Recent discussion about the Downtown Relief Line study and its Terms of Reference sent me back to the TTC’s Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study (DTRES) published last year for a look at the demand projections.
What I found there was rather troubling.
The TTC looked at three scenarios to model future shortfall in network capacity by 2031:
- The existing TTC and GO networks
- An enhanced “reference network” with improved subway and GO service
- The reference network plus the Yonge extension north from Finch to Richmond Hill
The demand model outputs appear in three separate tables within that study, but it is not until we consolidate the information that some anomalies really jump out.
There are four sets of numbers in this table with columns corresponding to the three model networks.
- Capacity: This gives the capacity of each route based on service levels and train lengths.
- Inbound demand: This is the modeled demand on the network.
- V/C: This is the ratio of demand to capacity. A value near to or greater than 1.0 indicates that the line will be over capacity during at least part of the peak period.
- Inbound deficiency: Where the capacity is lower than the demand, this is the magnitude of the shortfall.
The capacity of the reference network is about 50% greater than the existing one. Note that for the northern GO services, ten-car trains are assumed although 20% could be added to the capacity with 12-car trains on the same presumed schedules. (The model also considered the east-west GO services and their effect in draining trips off of the BD subway that would otherwise contribute to demand south of Bloor Station.)
The modeled demand is also about 50% greater than the demand that the model assigns to the “existing” network configuration. This shows the modeled effect of increased transit service on network demand. However, this also begs the question of where those trips would be if the TTC and GO improvements did not take place. An obvious useful addition to the discussion would be the added road trips, or the trips simply not taken because there was no network capacity to handle them.
The big surprise is that there is almost no difference between the total demand with or without the Richmond Hill extension. Indeed, most changes are re-assignments of trips from GO lines and the University subway in the “reference” network to the Yonge subway in the “reference + YSE” network.
Route Without YSE With YSE
University Subway 25,100 23,500
Yonge S of Bloor 35,800 39,400
Barrie GO 7,500 7,400
Richmond Hill GO 2,500 2,200
Stouffville GO 8,600 8,000
Total 79,500 80,500
Why would we spend billions of dollars building a subway to Richmond Hill to carry no more total riders on the network than we do without it?
There are two obvious responses to this question:
- Some of the new trips have destinations at or north of Bloor Street and therefore they do not contribute to the count of riders into the core area.
- In the model’s world, the subway extension does not attract any net new trips beyond what would occur simply with better service on the subway to Finch and enhanced GO services (i.e. with the reference network).
This is a rather strange situation considering that the holdup on building the Richmond Hill extension arose from the claim that it would overload the Yonge line. However, in the model, it does this primarily by attracting trips that would otherwise have been on GO or on the extended University subway.
(At this point, I have to wonder whether a similar methodology produced the inflated ridership projections for the Scarborough Subway, but that is another matter.)
The model shows very low ridership on the Richmond Hill line. Indeed, the greatest number of riders (2,900) is obtained with the “existing” network and the value falls even though GO service is improved in the “reference” and “reference + YSE” networks. This implies that the model prefers to assign trips to the “faster” Yonge subway especially when it goes all the way north to Richmond Hill.
On the BD line, although an increased capacity is included in the model (about 27%), ridership only goes up in the section east of Yonge. This implies either that demand from the west is static (difficult to believe) or that it is going somewhere else in the model. Where? Is growth assigned mainly to GO because it competes well with the subway for traffic in Mississauga while to the east Scarborough is poorly served by GO?
There is no question that Toronto needs more capacity into the core area, but the modeled numbers in the DTRES are suspect. If anything, they may understate the problem and the potential benefits of alternatives to stuffing more riders onto the Yonge subway.
The TTC has a long history of downplaying the need for anything beyond Yonge subway capacity expansion (more trains, new signals, bigger stations) to the detriment of long-term planning for better GO service and new TTC subway or LRT services. For many years, all we heard about from TTC was the need for a Richmond Hill subway. Any other project was cold-shouldered because it threatened that favoured scheme. Only when capacity problems could not be ignored did the TTC turn to the “DRL” as a possible solution.
Toronto has been ill-served by this blinkered planning, and coming studies on the future of the transit network (without regard to the paint scheme on the vehicles) must be based on a fair and accurate assessment of how new and improved services will contribute to moving passengers and limiting the growth of congestion in Toronto.