Transit City (3) The West Network

This is one of a series of articles about the Transit City plans announced on Friday, March 16.  I have subdivided the subject to keep the posts to a reasonable size and so that the discussion comments can be groups to a handful of closely related lines.

The western portion of Transit City consists of:

  • A Finch West LRT line running from Finch Station via Finch Avenue to Highway 27
  • A Jane LRT line running from Steeles West Station west to Jane and south to the Bloor Subway
  • The western portion of the Eglinton LRT from the environs of Pearson Airport eastward

Other studies underway include:

  • Extension of the St. Clair streetcar line west to Jane
  • The Blue 22 express service in the Weston corridor from downtown to the airport

All of the LRT lines would be at grade except for Eglinton east of Keele and probably the south end of the Jane line.  More about that later.

The Finch LRT is a striking proposal because it places a new transit service in the middle of an arterial street despite the siren calls of a hydro corridor between Finch and Steeles.  This decision is vital to the success of the line to serve local riders on Finch, not just long-haul commuting rider from northern Etobicoke looking for a quick ride to the subway.  This line will provide a strong east-west link into north Etobicoke that is not designed to handled downtown-bound traffic.

Together with the Sheppard subway and LRT, the Finch LRT will provide paths across the top of the city.  Yes, someone who wants to go from Scarborough to, say, Humber College will have to transfer several times:  Sheppard LRT to Sheppard Subway to Yonge Subway to Finch LRT.  That is not ideal, but the real question is how many people really want to make that trip.

No matter how we design the network, there will be breaks because the logical corridor for a northwest service is on Finch, while we already have an established corridor on Sheppard in the east.  There will be a discontinuity at Don Mills station, no matter what, and another one at either the Yonge or Spadina line (assuming a westerly expansion of the Sheppard Subway that we can’t afford and for which there is no justification in demand).  It’s not perfect, but I doubt the residents of the Finch Corridor are going to complain too much.

The Jane LRT is an interesting route both for the neighbourhoods it serves — areas where much better transit service is badly needed — and because it has never been on anyone’s map for possible rapid transit.  At the north end of the line, the connection to Steeles West Station gives a tie-in with both the subway and the expanding York Region network.

The south end of Jane is a problem that will take a will to hold good transit in a higher position than political expediency.  The very south end of the route runs through an area where at-grade operation would be quite difficult, and a short underground section would almost certainly be needed.  However, there is a better way for a route serving the north end of Jane to get to the Bloor Subway:  down the Weston rail corridor on the route planned for Blue 22.  If we take this approach, a number of things happen:

  • Service could be operated from Dundas West Station north and west via Eglinton to the airport.  This would be an alternate route to a connection with the Eglinton LRT line at Eglinton West Station.
  • The Jane route would connect with the St. Clair car at Keele Street rather than an extended route at Jane.
  • If Blue 22 does not get built, this eliminates the justification for some of the proposed changes to the Weston rail corridor especially in the town of Weston itself.

The downside would be that the southern part of Jane, below Eglinton, would not have LRT service.

The Eglinton LRT would be at grade west of roughly Keele (the exact location to be determined).  Originally the Richview Expressway was to run where Eglinton is now, and that’s why the right-of-way is so wide.  There is no question that there is room for an LRT line in that corridor.  Western extension of the Eglinton line into Mississauge is an obvious future option, and would also provide for an airport service from the west.

This is not as unified a view of transit as we have in Scarborough, but that’s partly due to the geography and the location of some existing lines.  Like the Scarborough proposal, the western part of Transit City will bring faster travel to areas that are now far from subways and their frequent service.

18 thoughts on “Transit City (3) The West Network

  1. I’m quite interested in the suggestion of rerouting the lower Jane segment onto the Weston rail corridor because at the southern end of the corridor the Front St. Extension will bugger up that option rather well due to the major tunnel. If we put LRT transit on the east side of the rail right of way, or expanded ROW, there is a nice option to get up to the surface of Front St. to form another component of the Front St. transitway.
    Going on the diagonal would offer a downtown relief line and improve access to the core for many who are underserved in the West and NW parts of the City. I don’t agree with the westoncommunitycoalition.org ‘s desire for a subway on this route, but they’re on the right “track” as they have a set of stops that are well spaced at the major carterials, and thus offer both speed and a reasonable degree of access and connectivity.
    I’d be very interested to know how many studies and of what vintage have suggested using these railtracks for transit, beyond the 2011 suggestion. At the City Summit meeting where I was there for 10 minutes maybe, Sen. Eggleton bemoaned how we don’t use the rail corridors. Maybe he can be championing this issue to earn his salary?
    But if we could save a couple hundred million on adjusting the half-billion WWLRT to a Front St. transitway, couldn’t we re-invest that in avoiding the problems of lower Jane St.?

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  2. I am finding the west end in some ways more exciting than the east. Especially the service in the Finch/Jane area. Ever since I moved to Toronto 15 years ago I always wondered how this city would be different if the Y-U-S line had swung over and went up Keele or Jane instead of up to Downsview. I think that the addition of transit service, service designed for the neighborhood to use (unlike a hydro corridor), will create transformative opportunities to this area of the city.

    As for your suggestion of running to Dundas West, are you thinking more down Black Creek to the railway corridor, or connecting to it when Jane crosses the corridor?

    Steve: One way or another, although Black Creek Drive is an intriguing idea because it reduces the amount of time the LRT would have to share the rail corridor. Definitely worth looking at.

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  3. I like the Finch LRT. North Etobicoke really needs high order transit.

    One question, why wasn’t a Finch East LRT considered? Wouldn’t that be beneficial to residents living in that area of Scarborough?

    Steve: Finch East would make a very nice line too, but, alas the Sheppard Subway is already there and makes the logical jumping off point for a line into Scarborough north of the 401. Many lines such as Finch make good candidates for “Transit City II”, but we have to get “Transit City I” on the rails first.

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  4. Finch West provides a much needed fast northern link between the Spadina and Yonge subways. The number of transfers to get from Scarborough to York U/Vaughan is frustrating, but there are future possibilities for cutting this by one: either extending Finch east to Don Mills (a busy route anyway) or providing a fast link (BRT or LRT) between Sheppard-Yonge and Downsview. That said, I don’t think these are higher priority than anything on the map: the initial lines will make these commutes much easier than they are today, and other links are more like fine-tuning.

    I expect the hydro corridor discussion isn’t over (wouldn’t the EA be required to consider it?) but I agree on-street is better. If there isn’t a continuous bike route through the hydro corridor already, there should be: it seems like a nicer ride, and if it eliminated the need for bike lanes on Finch it’d save a bit of width there.

    Just one comment on the south end of Jane: I’m not sure a routing from Dundas West to the airport should be a big factor. For those on the Bloor line, the Airport Rocket does provide reasonably fast service to the airport. Eglinton West has the advantage of a direct subway route into downtown (even if you have to go around the loop at Union for one or two stations).

    And the TTC deserves credit for the connections to the Spadina subway extension. Who knows, the Finch West and Jane lines may drive enough traffic to the subway to make it almost worthwhile…

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  5. Hey Steve,

    You commmented on someone’s post on the main “Transit City” post that the LRT on Finch is not ROW but in the streets?

    I’m kinda confused by this. Would the LRT on Finch still be on dedicated lanes, or in mixed traffic?

    Steve: In reserved lanes in the middle of the street. The alternative was to use the hydro right-of-way that parellels Finch, but where there is no demand for local service.

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  6. I agree with your problem with southern Jane, but there are more then two options. the third option would be to reduce Jane to one lane in each direction, but this is counter-productive, as this plan is susposed to reduce traffic not create it. An unpopular, but perhaps the cheapest in terms of cost VS traffic flow, is to buy some front yards in order to make parking like along parts of Spadina.

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  7. Riddle Me This: How can an LRT line along Eglinton West be justified when a few Express buses cannot? Some years back when a subway was being built westward from Eg.West Stn. to Black Creek it was abruptly ended due to its cost.

    The short-lived Eg.West Express rush hour service was ended as not be justified by ridership. Where was the ridership to come from for a subway? I realize a subway or an LRT line will have bus routes to feed it and will draw more riders than an improved bus service even with express runs however, the present service leaves much to be desired especially west of the Humber.

    Incremental improvements will lead to justifying more improvements. Not only should there be Express service on Eglinton West it should be extended to longer hours than the traditional “rush” hours. It is rush hour all day long!

    Non-stop buses from the Mississauga/Toronto boundary to Eg.West subway station would attract new riders even at a premium fare.

    Steve: The Eglinton subway was killed because, among other things, it cost far too much for what it would deliver. LRT has the advantage that it can be built mainly on the surface at much lower cost and with better station spacings than a subway line.

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  8. Jane LRT is a big surprise but this heavily travelled route would warrant it. South of Eglinton will be a problem due to houses so close to the street. Re-routing it east along Dundas will increase travel time and will not solve all of the narrowness situation and might well kill off what little business the Junction has left since it is far too narrow to have an LRT right-of-way.

    Taking it along the railway rights-of-way south from Tretheway to St.Clair and the Bloor Subway and farther south to Dundas, College, Queen, King and even towards Union Station, makes too much sense and will never be adapted!

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  9. To resolve the east-west disjointedness here, would it be possible to have the Sheppard subway line treat Finch and North York Centre lines as its “western”-most stops — in effect, doubling the Yonge line between Sheppard and Finch — in order to link the Sheppard and Finch east-west fragments?

    Steve: There are two problems here:

    First, the headway on the Yonge line is so frequent (with plans for even closer spacing of trains) that there is no room to slot Sheppard trains into the mix.

    But far more importantly, the interchange between the Sheppard and Yonge line is a huge complex under the intersection, and it only serves trains moving east to south, and north to east for trips to and from Davisville Carhouse. These structures were only possible because when the line was built, the land above them was unoccupied. This is not the case where curves to the north would go even assuming we could thread them into what is there now. Also, trains turning from one line to another would miss Sheppard-Yonge stations completely. We’re stuck with Mel’s folly of “downtown North York”.

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  10. Steve

    I would not like to see LRT on the Weston alignment. It is imperative to get more heavy rail in that corridor because unlike subway or LRT which is merely difficult and expensive, it’s going to be damned near impossible to build another heavy rail corridor in Toronto, and thus the ones we have should not be divvied up with BRT/LRT encroachments. I am also sceptical about the long term vision about encroaching WWLRT into the Lakeshore rail corridor.

    Steve: The WWLRT will be built under what is now the embankment on the north side of the corridor. It will not take space away from the trains.

    While the discussion of Transit City is all very well and obviously important to an LRT focused blog such as yours, most of Toronto’s traffic pressures spring from the rapidly growing 905 and now 519 regions. We need more VIA (morning service to Kitchener and maybe a Barrie service) and more GO (to Guelph – and GO22) on the northwest lines, and we don’t want to find we’ve given away the capacity to expand when that all-too-obvious conclusion finally turns into heavy rail dollars.

    Steve: Kitchener and Barrie should be GO operatons, but otherwise I agree with you. We need to be careful not to waste available rights of way just because they seem to be free today. The space I have my eye on in the Weston corridor is already earmarked for the Blue 22 airport link. One way or another, it would be lost to GO/VIA service.

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  11. This plan is great in that there is now finally good transit to the north-west corner of the city. I am wondering how far apart the stops will be (this applies mainly to Eglinton, Finch and Jane). If they are really far apart (like only at major streets like Bathurst, Dufferin and Keele) like a subway you get a fast service, but some people will have to get to it, if the stops are as frequent as the bus service, it will be slower. My feeling is that the best answer lies somewhere between the two (with two or three stops between the major intersections). I am also wondering if there is any plan for an express service for people traveling long distances on the route.

    Steve: The Transit City proposal is not a detailed, fully worked out set of engineering drawings, but something to begin discussions just like the threads on this site. The intention is to have stops close enough that a parallel bus service is not required, and, no, there will not be express service. Demand in these corridors is very fine-grained with a lot of local loading, and this will increase as the “Avenues” plan is rolled out in the next decades with intensified land use along the lines.

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  12. Jane street has got reasonable density all the way down to Outlook Ave, which is quite a bit south of Eglinton. However, the more interesting challenge for Jane St. would be the hills.

    From Bloor st. there is are major hills at both sides of the Black Creek Valley, and at Englinton, as well as the bridge over the railway just north of Weston Rd.

    I think that it would be intersting if a viaduct was built along Jane south of outlook Ave that entered a tunnel at the other side of the Black Creek Valley and proceeded down to Jane Station under the street.

    That would be a pretty interesting, challenging and costly project.

    I suppose that if this routing of the south end of the line onto the rail corridor were to work, then the Jane street neighbourhoods not served by LRT could be served by direct bus service to Black Creek Dr. and Weston Rd.

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  13. The problem I see with running the Jane LRT to Dundas West is two-fold.

    First, as mentioned elsewhere, this does nothing to service Jane Street between St Clair and Bloor. People coming from the west on the subway would either have to transfer an additional vehicle at St Clair, or travel further east in order to go west. (For this reason I have always found the grid system most effective, as it seems counter-productive to travel further along a line in order to reach your transfer point and then double back.)

    Secondly, a connection at Dundas West would require a complete overhaul of that station. During peak hours, the station is rammed with people. Servicing 2 streetcar lines (504 and 505) and two buses (the Symington and Junction), not to mention the CNE express in the summer, where exactly would all these other people go, and what would the connection be like? With only one entrance and two staircases (and an on-again, off-again elevator) Dundas West already needs to be re-built, with an additional entrance on the east side. (The access to the platforms is already at the far west end, so the facility could accomodate it, but we’d be putting that connection and second entrance in the basement of the Crossways apartment complex.) But kept at Jane Station, which has a large, relatively unused mezzanine level, and whose busbays and passengers would somewhat be replaced with the LRT, as opposed to added to it, would make the most sense to me.

    Steve: The proposed access is at the east end of the station where there is already provision for a connection up to the railway corridor. That’s where the LRT would be, not at the Dundas Street end of the station.

    Another reason for taking this route is that it gives the option of continuing into downtown via the railway corridor. However, yes, there would be a break in service on Jane for the section south of, roughly, Black Creek. The question then is to look at travel patterns and see how many people need to get across that break for local trips.

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  14. Why are we always looking at internal transit lines that will only transfer existing ridership and suck up more of the transit budget without adding any new riders. we need to be looking outward to link the outlying areas.

    If we had a perimeter that was served by rail we would truly draw in more people and serve the real purpose of transit.

    A Long Line with just a handful of properly positioned stations (at first) along the outer rim of Toronto would do much more for commuters than a few short lines going where buses already go much more cheaply.

    If you want to make those routes more effective just add more buses. Save rail for outward expansion that will bring in NEW DOLLARS!!!

    Steve: There is a huge untapped market for transit within Toronto and while some sort of perimeter line might be attractive to some potential riders, the real opportunity is on lines that are busy already and could carry more riders if only there were more, reliable and faster service. Saying that new lines within Toronto won’t get new riders is complete nonsense.

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  15. Regarding Finch W LRT and west-east commute: At some point, there will be an option to extend the Finch W LRT eastward from Yonge to Don Mills. Then, part of the Finch W vehicles can travel past Yonge to Don Mills, south along Don Mills to Sheppard, and continue along Sheppard LRT, creating a transfer-free west to east link across the north of Toronto.

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  16. Eglinton W LRT, Mississauga, and Airport:
    The Eglinton W LRT is destined to succeed given its strategic location and high commuter density. However, its expansion to Mississauga and / or Airport would create capacity problems during rush hours, and undermine its local service quality. The reach of Eglinton W LRT will then exceed the reach of the BD subway, while its capacity cannot be as large as that of a subway. In case of Airport expansion, an added inconvenience will come from large luggage bags that air travellers tend to carry.

    It is better to terminate the Eglinton LRT at Hwy 27 as the current plan states, and connect the Mississauga and Airport rapid transit to Kipling station on BD. The Mississauga route could follow Dundas St., or Dundas – Dixie – Eglinton, or Hwy 27 – Eglinton. Airport is currently served well by the 192 express bus. If the future travel volume increase makes that connection inadequate, then the bus can be replaced by LRT service from Kipling. That LRT link could have a transfer point to Eglinton LRT for the Eglinton-local to Airport commuters, but still carry the majority of passengers to / from BD subway.

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  17. Michael, if you have ever taken transit to the airport, as I have, with standard sized suitcases, you will know that changing modes sucks.

    A direct no-change airport connection from midtown will be what sells the disproportionate cost of Eglinton (because of tunnelling) and enable other LRT lines to also serve the airport. A no-change branch of Jane LRT along the Eglinton corridor can serve the airport to pick up passengers ex BD and 192 could still serve Kipling at a revised frequency.

    Ideally of course it would be Jane LRT heading to Vaughan beyond Steeles, not the subway, and the northern part could also have a branch serving the airport via an extension of the Finch West alignment and the NE/SW hydro corridor. But no, we must have the Sorbara Line.

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  18. Mark, this is a good point. If part of the Airport – Eglinton LRT vehicles divert south to BD using Jane line, then the potential bottleneck on Eglinton LRT between Keele and the subways will be avoided.

    Regarding the Sorbara line, there is a theory that the construction cost overruns [virtually inevitable -:) ] will cause the subway to terminate at Steeles West after all, leaving north of Steeles for LRT or a few LRTs.

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