How Frequently Can We Run Subway Trains

A comment in my review of David Miller’s platform triggered a technical discussion about this issue.  To segregate this from the thread on Miller himself, I have moved the relevant information here.  If you plan to add to this issue, please do so here.

The issue was previously reviewed in this post.

I made the comment:

Mayor Miller claims that we will improve capacity on the Yonge line by 40% through new trains and signalling.  Running the trains more frequently will require changes at Finch Station (probably a northerly extension) to allow for faster turnarounds, and will definitely require some changes on the Spadina line (currently planned as part of the York U extension).  Don’t plan to see those empty, uncrowded trains until a decade from now, at least.

This provoked various responses: Continue reading

Some Days, You Need Dedication to Ride the Rocket

A few days ago, I set off on what should be a straightforward trip by transit, but the planets and stars were not well-aligned for me.  The problems I encountered don’t show anything unusual for regular riders, but they also show the combined effect that can result.

Here is the planned journey:  Leave Scarborough Town Centre via the 190 Rocket to Don Mills, Subway to North York Centre, (pick up package), Subway to Eglinton, bus east to Mt. Pleasant. Continue reading

A Look At Candidates’ Transit Policies: David Miller

Once again, in the interest of full disclosure, I will state that I am supporting Mayor Miller for re-election.  Having said that, I count myself among the camp of Millerites who feel that all the talk of structural reform in the past three years overshadowed crucial work on portfolios such as transit.  We still put off to tomorrow improvements we should have made yesterday, and the transit system does not even keep pace with current demand.

Let’s have a look at Miller’s Transit City platform.  You can read the details at this link.

Miller’s basic premise is that “good, reliable transit is at the core of a prosperous, liveable city”.  If we actually see this borne out with spending priorities and real moves to improve transit, this will be a welcome relief from years where transit got the short straw.  This is not just a question of spending, but of recognition that every aspect of city planning must be seen in the context of making transit better. Continue reading

A Look At Candidates’ Transit Policies: Jane Pitfield

In the interest of full disclosure, I will state up front that I am supporting David Miller.  All the same, the two serious candidates’ platforms deserve review and comment, and I will start with Jane Pitfield.  In another post, I will look at David Miller.

If you are or represent or support one of the other 257 candidates for Mayor, please do not write me asking for equal time.  This is a private blog and I am not bound by fair time rules like the CBC.  As far as I am concerned, there are only two candidates worth looking at in this race, and I am not going to waste time and space on the rest.  They have their own blogs anyhow. Continue reading

Two Kilometers a Year

We hear a lot from subway advocates about the need for an ongoing project to expand the subway system.  Leaving aside the question of how we will pay for it, what would we actually see for our efforts?

The building rate proposed is two km/year.  If we were going to build west from Yonge Street and we started today, it would be late 2010 before we reached Jane Street, late 2014 to reach the western boundary of the city, somewhere like the airport for example.  Every penny we could scrounge would go into that line, and by 2015 we would still have big transit problems in most of the city.  This assumes we start tomorrow, and we all know that nothing will happen for at least two years while we debate where the line will go, design it and get EA approval.

If we are serious about expanding the transit network in a meaningful timeframe, we have two choices:

  • build much more than two km/year and be prepared to pay for it, or
  • use something other than subways to expand transit capacity, and build lots of that.

Mayoral hopefuls and other subway advocates need to be honest about the costs and benefits of their plans.  The two km rate was once floated by Rick Ducharme, back when we actually thought that would cost $200-million or so.  The Sheppard Subway, our most recent project, was 6 km long and cost us almost $1-billion not including the vehicles that were purchased separately.  Even allowing for the huge expense of the junction at Yonge Street, $200-million hasn’t bought two km of subway for a long time.

I will return to the issues involved in building LRT in a future post and will incorporate many of the comments that are stacked up in feedbacks from various readers that have accumulated in my inbox.

Where Will We Put Everyone?

[After excursions by Swan Boat, proposals for alternative station names and, to some of you, endless reviews from the Film Festival, we now return to our regular programming.]

The TTC meeting agenda for October is a bit on the thin side, but one item is worth comment — the Chief General Manager’s monthly report for August.  Strictly speaking, this is July 30 to August 26 so that the calenders line up with past years and direct comparisons are possible without correcting for weekends.  Continue reading

The Future of Transit: Swan Boats!

Back in the early days of this board, I posted an item co-authored with my good friend Sarah concerning the use of Swan Boats as a solution to transport technology in the Don Valley corridor.

You laughed!  You scoffed!  You doubted our pride and professionalism! From that day forward, only movie reviews and endless arguments for LRT graced these pages.

Until today!

Now all will be revealed!  The future of Toronto’s transit is canals and swan boats!

He’s gone mad, you say!  He must be drunk, or worse, you say!  But, no, it is true!

First the canals:  CNN today reported that Panama citizens will vote on a $5-billion project to widen the Panama Canal, while Nicaragua is thinking of building its own canal at a price of only $18-billion.  Let’s put this in context.  The canal is 51 miles (81.6 km) long, and that translates to a cost/km of a mere $221-million.

That’s for a whacking great canal to handle huge ocean freighters and take them across the continental divide.  Looking at the proposed Spadina extension’s cost, this is a competitive technology!

Now we turn to the vehicles.  Swan  boats are available (On sale now!  Two week delivery!) for a mere $28,997 (US).  Just go to this site if you don’t believe me. [The URL no longer works.]

People are so fond of making comparisons on vehicle cost — let’s look at a swan boat.  It holds 12 people, hence a cost per seat of about $2,400.

The design load of a bus is around 50 and the current products seat around 30.  At a capital cost of roughly $600K, this is $12,000 per passenger or $20,000 per seat.

Subway cars have a design load of about 200 and seat about 75.  They cost roughly $3-million, for a cost per passenger of $15,000 and a cost per seat of $40,000.

It’s no contest!  Toronto must immediately abandon all plans for unproven technologies and start building canals for swan boats.  Only with this visionary plan will the future of Toronto’s transportation system be safe!

A Rose By Any Other Name (Updated)

Profound thanks to the many readers who commented on this item!  Based on all this feedback, not to mention my own preferences, the list of new station names is almost complete.  Here’s what it looks like now:

Bloor-Danforth East:

Scarborough Junction, Massey Creek, Dentonia Park, East Toronto, North Beach, East York, Linsmore, [Donlands], Ελλας, Riverdale, Playter, [Castle Frank, Sherbourne]

Bloor-Danforth West: 

Roy’s Square, Yorkville, Rochdale, Lowther, The Annex, Willowvale, [Ossington], Brockton, [Lansdowne], West Toronto, Parkside, [High Park], Swansea, Baby Point, [Old Mill], Kingsway, Montgomery, Six Points


Finch’s, Willowdale, Lansing, Hogg’s Hollow, Muir Gardens, Rebellion, Belt Line, Avoca, North Toronto, Crescent, Roy’s Square, Rainbow, Carlton, O’Keefe’s Lane, City Hall, Melinda, Royal York


[St. Andrew], Osgoode Hall, [St. Patrick], Taddle Creek, Planetarium, Rochdale, Lowther, Casa Loma, Wells Hill, York, Viewmount, [Lawrence West], Arc en Ciel, Downsview, Wilson Heights.

I am amused that we have two “rainbows” one in each official language.  Moreover, the one formerly known as Wellesley has the most boring decor on the system.  Just imagine what a few inspired decorators could do! 

The original post and comments follow below. Continue reading

Toronto International Film Festival Reviews — Part 5 of 5

And finally, we come to the end of it all.  Apologies for the delay — urgent family business has kept me pre-occupied and I am just starting to deal with the backlog.

This installment includes:

  • L’Intouchable
  • The Island
  • The Silence
  • The Magic Flute
  • When the Levees Broke:  A Requiem in Four Acts
  • Amazing Grace

Days 9 and 10 may look like I was really slowing down, but in fact one of those films (the documentary about New Orleans) is four hours long.  I wouldn’t want you to think that I was shirking.  Mind you, the sleep in on Saturday morning for a late start at the Festival was quite nice.

Another Festival over, but there’s always next year, not to mention the myriad other cinema, music and theatre events around town.  If you have come this far, thanks for reading!

Continue reading

Coming Soon (October edition)

Transit issues:

  • A discussion of route economics (thanks to all who have sent feedbacks — I am holding on to your comments to incorporate in one post)
  • Further comments about service reliability, a topic that is getting a lot of coverage these days
  • A commentary on the whole LRT versus guideway business that will be my final word on the subject
  • Whatever intriguing goodies surface at the October TTC meeting (usually the pre-election agenda is rather dull, but if there’s anything worth reporting, you will see it here)