Reader Comments: Streetcars, LRT and Subways

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.

Laurence wrote:

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.

Sean writes:

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.

14 thoughts on “Reader Comments: Streetcars, LRT and Subways

  1. I agree that a LRT system in the suburban parts of Toronto would be ideal.  However, we cannot expect a LRT system to be ideal is all situation.  I did some informal tests on the Spadina LRT since it is the best example of LRT in Toronto.  It takes me about 14 minutes to go from Front St to Spadina station at 11:00 AM on a weekday.  During rush hour with people marching single file past the driver, the same ride took a whopping 22 minutes.

    Steve:  Actually, the best example of LRT in Toronto is on the Queensway south of High Park, and it has been there for 40 years.  It’s not glamourous, but it works.  However, it suffers from the same problems as Spadina with stop service times and traffic lights, just less of both.

    As you mention, one big problem on Spadina is the pay-as-you-enter fare collection.  This is the single largest cause of delay to transit vehicles all over the city.  TTC management are dead set against alternatives, and the POP (proof of payment) system on Queen has been allowed to die a slow death.  Only when we move to low floor vehicles where passengers do not pass by the driver to enter the cars will we finally break free of this antique method of fare collection and its delays.

    What irritates me the most is the fact that LRT system in Toronto must stop for traffic lights.  Every single traffic light on Spadina seems to have a U Turn signal attach to it.

    Steve:  This is a fault of the City’s Works Department and the TTC who refuses to fight them on the issue.  Streetcars were supposed to have priority when the line was built, buy it has never been activated.  This is a failure of bureaucracy and a choice that transit really doesn’t come first, not of LRT per se.  Any technology running on the street on Spadina has to put up with the fact that it’s a very busy street, there is lots of pedestrian activity, and many intersections.  The problem we have is that we are still favouring non-transit traffic in our supposedly “transit city”. 

    An ICTS system would never have such a problem since it is segregated from traffic.

    Steve:  But an elevated on Spadina would be a huge eyesore and the stations would be a blight on intersections like Dundas or Queen.  It would be even worse on a narrow street where the structure would block out light from the street below.

    In addition, the Interflo controller on the ICTS ensure that acceleration and braking are smooth whereas drinking hot coffee on a LRT is not very smart. 

    Steve:  We don’t spend a fortune on transit technology just to avoid spilling coffee.  Nothing prevents LRT from being smooth except the prevailing traffic and pedestrian conditions, and the style of the driver. 

    Another good quality that the ICTS is the speed.  The Spadina LRT cannot seem to go beyond 30km/h in speed.  The Scarborough RT easily hits 70 km/h while the one in Beijing operates at 100 km/h.  For a trunk line that operatest between Kennedy to Scarborough Center and even possibly Malvern, ICTS is a much better technology.

    Steve:  The CLRVs can run at 80 km/h, but with close station spacing, there is no point in accelerating to that speed on Spadina.  There is a “high rate” switch on those cars that allows them to go up to about 110 km/h.  When the cars were on trial in Boston, this was never used because the Riverside line has an 80 km/h speed restriction.

    The top speed of any transit technology is determined by the station spacing.  There is no point in having a vehicle that can run swiftly if it has to stop before it gets up to speed.  That’s why streetcar designs tend to have top speeds of 80 km/h at most, and streetcar lines rarely get to that speed because conflicting traffic and frequent stops prevent it.

    An LRT-based line on the RT would run at the same speed as the ICTS because the stops would be far apart, and the right-of-way would be isolated from potential conflicts.

    I have been on many tram systems around the world especially the ones in Japan.  They are master at fitting tram systems in the narrowest streets.  Steve, if you have time, please take a look at the tram system in Enoshima.  It has all the features that would make it ideal for Scarborough and the Finch corridor projects.  It is over 80% isolated from traffic.  When it crosses a road, a barrier is lowered to prevent cars from crossing.  Think of it like a rail road crossing.  The stations are about 800m apart with an operating speed of about 40 km/h since it is segregated from traffic (about 1 minute of travel between station).  On the narrow street, it operates with traffic, but it is a small portion of the route.  It also has platform loading so it has a flat floor from front to back.  If a system like that exist in Toronto, I would give LRT system kudos.  If Spadina is what the future holds, please give me ICTS instead.

    Steve:  You have made all my points quite strongly by describing a system where clearly the design of the transit system takes precedence over other users of the roadway.  That needs to happen in Toronto too.


  2. I can appreciate that you are an LRT advocate.  Although I’m not saying that the LRT technology is without merit, I’m far from convinced that this is the right solution for Toronto and the GTA.

    LRT advocates make the point that the use of this technology is taking over the world.  There’s no doubt that a number of cities have and are implementing LRT – however, these appear mainly to be cities of 400,000 to 1,000,000 in size.

    The most frequest examples cited are Calgary and Strasbourg.  These are far smaller cities than Toronto and the GTA as a whole.  In both those cities – and all the others I scanned the web for system maps for- the LRT systems act as pseudo-subways/metros: they serve the city centers with station based service – with a an 800-100 metres being typical spacing.

    What you seem to be proposing, is to use LRT technology to serve an area (i.e. Scarborough) that is essentially suburban.  The LRT (as a replacement for the SRT) would still stop at the terminus of the BD line – with passengers still needing 2 transfers to reach a good chunk of the finanical employment district.  Most Scarborough residents would still require three transfers to get to the financial core via TTC.

    You further propose that the LRT model can be extended beyond the STC to become a surface network in some shape or form.  On this I don’t get a sense for the ‘service’ model you would prefer.  An LRT-type sevice model (as I described above) would see mini-stations – which based on the 800 m spacing – would see these at major intersections and at points roughly half-way between [based on the 1.25 mile spacing of most of Toronto’s arterial street grid.)

    However, you seem uncomfortable with (or even flat out opposed to) the mini-station model of LRT operation.

    The point is frequently made that one can purchase a good deal more of LRT for whatever amount of $$$ than you can of subway.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worthwhile.  I get a sense from LRT advocates that ‘LRT is the answer in search of a question’.

    Just because LRT is a good model in Calgary and Strasbourg – doesn’t mean that it’s the right solution for Toronto and the GTA.  In a couple of decades, (if trends hold) the GTA will have a population approaching that of present-day London (England).  We are already closer in size to the very large world cities than we are to the Calgarys, Strasbourgs, Pittsburgs etc.

    I also question whether LRT is really pulling its weight from a ridership perspective.  In looking at APTA ridership stats, it seems that only Calgary can be deemed a categorical success in terms of ridership per route mile.  However, despite Calgary’s success, it is actually far less successful at attracting riders that Ottawa Carleton transit.  Looking at modal share for travel to work (Statcan 2001 Community Profiles)

    Ottawa-Hull CMA – 18.5% modal share for transit
    Calgary CMA – 13.1% modal share for transit

    This was I believe before OC Transit started running train service on abandoned tracks.  Despite neither a subway or LRT, Ottawa-Hull CMAs modal split was only a few percentage points below that of the Toronto CMA (22.4%).

    Steve:  You make several points to which I will attempt a response.  First off, LRT is not a solution in search of a problem.  It is one of many available technologies to address transit demand.  There are several fundamental problems with transit and city planning in the GTA:

    The origin-destination pattern is too diverse except for the core area to generate the traffic needed to justify subway construction.
    Regional demands to the core need to be on improved commuter rail lines, not on subways.
    We require a lot more transit outside the core, and we need it on a timeframe that is meaningful to today’s population.  Unless there is a huge change in the level of transit funding, not just for construction but also for operations, this cannot be built on a core subway network.
    Building subways to supposed future cores in the 905 ignores the diverse origins of riders in the 905.  Only with a network of lines feeding into the new cores from many directions will transit make significant inroads.

    Specifically with respect to northern Scarborough, the scatter diagram of origins and destinations of RT riders is fascinating.  Most of them are not going to the core business district.  Indeed, for that type of travel, I would rather see good GO service on the CPR line through Agincourt.  A Scarborough network should not spend most of its time trying to get people to Front and Bay.  To me, the artificial transfer in the Scarborough network is at the Town Centre.  If the Scarborough LRT had been built as originally planned, it would have continued northeast to Sheppard and Markham Road.

    I agree that some of my remarks about station spacing may appear to be trying to have both models of LRT in one system.  It’s a balancing act.  A line in the RT corridor would have stations more or less where they are now, with high-speed operation from Ellesmere to Kennedy due to the 2km station spacing.  A line on, say, Eglinton or Sheppard would have stations closer together and would have to deal with crossing traffic.  Also, the development pattern for street-based lines would dictate closer stations. 

    My comparison here is always with what we will most certainly get with the subway alternative.  Look at Sheppard.  The stations are 2km apart except for Bessarion which exists only as a political sop.  It is also extremely lightly used.  This station arrangement does not encourage medium rise development along the length of the route, only high density development at the stations.  Some of the so-called “transit” development in this corridor (notably the Chrysler Building wannabees southeast of Bayview Station) are a long way from the secondary entrance of Bayview Station which is also very deep, has no escalators, and one elevator when it’s working.  Subway stations are expensive to build and to run, and typically we build as few as possible these days.

    Finally with respect to city size and modal share:  Looking at things on this scale masks many localized effects.  Take the 416 (Toronto) as a whole.  Its transit usage doesn’t look very good.  But then look at specific areas within the 416 and we see variations.  Some of those variations are candidates for LRT, some for lots more buses, some might even justify a subway someday.  The same holds true in the 905, although good LRT corridors will be harder to find there unless we are also prepared to build a very good bus feeder system.

    When we talk about other large cities, remember that some of them abandoned perfectly good rail-based systems thanks to the automotive craze (not to mention skulduggery by the auto industry) and the perception that streetcars were somehow old-fashioned.  Transit was something for “other people” and the big investments went into road networks.

    What I find most bothersome in the whole debate about LRT is how often it isn’t even given a chance to be on the table.  Many powerful interests — land developers, construction companies, labour unions — want subways with their expected high growth in property values and significant labour component.  [I will leave aside the question of why it is ok to subsidize the Toronto construction industry, but not the car builders in North Bay, as that’s really a separate debate.]  Road engineers don’t want to give up space on the surface and will grudgingly accept busways or bus lanes because these can always be converted for general use in a pinch.  Politicians, for the most part, don’t even know what the options are.

    Sadly, the Scarborough LRT was pre-empted for a technology showcase for Queen’s Park.  If we had built it and seen what it could do, we would have many more LRT lines all over the city by now.  Instead we have a few vastly expensive subway extensions and large areas of suburbia without good bus service, let alone LRT.


  3. Steve, it is always nice to have a discussion with you concerning transit technologies.  After reading through some user comments and your views, it is clear that there is no consensus on what transit technology will serve Toronto best.

    You said that elevated tracks on Spadina and most other places would be an eye sore.  This is a minus for ICTS technology.  However, a 6 lane street full of cars is no better.  No one will say let’s not buy a house because there is an ICTS line next to it.  People will think twice about buying a house next to a highway.  Elevated structure for transit will always be desirable due to convinience.  Between Tokyo station and Akihabara station on the Yamanote Line, there are 8 tracks running parallel to each other on an elevated structure.  Yet these are the busiest districts in Tokyo.

    Steve:  The important issue about elevated structures is that they can be somewhat masked by running in areas other than the middle of a roadway.  The SRT east of Ellesmere runs along a back lane and beside Highland Creek, then through an open area where the road is used only by buses and taxis, and the station at STC is inside the building where its mass is concealed by surrounding structures.  If you are going to build an el, that’s how to do it.  I would be intrigued to know how well (or not) the condos in the new buildings beside the RT are selling.  The track there gets quite corrugated from time to time, and until now the TTC has not had to grind it smooth the way they do from Kennedy to Lawrence.

    However, on Spadina downtown, we have an intensely pedestrian street where the openness of the view and the easy movement (to the degree that is possible) would be seriously harmed by an el.  Imagine Dundas and Spadina with a station, its platforms, and the stairs/elevators needed to get people up to the structure.  I suspect a few people might show up to oppose such a scheme were one put before Council.

    Eyesore and speed are two interests that cannot be harmonized.  On the Shinkasen Line, the Japanese government tunnel through ten hills to get a straigh alignment for the fastest time.  Don’t even talk about the envrionment and eyesore factor.  At least, ICTS can be buried underground. According to Bombardier, ICTS can function underground and in tunnels with no problems.  It is a question of whether one is willing to pay or not. ICTS do win over metro technology due to their narrower and shorter bodies which mean less tunneling cost.

    Steve:  There is also the little matter that the population density served by the Shinkasen has no equivalent in Canada.  Your argument, with minor changes, could be used to justify the environmental impact of a 16-lane expressway across the city based on demand.  The question is whether the economic and social benefit of the infrastructure justifies its invasiveness.  If the 401 did not exist, nobody would think of proposing that it be built today. 

    Toronto must realize that a heavy rail metro technology is not always ideal.  If one was to take a look at Tokyo from space, Tokyo’s development is like an octopus.  There is a center and tentacles extend from it.  The strips of intensive development always happen around the metro line.  Outside these high density development, one would see single dwelling house and even rice farms. 

    Steve:  The presence of the rice farms tells me something.  The intensive development followed the rail network, and probably happened when, compared to present-day Toronto, automobile ownership was more expensive and transit was widely available.  If Toronto patterns had prevailed in Tokyo, there would be no rail line, lots of roads and low density development, and people would be fighting to save the last rice farm as an historic monument.

    Whenever we compare cities, it is important to look at the development and travel patterns in the context of the economies and government policies on transit as the cities grew.

    Tokyo has no tram technology.  Many people live more than 2 km away from a metro station.  People are force to cycle to their nearest metro station.  One must remember that in Japan, transit funding is never a problem.

    Many cities in Japan over 500,000 people have abandoned tram technology.  In cities where trams exist like Kyoto, they just do not run very fast even with segregated right of ways.  The only way to solve this problem is to change people’s thinking.  Transit will not always be available at everyone’s front door.  Station placements always draw the most fierce arguments.

    How about making the TTC more bike friendly?  This way, I can ride my bike to the nearest ICTS, LRT or metro station.  A high speed line can deliver me and my bike to whatever node I want to go quickly.  I can finish off the trip by taking a bus or cycling.  The Japanese have been doing this for years and they have been building transit lines unstopped since the 1890s.  Any rail technology with too many stops will kill its appeal.  There will never be a rail line to everywhere.

    Steve:  There are a number of issues here, but I’m only going to comment on one:  the population density and commitment to transit in Japan are unmatched in Toronto.  My concern in advocating LRT is that, given the likely state of funding and development patterns here, it deserves a fair chance to be part of the mix.  Equally I advocate commuter rail (another significant component of Japanese networks) as a way to handle longer trips without overburdening the local transit system. 

    Too much of what we proposed here in Toronto was not intended primarily for its transit benefit, but as a means of generating work for the construction industry during hard times.  Yes, we would have a subway at the end of the day for our investment, but at what ongoing cost to operate and of lost opportunities to build something more useful and less of a monument to a politician’s ego.


  4. I agree that GO and TTC service need to be better integrated – and not just from a fare payment point of view.  However, this being said, the vast majority of the current SRT weekday ridership is bound downtown for work (or to U of T/Ryerson.)

    Steve:  Actually, the scatter diagram of destinations downtown covers a range of destinations from Bloor down to Front, not just the two universities.  Except for people at the north end of the St. George campus, most people coming into downtown will have to transfer at Bloor or St. George and ride south.  Alternatively, if they came in on GO, they would transfer at Union and ride north.  All this assumes proper fare integration and decent service, but it’s a lot cheaper than a subway. 

    One way or another, most people have to transfer to a north-south distributor downtown whether they have a single ride in on an extended Danforth subway, or a single ride in on GO.

    I also agree with your point about the ‘transit development’ along Shephard.

    However, I don’t see the primary purpose of arterial elements of a transit system as being to encourage very dense development along a narrow corridor.  In my view, the primary purpose is to make the system – as a whole – more attractive to potential riders.

    Steve:  I agree with your “primary purpose” but want to clarify that I do not mean “very dense development”.  The city’s official plan foresees medium rise development on “the avenues” and a lot of it will not be immediately beside a subway station.  Moreover, this development will not, of itself, generate enough traffic to justify a subway line.  The question is how do we improve transit service for this type of development pattern without breaking the bank? 

    I hope this will illustrate my point.  I’ve compared macro ridership numbers in Toronto and Montreal – with the breakdown of surface and subway/metro routes:

    In Montreal, there are:

    Total trips per day (unlinked) 2.211 million
    Surface trips per day (unlinked) 1.253 million

    Surface % of total trips = 56.7%

    For Toronto, there are:

    Total trips per day (unlinked) 2.350 million
    Surface trips per day (unlinked) 1.443 million

    Surface % of total trips = 61.4%

    This is not a surprise – as Montreal has a proportionally larger metro/subway system.  However, what might surprise is that Montrealers take signigantly more surface trips on a per capita basis than Torontonians:

    Montreal surface trips/day: 1.253 million
    Montreal population: 1.82 million

    Translates to: 688 daily surface trips per 1000 population

    Toronto surface trips/day: 1.443 million
    Toronto population: 2.55 million

    Translates to: 565 daily surface trips per 1000 population

    The inference I draw that the Metro network makes transit as a package more attractive.  Most customers do in fact use a combination of bus and Metro as part of their overall trip.

    Yet in Montreal one doesn’t see huge condo towers being built in suburban locations.  Other than downtown, you would be hard-pressed to find more than an average size building near a Metro entrance.  If one walks by stations such as Villa Maria or Snowdown on the Cote Vertu extension, things aren’t noticeably different that 25 years ago.

    (I lived in Montreal years and was back in the city last fall on an eight week project.  The other thing I noticed during my stay in Montreal was that there was almost no traffic on major streets such an Sherbooke St and Park Avenue after about 6:00 pm. – a far cry from the siutation here in Toronto.)

    Steve:  Your observations and data tell me that Montreal is a very different city from Toronto in terms of its traffic patterns and demands.  I’m not sure that the “unlinked surface trips per capita” number has any real meaning taken out of context.  For example, it could show that Toronto does a better job of linking the surface and subway networks and therefore requires fewer surface links overall to handle a given demand.

    As for traffic downtown, there is one huge difference in Montreal.  The road system is designed to take regional through traffic around downtown, not through it.  All the same, it’s intriguing that downtown doesn’t draw enough traffic on its own to generate congestion.

    I was involved in another thread elsewhere regarding stats on Los Angeles which has one of the highest population densities in the USA and yet is strangling in car traffic.  Without going into the whole argument, the basic point is that LA has some extremely high density (and poor) areas sitting in a lower-density metropolitan area.  Parts of it feel like a collection of small towns rather than a city.  The density of LA is about 2/3 that of Toronto (the 416).  The big problem in LA is that the population and the jobs are all spread out, and the everywhere-to-everywhere commuting pattern tangles everyone in knots.  This is not unlike the developing problem in suburban 416 and the 905. 


  5. I appreciate the time and effort you commit to answering responses.  However, I’d have disagree with your assessment of the differences between Toronto and Montreal in terms of general traffic patterns.

    both cities are on a rough E-W axis with the downtown being roughly on the south end – roughly in the middle.
    both have a downtown expressway – the Gardiner in Toronto and the Ville Marie (A-720) in Montreal.  (The Ville Marie runs along the embankment below downtown until it dives into the tunnel under Old Montreal – thus it doesn’t have the stigma of being an elevated road.)
    I would say that the Ville Marie has as much through traffic as the Gardiner – so I’m not seeing that downtown Toronto is subject to more regional traffic than Montreal.  I’ve been commuting to a major steel producer in Hamilton the last few weeks (what one does for a paycheck!), and see very little traffic actually continue on the Gardiner past the Yonge-York-Bay exit.
    Most of the true regional traffic in the GMA still comes onto the Island (perhaps this will change when Autoroute 30 on the South Shore is complete.)
    In both cities, the East End is relatively poor – while the West end and West Island is relatively prosperous.
    There is more land to the south of the Downtown in Montreal – but on the other hand, Mount Royal means that vehicular traffic can’t go due north. (There is a CN track under the Mountain.)

    It is true that there is somwhat less ’employment sprawl’ in Montreal – however, downtown office space exists in roughly the same proportion to the overall city populations.

    For whatever reason, it is clear that Montrealer are heavier users of transit (the STM or MUCTC or whatever it’s called these days) than are Torontonians are of the TTC.  There may be all type of reasons that this is so – and there may be all manner of explanations as to why the traffic patterns are different.  However, relying on Occam’s Razor, I see a primary factor being a more extensive rapid tranit system.

    Steve:  I have to jump in here.  There is a long-standing policy of low transit fares in Quebec even with some cutbacks under the current government. 

    Montreal vs Toronto:

    Monthly pass $63.00 vs $99.75 (or $91.50 on MDP)
    Weekly pass $18.50 vs $30.00
    Tickets/tokens $1.92 vs $2.10
    Cash fare $2.50 vs $2.75

    A long history of cheap monthly passes encourages transit use especially for discretionary trips that may be short, one-hop rides.

    Contrast the service offering for East-end Montrealers to those in Scarborough:

    In Scarborough one has to take a bus to the SRT and then tranfer to the B-D – and perhaps again to the Y-U-S (or take a bus to a Go station, pay twice and get on the Y-U-S)
    East End Montreal one has the choice of the Metro line 1, the Metro Line 5, three major bus-routes (Park, St. Michel and Pie-IX) with enforced dedicated lines during rush hours, + a number of ‘Metrobus’ and other express bus routes.

    My feeling is that when something seems to be working, it’s surely worth understanding why.

    Steve:  I agree, but there are other factors.  The lack of fare integration with GO and the fact that most service is peak hour peak direction only means that GO can’t serve the same market as the TTC.  By the way, the TTC claims that your suburban transfer is valid at the other end of your GO trip, but most of the staff probably don’t know this.  In any event, a regular user would have a pass and this would not be an issue.

    As for the two subway lines into “the east end” of Montreal, although it’s tricky to compare city-to-city with our differences of geography, I note that the southerly of the two lines goes 8-9 km east of downtown.  This would be roughly equivalent to Warden Station on the Bloor line.  The northern line goes about 3 km to the east, not even as far as Leslie Station is east of Yonge.  Montreal is smaller than Toronto and so these lines, relatively speaking, go further into the suburbs than the distances would indicate.  However, the “east end” of Montreal served by frequent transit services is closer to downtown and trip length or complexity comparisons need to take this into account.

    I agree that employment sprawl is the GTA’s biggest problem.  I actually don’t see residential sprawl being as much of a problem as people make it out to be.  My take is that the the focus needs to be on reinvigorating employement growth in the employement centres – and especially downtown.

    Steve:  Thanks for your comments.  My hope on this site is to provoke discussion about what makes cities and their transit systems work.  Needless to say, I have certain, shall we say, preferences, but don’t want any scheme to take precedence because “it’s the only way to do it”.  Toronto spent so long being a “world class city” it forgot that perfection is more than a slogan.


  6. Certainly Montreal has the geographic advantage of being smaller.  If York University [were] transposed onto the map of Montreal at the same distance it is from downtown here, I believe it would sit somewhere in the Lake of Two Mountains.  On the other hand, Montreal has had generally lower employment levels.

    Montrealers do enjoy lower fares – although they have seen faster increases in the last few years.

    I should note that it is not the Province that is enabling the lower fares.  The Quebec governments contribution to operating expenses is negligible – other than gas and license money (I believe) allocated by the AMT.

    Steve:  I believe that initially the low fares for passes were enabled by provincial subsidy that was subsequently withdrawn.

    Looking at 2005 STM budget:

    Operating expenses (bus and metro) $662.9 million
    Municipal contribution $268 million (or about 40%)

    The MTQ does cover a good portion of debt service.  If you look at the STM financial statements you’ll notice that they include coverage for debt service and sinking fund contributions.  This is different than the TTC where all debt is held by the city or province.  The STM issues its own debentures – and has a prescribed borrowing limit.

    Steve:  Actually, when you look at the TTC budget figures as presented to Council when the Budget is under discussion, they do include the city’s debt service costs apportioned to the TTC as a percentage of the overall debt.  However, this is not treated as an operating cost by the TTC (or I suspect by STM) and there is no attempt to recoup these costs through the farebox.

    Another factor that has kept Montreal fares down is lower operating costs.  Per passenger expense (2005 budget) was $1.84 per passenger – actually 6% lower in inflation adjusted terms than in 1996.  Looking back at history, it seems that much of this came from a large scale reorganization of bus routing and scheduling between 1996 and 1998.  Something called ‘interligne’ scheduling was introduced whereby (and don’t ask me to explain) bus service during peak hour non peak direction was reduced and used to supplment the peak hour direction.  (I’m guessing that this means that a a number of bus ses at the end of the peak inbound journey move directly to the inbound leg of another route.)

    Steve:  A few points here.  First off, the cost of carrying a passenger has a lot to do with how far they travel.  The principal costs are wages for the driver and vehicle costs that tend to vary with use.  Toronto is a bigger city, and it has the disadvantage that downtown is on one “side” rather than at the centre of a metropolitan area.  I suspect that average trip lengths in Toronto are longer.  Without including this factor, a simple cost per passenger value is meaningless.

    As for interlining, yes the TTC does this too.  It is most commonly used where there is a commuting peak at a different time from the school trip peak.  A bus does a trip partly on one route to handle one type of traffic and then switches to another where the demand pattern is completely different.  We also have a number of off-peak services where two routes are linked together.  By taking two short routes where three vehicles might be needed for off peak service and combining them into one route with two vehicles between them (and, yes, a service cut), operating costs are reduced.

    It seems there could be a number of things the TTC could learn from the STM operations.  The TTC seems incredibly insular.  Only a few months ago there were a few articles about the TTC using Google to provide online schedule and routing.  The STM has had there own online tool (“Tous Azimuts”) up and running for almost 10 years – with home-grown Canadian technology no less!

    Steve:  Yes, the TTC has always been extraordinarily insular about many things.  The lack of an online tool for trip planning and the amateurish behaviour of some of their web pages is embarrassing.


  7. I mentioned the difference in how debt is handled on the financial statements of the TTC and STM as more of an FYI.  I didn’t plan to get into comparing the TTC and STM performance.  Yes, no two organizations or metropolitain areas are directly comparable.  One could likely bat about many, many mitigating factors on either ‘side’.  For example, yes Montreal is smaller – but generally the size of a city helps encourage transit use.  Yes Montreal has land to the south.  On the other hand, this land is on the other side of a very wide river that adds 1 mile or so of commute distance.

    This having been said, one would be hard pressed to find a more appropriate city against which to compare Toronto in terms of transit.

    (hmm – I’m sure I’ve seen the TTC highlight individual favourable statistics in touting its performance.)

    My original point was in respect to your proposal to build a network of LRT lines in a suburban area that has relatively little in the way of dense employment areas.

    We see transit systems such as Montreal and Ottawa being successful – relative to cities of comparable size – in attracting transit ridership – without LRT.  We see Calgary offering a popular LRT as arterial transit into the employment core.  However, its popularity aside, Calgarians use transit less that Ottawa residents.

    In no case do we see, LRT being deployed in the manner you are suggesting in Scarborough – i.e. suburban with generally low density-employment.  It still seems that the logic is that the lines will fit – so lets put them there.  The first comment in this thread is typical – starting “I agree that a LRT system in suburban parts of Toronto would be ideal..”.

    On the basis of what experience in any other city is this being deemed as ideal?

    Steve:  We seem to be coming at this question from opposite sides.  My premise is that for whatever reason, there is a belief that investment in suburban trunk routes is required in Toronto, but the prevailing wisdom is that this should be done with subways.  That approach is doomed because we cannot afford to build a true network with that technology.  The question then becomes: what alternative is viable?  We could build a network of busways, but unless we are prepared to make serious inroads [you can groan here] into existing roadspace use, this network will spend its time stuck in traffic.  Moreover, busways run into capacity problems both along the line and at terminals.  The mode in between busways and subways is LRT.

    You mention ridership in Calgary, but the level of service where the lines merge downtown could not be provided with buses.  On the branches, there are significant efficiencies with trains of LRVs.  The question is not whether people in Ottawa or Calgary use transit more overall, but whether the systems in each city serve a useful transit function.

    The difference in Toronto is that we are planning for suburbs with population density corridors in their own right, and with considerable transit demand. 


  8. I feel that the Ottawa example gives more of a reason to go with a feeder system of LRT in Toronto than against it.  Its current system of “express” buses feeding in to a limited stop transitway is a closer surrogate for LRT feeding into a limited stop central subway system in Toronto than the almost entirely limited stop LRT in Calgary.

    (Of course Toronto is an order higher but Calgary mimics on a smaller scale the all or nothing approach whereas Ottawa is willing to increase transit in a more distributed fasion.)

    As an aside, for all the talk in this thread of Ottawa getting modal split without LRT, they now are building/planning quite a large network of it
    using Siemens S70 Avanto low floor trams.

    Here is a link to planned Ottawa LRT and BRT expansions.


  9. I enjoy your website quite a bit; however, I am unsure why it seems as though heavy rail transit is always assumed to have to be built underground in a “subway” format.  Certainly Sheppard has to be like that, but it strikes me that at least parts of the Spadina line could be built on the surface or in a freeway style ditch.

    Steve:  Actually there is a portion of the Spadina extension that is proposed to be in a ditch not unlike the existing Yonge subway between Rosedale and Summerhill.  Other portions that “logically” might be built this way are to go underground lest they disturb the neighbours and pose a barrier to development.

    I live in Los Angeles, and the combined transit systems (Metro and many municipal operators) carry about 400 million riders per year.  “Rapid bus”, where express bus routes travel along major streets and make stops about every mile, hopefully accompanied by signal priority, is all the rage.  And we keep on creating new rail lines.

    However, I don’t agree that creating 10 rapid bus lines is as good as creating 1 subway line for the same reason that giving 100 people bikes probably isn’t going to have the same cumulative beneficial effect as giving 1 person a car.

    Steve:  This analogy is true as far as it goes.  However, the issue here is also where the people live and travel.  If there is a dispersed set of origins and destinations, this is very hard to support via subway lines. 

    I work in the scheduling department for LA Metro, and here are some scheduled operating speeds for different kinds of transit in the afternoon rush hour:

    Red Line (subway) 26.5 mph
    Blue Line (light rail with grade cross) 22.0 mph
    Orange Line (bus rapid transit with gra) 20 mph
    720 (Wilshire mixed traffic rapid bus) 13 mph
    20 (Wilshire local bus) 10 mph

    I feel that the fact that the subway is 20% faster than light rail is enough to make it a clear favorite over LRTs within the city limits of Toronto.

    Steve:  The speed of a line is a function of stop spacing and station dwell times far more than the technology.  For example, we have GO Transit bus routes that have a far higher speed than the subway because they spend a lot of time on the highways.

    The scheduled speed of the Scarborough RT is higher than the subway lines in Toronto because three of the stations are 2 km apart, and there is very short terminal time.  SInce that’s more than half of the total line, it operates at a high average speed (36 km/hr peak).  Conversely, the Sheppard line, with a similar station spacing, is “slower” because there is so much terminal time built into the schedule (30 km/hr).  The Yonge and Bloor lines are in between (31 km/hr) because of the closely space stations for most of the lines, and the length of the routes that dilutes the impact of terminal time on the overall scheduled speed.

    LRT operating in a “Scarborough” corridor would achieve the same speed provided that it used all-door loading and was completely grade-separated.  The cost tradeoffs come with the proposed extension of this line which must be grade separated if ICTS technology, but could be at grade, even with a branch in the line, with LRT.

    As for the BRT operations in Los Angeles, I am intrigued by the 1 mile (1.6 km) stop spacing.  This is wider than would be politically practical for semi-express operations in Toronto given the spacing of our major streets.  


  10. The other issue with the Spadina subway extension is the underutilization of the current Spadina subway in comparison with the Yonge line.  Both have to be run at the same headway, despite the fact that the Yonge section carries many more passengers than the Spadina section.  An extension, while perhaps not having the projected demand on its own, could add enough passengers to make the rest of the line more efficient.

    Steve:  The plan shown in the Environmental Assessment documents is to build a turnback facility north of Downsview Station and to relocate the existing St. Clair West short turn to that location.  This means that the peak headway on the extension will be 4’40” or so.  Further south, the real problem is at St. George because the University line is almost as busy at peak as the Yonge line.  If too many people pour down from the north, there won’t be room for transfer traffic off of the Bloor line.

    I enjoyed reading the network of BRT and LRT portrayed on the “Sexy Transit” maps elsewhere on this and other sites. However, I am skeptical that all of those could be built for the same amount as the Spadina subway considering the extensive tunnelling required on some of the busiest routes –

    Kingston Rd, tunnelling required probably south of St Clair
    Eglinton, tunnelling required probably from Black Creek Drive to past Don Mills

    Steve:  Actually, I think you can run Eglinton on the surface from west of Leslie (before crossing the Don River) to Don Mills Road where you might have an underground station, especially if there is a Don Mills LRT to connect with.  We have always known that the central part of Eglinton would have to be in tunnel, but the savings would come on the outer parts (plus the simpler stations needed for shorter LRT trains and passenger volumes).

    Queen, King – tunnelling for all parts of the street

    Steve:  There is never going to be a subway under these streets, and surface operations are as much an issue of quantity as of avoiding congestion for most of the routes’ length.

    Don Mills Rd – tunnelling in East York; if it goes in the valley instead, I don’t know how it’s supposed to connect with the Bloor subway.

    Steve:  This is a huge challenge.  Once upon a time, the old “downtown relief line” was going to come straight south in tunnel connecting at Pape or Donlands, then into downtown either via the CN corridor or Queen Street (assuming a subway under Queen).  There is an opportunity to tie the south end of a Don Mills line into Union Station on the alignment first proposed for the World’s Fair transit link.

    There doesn’t seem to be much room on Finch either.

    As for LA, the 1 mile stop spacing works well because development historically has been concentrated at key intersections. I think it could work in suburban locations. Say there’s a Finch rapid bus demonstration project. It could stop at:

    Kipling, Islington, Jane, Keele, Bathurst, Yonge, Bayview, Leslie, Don Mills, Victoria Park, Warden, Kennedy, McCowan, Markham Rd.

    Steve:  The tricky part about Finch is that it has a very large amount of local loading — turnover along the route.  The “express” stops need to be chosen to match this demand pattern.

    As for your suggestions the GO trains be the primary mode of travel between the far suburbs and downtown, how do you feel about the fact that GO Transit fares are much higher than TTC fares?  In LA it’s felt that many people cannot afford the commuter train Metrolink’s fares, and therefore we should be providing bus or light rail
    service that in some cases competes with Metrolink.

    Steve:  You have raised a good issue here because on one hand I have been saying “more GO” for the long-haul commuters while, in discussions of fare policy, I have advocated simplification over fare-by-distance except for the “premium” services like GO rail.  Hmm … something for me to puzzle over.

    The underlying network philosophy is that we should not be extending the subway forever or assume that it will absorb all of the growth in travel to the core area because we would then lose capacity needed by existing and future riders in the central part of the network.  We need more capacity to the core, and the question is how to provide it through a variety of services.   


  11. Didn’t I read somewhere that if the Sheppard subway line was built all the way to Scarborough centre that it would have a ridership just barely lower than the Bloor line?  I agree that LRT can be a viable option in many parts of the city, but I think that we might as well finish the Spadina and Sheppard lines instead of creating another transfer.  Certainly having to transfer is a big impediment to riding transit.

    Steve:  Actually, the projected peak demand on the Sheppard line was lower than the Spadina line at about 13K/hour.  The vast majority of this traffic would originate in northern Scarborough and go downtown, thereby overloading the Yonge subway.  This, in turn, triggered a scheme to try to increase capacity on that line including the addition of more platform space at Bloor-Yonge (a very difficult construction project).

    The real issue is that if people want to go from Agincourt to downtown, there are TWO potential Go Transit rail links:  the existing service on the CNR Stouffville line, and a new service on the CPR line to Peterborough.  The latter is shown as a future service on the Toronto Official Plan, but doesn’t fit into GO’s own plans for the next decade.  With good service on these lines, the remaining demand on Sheppard is well within LRT capabilities and leaves us with money to build more lines for better network coverage. 

    I thought you’d be interested in a book I’m reading: “A Very Public Solution…Transport in the Dispersed City.” by Paul Mees.  It compares transit in Toronto and Melbourne, Australia, which apparently are similar in size and makeup.  More particularly, it tries to answer why Toronto has had such an effective transit system while Melbourne does not.  Apparently Melbourne has more rail (primarily commuter rail) than Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver combined without much to show for it.

    So while the TTC has problems, it still is an excellent system.  While we complain that service on #501 has been reduced to every four minutes during peak hours, in Phoenix, for example, only 3 bus routes operate more frequently than every 30 minutes even in rush hours.

    Steve:  I am not sure that people waiting for the 501 or many other routes would take much solace in knowing that service in Phoenix is worse.


  12. Melbourne’s system appears to be well-liked by the locals. I’m really not sure why it’s considered “ineffective” by Mr. Mees.

    Of course, most of the traffic is on the trams, rather than the commuter rail. The trams are pretty fast for first-generation tram systems with mainly unsegregated street running. Melbourne is virtually a poster child for good streetcars.


  13. Future of the Sheppard subway:
    The Scarborough LRT network will likely render pointless the eastward expansion of Sheppard subway to STC. The role of STC as a transportation hub will diminish somewhat, as the long-haul commuters will take LRT lines to the Kennedy subway or Don Mills subway transfer points. The remaining passenger traffic from STC to Sheppard line could be handled by the express bus STC – Don Mills, or by a branch of Sheppard LRT.

    At the same time, the westward expansion of Sheppard subway might become useful eventually. That would connect the Don Mills / Fairview hub and North York area to Yorkdale, York U / VCC, and possibly Weston / North Etobicoke. There are several options for routing, including:
    – Simply extending the line along Sheppard to Downsview, and terminating it there.
    – Tilting the line to Wilson subway. That could be followed by a further extention along Wilson to Weston Rd., that connects to Jane LRT and ends at a new local/regional terminal next to Hwy 401, 409, 400, and Albion Rd.
    – Tilting the line to Wilson, and merging it into Spadina subway, southbound. In effect, that would make Sheppard line a branch of Spadina line. The TTC plans to short-turn some of Spadina trains at Downsview; instead, they could travel east on Sheppard branch and help relieve the Yonge line.

    The latter option would combine very well with a new LRT or ICTS line west from Yorkdale along Hwy 401, across Weston and North Etobicoke to the Airport. That line would then have a one-transfer connection to downtown (via Spadina subway south), north-west (via York U / VCC branch and via Jane LRT), North York and north-east (via Sheppard branch).

    The priority of the Sheppard line westward expansion would be lower than the priority of LRT network. In fact, the Sheppard E, Don Mills, and Jane LRTs have to be operational before the extended Sheppard subway can attract enough commuters. Yet, the above suggests that the Sheppard subway is not bound to remain an eyesore forever, but can eventually become a useful part of the integrated transit network.


  14. Are the streetcar tracks currently designed and maintained to accept streetcars on high-rate operation (particularly the stretches along the transit ROW’s)?

    Steve: The track on the rights-of-way such as Spadina and St. Clair would have no problem with, say, 80km/hr operation although those pesky traffic signals would likely prove annoying. The open track on The Queensway should be able to handle this provided it is well-maintained. Don’t forget that the subway, which has a similar track structure, runs at 70-80km/hr in the open track section notably westbound to Victoria Park at the Prairie Drive overpass.


Comments are closed.