Last night (April 24), the TTC and City Planning held a public workshop at Scarborough City Hall. They presented the results of the technical analysis of what to do when the current fleet of RT cars wears out in 2015. I am not going to reprise the entire presentation, and you can look at the presentation here. Note that some of my comments here come from oral presentation and discussion, not from the document itself.
- There is a sense that anything other than a subway would make Scarborough second class. This sense of “class” is very strong in a way I find troubling for Toronto as a whole, and worse because being first class seems to be equated with spending lots of money whether it’s done wisely or not.
- The proposed networks and associated demand projections do not make any provision for the possibility of offloading downtown-bound traffic onto upgraded or new GO rail services through northern Scarborough. This is exactly the same folly that led to inflated riding estimates on the Sheppard Subway.
- Any new service east from Don Mills Station is aimed at Scarborough Town Centre rather than continuing further east on Sheppard and looping back to STC. This was discussed at a meeting last fall, but seems to have fallen off of the table.
- The front page of the foils plus some of the maps inside show a Malvern extension as an option, but none of the costings discusses the relative cost of building this extension with various technologies, let alone any other network expansion proposals.
- The LRT option assumes that the current alignment would be maintained, elevated and all, even though we all know that streetcars (oops, LRVs) don’t need to be grade separated.
- Life cycle costs are not discussed, only initial construction/conversion and annual operating costs for the end-state service design in 2031.
The SRT was originally planned to be an LRT line, but Queen’s Park had a spiffy new technology they wanted to sell in Vancouver. The BC government was suspicious of any untried scheme that Ontario wasn’t building in its own back yard. Thus the Scarborough LRT morphed into ICTS (Intermediate Capacity Transit System, later Skytrain in Vancouver and RT here in Toronto).
Ontario would conquer the world with a new transit technology, something to fill the “missing link” between buses and subways. Of course it already existed, but don’t try to confuse the boffins at the Ministry of Transportation with facts. The worldwide LRT renaissance was only getting started. Besides, we all know that the real purpose of transit projects is to generate employment for people who build them and carrying passengers at a reasonable cost is way down the priority list.
Well, even with a major rebuild of the cars, they will wear out in about 2015. New cars that will fit on the line are not available, and a small order of the existing “Mark I” cars is out of the question. There are several constraints:
- That 2015 deadline is a real killer because it forces any expenditures to fall right on top of the “mound” in the long term TTC and City budgets. It happens to co-incide with the Spadina subway extension and a possible streetcar purchase, among other things.
- The tunnel at Ellesmere under the CN and the curves into Kennedy Station are too small/tight to accommodate any new equipment and they must be replaced. The existing transfer at Kennedy to the subway takes a long time because the station seems to be designed to maximise walking distances for outbound passengers. Inbound is better providing that the escalators are working.
- The political sense in Scarborough expressed by Councillor Michael Thompson is that anything other than a subway is “second class”. This is presented in such a way that any alternative scheme faces an uphill battle.
- Subways are what people know. LRT is a complete mystery, and there is no easy, obvious example in Toronto. The TTC does a lousy job of promoting LRT themselves, and implementations to date have been ham-handed. Some of this can be laid at the feet of City Transportation who use transit projects as an excuse to “improve” roads, but the real problem is that the TTC rolls over, plays dead and lets them get away with it.
- Realistically, all we are going to hear about from Scarborough politicians between now and the November elections is subway, subway, subway. Advocating anything else doesn’t fly in an election year. Never tell people what they need to know, tell them what they want to hear and electoral victory is certain.
Alternative Implementations and Demand Projections
For the purpose of working out future demands and network impacts, the study looked at four configurations:
- The “do nothing” option with only a rebuilt and re-equipped RT.
- A Sheppard Subway extension to Victoria Park (see below) plus some form of intermediate capacity system (BRT, RT or LRT) from Kennedy up to STC with an extension into Malvern, and an intermediate capacity system from DOn Mills and Eglinton to Lawrence and Kingston Road.
- A Sheppard Subway extension to STC with an intermediate capacity system on the RT.
- Both the Sheppard and Danforth subways extended to STC.
These options raise questions about what is missing:
- The only network including the Eglinton line is option 2.
- No network includes GO Transit rail improvements to provide an alternate path for core-oriented riding.
- There is no discussion of the cost of providing improved bus service to the parts of Scarborough that are not served directly by the rapid transit lines.
These lead to the following demand projections for year 2021. Note that the current ridership in the RT corridor (RT itself plus parallel express bus service) is about 4,500 passengers per hour per direction (PPHPD), maximum.
- Base case — RT improved with new fleet and better service: 5,400
- Expanded rapid transit — small subway extension plus LRT network: 6,500
- Build both subways to STC: 7,500
Each of these estimates is projected out to 2031 by making a linear extension of the growth line from 4,500 (2005) through the respective 2021 figures to reach 2031 values. This is not a valid way to project ridership growth as it assumes that any implementation will continue to grow at a constant rate whether or not development has flattened out in the future.
For purposes of projecting requirements, the middle range is used with its 2031 demand of 8,000 maximum. This number will be high if alternative services to handle the long-haul traffic into downtown exist by that time. Surely GO Transit will solve their funding problems in 25 years!
The assumed maximum capacity affects designs in many ways. What is the headway? What is the train length? What are the implications for route extensions? Can the line tolerate grade crossings? It is critical that we know what we are aiming at and what tradeoffs we can accept.
Various technologies were considered, but all bus-based options are off of the table because they cannot come close to 8,000 PPDPH (the best case is 5,000, slightly more than the existing demand). A “streetcar” implementation comparable to Spadina/Harbourfront with service in the middle of existing streets like Brimley or Kennedy does better on capacity, but cannot compete on speed and reliability with the existing operation.
This leaves us with updated RT technology, LRT and subway. The latter’s capacity is grossly in excess of the requirement. One point not mentioned in the study, but obvious from the charts, is that we would spend something like $700-million additional for a subway over an LRT, plus an ongoing differential of around $50-million (capital and operating) in order to attract and carry an additional 1,000 to 1,500 passengers per hour, maximum, on the line, 25 years from now. With marginal costs per passenger at this level, I expect private streetcar service at my door any day now.
If the RT is replaced with a subway line, there will be only two stops: Lawrence East and Scarborough Town Centre. Neither of these will be in the present location and the Lawrence stop will move quite a distance east, possibly to Brimley and Lawrence. The new STC station would have to fit in somewhere between various buildings (many new condos are now in the way of easy north-south paths) and my guess is that the line might actually wind up closer to Brimley than the current station.
For LRT to be installed, several things must change.
- Because new cars would be low floor, the platforms have to be lowered or the tracks raised. In the TTC scheme this poses problems at stations like Midland where the platform is an integral part of the bridge structure and cannot be demolished.
- Assuming that we want to interoperate the fleet with the existing streetcar system, the line would have to be regauged to TTC gauge from standard railway gauge.
- Some strengthening of the elevated structure from Midland to McCowan is needed for the heavier trains.
- The tunnel at Ellesmere must be rebuilt to accomodate larger cars and overhead power collection.
- The interchange at Kennedy must be replaced to simplify transfer movement by passengers and to eliminate the tight curves.
Several pieces are missing.
- There is no discussion of the possibility of running at grade from the portal west of Midland through to STC rising onto an elevated only to go through a modified STC station. This affects reconstruction costs because both Midland Station and the elevated to Brimley need to be rebuilt rather than replaced with a simpler at-grade layout.
- There is no discussion of a possible Brimley Station, something for which the TTC already has a design as an add-on to the RT line. If the LRT were at grade, a Brimley Station would be easy to add to the line.
- There is no discussion of the alignment, engineering or cost of a Malvern extension.
For reference, a two-car LRT train would hold about 350 passengers. At a three-minute headway, this would have a capacity of 7,000 PPHPD. This is in the same range as the projected 2031 demand with an allowance for some diversion of traffic onto GO Transit.
Upgraded RT Implementation
In this scheme, new “Mark II” Skytrain cars would be used probably running in slightly longer trainsets that the current RT trains. Closer headways and shorter trains are an option, but only if we move to automatic operation like Vancouver. Crewing implications are not discussed as this would be a political hot potato for TTC labour relations.
For RT implementation, the following changes are needed:
- Probably some platform extensions
- A revised station at Kennedy much like that needed for an LRT option
The study is silent on the following issues:
- Will Mark II cars fit through the tunnel at Ellesmere? For some time, this question has been answered “no”, but suddenly there is no definitive comment one way or another. The cost of tunnel changes appears to be omitted in the RT option.
- What is the potential alignment, cost and impact of an RT extension to Malvern?
If anything is done in the Sheppard Corridor, it is assumed that it will terminate at STC be it BRT, LRT or subway. This would present operational problems for a merged LRT or BRT service if both entered from the west. The option of looping a Sheppard line further east and then south into STC is not examined.
This is important in the context of running a service north into Malvern because everyone doesn’t want to get to STC. They go there only because it is a transit hub where they can transfer to other services. If someone could transfer onto a Sheppard service north of the 401, they would not have to go out of their way down to STC to make a trip from northern Scarborough across the top of the city via Sheppard.
Capital and Operating Costs
You can look at the foils to see the details, but here are the important points:
- RT is the cheapest option to build from Kennedy to McCowan assuming an 8,000 PPHPD capacity. Capital costs relative to LRT are strongly influenced by the amount of existing infrastructure that an RT option can recycle. However, since costs for an extended line to Malvern are not shown, we don’t know whether we would save money now only to spend it for the extension. (Years ago, a TTC study showed that the entire line could be rebuilt as a form of LRT including a Malvern extension for less than the cost of just the RT extension, but that report had a very short shelf life. No, I don’t have a copy.)
- LRT is the next most expensive due to the reconstruction costs. As mentioned previously, this assumes retention of the elevated structure from Midland to Brimley and the continued need for passengers to go under tracks rather than across them. Both of these increase station reconstruction costs at Lawrence East and Ellesmere, and leave us with future costs of making the stations fully accessible.
- Subway costs are huge, more than double the LRT option without allowing for utility or property acquisition, and with no hope of future extension.
- There is a chart showing annual costs of operating and capital. This is not well-explained and I have to assume that the capital costs include debt service. It simply does not make sense otherwise that the total annual cost of an RT option (let alone any others) would be $50-million.
The RT replacement study is fine as far as it goes, but that’s nowhere near far enough. Its major failings, detailed earlier, leave us with a weak argument for LRT and almost no argument in the context of a wider network. Richard Soberman, the study’s director, is big on future networks and the tradeoffs we will make if we choose an expensive subway over something else, but there is nothing in his presentation to show what those tradeoffs might be.
If the TTC runs true to form, they will launch an Environmental Assessment that is strongly skewed to a subway option and will concoct some reason why looking at the larger network implications is not possible. They may prove me wrong, but I won’t be surprised if everything but subways falls off of the table.
Your observations brought back some old memories. I remember reading(and still have somewhere), all sorts of material from the 70’s about the SRT and how Scarboro wasn’t going to be treated like a “second-class”
borough using streetcars of all things. They wanted the big time subways.
I guess a lot of things really don’t change do they.
I attended the SRT meeting last Monday but didn’t have time to stay to ask a few questions. I emailed the following to the email@example.com folks. I am interested to know what your thoughts are regarding my fourth question…
1. The existing RT technology is not suitable for our climate, even if we upgrade to the Mark II cars. Accumulations of snow and ice on the electromagnetic track have shut down the RT on numerous occasions, while the city’s subways and streetcars kept moving. As such, the TTC should only consider subway or streetcar technology for the future of the SRT, as these two technologies have proven to be very reliable for many decades.
2. Dr. Soberman mentioned that if we opt to build a subway, we would lose three existing stations. Fortunately, two of the three stations are located in an area that does not warrant a rapid transit connection, or at least not two of them. Ellesmere and Midland stations are surrounded by factories, warehouses and municipal storage facilities, and there are very few people living in the immediate area. Riders could very easily be accomodated by the existing bus service on Midland and/or Ellesmere. The real drawback with a subway extension would be losing McCowan station as well as a potential Brimley station, which has been discussed as a possible addition to the existing SRT route due to the large number of condominiums and townhouses that have been built in that area.
3. I believe that the LRT/Streetcar option is actually the best solution for Scarborough as a whole, despite the fact that a subway would be far more convenient for me personally based upon where I live and work. However, I am worried that if we decide to proceed with the LRT option, we will end up receiving funds only to cover the conversion of the existing route, with no funding for an extension to Malvern for quite some time. In fact, I’m sure there will be other TTC and City priorities that would delay a Malvern extension by several decades. Quite frankly, if we will only receive funding specifically for the existing SRT corridor, with no firm commitment to build an extension in the near future, we may as well request $1.2B to build a subway.
However, if we can obtain that level of funding regardless of the technology used, then we must proceed with the LRT option. That said, will the final report include details regarding how much $1.2B will build if we use LRT technology? I’m guessing it would get us more than just an extension to Malvern.
4. If LRT technology is used as a replacement, why couldn’t we permanently close down Midland station? It’s a five minute walk (or less) from Ellesmere station, and it would result in some savings because there would be one less station that would have to be rebuilt or reconstructed. In addition, better bus connections could be designed for Ellesmere station to make it more easily accessible.
That station does not currently have a bus terminal, and riders must walk all the way out from underneath the Ellesmere bridge onto the street in order to catch connecting buses. In short, Ellesmere station should have a bus terminal similar to Lawrence E station, and combined with the passengers who would normally use Midland station, it would have far more decent usage levels.
Don’t you think that maybe a subway actually makes sense in this situation given our existing transit network? There are several strong points towards choosing a subway extension:
1) We have an existing subway line that goes from Kennedy to downtown, and a large number of people at STC who want a fast trip downtown. Instead of recreating the awkward bus-RT-subway trip path, why not extend the system that most people are going to end up on anyway? Transit will be more competitive if the trip is faster and requires less transferring.
2) Obviously the capacity is overkill based on present ridership, but don’t you think it might be worth it to spend 2 times the cost of LRT for a solution that will last 100 years instead of maxing out another 20 years from now?
Anyway, we wouldn’t wanted a subway to be near maximum capacity at the end of the line as that would mean that nobody else would be able to get on!
3) Building a subway terminus at STC will allow the TTC to improve bus routing in Scarborough. Currently both STC and Kennedy station act as major travel destinations, so some routes feed into the RT and some pass by it completely. With a station at STC, more routes can feed into that station, potentially making it easier for intra-Scarborough trips. This will have the added benefit of bringing improved service to STC, making it easier for people who work in that area to take transit instead of driving.
You are so right. When they first built the line my dad said if the technology did not catch on that the TTC would have problems when it came time to replace the cars due to the uniqueness of the line. He was right on. At the least they should have designed the curves and tunnels in such a way that they could change the technology in the future (no such luck).
I think the line shuld be converted to (LRT) street car. For the cost it is the best bang for the buck. A subway extension with one stop between Kennedy and Scarborough town centre is crazy and only spurs development where the stops are located. (Get the politics out of there) It also means the people in the area have to still hop on buses to get to the closest station. Also, if you do put in a subway, what happens to the exsisting SRT infrastructure? Do they tear down the stations? Do they tear down the elevated track? How much will that cost?
The only issue I have with the LRT is the location of the transfer point at Kennedy. Something has to be done with the config. It is a pain going up and down three levels.
A subway is far too expensive to spend for an assumed capacity of 8,000 PPHPD. I doubt even 50 years from now Scarborough would have a high enough population to support such a subway extension.
The idea of a “rapid transit” service into the STC area was to create an infrastructure for fostering sustainable development, growth, & economic vitality for Scarborough’s downtown core. The footprint of this Scarborough Centre (as defined in the new Toronto official plan) area is large – stretching from Brimley to Bellamy & Hwy.401 to Ellesmere.
By placing a subway extension to here, they are only creating 1 station stop to serve this downtown. With the amount of condos popping up here, everyone has one hell of a walk to this one subway station.
I would rather see the LRT implemented instead. At least with the current RT alignment, an LRT can still ‘cut’ through this area and allow for more station stops – Brimley (which is in the books), STC, McCowan, and perhaps even one at Bellamy.
In my opinion, this is how urban cores create vitality & character. The 1 station subway will not do this. Nor does the subway address the problem of better serving the upper northern areas of Scarborough. How does this subway stop at STC help the 30 – 40 minute bus ride to areas of Morningside Heights & Malvern for example?
Again, at least an LRT can support further expansion. The huge cost of a subway leaves everyone’s hands tied.
I’ve been following this for a while, and it’s a big mess so far. Here’s my 2 cents:
There are many options that could be used, some of which have not been covered. Scarborough needs better service than the current. This either means higher capacity on 1 line or more lines.
Some options are:
1) LRT conversion on the current route. This may/may not be helpful. As mentioned in other commentaries, at-grade operation will be more useful, and keeps in tune with the TTC’s Accessibility plan (to become 100% accessible). Letting passengers cross the LRT tracks, if at grade, will greatly improve the connections, so elevators may not be a factor at these stations.
2) Subway extension(s). The B-D subway should be extended along a new route to STC via a new Lawrence East. This will greatly increase capacity on the line, and if the platforms point north-east at STC, then an extension towards Malvern is easier, since Malvern is north-east from the STC. A Sheppard subway could run to Malvern, skipping the STC, and become integrated with the B-D subway at Malvern. This will improve service to many commuters, especially in Malvern, if they want to go to Northern Scarborough or Yonge St, or downtown.
3) A new proposal thought out could be for the LRT along Eglinton. It is already being planned, and the Kennedy interchange could be changed to eliminate the sharp curve, and instead run to the STC along Eglinton and Brimley(?), and have stops at Eglinton/Brimley, Brimley/Lawrence, Brimley/Elesmere, and curve (possibly underground, paralleling the current SRT and bus platform, somewhat imitating Kennedy) into STC. If needed, it could be extended to the current McCowan Station, emerging from the underground, and extended to Sheppard/Markham. A connection with an extended Sheppard (as discussed in 2) could complete the system. The line would be at-grade (except around the STC, where there is limited land availability). This also keeps with the TTC’s Accessibility plan, as noted in 1.
4) A combination of 1 and 3, have a “belt line” via Eglinton, McCowan to STC, then via the current SRT back to Kennedy. This allows travellers 2 lines from the STC, both with equal capacities and service levels. This, in effect, doubles the capacity of the current line, if you are travelling between Kennedy and the STC. However, this concept may be harder to implement at Kennedy station, as the current station would require major renovations. A possibility is a underground loop north of the pedestrian entrance, providing a short staircase to the subway, or bus platforms.
If ALRT is automated, then it would definately create a lot of savings and people would probably go for it if they know that it is the same thing as the Vancouver Skytrain.
Also, if interlining works well with ALRT, when the Sheppard Subway is extended to STC, you can take out the tracks in the current subway, convert it to ALRT tracks and make it interline with the SRT line so that both lines can head into Malvern.
If this proves successful, further interlining can occur in the City of Toronto, a dream that was destroyed in the 60s.
If they are to build the Eglington line for example from Spadina line to Airport. It can go underground up to the Richview Expressway corridor then easily be elevated or put on an embankment and split into a line that goes directly to the airport and another that ends at Renforth to connect to the Mississauga busway.
Keeping Standard Guage should be the future project of Toronto. If you convert all the LRT lines to Standard Guage by double-tracking so that both gauges can run in the same track, then the future will be showing lots of savings. LRT lines can be extended out across the GTA without changing gauge and paying extra for the special specs.
If the TTC keeps the existing unique guage, the system will in the future loose billions of dollars having to build tracks across the GTA in this special gauge and unique LRVs.
Just looking in from afar, it strikes me as reasonable to hope that the sheppard subway could loop to the Danforth somehow. A shame that the subway couldn’t use the cheaper SRT surface right of way from Kennedy up to Sheppard. Maybe then take LRT from subway at Ellesmere to Town Centre and beyond. If the loop doesn’t get too big, it becomes an alternative along Sheppard to getting to the east end of downtown.
RT uniqueness: Beijing has just announced that it will be purchasing for its airport line (like JFK/Newark) forty Mark II cars from the Chinese Bombardier subsidiary. Isn’t this argument a little of a stretch now? The new cars are quite like LRVs — the noise of gear shifting, side-to-side movement and box configuration of Mark I is history.
Calgary and Edmonton have LRT which supposedly gives them the ability to purchase LRVs from vendors other than Siemens who provided the original and latest high floor cars. Both cities have announced they are buying newer cars, again from Siemens from its Sacramento plant. I cannot remember any competition from Bombardier or Alstom or others, just an announcement for new cars.
Also, costs among the different technologies need to be developed for extensions to Malvern or perhaps Agincourt Go at Sheppard etc. I would argue that modest expansion of RT and LRT beyond the existing line would not be much different: the crossing of the 401 which would likely be elevated in either RT or LRT cases and a largely at-grade Agincourt extension for either LRT or RT to link a possible Sheppard Subway extension to SC. Would $150 millions extra for LRT conversion really provide good cost to benefits? I would rather see beginnings of a decent LRT network: between Victoria Park (Sheppard) and Malvern or maybe the RT/LRT extended from Ellesmere to Agincourt Go.
The three year shut-down for LRT replacement is not insignificant.
I agree that the political machinations demanding an overkill solution seem to be still burning, largely kindled by the councillor whose ward will most benefit. A network expansion comparision study is needed right away to give some sanity to this debate.
Yes, I agree that RT cannot be in a street, but it can be on the surface, like the existing RT between Kennedy and Ellesmere. Costs would not be in the magnitude of a surface LRT. It has to be fenced to prevent anything coming into contact with the third rail, of course. This might be possible for a northerly extension beside the freight rail line to Sheppard from Ellesmere Station.
Vancouver had all its lines built to handle LRVs except a section between Main and Broadway Stations. This section was upgraded for Mark II cars without significant (maybe a couple of days) shutdown. I presume that the SRT line would have been built similarly to the Vancouver “test” section. Strengthening for both Mark II cars and LRVs should be about the same. I would guess some of the diffence in cost would be overhead catenary and the tunnel deepening. The Mark II cars are about the same height has the Mark I cars, only wider and longer, requiring the curve and have a larger radius.
To respond to Sean:
“Calgary and Edmonton have LRT which supposedly gives them the ability to purchase LRVs from vendors other than Siemens who provided the original and latest high floor cars. Both cities have announced they are buying newer cars, again from Siemens from its Sacramento plant. I cannot remember any competition from Bombardier or Alstom or others, just an announcement for new cars.”
There is significant competition in the LRT market. Within the last few years, Siemens, Bombardier, Breda, CAF, and Kinki Sharyo have supplied light rail vehicles to the US. Scaramento and Pittsburgh both operate mixed fleets of Siemens and CAF cars. Those cities that have stayed with the same supplier still benefit from the competition — the fact that they could have gone with a different company forces the original supplier to submit a reasonable bid.