses. I will deal with the remaining lines in Part 2.
Toronto Council approved the Transit Project Assessment (TPA) Study last week. Preparatory construction work is to begin in mid-2010.
The Eglinton line is planned to open in three stages: 2016 from Eglinton West to Commerce Blvd., 2018 from Eglinton West to Kennedy, and 2020 from Commerce Blvd. to the airport.
A tug-of-war between the City/TTC and Metrolinx over the design and technology for this line appears to have been resolved, but we won’t know for sure until details are finalized. Metrolinx prefers to see Eglinton as a regional line while the City sees its local function as more important. I side with the City, and find Metrolinx’ fetish with how quickly one can reach the airport from the wilds of the eastern GTA unconvincing. If Metrolinx cared more about this function, they wouldn’t have the actual construction of the airport segment off in 2020, but would be pushing for early implementation.
Of course, that would compete with the Union Station link (aka Blue 22) the details of which are still not finalized. Obviously a frequent, TTC-fare service from Eglinton West Station (and later from Eglinton Station) would not do wonders for demand on an infrequent, premium-fare service from Union. SNC-Lavalin, the private operator for an airport link built largely with public funds, should make their money while they have a chance.
Early completion of the airport segment would also be a benefit to the Pan Am Games, but strangely we have heard nothing of this possibility. Perish the thought we might provide good airport access at a reasonable fare.
Airport access is also proposed as an extension/branch of the Finch West LRT. Council’s approval included a request that both links be studied together.
- City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission to have the Eglinton Crosstown LRT connection from Martin Grove Road to Pearson International Airport and the Etobicoke-Finch West LRT connection from Humber College to Pearson International Airport evaluated together as the Transit City Light Rail Network, and that evaluations of options include maintenance and operating costs from a network perspective as evaluation criteria.
Part of Council’s approval included specific conditions related to the ongoing debate with Metrolinx.
- City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission to expedite the implementation of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and the City Manager be requested to report to the Toronto Transit Commission on any impediments or specific issues that need to be resolved in order to eliminate delay.
- City Council direct that no specific discussion on the deferral of the construction of “any stops” will occur with Metrolinx without first consulting the local Councillor(s) well in advance of that consideration.
- City Council direct that the deferral of the construction of any stops shall not occur without the Toronto Transit Commission seeking approval of City Council.
The connection to the Mississauga BRT at Commerce Boulevard remains problematic because all transferring passengers would have to cross street traffic to reach the LRT platform. This is hardly an integrated “mobility hub” in Metrolinx parlance, and this junction needs a major rework. (See page 20 of part 1 of the display panels from the December open houses.)
A related issue for the west end of the Eglinton line is the option of side-of-road operation. The TTC is steadfastly opposed to such arrangements, but uses a catch-all argument about access to neighbouring properties that does not apply in some circumstances. Notably absent from the TPA is any design drawing that could be used to evaluate and compare centre-of-road to side-of-road schemes. This issue also affects the section between the portals east of Brentcliffe and west of Don Mills.
In a recent round of public meetings, the TTC showed the most recent version of the proposed design. Changes since the last round include:
- The left turn scheme for many intersections has been modified so that the U-turn occurs on Eglinton rather than on the intersecting street (details below).
- The route between Martin Grove and the Airport has been confirmed to go via a proposed interchange with the Mississauga/GO BRT at Commerce Drive.
- Weston Station will have a centre platform west side of the intersection. Connection to a proposed GO station east of Weston Road will require a walk of about 250m.
- The former Kodak lands will be the site of the maintenance facility for the Eglinton line, and access will be at-grade via a traffic signal. Other schemes including underground and elevated sections were rejected for cost reasons. Acquisition of the Kodak lands by purchase or expropriation has been approved by Council.
- Keele Station has moved further west to better serve York Memorial Collegiate.
- Caledonia Station’s main entrance has been moved east of the Newmarket Subdivision, and a new bus loop for the 47 Lansdowne (via Caledonia) bus will be built on the north side of Eglinton directly across the street from the old Gilbert Loop site (now a parkette). Calling this “Caledonia” station is something of a misnomer considering that Caledonia Road is three blocks east of the station, and does not even appear on the site plan.
- Bathurst Station has gained a secondary entrance at the west end of its platform at Peverill Hill.
- Chaplin Station has moved further east to eliminate any conflict with the Belt Line trail and to provide a secondary entrance at Latimer Ave.
- Avenue Road Station has moved further east and has gained a secondary entrance at Highbourne Ave.
- Yonge Station has been moved east so that it straddles the existing subway station rather than lying mainly to the west of the intersection. The connection between the two lines will be much more direct in this scheme than in the June 2009 version.
- Mt. Pleasant Station has moved further west to avoid incursion into residential sidestreets for station access, and to better serve the nominal location of the station.
- Bayview Station has moved further west and now includes a secondary entrance to Howard Talbot Park on the south side of Eglinton.
- The station serving Leaside has moved from Brentcliffe Road to Laird Drive. This places the station closer to where people actually live, rather than beside a potential future development site.
- Don Mills Station will be underground in a short tunnel. The plans show a surface centre platform for the Don Mills LRT north of the intersection as well as a bus terminal in the north-east quadrant on now-vacant land. No provision is shown for an underground link to the Don Mills LRT platform, although this would be possible from the planned link to the station entrance within the bus terminal. The real design issue here is to leave enough room in the reconfigured Don Mills Road for an LRT platform that would include access down to a passageway into the station.
- Wynford Station will be a centre platform on what is now the bridge over Wynford Drive. That street will be relocated using existing ramps so that Wynford crosses Eglinton at grade at a new intersection.
- At Warden Avenue, the original proposal for rerouting left turns has been dropped because traffic analysis showed no benefit from it. This will be a “standard” LRT intersection with farside platforms and nearside left turns.
The station spacing on Eglinton, especially from Yonge to Laird, remains an issue for the communuity. Although the TTC cites an average spacing for the underground section of 850m, the distance from Mt. Pleasant to Bayview is 1.1km, and from Bayview to Laird is 1.0km. The TTC persists in stating that no surface bus is planned along Eglinton even though this area has many seniors for whom the walk to transit will be substantially increased negating travel time benefits of the LRT. This position provokes needless opposition to the overall proposal, and shows a lack of sensitivity on the TTC’s part.
The proposed left turn scheme has been revised at many locations to replace the June 2009 right-U-turn plan with farside U-turns. Vehicles making a left turn off of Eglinton would go beyond the intersection into a left turn queue, then cross the transit right-of-way with signal control, weave to the opposite direction’s curb lane and finally turn right to their intended destination. This change makes the U-turn part of the move much less difficult because the turn includes the width of the right-of-way.
Whether the signalization for this will actually work, especially from a transit point of view, remains to be seen. The detailed traffic flow models have not yet been published, and a supplementary report to Council on the subject was not particularly illuminating.
This scheme will be used at Kipling, Islington, Royal York, Scarlett Road, Jane (see below) and Birchmount.
Other left turn arrangements include:
- The turn scheme proposed for Martin Grove has been modified to eliminate the U/right movements for turns off of Martin Grove to Eglinton. These turns would be made in the “standard” nearside manner.
- At Jane, left turns from Jane to Eglinton bothways would be made via U-turns north and south of the intersection. This is a modified version of the original scheme, and the design anticipates construction of the Jane LRT. Whether these U-turns will be practical remains to be seen. Notably, the intersection design does not appear to include widening for the Jane LRT right-of-way and platforms, and this means the whole thing will have to be torn apart again when that line is built.
- Victoria Park Station remains east of the intersection as a centre platform, but the east-to-north left turn scheme has been revised to eliminate a crossing of the LRT right-of-way. In June’s design, traffic would have turned north at Jonesville (west of Victoria Park), while in the December design, left turns will be made via three rights at Eglinton Square.
- At Pharmacy, left turns via medians will be used in all directions.
Council’s approval included the following conditions:
- City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission to provide detailed analysis on truck movements prior to the completion of the final design.
- City Council request the City Manager, in consultation with the Toronto Transit Commission, to report on a truck operations plan including appropriate highway signage, in conjunction with the detailed design for the Eglinton LRT.
Kennedy Station’s redesign is a separate project, and no report on the design alternatives is yet available.
In the June presentation, an option of using a single large 13m bored tunnel was presented as an alternative to the more conventional twin 6m tunnels. The single tunnel option has been dropped because it would make stations very deep and it would be technically challenging due to nearby building foundations and geologic conditions.
Even the twin tunnels will be challenging because both these tunnels and the box structure at stations will be designed to fit within a 23m boundary. This is required by the 26m road width on the older section of Eglinton Avenue.
Part 3 of the November presentation includes details of the construction techniques and staging. Further detailed design is required for each station site.
Current plans include construction of some of the surface alignment during summer 2010. Although the location has not been determined, this would be an excellent chance to test the workability of the left turn configuration proposed for some intersections. Better that we find out how it will work (or not) before committing to construction of this design for the entire line. (Such a test would be limited by the absence of actual LRT service, but would establish and test the scheme for road traffic.)
Finally, Council approved submission of the TPA to Queen’s Park, but with a caveat that station designs be reviewed to determine whether additional entrances could be provided in locations that now have only vent shafts.
- City Council request the Toronto Transit Commission to consider full property acquisitions for use as secondary station accesses, not solely for fire vents, where practical.
- City Council approve the Transit Project Assessment Study subject to Part 2 above being implemented in the final Environmental Project Report when submitted to the Ministry of the Environment.
This article will continue with Part 2 and the remaining lines in Transit City.