Who Will Ride?

Now that shovels are poised to start digging north into York Region, we need to take a hard look at just who this line is going to serve.  The information is this post is taken from:

The TTC’s own Environmental Assessment report of the line to Steeles at this link, and

The York Region Environmental Assessment report on its plans for Highway 7 and the Vaughan North-South Link at this link.

First we have the TTC study which assumes the line will end at Steeles Avenue.  In Appendix M, starting at page 13 in the PDF (page 22 of the source document), we have the travel forecasts, and the summary appears on page 15 (25).

Assuming that the land use assumptions are met, the extension is expected to carry about 17,000 AM peak passengers  southbound into Downsview Station.  No peak hour figure is given, but typically about half of the 3-hour peak load travels in the peak hour.  This translates to about 8,500 in the peak hour.

Northbound AM peak travel to York University is estimated at 5,500.   This gives us about 2,750 northbound riders to York University in the morning peak hour.

Before anyone jumps in here, yes, I know that student trips don’t follow the same temporal patterns as office workers.  I used to work near Queen’s Park across the street from the UofT campus and am quite familiar with the ebbs and flows of students on the transit system.  The point is that we make decisions about transit investments and technology choices based on peak demand.

The impact on modal split is quite interesting, and it can be inferred from tables 6 and 7.   South of Sheppard, the total trips across the Sheppard Avenue screenline go up from about 82,000 to about 124,000 from 2001 to 2021, an increase of 50%.  Of this, auto trips are projected to rise by about 30% while transit trips go up by about 70%.  Most of this increase is on the subway, but some is on GO Transit.  This is a modal split change from 55% to 62%.

Now let’s look at York Region.  They have several EAs in various stages of completion including one for the Yonge Street South Corridor (Finch Station to 19th Street) and one for Highway 7 with a north-south link to the top end of an extended Spadina subway (this is the Vaughan North-South Link which I will refer to as the VNSL).

York Region uses the same reference date, 2021, for their models as the TTC does for the Spadina Subway.  The ridership projections, Chapter 4 of the final EA report, assume that by 2021 the Spadina subway would have reached at least York U if not Steeles Avenue.    Part of the trunk Highway 7 service is assumed to divert both ways south to York University on a combined 2 minute service.

The projected ridership to York University is 2,200 passengers in the peak hour.  This is estimated to rise by only 20% if the VNSL is converted to subway technology.  Note that this includes both student and commuter trips bound for central Toronto.  This is an astonishingly low ridership projection.

Table 4.3-6 contains the projected change in modal split for various origins and destinations within the 905 and the 416.  With the surface rapid transit option (BRT), the modal split to Planning District 1 (downtown Toronto) goes from 33.7% in 2001 to 40.5% in 2021.   Overall modal splits for other OD pairs rarely get into double digits.

Finally, Chapter 12 discusses the conversion of the VNSL to subway technology.  There is no reference to potential ridership, only to the choice of alignment for the project.

Let’s bring all of this together.  The TTC projects a peak 3-hour load of about 17,000 southbound to Downsview, equivalent to a peak hour somewhere around 8,000.  Many of these will be existing riders, but many will also be new to the TTC.  York Region projects 2,200 peak hour passengers into York University, but it is unclear how many of these are destined for the university and how many for downtown Toronto.  Obviously some of the Vaughan to downtown riders are counted both as York Region and TTC riders, and we also need to factor in some reasonable increase for a subway in the VNSL rather than a BRT line.

However, we’re stretching things to say, as the TTC’s website does, that the York Region study “determined the need for an extension of the subway line from Steeles Avenue to Highway 7, with an interim median transitway between York University and Highway 7.”  The York Region study showed where to build a subway, but it most certainly did not establish the need for such a line.

Moreover, there is no consideration given to the effect on traffic bound for central Toronto from an expanded GO Transit rail service in the corridor parallel to the Spadina Subway (the line that will, ultimately, be extended north to Barrie).  This will remove a chunk of the potential market for an extended subway line by making commuter rail service available to people who might otherwise drive south to the subway.

Meanwhile, the EA for the Yonge Street South corridor (serving Richmond Hill to Finch Station) shows a much higher level of demand, so much so that the study cautions both that LRT will be necessary as a replacement for BRT because buses will be incapable of handling the load, and even an LRT will require significant priority, including possibly grade-separation from Yonge Street, to handle the demand coming south into Finch Station.  Growth in this corridor may be reduced somewhat by improvement to the Richmond Hill GO rail service, but that will only defer not eliminate the problem.

This raises serious concerns about the capacity of the Yonge Subway line and the degree to which it will be overloaded by traffic originating in York Region.  Some additional subway capacity is planned by the 2021 horizon of these studies, but we risk overcommitment of local subway service within the 416 to handle regional demand.

If we are going to have funding for a network of lines, if we are going to treat the GTA transit networks as a single entity, then we need to start planning that way with an integrated projection of demands for various corridors and service scenarios.  The GTTA would do well to launch such work as soon as possible so that we know how all of this will fit together.

29 thoughts on “Who Will Ride?

  1. In 7 Years, if transit funding continues to pour in, There should be Bus lanes stretching from Vaughan Corporate Center to Brampton Downtown and lanes from VCC to Markham Downtown. Also, most commuters who currently park at Yorkdale or Downsview station, so that pattern will surely shift to Transitway Station or the gigantic Steeles West station.

    Go Bus will be cramming all its busy York U Bound bus lines into the Subway line, assuming GTTA makes a good fare system, it should work fine. VIVA ridership is increasing and medium density residential is being developed (3-4 floor condos + town houses) along Highway 7. Every feeder bus that you can think of will be sent to this subway line. The Maple Express bus from Vaughan Mills to Yorkdale will go to this subway line. Commuters from areas along the 400 will take this subway line

    York U is a stop like none that is located on the Sheppard line, so for people to call this identical is just bizarre. It will be bi-directional with commuters heading both ways to York University. Definitely it can’t be called the line to nowhere.

    YRT/Brampton Route 77 Already carries alot of people from Brampton to Finch Subway Station. These passengers will all be dropped into VCC Station thus lowering the amount of buses dumping into the Yonge line. Also, many many new commuters will take this line to get to Vaughan Mills or Canada’s Wonderland or the new Mega High Rise Development at the corner of Jane & Rutherford. Surely, there will be some sort of BRT in place from Highway 7 to Rutherford along Jane by 2014.

    And, lastly, in seven years, significant development on the Corporate Center will take place which will make the line more bi-directional in its travel patterns. With a subway line, which firm would not want to build a nice high density tower?

    After this line, i think LRT lines should be built all over the city, because, they are the cheaper choice. However, this is a line that has to be done eventually, might as well do it now, before Vaughan becomes such a Car is King City that there is no hope to go reverse. And the benefit to Brampton is great, don’t forget that.

    Steve: I agree that there are opportunities to increase demand on the York U / VCC line with additional feeder services and redevelopment. We need to know what the demand looks like both here and over at Yonge Street because the projected changes in modal split are quite small. If, by 2021, events drive more people to transit, the requirements for service will be huge, and they will have to serve demand going many places other than downtown Toronto.

    The GTTA needs to do a lot more than just the projects that were funded on Tuesday.


  2. The potential demand on Yonge is a huge. Finch is the busiest non-transfer station by far in the system (about 95,000 riders per day). Suppose energy prices push commuters to transit in the next dozen years. The Yonge line could become a quagmire.

    A downtown relief line up through Don Mills would siphon off some of this demand (any idea how much?), but probably make the Sheppard line even less useful.

    With such a high subway ridership at Finch, why isn’t there more investment into the Richmond Hill GO line? Seems like a much neglected resource. I know it is stuck in a valley, but surely there are creative ways of getting a few more stops in the city that might make it useful for people other than rush-hour comuters to Union Station.

    I don’t see a cheap solution, except more density, and make people live closer to their work. How can GTA folk put up with such ridiculous commutes?


  3. I wonder why the Spadina extension can’t be constructed in two phases, with phase 1 ending at Steeles West. Once phase 1 is operational, a re-evaluation of VCC could be conducted to confirm that the development was indeed what they are claiming will be built.

    I guess what I’m really getting at is that suburban ‘downtowns’ rarely end up being the densely-built, pedestrian and transit friendly urban areas that the developers and politicians claim they will be. Just look at STC. Despite a significant amount of intensification, there are still big-box stores being built today along Progress Ave from Brimley towards McCowan, complete with enormous and half-empty parking lots (Best Buy, for example). It’s insane that this type of development was permitted in an area that is just a few hundred metres from a rapid transit line! True, that part of the road runs parallel to a loud and ugly 401, but surely they could have found a better use for than ring of land around the STC. Why not mixed retail with buildings that reach the lot line and laneways in the back? That would make for a great urbanization of the STC area. Walking past huge parking lots does not.

    Anyway, I have even less hope for VCC, to be honest. The Wal-Mart sets the tone, as far as I’m concerned. At best, we’ll end up with some generic office buildings, a few condos and townhouses, but it will not be nearly enough to justify a subway extension. Meanwhile, corridors that could easily justify a rapid transit line, such as Eglinton, continue being neglected.


  4. Steve I find it interesting that in York Region’s EA they show VCC station with only on street connections between surface routes and the subway. Do they really believe that this is a better option than some sort of bus bay above the station?


  5. Aren’t you all ignoring future growth? A lot of these estimates can be way off — unless you do actual surveys, those projected estimates don’t really mean much.

    I was at a party in Vaughan the other day, and a lot of drive only folks told me they would absolutely use the subway to get downtown once it’s built, and are looking forward to it.

    Keep in mind ridership numbers for University and Bloor in the 60s were low as well. It can take 10-20 years before ridership really ramps up. Could we live without the University and Bloor lines today? Don’t think so.

    Steve: I agree that the estimates can be low. My issue is that we need to see how all of this plays out in a network context, not just line by line. Looking at the projected modal splits for most of the travel in/to/from York Region, there is a huge potential demand for more transit service and I don’t think it will be the kind of demand we can handle with subways.

    Some will be BRT, some will be LRT, but we need to stop putting all our eggs in one basket, a subway megaproject, and start thinking about travel through the whole GTA region.


  6. I would have preferred a subway to Steeles West only, with an LRT branch going west on Steeles and one going north. If the subway was aligned to go west, it could draw a lot more people.

    The problem with subways is they’ll always be political. Do you remember all the controversy on the Bloor line? – straight E-W route with Y vs. that flying U contraption? Nobody can decide where a new route goes without everyone else getting jealous, so they only extend the current lines.

    One thing that did floor me was Giambrone’s statement that he would have rather completed Sheppard — tongue … floor. That would be worse! At least this extension will take cars off the 400 and 401 going to Yorkdale, and take load off the Yonge subway.

    Honestly, of all the people I’ve spoken to in Vaughan, they’re all looking forward to the subway.

    Steve: I asked about Giambrone’s comment myself, and was told that it was taken a bit out of context. What was intended was that if we were going to build a subway somewhere, Sheppard would have been the preferable option. I don’t agree with that position either because it would perpetuate the construction of lines where there isn’t enough demand rather than looking at an appropriate mix of subway and LRT.


  7. Mimmo Briganti said:

    Keep in mind ridership numbers for University and Bloor in the 60s were low as well.

    Um… not so much for Bloor, as it was the selected route for the reason of traffic patterns on it. As for University, I remember it closing on evenings and weekends for the first 20 years of opperations.

    Is that what we’re gonna have to do here….. close our brand new 300 million$ / km subway and wait until we can get some usage?

    Steve: The real question will be how long York Region will pay its share of the cost of keeping the line open north of Steeles West Station with very light ridership in the off peak. As transit becomes a significant part of regional budgets, I expect that some of the same issues about service “efficiency” and keeping operating costs under control will arise that are familiar chants of budget hawks in Toronto.


  8. Is construction starting on at VCC before the actual extending of the line from Downsview? Shouldn’t they start construstion on the Downview end first as they could [operate] the completed sections as construction is ongoing?

    Steve: Yes that makes sense operationally and financially, but politically I suspect that there will be a big photo op at the VCC Station site just before the election this fall even if all they do is stick a shovel in the ground for show.


  9. Yes, some serious network planning does need to take place so that suburb to suburb commutes can be viable without a car. I can’t see how they can build any east-west LRT lines without building north-south ones as well.

    Suppose the Sheppard subway was fully built and drew in BD-like crowds from north Etobicoke, North York, and northern Scarborough. How could YUS handle even half of those riders transferring to north/south trains? Everything would just explode south of Bloor. Can’t network planners see that? Even when the Bloor line was conceived, they knew they needed another north-south route — University. Now that was good network planning.


  10. Steve, most reports are saying it will take seven years to build the subway extension … does that seem a little long? Apparently it took eight years to build Sheppard, but only five to build the original Yonge line. Doesn’t seem to make sense.

    Steve: I think that the time cited for the Yonge line is actual construction, not including design. Also, that project was not constrained by a desire to even out the cash flow over several years.


  11. Any thoughts on the proposed 407 station? It strikes me as the most unsafe, desolate station I can think of, proposed or existing. There would be no human life around, except for the most peculiar of passengers–the one who can afford to drive a private toll highway part-way, and then park their vehicle so they may ride the train with the rest of us. It doesn’t make sense to me.

    Steve: For the benefit of readers, there is a diagram of the station at this link.

    This really has to be one of the oddest stations, and its main purpose seems to be as an interchange to the 407 Transitway.


  12. We need to remember that although the bulk of the funding was directed to the subway extension, the anouncement also supported significant increases in transit in the suburbs. Mississauga transit, Brampton Transit and YRT were very happy with what they received. The result should be a high capacity BRT/LRT routes from Square one, up Highway 10 to Brampton and across the top of the city following highway 7. Also the 407 GO service is the fastest growing bus route they have (and maybe in time GO ALRT may actually be built). All of these have a potential or current focus on the Spadina line.

    Anyway, Spadina extension is now a done deal. Several of these responses have mentioned many factors that will be coming into play over the next decade. Within 20 years the traffic within this area may look very much like what the Finch station does today.


  13. Bryan A said:

    Is that what we’re gonna have to do here….. close our brand new 300 million$ / km subway and wait until we can get some usage?

    Steve said:

    The real question will be how long York Region will pay its share of the cost of keeping the line open north of Steeles West Station with very light ridership in the off peak. As transit becomes a significant part of regional budgets, I expect that some of the same issues about service “efficiency” and keeping operating costs under control will arise that are familiar chants of budget hawks in Toronto.

    This then begs the question: Are there plans to put a crossover near Steeles West station? Because then the TTC can simply close the two stations north of Steeles and turn the trains around at Steeles West. The TTC is under no obligation to service York Region if they won’t foot the operating costs.

    Steve: Yes, there is a crossover planned for Steeles West because it was going to be the terminal. It makes sense to have one here just in terms of service management and emergency operations.


  14. They plan on moving the short turn operation north from St. Clair West to Downsview if I’m not mistaken, but that will only apply during rush hours. At all other times, all trains will run all the way to Hwy 7.

    There’s something I don’t understand though — with all the Identra coils gone, how do northbound passengers today know if their train is going past St. Clair W. in the morning? I remember the coils signalling all the signs on northbound University and Spadina. What happened? None of those signs work anymore.

    Here’s an amusing story — when I was on the platform at Museum waiting for a train during the wye diversion, I jokingly said to one of the platform supervisors calling out the train destinations on a bullhorn, “you’re a human identra coil and solari sign”. He didn’t get the joke. Then I pointed to the old NEXT TRAIN sign hanging from the ceiling with masking tape around it — he still didn’t get it.


  15. On Keung’s comment (#8):

    According to the TTC’s Spadina EA website, the plan is to launch the TBMs in Downsview Park, somewhat near the future Sheppard West station. Which way they are going to go first (Downsview or VCC) is still unknown.

    Also on the TTC’s EA, they listed that both Steeles West and Finch West stations would have crossovers south of the station. Are they still going to put one at Finch West, as the subway now ends at VCC, or will it end up being like North Yonge, with a northbound crossover at each station?

    Steve: Finch and Steeles are logical places for crossovers given their locations. I doubt they would be dropped, but equally it doesn’t make sense to add them at Sheppard West or York U Stations. North Yonge has crossovers every 2 km and does not have one at North York Centre.


  16. Steve: I have run the following comment with only minor editorial changes to fix layout and a few grammar problems. I do not entirely agree with it for reasons that will appear in my own response, but thought it worth running.

    In my presentation to the 5th GTA Transportation Summit yesterday (www.spacing.ca/bob-brent/ … thanks Matt!) I recommended all future TTC RT EA’s should be done by GTTA to

    Ration RT transit capital rationally, and;
    Remove (history of prior) TTC interference to “cook” results (i.e. build subway bias, in Toronto, and away from 905 border, and not on highest demand/need route)

    During my presentation I made verbal reference to a Globe and Mail article Tuesday criticizing RBC/BMO for acting both as advisors to Federal government and agents seeking to sell and lease-back their office space, as it created perceptions BMO/RBC advice was not impartial, as they were now receiving a benefit by also acting as agents in the sales — whose sale/leaseback they’d previous recommended as advisors. The same principle should apply to TTC Engineering and Construction, if GTA’ers are to truly have transit… where people want it!

    The TTC’s engineers want to build subways and do a good, maybe even a great job of designing and building them on time and on budget (Sheppard… well almost on time, but definitely under budget!); they should not, however, be the ones to also DECIDE IF a subway should be built nor determine WHERE it should be built, as it sets up a similar appearance of conflict just as Globe alleges for BMO/RBC. The stewards of the EA should be mode and location neutral and TTC engineering has repeatedly failed the test to be mode and GTA neutral, showing a Toronto-bias that has hindered true GTA transit integration (since 1991 at least).

    Engineering has been an actively engaged participant, along with or under the direction of the TTC’s “politicized staff” to engage in blatant, on-going “EA gerrymandering” in the 1991 EA/1992 EA F-Us and 2001 RTEP Priority study. The later which confirmed decision to build subways, and to build subways in Toronto—away from the 905 border—as if they had one of those electronic dog collars that acts as a boundary barrier by giving the dog electric shock near boundary wire!

    In 1991/1992, TTC’s Engineering got around the fact a Yonge extension north from Finch to Steeles would be the hightest scoring by needlessly pushing it 2 km further north to Clark and evaluating the Clark extension instead—with the cost of an uncessary station—then assessing it poorly based on low “network connectivity!” (see my comment on spacing wire). Stopping it at Steeles would save $35M for an unnecessary Clark station and give it the BEST “network connectivity” of all the subway options (visit Yonge/Bishop—one block north of Finch to see the thousands of YRT, GO, Bramptom, TTC buses that constitute the most heavily congested bus artery in the GTA) and make it the highest scoring althernate. Instead Engineering recommends it for an undercapacity busway which won’t handle the sheer volume of express and local buses on Yonge between Finch and Steeles. They have repeatedly failed the test of being an independent mode, location, GTA steward of TTC RT EAs. It’s time for the GTTA to take over GTA RT EA’s if we want to have ridership where riders want it… not based on where the Finance Minister du jour lives or wishes to collect votes for his party.

    Similarly, the EA concluded the best “alternative” to connect a subway (once built) from York U… to a Yonge subway… was… gasp… another subway! The EA didn’t consider if a LRT was a more cost-effective alternate than a subway just to York U!!!!

    Steve: Time for me to jump in. Building anything on budget is not the same as building something within a reasonable budget. We need only look at the $300-million/km cost estimate for the Spadina/VCC line. Oddly, in the York Region studies, the cost of a subway extension is pegged at about half this amount. What do the folks writing for York Region know about subway costs that the TTC doesn’t? A great deal of the LRT versus subway debate turns on the question of the capacity required and the cost to implement a large network. If someone could build me subways for even $100-million/km, I might not think quite so badly of them.

    Oddly enough, the York study, as I have discussed elsewhere, also points up the need for greater capacity north of Finch Station. The busway we are building there is a stopgap, and much better service is needed in that corridor. Moreover, we need to find alternative ways of getting people to the core other than by funnelling them into Finch station.

    The original 1990 study explicitly excluded an evaluation of LRT options because the whole purpose of the study was to link the Yonge and Spadina lines in a ring. The intent was to eliminate the terminals (and the delays I have discussed elsewhere) so that a close headway could be operated in the peak direction (southbound Yonge AM, northbound Yonge PM). Obviously, if the goal is to loop the subways for operational reasons, LRT is swept off of the table.

    When the recent Spadina extension EA was underway, I challenged the lack of LRT alternatives, and the TTC claimed that they had already been studied and rejected. Yes, but for a completely different project. This, along with some of the gerrymandering of the original Scarborough RT study, is termed, in parliamentary circles, “misleading”.

    In the 2001 RTEP study it was more of the same twisted logic reconfirming the decision to build the subway to York as a first future priority and completing Sheppard subway east to STC as it’s second priority… again by an Engineer who built Sheppard subway. The Sheppard subway opened up 35% BELOW the TTC’s own pessimistic ridership estimates… when will they learn, be held accountable or listen to Ed Levy and Dr. Richard Soberman’s alternative: to build it west to connect to Downsview?

    Steve: Sorry, Bob, but I think that building the Sheppard line west to Downsview is throwing good money after bad. The only reason we have a line on Sheppard at all is that the centre of the known universe (or at least North York) was to have its own subway junction. I will leave it to any casual observer to determine whether Mel Lastman created anything of value at Sheppard and Yonge.

    At the 2004 Commission meeting considering the York U EA, both Steve and Gord Perks argued passionately for it to consider alternatives to subway to York U (a statutory requirement of an “Individual EA” that it is less onerous than a “Class EA”). The Engineering manager was dismissive and answered it wasn’t necessary to consider subway alternatives to York U as they were considered in the early 90’s EA’s (see above). The TTC Commissioners acted like cheerleaders for a subway, giving rousing speeches in support of building subways rather than requesting or directing Engineering to review the LRT alternative Gord and Steve deputed for or others that should be included in IEA—by law!

    I personally was stunned that Commissioners disregarded the law and abandoned their fiduciary duty to ensure they were spending taxpayer’s dollars to get the biggest transit ride impact for the smallest investment. I wondered if the next step would be a lawsuit to enforce the individual EA requirement to consider alternatives… and was told “No! Transit supporters don’t sue transit people, it wouldn’t look good”, and “…it wasn’t necessary anyways, as they’ll never find the money to build it!”

    Steve: There’s a piece missing here. When the Ridership Growth Strategy came out, it contained no subway lines because its purpose was to be low-cost, east-to-implement mini-projects that would gain new ridership now. The Engineering folks lobbied successfully to have a fourth option added to the RGS, the identification of Spadina and Sheppard, in that order, as the TTC’s top priorities for subway construction. Howard Moscoe himself told me it wouldn’t matter because nobody would ever fund it. Once someone draws a line on a map and says “it’s a priority”, erasing that line is almost impossible.

    Surprise! It’s déjà vu… the underperforming Spadina line, SRT, Downsview station, Sheppard rapid transit all over again… with same EA-process-compromised Engineering and Construction Staff, snuggling up to yet another generation of politicians so they can build yet another ill-fated subway.

    p.s. Was I the only one who noted the juicy irony of Federal Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty advocating for a subway to Vaughan (to win over Liberal “905 Ring” voters in the next Federal elections) side-by-side Provincial Liberal Finance Minister Greg Sorbara advocating to build the subway (hoping to capture the same “905 ring” voters from John Tory’s Conservatives in the upcoming October Provincial election?) Surely a John Barber moment!

    Steve: This polemic against the Engineering and Construction branch goes a bit over the top. It ignores the fact that building anything (subways, roads, museums, concert halls) has long been a way to generate employment both for the professionals and labourers, and to keep the construction industry in small change. The problem with the EA process is that it is very complex, and almost certainly guarantees that only the options that were selected before the process starts will be examined and approved. In effect, a lot of the EA work is a sham doing little more than keeping an army of consultants and public participation facilitators from selling pencils on streetcorners.

    (I consider “facilitated” to be an active verb with dark conotations, as in “I was facilitated”. Public opinion just disappears under the evil hand of such people.

    One notable exception is the work on the Toronto Waterfront where there seems to be a genuine desire to involve the public and actually listen to them. Many of the same crew we find on other studies are present, but the atmosphere has been refreshingly open, as these sorts of studies go.)

    As long as transit decisions are made to suit political interests, not the broader public need for transportation services, it doesn’t matter who does the EA. The TTC can do it, the GTTA can do it, the regions can do it, but the result is the same. I need only point to the so-called EA for the VCC extension which appears as an add-on chapter to a York Region EA. There is no justification for the line on ridership, and the idea of its construction is taken as a given. All they are doing is figuring out where to put it. At least York is honest enough not to try to cook the books on ridership.


  17. If VCC becomes a success in terms of ridership and development, do you think there’ll be justification in the future to expand north to Major Mackenzie? Stops at Langstaff, Rutherford (Vaughan Mills), Major Mackenzie (Wonderland) and Maple Town Centre(Keele/Major Mac) would cover most of the nodes in central Vaughan and give most bus routes through there definite terminals and commuters quick subway access. This could even be done at grade to save $. What are your thoughts?

    Steve: Two points here. First, if York Region wants a nice regional network, they should be looking at LRT and buses, not subways. They simply cannot afford the construction cost. Second, if the TTC gets their hand on it, you can bet it will be built all underground. So much for low-cost solutions.


  18. “If VCC becomes a success in terms of ridership and development, do you think there’ll be justification in the future to expand north to Major Mackenzie? Stops at Langstaff, Rutherford (Vaughan Mills), Major Mackenzie (Wonderland) and Maple Town Centre(Keele/Major Mac) would cover most of the nodes in central Vaughan and give most bus routes through there definite terminals and commuters quick subway access. This could even be done at grade to save $. What are your thoughts?”

    Well, I live at Weston and Highway 7, so I can give you an idea of what can and cannot work.

    An LRT from VCC to Vaughan Mills is possible since it would be attractive as in being a connector to THE SUBWAY. What we can see for sure is a new VIVA line from VCC to Vaughan Mills and a summer extension directly into Wonderland.

    The corner of Jane and Rutherford is already looking very nice with 2 CONDOS, a nice mini office building with stores adjacent to the street and an empty land plot for more “new urbanism” style commerical or residential.

    Maple Town Center should focus on the GO Station it currently has and expand it to make it work better with Keele and Major Mack.

    The subway however should end at Highway 7 for at least 40 or so years. From VCC, LRT can go the way East, West and North.

    After this extension, I think we should go back to Toronto or even Downtown where ridership is no problem and revenue can increase greatly.


  19. The layout of the 407 station seems to be a lot like Kipling, substituting the subway for the transitway. It also resembles the Bramalea GO station, except the bus bays are within the parking lot rather than the other side of the tracks.

    I expect the parking lot is for traffic coming from the north rather than 407. Highway 7 station would be a better place except there is not much vacant land there. It appears reasonable that all of the current GO service routed through York University would use the 407 station instead and save the slow travel down Keele.

    As for the 407 transitway, I was of the impression it was supposed to be in the center of 407 so it would not need to go around all the ramps at intersections and could use the existing bridges. I can see that this would pose a problem for station access though.

    Steve: As the diagram on York Region’s site clearly shows, the transitway is south of the 407, not in the middle of it.


  20. I wonder if there was a similiar discussion taking place somewhere in Toronto in the 1910s when they were working on the Gerrard Street tracks from the edge of town, through the countryside, to Toronto East (aka Main and Gerrard).

    These days, we look back at such things, and consider them ground breaking, as the community that sprang up, was centred around the street car lines that run through it (Queen, Kingston, Gerrard, and Danforth). But I bet back then, they were all sort of pundits gathered in bar somewhere, saying that the money would be better spent on putting a streetcar down Dufferin or Jarvis. It would be interesting to find letters to the editor in newspapers from the period!

    Steve: 1910 is an interesting date for you to choose. When the Toronto Railway Company got the franchise to run public transportation in Toronto starting in September 1891, the company was gung ho to expand into new territories that were being developed because, wait for it, they would make money. Some attractions, notably Scarborough Beach Park (a large amusement park in its day), were owned by the TRC who made money taking people out from the city to their park.

    Later, the economics of route expansion changed, and the TRC refused to expand into new areas. The City had to create the Toronto Civic Railway to provide service on Danforth east of Broadview, Bloor West of Dundas, and, yes, St. Clair. The TRC refused to extend service beyond the 1891 city boundaries. They made their financial killing on the easy, new markets and stopped investing. This refusal was instrumental in the creation of the TTC who took over in 1921 and ran the entire system ever since.

    The TTC managed to make money because it served the compact, densely populated old City of Toronto. Things didn’t start to come unravelled financially until the suburban expansion and the massive increase in the amount of service needed relative to the population because of the lower densities and longer trips.

    “Discussions in the bar” these days turn on how to handle all of that suburban travel without going broke in the process. Back in 1910, the only real competition for the streetcar lines was horse-drawn carriages, something unavailable to much of the population. Of course, Ontario Hydro had a scheme to build a subway into downtown, and we got the lower level on the Prince Edward Viaduct out of that.


  21. Only time will tell to see if this extension to Hwy7 will be useful or not. In general, I think we need a fast East-West line and a line connecting to the airport. Whether it be LRT(along Finch) or a subway/LRT along Eglinton.

    I think the reason that Vaughan really pushed for a subway is because the city does not have a viable way to get downtown by transit. Everyone refers to the GO line, but that line has like 2 or 3 trains a day. That is not enough to be attractive to choice commuters who need flexible service that is more frequent than a couple of trains a day. The subway will give the city a frequent service to downtown. I know a lot of people who drive downtown from Vaughan, and help cause the major bottleneck at 400 and 401. If they can park their cars at the subway and head downtown it would be a benefit.

    Granted, the VCC is an empty wasteland at the moment. I’m hoping the subway will spur massive intensification there. Not sure though how much of that will be possible given the sheer number of big box stores in the area. Sams Club, Walmart, IKEA. All of which are fairly new.

    Only time will tell.

    I’m confused about the announcement with regards to VIVA funding. Did Harper announce funding for VIVA Phase 2 (BRT along Yonge from Steeles to 7), or is that going to be funded separately.

    Steve: The relevant section of the backgrounder on the Prime Minister’s website is:

    York Region VIVA Phase 2, Part 1

    The VIVA rapid transit system will be enhanced through the construction of dedicated bus rapid transit systems along Yonge Street, from the Finch subway station to the Richmond Hill Centre, and along Highway 7, from the Markham Centre to Yonge Street.

    The Government of Canada is committing up to $85 million towards eligible project costs.

    Federal funding commitments to this project are conditional upon a matching financial contribution by the Province of Ontario, the completion of a due diligence review, the negotiation of a contribution agreement and the proponent’s adherence to conditions put forth by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

    The project is expected to be completed by 2010.

    For the full announcement, go to this link.


  22. I continue to believe that a lot of the enthusiasm for otherwise-illogical-seeming subway lines could and should be refunnelled into enthusiasm for revitalizing the GO train network.

    There is a thread at Urban Toronto Forum on an S-Bahn-style approach alongside the existing GO trains. We need something like that. Those pushing the Vaughan extension wanted fixed, rapid transit of the kind you can put on a map and call a system. They’ve already got it — it’s the GO train.

    But GO’s massive, infrequent, second-class-citizen trains; its total lack of connectivity with new networks like VIVA; and its bizarre suburban, anti-pedestrian, anti-smart growth style of planning all push it out of sight and out of mind for those thinking about things like subways. Regional transit is the real issue here, and it’s not being addressed except piecemeal.


  23. In Jim Coyle’s “Escape to oasis of transit tranquility” in today’s Toronto Star he very eloquently and satirically states, while riding the near empty Sheppard subway, the case for why the TTC’s RT EA process is broken and shouldn’t be overseen by the very people who build its subways, to the exclusion of cheaper alternatives—they don’t consider… or what happens when politics not ridership determines RT expansion plans… or why the GTTA’s mandate to bring seamless transit to the GTA is so needed, along with some much needed (common) sense and sensibility, to our balkanized region of competing transit systems:



  24. Bob, while I certainly enjoyed reading Jim Coyle’s article this morning, he certainly set himself up to be on empty trains. When I take the Danforth subway to work in the morning eastbound from Coxwell Station, it too often has more empty seats than occupied ones, granted the trains are longer and still not as empty as the eastbound Sheppard ones. But it’s still a pretty tranquil ride.

    I don’t mean to defend the Sheppard subway, but what do we expect with five subway stops? I know Steve did a comparison last year between the Sheppard subway and the 1966 Danforth-leg of the BD line, and the Sheppard numbers were nowhere near Danforth levels, but Danforth between Yonge and Woodbine had ten stops to Sheppard’s five. I still think that if Sheppard went further east, the numbers would actually be quite respectable (albeit still not as high as BD). Consumers and VP would be significant trip generators with all the offices and businesses in that area. Kennedy would also attract many riders with all the offices, highrise apartment buildings, condos and seniors homes there. In addition, there are seven highrise condos and two office towers planned for Kennedy and Sufference, just behind my office building and the Delta East. We need better transit there before those 10,000 residents and workers move in, otherwise they will all just drive by default.

    Sheppard should have been built as LRT, but it wasn’t, so we should just finish the line that was started. Maybe then more people would have a reason to be travelling eastbound on Sheppard in the morning.

    Steve: I too get to ride those tranquil Danforth trains out to Kennedy Station, count the number of escalators that are still not working, and ride an uncrowded RT up to the Town Centre. The point about most transit lines is that they tend to carry a lot more people in the peak direction than the off-peak. The Sheppard Subway peak is very short, and it is embarrassingly empty most of the day.

    When it was proposed, the anticipated riding came mainly from northern Scarborough (on bus routes feeding down to Victoria Park and points east. Almost none of the demand originated west of Victoria Park Station. However, this was at the expense of the Bloor Subway and also at the cost of putting a huge load on the Yonge line that would not have been able to handle it.

    That led to the proposal for a Yonge-Spadina loop so that headways could be shortened, and the Yonge-Spadina Loop begat the York University subway.

    Funny how these plans all have horrendous effects decades after they are (or are not) implemented.


  25. Leo,

    I don’t know if extending the Sheppard subway east of Don Mills will do anything more than turn half a “dog” subway into a “whole” dog subway.

    Dave Gunn in 1997 didn’t want to build or operate the Sheppard subway, but accepted it as a political reality in exchange for Mayor Lastman’s support for his cherished “State-of-Good-Repair” program to restore the subway infracstructure, whose decay led directly to the three deaths in the Russell Hill subway accident of August, 1995.

    I have two problems with the 2001 RTES (Rapid Transit Expansion Study?).

    First, I knew it’s results in 2000, before it was published i.e. York U first, Sheppard East to STC second priority. Why? Keep the subway in Toronto proper, away from the 905: so no logical Yonge extension Finch to Steeles or B-D Kipling to Sherway Gardens where they would benefit not only TTC routes but GO, Mississauga, YRT and Brampton transit routes as well.

    Second, and more relevant to your argument, Leo, is the Sheppard subway opened Nov 2002 and 9 months later the TTC reluctantly admitted it was 35% below its own pessimistic ridership targets (I haven’t heard more recent ridership numbers since, although Steve may have).

    If the Sheppard subway opened up 35% below the TTC’s own projections, wouldn’t that suggest the TTC should re-examine it’s EA forecasting methodology and see if extending it still makes sense 7 years later in 2007? Maybe we should just consign the 2001 RTES study to the shredder, as it was based on pre-Sheppard opening ridership expectations and we now know better.. right? TTC… The (Subway) Wronger Way!

    It cost a little over $900M to build the Sheppard subway. At $750,000 a pop that could buy 1,200 Hybrid buses (full price, no Federal subsidies)… close to doubling the TTC’s current fleet of ≈1,500 buses. So I ask, what do you think TTC rides would be today with 1,200 extra buses leading demand?

    No contest… Sheppard subway is a dog… and building it to STC it will still be a dog compared to the riderhip that an equivalent expenditure in buses or LRTs could generate. The TTC’s Service Plan has been chronically below demand, resulting in crush, sardine loads during rush hour on the surface for several years now, while the Sheppard subway goes unridden, four years after opening.

    So there’s the more substantive answer, but, personally I still prefer Jim Coyle’s column with its satiric wit.. careful what you wish for… especially when it’s a subway!

    Steve: Bob, Bob, what am I going to do about you? We all know that the Sheppard Subway was the greatest public work ever undertaken by the TTC. Spreading these malicious rumours is just not done! How will we ever get funding for more subway construction if we admit that the one we just opened was a waste of taxpayers’ money? “Transit spending = wasted tax dollars” is a neo-con slogan, and we don’t want to give them more ammunition, do we?


  26. I agree with all your comments Bob, but there is still one thing that concerns me about Sheppard. Having such a fractured route with three different modes of transit (bus, LRT, subway) could be a big disincentive for people to use transit along that corridor, because any time savings would be swallowed up by transfers. Today, people who ride a bus to Don Mills then take the subway to Yonge are saving about five minutes (maybe ten at the absolute most, if the bus goes fast and the transfer goes really well) compared to when they took the bus all the way to Yonge.

    If they build the Sheppard East LRT all the way to Morningside or Meadowvale (and not to STC unless it’s simply a branch off a main line that stays on Sheppard), then I think that would work out quite well. However, I’m concerned a Sheppard LRT will stay on Sheppard only as far as Kennedy or maybe Brimley if we’re lucky, then head south to STC. That would be a huge mistake, and this concern is what led me to say that instead, they should just extend the subway if all they’re doing is going to STC.

    Steve: As you will know by now (the comments are a bit backlogged here), the Sheppard LRT line will go straight east to Morningside. Having that transfer at Don Mills is still not ideal, but we’re stuck with that line.


  27. To those that think the Spadina extension is a done-deal, there is a provincal election in October and a federal election possible at any time. Mike Harris stopped the construction of the Eglinton subway almost immediately after taking office. A Tory provincal government could quite happily stop or truncate the Spadina extension and if common sense was common that’s what would happen). The subway to Mr. Sobara’s riding is politics plain and simple!

    Don’t expect either of the federal parties to actually fund transit, yesterdays budget proves Harper isn’t game. Dion might promise the cash, but actual delivery is unlikely. Transit in this country is getting what Canadians deserve and not what we need! The apathy of voters proves the politicans right.

    Steve I applaud you on pointing out that the TTC (and the City) can never admit that the SRT or Sheppard lines are mistakes (or one could argue so are the Spadina lines and the CLRV/ALRV’s) as the senior levels of government are pulling the strings and don’t like being abused.


  28. The SRT and Sheppard were obvious mistakes.

    Many people may not know this, but the original Spadina “route” northward from Bloor was envisioned as LRT (around 1960 or 61). I have a report somewhere that provided two options, and they were (and I’m paraphrasing here):

    – a connection of the Spadina route to St. George Stn. if the Bloor-University integrated system proves to be unsuccessful

    or …

    – construction of the Spadina route using PCC streetcars if the Bloor-University integrated system proves to be successful


  29. I am in 100 per cent in agreement with Mr. Gonolez’s position on building the Spadina extension in two phases. If a new Premier is elected in the next election if I were him I would truncate the extension at Steeles. I’ve always felt that the subway needed to go to York University but NEVER north of Steeles.


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