SRT Final Report — RT Or LRT?

The SRT study is to be considered at the TTC meeting on August 30.  There are three documents in all:

I am not going to attempt to duplicate this material here and recommend that readers review the documents for detailed background to this issue.

First off, I must give credit where it is due.  The Final Report is much more open about the history and technical tradeoffs of various schemes than similar reports the TTC has produced in the past, notably those dealing with subway extensions.  Part of the document is almost a primer on technology and the realistic requirements for transit service in Scarborough.  It is refreshing to see a real “alternatives analysis” that examines different implementations appropriate to different modes and how these relate to transportation and land use goals.

The report concludes:

  1. In isolation (looking only at the existing RT route), replacement of the current fleet with Mark II RT vehicles is the lowest cost option that can be performed with minimum disruption and greatest short-term capacity increase.
  2. Retaining RT technology leaves us with an orphan line where expansion is limited, at most, to a Malvern extension on a dedicated right-of-way.
  3. Conversion to LRT will be at a higher cost [for the existing RT segment] and cause greater disruption during construction, but would have better potential for system expansion.  However, if Council does not commit to an LRT network with surface rights-of-way, this extra cost and disruption will be for nought.
  4. The inconvenient transfer arrangement at Kennedy should be replaced regardless of whether RT or LRT is used.
  5. Further analysis is needed to determine what other LRT or RT projects could be incorporated in an RT replacement project.
  6. Neither Bus Rapid Transit nor Subway are appropriate for this corridor for reasons of capacity (too little or too much).  A Scarborough Subway would bypass areas already designated for increased density in the Official Plan, and would cost much, much more than any other alternative.  If, despite this, subway technology were chosen, then a decision and commitment to this would be needed immediately given the remaining life of the RT cars and the lead time to fund, design and build the subway.
  7. There is a window of about one year to review and refine any RT or LRT network design before a final decision is required.

Based on this, the study recommends that the TTC:

  1. Approve in principle upgrading the SRT with new RT vehicles and make appropriate provision for this work in future capital budgets starting in 2007.
  2. Undertake a study of potential expansion including extension of the RT, BRT or LRT on a number of corridors and staged construction of the Sheppard Subway east from Don Mills Station.
  3. Eliminate extension of the Danforth Subway from further consideration.

The leap from the “conclusions” to the “recommendations” is bothersome particularly given the statement that we still have a year to decide on a final configuration.  It is no secret that TTC staff are not enthusiastic about an LRT network.  Historically, this was rooted in their dislike of streetcars, and more recently in their strong doubts that Council will ever agree to the tradeoffs needed to provide roadspace and priority for true LRT operations.  An orphan line is an orphan line regardless of the technology, and if that’s all Scarborough will have, it may as well be the cheaper alternative.

Clearly, the TTC would like to see the RT extended to Malvern, and they already have an approved EA for this option.  Whether it would meet an extended Sheppard Subway there is uncertain.  What we don’t see here is a cost and network comparison for an all-LRT scheme.  We already know, and the study acknowledges, that RT is more expensive to build than LRT.  Moreover, it has more restrictive right-of-way and station requirements because it is completely segregated from other traffic.  The more we expand the RT, the less the “advantage” of having an existing RT line will contribute to the total picture.

Many years ago during a presentation at Scarborough Council, the then-head of TTC Planning discussed options for the Malvern extension.  That presentation clearly stated that the cost of replacing the RT with LRT and extending the line to Malvern would be less than the cost of an RT extension.  Unfortunately, despite my extensive archives, I don’t have the details on that costing because they were not distributed in print form, and the meeting predated the era of websites.

I do know that the SRT study team is concerned that a Malvern LRT would be subject to greater potential service disruption as it would include at least some grade crossings and possibly some street operation in reserved lanes.  Their concern is that the eventual target of 8,000 passengers-per-hour might not be achieved with reliable service under these conditions.  However, this issue is not addressed in the Final Report, and we have no idea of what alignment or potential traffic conflicts were considered.

While this may be a legitimate concern, it is a subject for review as part of an overall study of a Scarborough network.  The TTC has a bad habit of closing off debate by urging decisions such as the choice of a technology or an alignment and then dismissing any alternative proposals on the grounds that they don’t fit with an already-approved scheme.  That’s why we never got any examination of an LRT network in the Spadina York U corridor even though the projected demands there are actually lower than those of the RT corridor.

The recommendations also make the leap to deciding on a Sheppard Subway extension rather than leaving this option open.  At this point it is unclear whether a service east from Don Mills would be:

  • A subway to the Town Centre
  • A subway to Victoria Park with LRT beyond to Malvern
  • A subway to Malvern connecting with an extended RT or LRT
  • An LRT to Malvern connecting with the Scarborough LRT network (and possibly also to a Don Mills LRT)

Once again, the TTC is prejudging a major debate on technology options and, based on past experience, attemtping to preclude any discussion of alternatives.

Throughout the SRT Study, the direction articulated by Richard Soberman, the study’s leader, has been that LRT is the most flexible option for future network expansion.  This is clearly reflected in the conclusions of the study.  However, the Final Report clearly shows the hand of TTC staff where the recommendations do not flow from the main report and cannot be justified by it.

Although I am extremely skeptical of the value of retaining RT technology as readers here well know, I am at least prepared to be convinced by a fair comparative study of a future Scarborough transit network.  The TTC doesn’t want to have that comparison, and by pre-judging the technologies for both the RT and Sheppard corridors, may eliminate the LRT backbone needed to make a larger Scarborough LRT network viable.  In turn, this could affect the status of LRT in general as an option in other parts of Toronto by relagating it to a handful of downtown lines rather than a city-wide network.

On August 30, I will strongly recommend that the TTC does not approve the study’s recommendations, but instead takes the year we know is available to thoroughly examine the LRT versus RT issue.

17 thoughts on “SRT Final Report — RT Or LRT?

  1. I haven’t had time yet to read the whole report, but have a few comments:

    Talking about an RT “extension to Malvern” seems a bit misleading, since it terminates at Markham and Sheppard.  The Malvern Town Centre — 2.5 km to the northeast — seems more like the heart of this neighbourhood.  A shorter bus ride would be an improvement, but there’s still an extra transfer for many (most?) Malvern residents.
    I was very disappointed by conclusion #5 (“There is considerable risk, however, that a decision to proceed with the higher cost LRT alternative will not be accompanied by a serious commitment to build on this technology to expand the surface network of right-of-ways”).  It seems to say that since we’ve failed so far to deliver on the “transit city” vision, it isn’t worth the extra cost to keep future options open.  Everyone praises the foresight that put a lower deck on the Prince Edward Viaduct — isn’t supporting a seamless (single transfer at Kennedy) LRT network in future much the same thing?
    The cynic in me wonders if recommending retaining the RT is actually the only way to make the LRT option politcally viable.  At the public meetings it was clear Scarborough councillors wanted to publicly “stand up for Scarborough”, and the enemy was cheap solutions (whether or not they met needs).  If the LRT option had been recommended, they’d have had to keep fighting for the subway; by recommending the lowest-cost RT option they can instead fight for the extra funding for the LRT option and a broader network.  And, cynicism aside, I hope they win that fight.

    Steve:  Much as I would like to believe in your cynical view, I think what we are really seeing here is the hand of two separate authors.  In any public presentation I saw by Richard Soberman, it was clear that his preferred alternative was an all-LRT network, and that he felt retaining the RT would be a retrograde step even if it was cheaper.  TTC staff, on the other hand, have their own agenda which includes, among other things, not making LRT look too good.  This is borne out by the recommendations concerning not just the RT but the Sheppard subway, both of which prejudge the outcome of a Scarborough-wide study. 

    There is no reason to approve anything in principle at this time, and to explicitly specify components of a future plan today shows a bias in the recommendations.  The study conclusions do not support the recommendations. 


  2. I agree that it does not make much sense to approve anything next week (even the Report says it is not necessary) and it would be much better to have a full discussion of all the options over the next 6 months.  To make a rational choice, and all these things are choices, it is important to know the details!  (The Devil being in the details!)  An updated SRT would cost $x, an LRT network on the following routes would cost $y etc etc. 

    It is hard to evaluate the LRT options (or to know if they would be better) until routes are known and most citizens, and Councillors, are likely to say “yes” to an improved/extended SRT unless they see that a similar amount of money will provide FAR more LRT routes.

    A similar arguement could be made for showing how NW Toronto and York Region would be FAR better served by an LRT network rather than a subway but I fear it’s too late to stop THAT now.


  3. The report is correct in stating that a conversion to tram technology will be more risky than simply upgrading the ICTS system.  Even if money is available, there may not be a will to ensure the trams will get prioritized traffic signals and a dedicated right of way.  I cannot imagine the day when a eastbound tram will short turn at McCowan because westbound trams heading towards McCowan are stuck in traffic on Markham Rd.

    The sad reality is in Toronto, car is king.  The only way transit will flourish is with the use of metro technlogy.  ICTS is a metro technology as well.  The tram lanes on King St are not enforced by anyone.  The Spadina tram is held back by traffic lights that would give a left arrow for a few cars as oppose to a tram with 100 passengers.  Now the province is pushing for a Markham bypass through the Rouge Rivers so that drivers can get to the 401 faster.

    Steve:  The King Street “reserved lane” was never taken seriously by anyone because it is so poorly designed.  Given the major areas where curb lanes are routinely full of vehicles (either at cab stands or hotels or theatres), it was doomed before it started.  Even if we had proper enforcement, the problem is one of bad design.  Similarly on Spadina, transit priority was supposed to be integral to the system, but it was never turned on because the Works Department won’t do it.

    There is no question that tram technology is well suited for Scarborough.  Scarborough just does not have the density to support a metro for the most part.  Trams operating with traffic is a recipe for disaster.  Even roads like Brimley are jammed during rush hour.  Imagine trying to run a tram on Progress Ave.  The only way trams can function well in Scarborough is to run them on a guideway given the currect political envrionment in Queen’s Park.  On roads like Eglinton, there are no more room to widen.  If a tram line is built there, it means one less lanes for car per direction.  If the tram operated with traffic on Eglinton, it will probably take me 20 minutes just to get from Kennedy to Warden.  On a guideway, it will take less than 2 minutes.

    Steve:  There is no intention to run LRT lines in mixed traffic, and anyone who suggests that this is even under consideration is misrepresenting what an LRT network is all about.  I am always astounded at how the TTC routinely talks about Bus Rapid Transit without mentioning that it depends on taking away road space (or widening streets), and then turns around and describes these as deterents for an LRT system.

    Steve, you already know what I think of ICTS technology.  I will not mention here again. Perhaps you can answer one question for me?  How come the TTC never consider getting monorails?  Cities like Las Vegas and Tokyo has proven that it can carry a lot of people with very little infrusture cost. What do you think of a Scarborough monorail one day?

    Steve:  First off, monorails, like ICTS, require guideway structures and complete segregation from other traffic.  This leads to complex station requirements common with any form of dedicated guideway and very significant impacts on neighbourhoods at stations.  If you are on a separate right-of-way that is not over a street (such as the RT), then stations are less intrusive.  However, much of the proposed Scarborough network is on streets where the guideway and stations, regardless of technology, will become a blight on the neighbourhoods.


  4. I was beginning to wonder why some parts of the SRT Study contradicted itself, especially during the recommendations.  Anyways, I hope the final decision will not be the RT.  That option seems like taking a step backwards, because it leaves little to no benefit at all (hard to expand/Malvern extension only), and the same problem we have right now may occur in 15-20 years now.

    Will you be attending the August 30th meeting, Steve?

    Steve:  Yes.


  5. Steve:  The following comment includes quotes from my own post followed by Sean’s comments.  I have reformatted this to make clear who is talking where.  My original comments are in indented quotations 

    The TTC doesn’t want to have that comparison, and by pre-judging the technologies for both the RT and Sheppard corridors …

    [Responding to #2 recommendation: Undertake a study of potential expansion including extension of the RT, BRT or LRT on a number of corridors and staged construction of the Sheppard Subway east from Don Mills Station.]

    This recommendation suggests staging, which I presume could mean continuing Sheppard to Victoria Park Avenue and no further.  We were told at the second public meeting that it was not logical to have the subway end at Don Mills.  Extending the line to Victoria Park and this employment centre would make Sheppard less of a “stubway” by enhancing the connectivity to a destination, especially for passengers transerring from the Yonge subway.  A forced transfer at Don Mills to a surface line would be similar to the forced transfer at Kennedy, also not a final destination — ardous for passengers.

    Steve:  My problem (which was not fully articulated in the post) is that the presentation illustrations go a step further and propose that RT technology could be used on Sheppard and Eglinton, for example.  Here’s my problem:  If it’s ok to force a transfer between an RT line and the subway, why is it so wrong to have one between an LRT and the subway?  The TTC has turned a study about the SRT into the thin edge of a proposed RT network in Scarborough.

    The report calls for a new alignment for rt/lrt into Kennedy, either to meet at the same level or one level difference instead the two flights difference as now.  At Don Mills, an lrt which would submerge east of the 404 to ease passenger transfer to Sheppard Subway, would perhaps be as costly as just extending the subway, but without nearly as many benefits.  If a mostly surface lrt with a submerged Don Valley terminus were to re-emerge before crossing the 404, wouldn’t there be grade issues (+6%?)?

    Steve:  I’m not sure that I agree with your proposed alignment.  The buses already emerge well east of the DVP overpass and there is no reason that an LRT could not do the same (but without that stupid traffic light that gives new meaning to the non-priority of transit operations).  In any event, I could, if the wind is right, be convinced of the need to extend the subway but only if we built the “Sheppard East LRT” at the same time to connect with the subway extension.  Any other staging would leave us victim to the “just one more stop” syndrome.  Note that based on cost estimates for the Scarborough Subway, we are talking about $400-million or more to get to Victoria Park.

    There is also the issue of the Don Mills LRT proposal and I could make just as strong an argument about “network completeness” for a Sheppard LRT link to that line as often is made for various subway extensions.

    [TTC recommendation as paraphrased in my post:  Approve in principle upgrading the SRT with new RT vehicles and make appropriate provision for this work in future capital budgets starting in 2007.]

    This is my projection of what would happen if the SRT is converted to LRT:  Construction eliminates rapid transit service to the Bloor-Danforth subway from Scarborough Centre for three years.  The relief buses used while SRT was converted could have been used elsewhere in the crowded TTC system and as a result ridership in the city plateaus (lost to automobiles).  The new SLRT and its extension to Malvern costs $30 million less than an upgraded SRT would have cost because of the construction has been deferred for five years and extensive use of at-grade crossings along Progess Avenue and Markham Road is made.  Ridership in 2020 is 50,000 per day after starting at 40,000 in 2018, lower than the original SRT line. The bus system has slowed considerably in Scarborough as congestion increased at a continuous rate and ridership stagnates. The SRT was at capacity until its closure in 2015, but could have had ridership growth of 5% a year if new cars had been deliverd in 2010. Resistance to on-street operation of LRT grew in Scarborough as more automobiles filled the streets, so LRT expansion slowed since more costly viaducts had to be built.

    The problem with LRT conversion, as stated in the report, is its duration of implementation, as well as the date of implementation. If the line is to be LRT, it should not happen until 2015 when the SRT Mark I cars have truly worn out.

    Steve:  I am baffled by your apocalyptic view of Scarbrough’s transit.  I might agree if the TTC does a lot of foot-dragging, and if they go out of their way to make surface operations as intrusive and inefficient as possible (see previous examples like Harbourfront and some of the St. Clair designs).  However, I have a hard time justifying further expenditures on an expensive technology because the TTC and the City Works staffs cannot get their heads around the idea of good surface transit.

    I am not convinced that we really need a three-year construction window, but we will never know because the staff recommend making the commitment to RT technology today without further study of the LRT scheme.  Here’s my prediction:  the usual TTC engineering fiascos extend the length of the RT upgrade project to at least two years complete with cost overruns.

    I don’t see the logic of LRT being stymied in Scarborough and Toronto because of an SRT upgrade and extension to Malvern.  It should enhance LRT elsewhere.  If the TTC is insistent on a viaduct system to Markham and Sheppard, the $130 million difference could be part of a fund to build LRT on Sheppard to Victoria Park, for example.  LRT is in danger of being an orphan in Scarborough, just as SRT is, if my scenario described above were to happen.

    Steve:  As I mentioned already, the TTC is making noises about RT all the way to Victoria Park and Sheppard, at least.  What I see here is an attempt to grab any line with good demand for RT leaving the rest to buses and no LRT to be found.

    An argument could be made that an LRT should be used so that transfers, north of Sheppard and Markham, or west of Kennedy to Eglinton could be eliminated to the backbone SRT; but rail critics always use this argument for buses as opposed to rail in support of busways.  I would guess that an Eglinton tram would operate only along that street anyway, and not interline with an SRT tram, thus forcing a transfer.  Transfers are a part of transit systems, they just have to be managed well by frequent service and construction of transfer sites enabling relatively hassle-free designs (as with the proposed SRT Kennedy station).

    Steve:  Detailed design of an Eglinton line would probably have it on the surface to somewhere west of Leslie where it would have to go underground due to right-of-way constraints.  Of course, as mentioned, the TTC is musing about RT in this corridor.  I agree that whatever technology is used, transfers are going to be with us and this should not affect the technology decision. 


  6. It is very disappointing to see that the TTC would recommend that the RT be upgraded, with more of the same.  All of a sudden the TTC is becoming money conscious, on some things, but are willing to spend billions on a subway to the north-west, that doesn’t need transit with subway capacity! With the possibility of new LRV lines for Scarborough’s future it would seem totally impractical, costly and inefficient to extend the life of this line with the same existing technology, instead of wanting to integrate all future transit lines so they would be compatible with each other.  Carrying capacity alone should encourage modern day LRV’s as the choice for the future.

    My thoughts on the RT are as follows:

    The 7 to 10 years of life left for the RT works out just fine.  The ALRV’s will be at that time, ready for their major rebuild for additional years of service.  If the TTC was to take, say 24 of these cars, and rebuild them for platform loading they would give fantastic service along that line.  The passengers would certainly appreciate it over what they have now.  Among modifications to the cars, they could move the front doors back(over the front trucks), raise the two rear doors for platform height, enclose the front area for the operator, add couplers.  Two of these cars coupled together, my guess is, could probably carry what two trains of the present four car train sets would carry and then some.  For starters, that would be a lot less expensive than buying new generation RT cars for 170 million. 

    Now, to replace those cars on the streets, the TTC could and should start an order process of low-floor streetcars (or LRV’s if one prefers) by ordering 30 or 40 at a time, much like they do in Europe.  This way, you don’t end up with 200 streetcars that must be replaced at the same time.

    Low-floor streetcars would be a most welcome vehicle on the downtown streets for the passengers. 

    The elevated structure should come down and the cars run on surface.  Transit activated traffic lights would give priority at level crossings.  An extension to Malvern (as originally planned with the streetcars) could be built at a far more reasonable cost than any extension of the RT, and give the northeast area a high capacity, efficient line.

    Some of the costs for the RT that the we sometimes don’t often hear about are that the present line uses 33% more power than a conventional LRV line, heaters were installed on the power rails so that the trains would actually run through snow and ice, at one time some of the houses along the right-of-way, I believe, had their taxes reduced because of the noise from the RT (don’t know if is still in effect), excessive wear on the rails, sole supplier which provides replacement parts at whatever price they deemed suitable, and the list could probably go on.

    The RT technology, pushed on the TTC by the Ontario Government, the Metro Chairman, a good part of the Scarborough Council (with the notable exception of their mayor, Gus Harris) was a mistake in the first place — let’s not make it a mistake in the second place!

    Steve:  I’m not so sure about using the ALRVs because this only postpones, but does not eliminate the date when the line will need to have low-floor platforms.  (Of course the eagle-eyed can see the original low-level platform at Kennedy because the edge markers had already been installed before the RT platform was installed on top of it.)  Also, this scheme eliminates any possibility of through-routing new low-floor LRVs from extensions with the “ALRV” RT line.

    As for the elevated, of course originally the Scarborough “LRT” was to run at grade and the plans show it running parallel to Highland Creek with a low bridge just west of Brimley where the creek turns south, and with grade crossings at Midland, Brimley and McCowan (not to mention Lawrence which had not yet gained its huge overpass).  It would be interesting to see what an alignment that stayed on the ground at least as far as Brimley would look like.  This would permit an at-grade Brimley Station followed by a ramp up to the existing STC station.

    As for Gus Harris, by the time Queen’s Park swindled us into getting the RT, I believe that Joyce Trimmer was Mayor.  By that time also, the fiction that the LRT needed to be grade-separated had been concocted to ease the comparison with the “RT” alternative.


  7. “The inconvenient transfer arrangement at Kennedy should be replaced regardless of whether RT or LRT is used.”

    Can someone expand a little on the particulars of the inconvenient transfer arrangement?  I’ve been to Kennedy a number of times and I am not clear what you are refering to.

    Steve:  To transfer from the subway to the RT (or vice versa) you have to move through three levels of the station.  At a minimum, this involves two escalators (assuming they are working) one of which is a double-level machine.  Kennedy Station has four levels:  subway, mezzanine, bus/street, and RT.  The double-level escalators run from street to subway level.  There is an elevator from subway to mezzanine, and then another up to the RT.

    The problem with all of this is that you have to do a lot of walking for some of the common paths especially if one of the escalators is out of service.  For example, when I transfer outbound from the subway to the RT every morning, I have to be at (or walk to) the east end of the train to be beside the escalator at subway level.  If this is not working, I have to walk 2/3 of the way down the platform to an alternate route up.  Once I get to the street level, I have to walk about 2/3 of the station length to get to the escalator or elevator up to the RT.  As someone who has had knee problems, I am very aware of any extra steps needed to get to the “accessible” devices.

    As a basic matter of station design, people should not be forced to walk long distances to use these devices.  The “down” path from RT to subway is a minimum path and easy to use provided that both escalators are working.  When they are not, life is much more complicated.

    There are various schemes for a possible platform arrangement, but the basic problem is that you have to get from RT/LRT level onto the subway platform with a minimum of fuss.  I am not going into the details here, but no matter how you do it, there are tricky “you can’t get there from here” problems.


  8. Two issues:

    GO Transit is currently exploring the possibility of purchasing the exisiting O-Train vehicles used in Ottawa and operating these diesel multiple units off-peak on its Stouffville line between Scarborough and Stouffville GO stations.

    If regulatory and other considerations are successfully navigated, such service would be several years away.  How might having an intermediate capacity service running north-south parallel to Kennedy Road affect a future Scarborough transit network?

    Steve:  Given the station locations, this is really a regional service and a poor-man’s implementation of off-peak rail service to Stouffville.  There are only two stations, one of which is north of the 401.  Also, there is the little matter of fares.

    Next, considering that two principal obstacles to converting the RT line to LRT are track width and the tunnel at Ellesmere, are there feasible alternatives to major reconstruction?  For example is there experience elsewhere in the world where vehicles and/or power supply adapt to the existing constraints, instead of having to rebuild tunnels and tracks?

    Steve:  The tunnel at Ellesmere was intentionally downsized to prevent the TTC from backing out of the change from LRT to RT technology during the initial construction.  The tunnel needs to be replaced by something big enough to accommodate larger cars.  At first it was thought that even Mark II’s would not fit, but they seem to think now that this is not the case.  If that turns out to be wrong, it adds considerably to the RT option’s cost.

    The curve at Kennedy must be replaced no matter what.  This is common to both LRT and RT.

    The power supply for the RT is unique to that system and must be replaced for LRT technology.  The RT uses two feeds each of which is about 275 volts above or below ground.  Since the maximum difference to ground is only 300 volts, the amount of insulation (and hence weight) needed in the car is less than in a conventional 550VDC car.

    The track gauge is standard gauge, and we then get into the debate of whether the Scarborough network should be built separately from the “downtown” network that is TTC gauge.  This would prevent through service on a Kingston Road line, but I’m not sure there is much of a market for such a service given that it parallels GO.  The gauges are close enough that you could have a common car design sitting on appropriately gauged trucks for the two systems.


  9. Thanks for the explanation.  I guess I just have trouble seperating Kennedy as any different from a number of other subway stations with rather convoluted setups with prolonged amounts of walking to get to some sections – Sheppard comes to mind, off the top of my head.

    There are various schemes for a possible platform arrangement, but the basic problem is that you have to get from RT/LRT level onto the subway platform with a minimum of fuss. I am not going into the details here, but no matter how you do it, there are tricky “you can’t get there from here” problems.

    This is only if those direct escalators are not working, yes?  I don’t recall seeing either of them out of service in the times I’ve visited, but I am by no means a daily regular, perhaps they are out more often.  If that is true, I can understand your point.  Though it does seem to me that using the elevators is pretty straight-forward alternative to get to all levels.

    Steve:  The escalators are often out of service.  The problem is that you don’t know this until you get to them, and you then have to go some distance to find an alternative.  In the case of the elevators, the one from the RT to mezzanine level is on the opposite platform from the escalator down and you can only get to it by fighting your way across a packed outbound train (if one is still in the station) to get to the other platform.

    With respect to a new station, the problems lie with the need to get from a centre-platform subway station at the lowest level to a new centre-platform station further up.  This only works well if the new platform is on the street level so that you can build a passage at the mezzanine to get from one part of the station to another.  If the new RT station is at the mezzanine level, there is a lot of “up and down” to get from one set of platforms to the other.


  10. I have a little problem with Mr. McMann’s assertion that ICTS uses 33% more power than other tram system.  Running heaters on the fourth rail is only one source of power consumption.  I e-mailed Bombardier several times on energy consumption on various rail technologies and researched a few magazines to look at this issue.  After all, wouldn’t one buy a car that gets 33 MPG as oppose to one that gets 22 MPG?

    Steve:  Mr. McMann is retired from the TTC and I have good reason to believe that his source of information is a reliable one.

    Power consumption on electrical railways is a function of weight and areodynamics.  Both trams and ICTS have lousy aerodynamics.  Trams will always weight more than an ICTS car due to the wider and longer axel.  Another problem with trams is the move to larger windows.  Glass is heavier than aluminum. Even if we have a tram made of composite materials (like the Bombardier C Series jetliner), large windows will always be a liability.  Larger windows also require more air conditioning since it absorbs more heat.  Passengers are also getting heavier too.  There is very little point in arguing about energy consumption.  A 6 car Mark II trainset will always beat 1000 individual internal combustion engines in cars in terms of kilowatts consumed.  I have not even discuss about the energy loss from drivetrains inside a tram.  The linear induction system has less drivetrain loss.

    Steve:  The real issue here is energy consumption for a given capacity, not the question of which car has bigger windows or better aerodynamics.  I really am getting tired of arguments that attempt to make ICTS technology look rosy while ignoring other basic factors such as the cost of implementation and the impact of the guideway on surrounding neighbourhoods.  If you look at the TTC presentation, you will see that it includes some shots of Vancouver.  The guideway is shown either from above (where the view below is invisible) or where it crosses a street without having a station structure above that street.  This misrepresents the true impact.

    I also want to point out that priority traffic lights do not really work.  Let’s assume the new Scarborough tram network crosses Markham Rd near Progress.  If we have a tram running every 120 seconds per direction, that would mean the traffic light stopping cars on Markham Rd would have to change quite often just to ensure that the tram will not be waiting for a green light for too long.  This will create instant traffic jam on Markham Rd. Running vehicles on guideways or tunnels will prevent this.  Transit users should not antagonize motorists.

    Steve:  There are days I feel that we transit users should antagonize motorists every chance we get.  If you look at the TTC’s report, the capacity of 8,000 pphpd (the maximum forecast for 2031) is accommodated with trains having a design load of 280 passengers for 28+ trains/hour or a headway close to 120 seconds.  Considering that the standard traffic light cycle is 80 seconds, it is not impossible to operate a grade crossing (in effect an intersection) every 120 seconds bothways, although I will admit this is at the edge of what we might do.  However, that level of service is decades in the future by which time longer trains rather than closer headways would be an option.

    On the last note, the new Kennedy Station being produced is problematic.  If the new station is built on the parking lot, the orientation for the ICTS line will change from East West at Kennedy to North South.  This will mean any extension westbound on Eglinton will be much less feasible.  If the ICTS line is lenghtened let say from Malvern to Eglinton metro station, we can start to see 6 car Mark II trainset and much closer headways.  This will make ICTS carry a lot more capacity than a tram can.  No tram I know can operate at a consistent 120 seconds interval.

    Steve:  Because the TTC has looked at the Kennedy Station problem in isolation from a larger network, they have not looked at how an Eglinton line would interface with the subway and “RT” replacement.  This is the sort of thing that should be done in a follow-up study.

    As for 120 second headways, we used to have lots of them in Toronto before cutbacks and subway conversions.  The Bloor-Danforth streetcar had a capacity of around 8,000 pphpd although it was not the fastest service in the world mainly because the stops were so frequent.  The St. Clair car once had a 1-minute headway between Yonge and Oakwood.  The King car has a scheduled 120 second headway today in the morning peak, although the TTC is muttering about going with trains on wider headways.


  11. You know what is interesting?  It’s how the TTC always mentions a BRT line, but I personally don’t think the TTC has a single clue on how to build one.

    Steve:  BRT in these parts is a thinly veiled plug for road widenings.  I won’t believe that anyone is serious about true BRT until they start providing true segregated lanes for transit, not just a bunch of lines on the pavement that everyone ignores.


  12. Hi Steve.

    As an aside to the debate (and perhaps a topic for a future column), why are the TTC planners so dead set against LRT?  It works in Europe, the US, and in two cities in Canada.  Why not here?

    Steve:  A major problem in Toronto is that we don’t have a good local example of what “LRT” might be.  Spadina, Harbourfront and St. Clair are not sterling examples first because they are very much local services and second because too many compromises were made in their design to accommodate other road traffic.  Toronto has not yet adopted self-service fare collection and all-door loading, and this leads to extended dwell times at many stops.  Although this will be forced on us by a new generation of low-floor cars, there’s nothing people can actually look at.


  13. Steve wrote: “As for Gus Harris, by the time Queen’s Park swindled us into getting the RT, I believe that Joyce Trimmer was Mayor.”

    I cannot recall the date when Gus stepped down as mayor of Scarborough, but he was the Mayor when the “demonstration” operation of the SRT from Kennedy to Lawrence East opened for the public to try out. I recall the front page photograph of him pushing the button to start the first train on the cover of the Mirror.


  14. I wrote: “I cannot recall the date when Gus stepped down as mayor of Scarborough”

    It was December 1988 — so he was still mayor when the SRT fully opened in 1985.

    Mea Culpa:  I have strong memories of Joyce Trimmer lobbying for the RT technology, and it may have been from a seat on the TTC board.  In any event, I do know that she was strongly dismissive of LRT advocates.  Gus Harris had been pro-LRT, but knew a losing battle when he saw one.


  15. Sorry for the third comment in a single day, but I could use a memory refresh on the issue of residents near the SRT…

    Harold R. McMann wrote above, “at one time some of the houses along the right-of-way, I believe, had their taxes reduced because of the noise from the RT,” and I vaguely recall this. I have also seen in numerous places that the ICTS option was “forced upon the TTC” by Queens Park.

    However, I recall that back when the options were still up in the air, a group of residents lobbied for ICTS because of “horror stories from residents of Queen Street” over the rumbling of the CLRVs. I distinctly recall attending a Canada Day parade near Scarborough Town Centre where this lobby group marched with a kids wagon in tow made up to be a mock ICTS car.

    Can anyone add to these memories regarding this lobby group? By any chance were any of these who wanted ICTS over CLRV because of noise, any of the same who lobbied for reduced property taxes due to ICTS noise? Were they an independent (yet forgotten) lobby group for ICTS, or were they just reacting to propaganda (maybe from Queen’s Park) over CLRV noise?

    Steve:  A bit more of the history of the ICTS.  When the technology was first proposed, it was claimed to be silent (or nearly) because with the linear-induction motor, there would be no wheel wear from braking and hence no flats.  However, the folks working on this system didn’t reckon on two factors:  the final braking is done with disc brakes and skidding is possible, hence flats (I have been on cars with flats often); also, corrugations are caused by wheel bounce which is a natural component of how steel wheels (especially light ones like the RT) behave.  It did not matter that the wheels were not used for tractive effort, corrugations still occur, and the TTC has to have the track ground periodically to keep the noise under control.  By co-incidence, the purchase of this service is in this week’s TTC agenda.

    Next, the original plans called for the LRT to run through the Town Centre at grade, but it was claimed (by TTC engineers no less) that this would  block access to property south of the right-of-way (which eventually housed the Bell Canada building).  This in turn was used to justify converting the design to an elevated for the LRT.  Blight though it was thought to be on the Town Centre, it was a tradeoff for rapid transit.  Thus the ICTS proposal didn’t ever get compared to an at-grade LRT.  The final irony is that the Bell building is accessed from the south side and cannot be entered from the north because — wait for it — the bus roadway blocks access to their site.  Any claim by the TTC that they did not connive in making the ICTS proposal look better than LRT is hogwash.  They have been trying to cover their ass on that one for decades.


  16. In regards to Kennedy Station’s RT/LRT platform, it would be better for the TTC to put the loop underground, and have the RT/LRT line in a wide loop (counter-clockwise) and stop at the north side of the mezzanine.  This means only 1 level transfer between the bus and subway levels to the RT/LRT, and the street/GO exits are on the same level.  It also avoids disrupting the parking lots and bus terminal. 

    Steve:  Aside from the cost, I am not sure that you have avoided all of the potential conflicts with this arrangement.  There is a passageway to the pedestrian entrance north of the subway as well as the one that goes over to the GO station that may conflict with your proposed loop.  I will take a close look at Kennedy Station (I am through it twice daily) to see whether this might work. 

    I’m also wondering how the TTC has been planning to put in the new loop at Kennedy Station, if it will be at surface level.  The bus roadway wraps 360 degrees around the terminal.

    Steve:  The TTC proposal is for either a surface station using property at the east end of the south parking lot, or an underground station under that lot.  The problem lies in getting people from a new centre platform RT station (or LRT station) to the centre platform subway station.  This has to occur at the mezzanine level.  Your loop proposal gets around many constraints provided that we can work out the geometry of the existing underground entrance passages.  Another issue with any redesigned connection is that it must be capable of handling a 120 second headway on the RT/LRT.  If we lose the double-sided on/off loading now used, we could actually see dwell times increase because of the number of passengers transferring in both directions at the same time.

    Note on future Eglinton LRT connections:  Another loop/platform on the south side of the mezzanine might be able to be accomplished.


  17. This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title RT Or LRT?. Thanks for informative article.

    Steve: The TTC will be making the commitment to RT technology in September. I don’t agree with this approach, but that’s the position they are taking.


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