This perennial issue never goes away, at least not on my site.
First off, two comments from Aman in Calgary.
One thing I’ve always wondered: what’s the difference between running a bus in Toronto, and running a streetcar, other than the fact one runs by electric engines and runs on tracks. I always see pictures of the streetcars being stuck in traffic in the city’s downtown. The way most cities do it, is that streetcars have their own tracks running down the centre of the street. Yes this blurs the line between LRT and streetcars — just keep in mind LRTs are simply metros built on tram technology.
If Toronto could focus on moving the streetcars out of regular traffic, it could help expand the transit system, without building more subways.
Steve: The downtown streets in Toronto are generally only four lanes wide, and taking a reserved lane out of them is not ever likely to happen. However, this situation does not exist in the suburbs where there is room for streetcar/LRT operation. One big problem with advocating LRT here in Toronto is that everyone points to the downtown streetcar system as if it were the only possible way to build an LRT.
Later the same day, Aman wrote:
It’s quite interesting, that when the Tories are in power Toronto cries it’s being screwed over, and when the Grits and in power Calgary cries it’s being screwed over. For example the LRT extension from Whitehorn to McKnight-Westwinds Station, is currently being funded entirely by the Municipal Government (no federal or provincial money), and it appears that the Spandia Subway is not getting any money from the Federal Government.
The whole problem is perception. Right now Calgary is not getting any more money to extend its LRT, the Provincial and Federal Tories are not investing money in Calgary’s LRT. There was some talk of the Liberals giving some money to Calgary, but the province cried provincial jurisdiction and no money was given, and neither did the province fund the extension. But of course people perceived it as the Federal Liberals neglecting Alberta.
I’m certain perception in Ontario states that the Tories are funding all this road construction and rapid transit extension in Calgary, while giving Calgary nothing, even though it is a recent tax hike by the province combined with rising property values in Calgary which are paying for these extensions.
But the provincial government don’t want you to know that because that will hurt their chances of political survival. This is a major hurdle to for national unity in this country.
Steve: A huge problem for any sort of transit advocacy is that nobody can introduce a program and see major results in the lifespan of most governments. This completely skews the political priorities, and transit winds up being something most levels of government bat around but never quite get to paying for.
Being from Edmonton and now a proud Torontonian as well, I think the possibility of LRT in Toronto suffers greatly because of the misled notion and possible mistake on the TTC’s part back in the 1990s of referring to Spadina and Harbourfront as LRT. These aren’t true “LRTs” as they are now in most cities around North America. They are, quite simply, streetcars in their own right of way with frequent stops, but with reliable service as well.
People here seldom realize that LRT is a very effective solution to building subways, particularly in the suburbs where densities will probably never reach acceptable levels to justify subway construction, and Steve, this is where I agree with you completely RE: Spadina Subway extension. That money can build, if we follow Edmonton/Calgary’s cost of $30-million/km of “true” at-grade LRT, 67-km of new line.
The LRT in Edmonton and Calgary is their subway. Stations are spaced as far apart as they are on a subway and are fed by buses, much like the subway. They run in multiple car sets, much like a subway, and provide high capacity and high speed service. Imagine if we just took $1-billion of that Spadina Subway money and built a “true” LRT line across the top of the city in the Finch Hydro Corridor. Instantly, transit in Toronto would change.
Steve: I couldn’t agree more. One observation, however, is the importance of distinguishing between streetcar lines with a protected right-of-way but frequent stops (e.g. Spadina) and an LRT line with stops every kilometre or so. Given the city’s desire to intensify population along major suburban corridors (the “Avenues” in the Official Plan), there is a delicate balance between stop spacing and convenience to the rising population. I’m not sure one stop per km will work, except for lines running on hydro or railway corridors where feeder services are more important than walk-in traffic.
Steven de Sousa writes:
Assuming the SRT is converted to subway with a different alignment to Scarborough Town Centre, how feasible would it be to continue the B/D train up McCowan and then veer west along Sheppard, creating a similar “Y” loop to Yonge-University-Spadina.
Steve: This is technically possible provided that the extended subway enters STC from the south or the east rather than the west as it does today. If we continue to pass through STC west to east, then the loop back to Sheppard will be much longer and tips will be more circuitous. The real issue here is that the demand on both the SRT and Sheppard corridors is so far below subway levels that the scheme’s $3-billion or more cost would not look at all good compared to starting the suburban LRT network from the existing termini at Kennedy and Don Mills Stations.
You could then have a series of LRT lines, all radiating from Scarborough Town Centre.
These could include:
- LRT along Progress through to Malvern (maybe Zoo?), potentially connecting with whatever happens along the Finch corridor;
- LRT east along Ellesemere, past Centennial and U of T through to Pickering GO station;
- LRT west along Ellesmere to *sigh* Don Mills LRT or all the way to York Mills station;
- LRT south on McCowan, then west and east along Lawrence with potential terminus points at *sigh* Don Mills LRT to the west and Rouge Hill GO to the east;
- at some point down the road, there could also be an LRT north on McCowan past Steeles and into Markham.
OK, the radiating LRT lines are unlikely to happen in my lifetime and would probably require an intricate system of streetcar tunnels in and out of Scarborough Town Centre. But given that the SRT will be buried — and likely put underground — is it worth thinking about creating a “Y” loop with Sheppard and B/D? Would there be any advantage to this?
Steve: I like the network of lines, and my only problem is that we would never quite get around to building them while we await funding and completion of the subway. If we start building the LRT network now, we also avoid problems with distorting the routes so that they can all connect with a handful of subway stations.
Mimmo Braganti wrote:
I agree with everything you said, but GO can’t put more trains on its lines due to “single direction at a time” trackage and freight traffic. The other problem with GO is that Union is the centre of the universe. Maybe the best solution would be an above ground rapid transit system on the hydro corridor. It could be built at a fraction of the cost of an underground subway and still have all the speed and benefit of a subway.
With the SRT, the trains can run on 2 minute headways (that’s how quickly they run in Vancouver). That can double the current capacity, but we need a new yard to hold the trains. I think the best solution would be to build a new yard and get Bombardier to build a shorter version of the M2 cars that would run on our tracks.
Wouldn’t that be cheaper than all the other options? Why wasn’t this option costed in the various proposals?
I’m sure if TTC hinted at awarding our new subway contract to another manufacturer, it wouldn’t cost them *millions* to modify the M2. Our streetcar system requires unique cars that aren’t off-the-shelf with expensive mods, so why can’t this same concept apply to the RT? Why rebuild the line? … just build a new yard.
Steve: The GO transit problems with the single track lines are addressed in GO’s 10-year plan if only someone would fund it. One of the biggest hangups is the grade crossings with the York Subdivision (the line parallel to highway 7) as well as the arrangements at West Toronto Junction. These limit the number of trains per hour north-south across busy east-west freight lines. I’m not saying GO can do it all, but they could do a lot more and this would remove the need for the local, TTC, system attempting to carry long-haul commuters from the suburbs all the way downtown on the subway.
Union Station is a major problem. This was identfied years ago by advocates who criticised the constraints new developments would place on the rail corridor, but they were ignored. Building condos and sports arenas takes priority over long-range transit planning.
The hydro corridor is attractive, but it serves a different market — east-west travel across the top of the 416. The last thing we want is a major trunk funneling people into Finch Station and overloading the Yonge line. That’s why I’ve been advocating better north-south GO service — so that any new east-west line can serve traffic in its corridor rather than just being a collector for the subway.
With respect to the SRT, we have two problems: Kennedy Station and the tunnel at Ellesmere. Both will not accommodate a Mark-II car. Unless we were going to buy a lot of them, the cost per car for a shortened Mark-II would be very high, and RT extensions would always be burdened with small cars. Better to fix the infrastructure.
As for a new carhouse, we will need that for either an expanded RT operation or an LRT network. My feeling is that this is another case where one comparatively expensive project (the RT) would draw attention away from what could be done with a more ambitious LRT network scheme.
Andrew Sullivan writes:
You note, “Even on Spadina, we had huge fights because the number of parking spaces and the practice of double and triple parking for deliveries would be reduced with the LRT construction.” It seems to me, though, that Spadina is a great example of how these things can fail. Spadina is now just plain _too fast_.
You can’t walk across it, and you used to be able to. I find it unfriendly and unpleasant to be on, and it didn’t used to be. We seem to have managed to build the worst of all worlds there. If that’s what we mean by dedicated right of ways, please let’s don’t do that.
Indeed, as you say, “Transit service is not just a question of running capacity past a location, it’s also a matter of convenience.” That means being able to walk around the place, not get past it as fast as possible. Not that the dedicated ROW on Spadina gets you there fast: you have to wait for the fourth car in what amounts to a train anyway.
Steve: I don’t agree about being unable to J-walk across Spadina as I do it fairly regularly, but I know what you mean. At some point we have to ask whether a “good” road is one where the traffic is so fouled up that pedestrians can expect to walk across eight lanes of traffic anywhere they please.
This is also related to why the idea of a one- or two-station subway extension in Scarborough is such a bad idea. Taking the subway downtown, with the relatively short runs between stations, is pleasant and desirable. But I hate taking it to my offices at York Mills, because once I get there there’s nothing around. If you’re going to build for density, build it for heaven’s sake.
Steve: Yes, we have a bad habit of saying we will build density, but not actually doing it. The main point of the Yonge extension, of course, was to connect Mel Lastman’s centre of the universe and the burgeoning lands to the north to downtown. The area at York Mills station is very sad. Pedestrian unfriendly, and one of the worst-designed GO terminals I can think of.
As to local policy, Mr. Sorbara reaffirmed his support for the proposed Vaughan extension of the Spadina subway line north from Toronto.
“For the people who live in York Region, transit, gridlock and congestion are the things we’re all thinking about every day,” he said.
“We’re determined that subway gets completed as soon as possible.”
It seems that Spadina Subway will be extended, so perhaps it would make sense to try to optimize it as much as possible. The Sheppard West / CN Go Station could be dropped. City Hall could plead poverty so that the line is extended just to York University with two stations. That would be the extent of the provincial funds and possibly federal if any are to be found.
Steve: Sheppard West Station is a huge joke. It exists because planners see two lines crossing on a map (GO and the subway) and say “we must have a station”. Even the EA report says that this station will have miniscule usage and absolutely no walk-in traffic. Of course, if the Pope or the Stones ever come back to Downsview Park, there will be a subway station.
Andrew McKinnon writes:
As far as I’m concerned, the subway should end at Steeles, since the traffic beyond York University is too low to justify subway construction. After all, remember that the so-called “Vaughan City Centre” does not currently exist; it is a pipe dream of developers who want to profit from their land holdings there.
As far as I’m concerned, York Region and the Finch/Steeles corridor have sufficient ridership to justify a busway or LRT, but insufficient ridership to justify a vastly more expensive subway.
As for the Scarborough RT, there has proven high ridership between Kennedy and Scarborough Centre. Since the use of McCowan and the intermediate stations as low, there is no need to keep them all. Therefore, to increase capacity and eliminate transfers at Kennedy, the Bloor subway extension should be built. Beyond that, only busways or LRT may be justified.
Steve: A couple of points. First, Lawrence East gets decent usage and has some high density development nearby. A stop at Lawrence (although not necessarily on the current site) should be maintained by whatever replaces the RT.
The issue of saving time always focuses on the transfer at Kennedy, but everyone seems to miss the issue of the transfer at and roundabout bus routes to STC. If we build an LRT network, we could have direct service from Malvern to Kennedy Station. When we talk about saving trip time, we have to look at all of the potential riders, not just the ones on the line under study.
David Cavlovic writes:
My question is : how do we go about suing political incompetents such as megla-Mel-maniac Lastman, and even Mike “the malicious” Harris. We want our money back. We want decent, sensible, useable public transit. What we’ve got is….well, insert swear words here!
Steve: I suggest that you start with a large pot and some wood. Chop up carrots, onions, potatoes, garlic and season to taste. Send out engraved dinner invitations.
I wonder, with Toronto being the NIMBY capital, if it would even be possible to tunnel an LRT under Eglinton Ave in North Toronto/Forrest Hill. Remember: the Village of Forrest Hill balked at something as simplistic as trolley bus wires along THEIR stretch of Eglinton Ave, resulting, of course, in the permanent isolation of trolley bus service in North Toronto from the rest of the system.
Steve: Ah yes, that little bit of overhead that ran west of Avenue Road on Eglinton but was never used. The good burghers of Forest Hill will be kept happy by stations at Avenue Road and Spadina, and lots of noise isolation in the tunnels.
Tom B. writes:
Not sure if this is the area for general comments, but I do have one. Is the idea of another east-west subway line downtown TRULY dead? I read somewhere that EACH the Queen and King cars get over 60,000 riders a day, which would, as a corridor, seem to just subway construction (certainly a heck of a lot more riders than the Spadina subway extension fiasco…). Am I the only person who thinks that subways should be built in dense older parts of cities where narrow streets and higher densities make reserved ROWs etc impossible?
In addition, a Richmond-Queen subway would have operational efficiencies, replacing streetcar service on Queen and possibly King, and allow for an eventual looping up across to Eglinton, creating a London or Moscow type “circle line” that would connect virtually all pre WW2 neighbourhoods by higher-order transit. I know this would cost countless billions, but doesn’t it make more sense to build subways where they HAVE to be underground, and will actually get used?
Steve: The most recently published numbers (now a few years out of date) have Queen, King, Downtowner and Kingston Road combined at about 96,000 per day. This is down from the days when your quoted 60K number was current thanks mainly due to service cuts and quality problems on Queen. A big issue with any subway would be the number of and access to subway stations.
Look at the way King West is developing (and Queen will soon follow). Because the streetcar stops are close together, developers can build along the entire street rather than only at intersections. If a King/Queen line were built like Sheppard, we would have stops at Yonge, University, Bathurst (Spadina might be a candidate now, but it wouldn’t have been a decade ago), Dufferin, maybe Lansdowne (but I doubt it), and Roncesvalles. To the east, we would have something between Yonge and the Don River, but I’m not sure where, likely Parliament. Then Broadview, Pape or Jones (but not both), and Coxwell.
Although a Richmond/Adelaide alignment would be conceivable downtown, it would not work west of Bathurst. People living on whichever street didn’t have a subway (King or Queen) would have to walk to the other major street and then to a station.
This is the basic problem with subway lines. We don’t (and can’t afford) to build them with stations close together, and people who don’t live at a station are disserviced. Right now, there are howls from the people living on Sheppard west of Don Mills who have lost their frequent local bus service. Try telling someone that they have a subway when what they depend now on only runs every 20 or 30 minutes.
As for Eglinton, this would make a good LRT subway between Leaside and Weston with surface operations on the remainder. It could connect with a line up the Weston corridor, another up Don Mills and of course Kennedy Station. Will it ever be built? I doubt it, because none of them is on any of the maps that were first drawn on cave walls and still are used by professional planners and politicians.