Half a Loaf

According to this morning’s Toronto Star, Ottawa is about to announce its support for the Spadina Subway extension to Vaughan along with a bunch of other goodies for the 905.  Notable by their complete absence is any transit support for the 416 other than the subway extension.

I’m not going to debate the merits of that line again as everyone reading this site knows my position, but I have a very important question for Stephen Harper, Dalton McGuinty and David Miller:

Where’s the money coming from for the projects we really need to serve the whole city?

Are we facing the same situation we had with Mike Harris when he agreed to fund the Sheppard line, gave us a pot full of money, and then said, in effect, “bugger off, that’s all you’re getting”?  Will the Harper crowd think that this announcement is all they will ever have to do for the greater Toronto area?

As my readers know, I have always warned about the Spadina line crowding every other project out of the room for the next 8 years.  Will Ottawa and Queen’s Park say “we gave you what you asked for, don’t ask for more”, or the City say “we have over-extended our ability to write new debt, so that new bus you thought was coming next year is on hold”.

To all three levels of government:  Please prove me wrong.  Soon.

53 thoughts on “Half a Loaf

  1. Ref: Stewart Walker’s calculations on riders/Km.

    The calculation is flawed because it assumes all riders travel the entire length of the line.

    This is probably more true of SRT (Kennedy-STC) rather than YUS where the majority of riders enter/exit at Bloor/St.George.

    Steve: Most riders on the Sheppard line ride between Don Mills and Yonge.

    Looked at from another point of view, a line like Yonge or Bloor that has lots of turnover in its ridership serves more people for a given amount of infrastructure than it could if everyone rode, say, from Finch to Union.


  2. Two sets of comments, about Sheppard West station and the buses at York U

    Has there ever been any sort of study to see just how many people would want to get off a GO Train and onto the subway at Sheppard West? Because unless we start having more mega concerts at Downsview, those are the only people going to be using that station.

    I’m all for building links between GO and the TTC in order to make it easier to get around, but I don’t remember ever hearing from GO transit about plans to build a station at Sheppard, even if a subway station was right there.

    And if we do build a subway station at Sheppard West, how fast will GO build their station? I’m still waiting for them to move Oriole GO station next to Leslie station.

    As for the buses at York U, I understand that the University did not want to be the terminal station because of ‘a sea of buses’, or words to that effect. But if the TTC reroutes all of the routes that currently service York U to the terminal at Steeles West, the students will riot. Bus routes such as the 41, 60, 106, 107 are still going to have to run through the centre of campus, even if their start/end station will be Steeles West (BTW, does anyone know why the 60 bus doesn’t go by York U GO station during rush hour?)

    Steeles West will end up being the start/end point for the Jane 35 buses, 165 Weston North and maybe a new ‘235’ Jane North, possibly the 108 Driftwood and the 84D, as well as the before mentioned routes through York U



  3. I never said the site was fantastic, its terrible…I just wanted to show the plan that they are dreaming of. It looks very pedestrian friendly. Also, if you go to Highway 7 TODAY in between Edgely and Millway Ave (just west of Jane) you can see a very nice pedestrian gateway which abruptly ends because there is a field of emptiness and then the WAL-MART…

    Its funny to imagine Vaughan being serious, but they really are, about this corporate center.

    I live in this city, within 5 mins from the subway station…where transit is worst. However, i really think that the VCC will be something better then the Markham Downtown! Only time will tell…


  4. Tom wrote:

    “Has there ever been any sort of study to see just how many people would want to get off a GO Train and onto the subway at Sheppard West?”

    I recall that the York University station on the Bradford line would be relocated to Sheppard West. Currently, students coming from the north have to get off the GO Train and onto a shuttle bus to get to the campus, so changing to a subway is likely no more or more less of a hassle over what they do now.

    I would expect that this would open the possibility of provding a transit convenience for someone near the Bradford line who works in the north part of the city to now use transit as there is no current convenient way for them now, but I doubt there has been a study on this possible new source of ridership.

    Tom also wrote:

    “And if we do build a subway station at Sheppard West, how fast will GO build their station? I’m still waiting for them to move Oriole GO station next to Leslie station.”

    Good question, but at least with the York University/Sheppard West relocation there may be pressure from the operator of the shuttle buses.

    Speaking of Leslie, is something going to happen? Last week, I had to go downtown during the day and took GO home to Richmond Hill. I was surprised there were about a dozen people waiting to board at Oriole.

    Steve: Ridership estimates for the Spadina Extension to Steeles are on the TTC website in the project’s page at this link in Appendix M.

    The EA for the York Region portion including ridership projections can be found at this link. Given the various scenarios studied for a connection to the Vaughan CC and the ridership projections, I don’t find the idea of running a subway to Highway 7 is supported by the EA. It is important to note that the EA was looking mainly at surface options.

    I have not yet seen a consolidated ridership projection for the complete line showing, for example, how much riding will travel to and from VCC and York U, and how much is bound for central Toronto.


  5. Joseph,
    I work right near the VCC and can’t say I believe Vaughan is all that serious about change. Everything currently there is either big box retail or office towers, both surrounded by parking lots. There is close to zero residential. While City council may have talked it up as an urban downtown, the construction they’ve approved tells a very different story–they’re building a suburban big box shopping “destination”.

    And nothing on that website convinces me in the slightest that that will change in the foreseeable future.
    The land info section identifies every site as being perfect for retail and retail warehouse and lists proximity to Highway 7 and the 400 as major advantages. No mention whatsoever about future integrated land use, and nothing that suggests pedestrian and transit-oriented design is required of tenants. That all these non-urban land uses are only temporary and will be replaced/redesigned (or even that their large fields of parking will be built upon) is not impossible, but seems unlikely.

    I’d love to be proven wrong, but I fully expect that in 10 years VCC will be nothing more than a larger Yorkdale. At best it might also have a few faux pedestrian streets for people to drive to. Mainly there will be people heading there for shopping, but not enough to justify a subway line. The subway trains will carry a lot of commuters in rush hour, but they’d have been better and more cheaply served by improved bidirectional service on the Bradford GO line.


  6. I think a comparison to Mississauga City Center would be more accurate, and that area is intensifying every year, soon enough i wouldn’t be surprised to see it as a high density downtown, except with nice tree line boulevards. This is all, WITHOUT a subway line, or even a rapid line of ANY sort.

    Compare this to an area that already has a proposed subway station AND already has a rapid transit line (VIVA) connecting the area.

    A few years ago, most people, like myself, did not believe that VIVA would come out to be exactly as it was proposed, with GPS and other technologies. It happened. With the subway line secured, i seriously think that this area will come out very nicely.

    Parking lots do SURROUND the office buildings and shopping areas for NOW, because it does not make sense to build parking garages now. That will definitely change, when the area grows more and more.

    If you look at the Interchange Way Entertainment Complex, you’ll notice the whole area is a pedestrian friendly area with parking lots AROUND it, not in between. The Futureshop/Home Outfitters also follows the same design. Like i said before, the only property that does not have potential to be dense in any way is the WAL-MART, which is built purely to big box standards.

    Also, it was in the Vaughan Citizen, that there is a proposal for 4-5 high rises in the area already, just as the news came that the subway will reach there. If the Sheppard Subway area is booming with condos, why can’t this area? Its mostly a business area, agreed, but it will have its share of residential.

    The Location couldn’t be any better, 400 & 407 Corner + Subway Line. This will definitely be a corporate mega spot. I have no doubt about it.

    All the big box mess is on the other side of the highway near Weston Road…


  7. Steve I already know how you feel about more subway construction. But what are your thoughts/feelings on a Sheppard West extension that would interline or share the Sheppard West (or Downsview) Station to York (or possibly Steeles West) portion with the Spadina line? Just as many York students come in from the East as do from the south, and with the occasional train short turning there should be capacity to handle this arrangement.

    I think the is the only way I’d really accept this extension.

    Steve: Downsview Station exists, of course, because it was the point where alternative schemes — a Spadina line to York, or a Sheppard line east toward Yonge — diverged, and Council could not make up its mind which came first. They built the little common piece, and we have a subway to Idomo as the result.

    Having said that, the demand on Sheppard west of Yonge, even allowing for York U, would be nowhere near the demand needed to justify a subway line. To get from Yonge to Downsview Station (not including the complex interchange your proposal would require) would set us back, conservatively, $750-million. It would include the crossing of the west branch of the Don River that is probably best done on a bridge given the gradients and complexity of going under the river. (For a comparison, see York Mills Station on the Yonge line.)

    A far better scheme to provide the type of service you suggest would be an east-west trunk line in the Finch corridor, probably on Finch itself despite the alluring hydro lands just to the north. This line would connect the Yonge subway, the Spadina subway (at Finch/Keele station) and could extend west into northern Etobicoke. When you add in the northern approaches from the VCC extension and York Region Transit / VIVA, York would have a network of lines serving it directly or with a short subway hop from all directions.

    Several people have commented about the issue of transfers and fares for students coming from various parts of the city. Frankly, if by 2014 or so Toronto and York haven’t figured out how to let someone ride their combined system for one fare, we’re in a much bigger mess than any subway line will solve. I’m amused by the idea of conductors passing through subway trains with “coffee pot” fareboxes like the old days of the North Yonge Bus collecting a separate fare from each rider while holding them captive north of Steeles West Station.)


  8. Three things that I think need to be addressed.

    York Line
    Sheppard lines future (Connect with SRT or what?)
    Future Line to Airport

    If the TTC connected its servive from the North, East and West it will not only increase service and have more people on it, it will bring more money. You have to spend more to get more . However they shouldn’t leave their borders and keep it close to Toronto. Subways aren’t the biggest concern at moment but if they had to do it that’s the order its need to be done.

    #1 thing is that they need to improve service, because right now it’s not first class, far from it.


  9. It amazes me that people can expect the governments to want to give money to a sink hole like the TTC. Does anyone know where I can find how much money it’s losing this year?

    Steve: The operating subsidy will be somewhat in excess of $200-million, and the capital subsidy is much higher.

    Whether this is a valuable expenditure is a matter of opinion. Many reactions to the recent funding announcements were in the vein “that’s fine, but we want a lot more, and we want it now”. When you talk about transit “losing money”, just talk to all those landowners whose property instantly is made more valuable because it will have transit service. We won’t come close to paying for the subway construction with any development charges.


  10. The Finch BRT suggestion makes sense, but highlights the stupidity of the Sheppard line as it is configured. BRT passengers going East on the route you suggest (and a main selling point seems to be an East-West corridor in its own RoW) would have to transfer at Finch and Sheppard/Yonge.

    Then again even extending Sheppard westward doesn’t really help: Either passengers would have to transfer to Finch West and transfer again at Downsview, or the Sheppard line would have to be expensively extended to Finch West. The alternative, continuing the BRT to Downsview via the York University Bus only lanes is cheaper then extending Sheppard past Downsview to a logical terminal at Keele and Finch, but seems somewhat silly, since it duplicates an already underused subway routing.

    Steve: The real problem here is that the demand corridor west of Yonge (and to the east for that matter) is on Finch, not Sheppard. Just look at the frequency of the bus services (pre-subway). It would be interesting to know how many people are trying to go past Yonge Street rather than to it.


  11. While I do support the Vaughan extension, I am with Steve in that I hope this is just the beginning. Once this corridor is completed in 10 years, Jane/Finch, York University, Woodbridge, VCC, Vaughan Mills, Canada’s Wonderland, and Maple will all be within reach of mass transit, all of which are currently severely under serviced. Even the Rexdale area will benefit, as they will no longer have to go all the way down to Bloor or Yonge to catch a subway train.

    With that said, unless there is some breakthrough in subway development making it much cheaper, this MUST be the last subway project. They are just too expensive to develop these days. Developing a LRT network across Toronto and upgrading streetcar ROWs into full LRTs would make the most sense. However, with the exception of exclusive passageways (ie: through the Finch hydro corridor or a Scarborough LRT), I am not completely sold with LRT ROWs on streets. With cross traffic and stopping, I am skeptical that these vehicles will be faster than a car (which will then do little to get car junkies on to transit).

    So for an outside idea, how about monorail??? Various Asian cities and Las Vegas have had great success with this mode of transportation; even dual lines are slender, modern, and far from an eyesore in urban areas; would be much cheaper and faster to build than subway tunnels; and would not have to deal with traffic at all and would therefore be faster than driving. Even the scenic sky views would probably get even the biggest car junkies out of their cars and on to transit. And while an express LRT line down the Spadina ROW would be cool, I think a monorail would be even better. Here is an article that while somewhat biased, compares monorail to heavy rail and light rail.



    LRT corridors on wide suburban streets will be, or should be, very different from those built downtown. Interference from cross-traffic needs to be truly controlled with real transit priority, not what passes for priority even on St. Clair. We have situations at major intersections on Spadina/Harbourfront where cars can be held for two minutes or more waiting for their “priority” phase. Don’t let anyone fool you — the real priority is for cars, not transit.

    There are three problems with monorails:

    1. Their capacity is limited and networks of lines, particularly with branches, gets expensive as you must continue the same type of infrastructure even on branches that don’t strictly need it. (This is a similar problem to the RT in Scarborough.)

    2. If you are over a road, you lose one lane for the support pylons and sufficient clearance for safety.

    3. While the guideways may be light and airy, the stations are not. You can expect a structure about four lanes wide to accommodate the monorail tracks, the platforms and the stairs, escalators and elevators. Of course, escalators and elevators have to land on the sidewalk, not in the middle of the road, and so on a six-lane road, say, the structure has to reach out to the sidewalk. If you own a building beside a station, give up any hope of renting ground floor property that will now be in the shadow of the elevated.

    There’s a very good reason that monorails have not been implemented all over the world and LRT has — generally speaking, LRT fits better.


  12. Steve, I don’t want to start an online argument but I just want to mention a few things before I let the monorail issue rest in peace.

    First off you mention how a monorail would end up taking at least 1-2 lanes of roadway away. But so wouldn’t a LRT running down the middle of a roadway??? Also if they built one along Spadina, Queens Quay, or St. Clair, they would merely use the streetcar ROW lanes for monorail pillars. Also just like subways stations, some monorail stations are bulkier than others. As you can see in this pic of Sydney’s monorail the station is highly compact. Granted this is a unidirectional monorail, but you could easily see a similar station on the other side of the road for the opposite direction.

    Steve: Look at the sidewalk — it is completely in the shadow of the monorail station. Note also that this area is clearly not intended for a lot of pedestrian traffic given the narrowness of the sidewalk. Finally, the station is smaller than an RT-train-length giving some indication of capacity and it depends for circulation and access on the building to which it is attached. Plunk this thing down in the middle of a typical street where buildings do not come right to the lot line and you will have to provide your own access to the platforms. This is the same design problem that bedeviled proposals to put RT technology and its predecessor, GO Urban, in the middle of streets.

    As for capacity, Tokyo’s monorail moves 33,000 people per hour per direction and moves 140,000 people per day with a capacity for over 200,000 people. the system also enjoys subway like frequency and speeds (Source: http://www.freewaymonorail.org/critics.htm, http://www.freewaymonorail.org/capacity.htm).

    Steve: I hate to sound dismissive, but the freewaymonorail site doesn’t look particularly professional and has all the earmarks of someone who has a hobby horse for a particular technology in one city. There is a big difference between dropping a structure in the middle of an expressway and putting it over a city street. An easy comparison is to imagine what the Spadina subway would look like if the Allen Road were a six-lane local street with buildings at the sidewalk.

    Finally performance speaks for itself. Besides being one of the safest modes of transportation, if you really want to get people out of their cars, you need to create something that is faster and more efficient than driving. About 40 seconds into this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGpssWBTkzU) you’ll see the Sydney monorail blaring past downtown gridlock and traffic. This line is not faster than cars because they are stuck waiting for a LRT train to pass by or because they are waiting for a streetcar to unload and load passengers. It is faster because it doesn’t share the same surface as the cars. If we had a network of these things around the Toronto core, even the biggest car lovers would consider picking up a few TTC tokens when they see one of these babies sore past a red light.

    Steve: Sorry, but I don’t want my city streets given over to elevated guideways. We are trying to reduce the impact of transportation (ie: cars) on the liveability of our cities and the last thing we need to do is to blight our streets with any kind of elevated. By the way, the picture of a station on Wikipedia’s entry for the Tokyo Monorail looks like a rather large structure to me. Just the sort of thing we need at Queen and Yonge.

    I’m not saying that monorail is the end all, be all solution to mass transit in Toronto. I am saying that Toronto and the GTA does need to look outside of heavy rail for transit solutions, and monorail should definitely be considered as a transit solution.


  13. I’m not familiar with the Tokyo monorail, but I lived in Seattle for a few years — even had a view of the 1962 monorail from my apartment window.

    The monorail is seen as a symbol of the city of Seattle, so it gets a sentimental edge in the city’s transit debate. But Seattle’s not a transit city — per capita ridership is a third of what it is here in Toronto. Downtown Seattle has wide, often one-way streets, and much less of the retail in small buildings you see along Spadina or Queen. Right now, its only transit is buses; the light rail line that freewaymonorail.org criticizes is under construction, tunnelled downtown.

    Seattle’s 2005 monorail plan (see elevated.org) provides some useful cost numbers. The Green Line was a 10-mile monorail proposal with a cost of $1.7 billion (US). That works out to about $125 million Canadian per km. But with a maximium capacity of 6,000 passengers per hour per direction, it offers similar capacity to LRT for about four times the price. There have to be cheaper solutions to the traffic priority problem!

    To get up to high (33,000/hour) capacity numbers, you’d need subway-like station lengths, which means more infrastructure perched over the street. But given the Seattle costs, I’d bet a high-capacity monorail isn’t much cheaper than a subway.


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