Today the TTC unveiled an astounding plan for a 120km network of LRT lines for the City of Toronto. You can read all about it on the website created for the plan at this link.
Nothing like this has ever been announced in my 35 years of transit advocacy. Even the 1990 David Peterson government’s scheme for many subway lines doesn’t come close. That plan was mostly bits and pieces patched onto an existing network and recycling a lot of old plans. Very little was actually built and most remnants of the program were killed off by Mike Harris.
Transit City is completely new. Many of the lines in this plan have never been part of old transit studies, or have appeared as full-blown subway lines, not as LRT.
This is the plan I have been waiting 35 years for. Ever since the Streetcars for Toronto Committee fought to keep our streetcar system as the nucleus of a much larger suburban network, I have waited to see a real LRT network promoted by the TTC and embraced by the City.
Already, some critics are wondering how this will get approved and funded. We seem to have no trouble proposing subway lines we don’t need at bankrupting prices, and it’s time people knew that there is an alternative. This will mean some hard political choices about the use of road space — it’s always easier to bury the transit system than to deal with design and traffic issues on the surface. But now, after decades, we can have this debate with a real plan as a starting point.
I will comment in detail on the plan over the weekend when I have time for a longer post, and will incorporate the many comments received on this subject.
Congratulations to the TTC but also to you — it must be a dream come true to read a TTC document that says, “The Plan is premised on using light-rail transit technology. It rejects the costly and unwarranted reliance on new subway lines.”
I’ll be interested in what you have to say about the specific routes and fun issues like stop spacing, terminal design, and true transit priority.
Aren’t you concerned about the impact all these LRT lines will have on the existing subway network? I’m suprised and perplexed to see the Don Mills line terminating at Danforth.
The Sheppard and Eglinton LRT lines will increase demand on the Yonge subway, while the Jane, Don Mills and Malvern LRT lines will bring more riders to Bloor-Danforth. Considering how packed Yonge/Bloor station is today during the morning rush, the TTC should have taken this opportunity to incorporate an eastern downtown relief line. Why not continue the Don Mills LRT line south on Pape to the rail corridor, then over to somewhere around Union?
But hey, at least there’s a full Eglinton line! It’s about time! I really hope that one gets built as proposed, because it is very much needed (and will undoubtedly be the LRT line with the highest ridership).
Are they going to use the tunnel under Eglinton that they dug for the subway? It seems logical to me.
Steve: I expect so, but we are a long way from detailed design to see just how much of the Eglinton Subway will be recycled. If nothing else, it’s in the way of any new construction, so better to use what’s there.
Good plan overall, but the downtown area and Etobicoke got shafted. If they’re going to bury the Eglinton line between Keele and whatever, then it’s only fair that Queen goes underground on its central section.
At $6B, I doubt all of it will be built, and the $2B price tag for the Eglinton line alone is staggering.
Why do the Jane and Don Mills lines end at BD? That won’t work — it will overload the subway at Bloor-Yonge.
Steve: Etobicoke gets the WWLRT, and in the future there could be lines on Dundas West into Mississauga, Kipling and possibly Queensway. This plan is a start, and putting in everything would turn a $6-billion price tag way into double-digits, and extend the implementation time to a quarter century or more.
No it’s not unfair that Queen stays above ground. It doesn’t need to go underground because it is not intended to be a “rapid transit” line. Also, I expect that most of the Eglinton underground section will be the last to be built of anything in this plan.
Finally, as I have commented elsewhere, both the Jane line (rerouted to Dundas West) and the Don Mills line have options for extension into the core area.
I must say, I am impressed. But I am also a little offended. And I am not trusting the TTC just yet.
First, this is a good plan. It should really help ease gridlock in the city. But, I keep worrying that all this is another Streetcar Right of Way. No Traffic signal priority, the same old Streetcars, no increase in capacity.
Then there is the question of funding. I don’t believe this is going to be funded. Rather than taking a big risk, the city should use the 2.3 billion, which it is sitting on, and built this. Not build a subway to nowhere.
As a Calgarian I am offended. I was looking at the full report and was left wondering why Calgary is not cited. Calgary is operating the most successful LRT in North America. Don’t believe me, well ask the 230 million people who ride it everyday. Calgary is tripling the capacity of the network at cost of 1.5 billion.
If Miller truly wants this project to be successful, he should study Calgary’s Network.
Steve: I am a bit startled that somehow a big transit announcement in Toronto morphs into yet another case of western angst at being ignored by the folks east of Manitoba, but I’ll let that pass. The Mayor and Chair Giambrone are well aware of Calgary’s system, and in fact David Miller mentioned Calgary a few times in his press conference this afternoon. The Calgary system shows what can be done in a variety of settings, and is a good example to use for Torontonians.
Yes, we have a big problem with the traffic engineers in the City Works Department and their refusal to implement proper transit priority. But one fight at a time. Just getting Transit City out the door was a huge effort and lot of toes were stepped on to get it done.
I am not a fan of streetcars. I think buses are better at moving people. That being said, I don’t have any hard data supporting this, only personal.
Prior to living in Toronto (moved here in 2000), I lived 15 years in Ottawa. I found the bus system worked extremely well. Granted, Ottawa is smaller than Toronto and there are probably more bus dedicated lanes in Ottawa than in Toronto.
That being said, when a streetcar is unable to continue due to unforseen circumstances (streetcar breaking down, traffic accident, etc.), the whole line is paralyzed. Every streetcar coming after is also unable to continue the journey. Buses on the other hand can move to the side of the road or detour around any accident.
When a streetcar stops to embark or disembark passengers, traffic stops completely in the direction of traffic (i.e. cars cannot pass and must wait). With passengers are picked up from the curb lane and cars can still move in the other lane. Would this not help alleviate traffic congestion downtown (granted more people should commute to work but unfortunately, this will never be done). Do you know have any information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of buses and streetcars or is this similar to comparing apples and oranges.
I moved downtown over three years ago because I was tired of wasting hours commuting to work. Having lived in High Park (using the subway) and at Lake Shore and Browns Line (using both streetcars and GO), I tired of the daily frustrations of commuting. I now cycle/walk and when need be take the King streetcar to work. I want to learn/do more instead of complaining about the system.
PS. Having just stumbled across your website, I look forward to reading the information contained within.
Steve: Two points here. First, the LRT network proposed by Transit City runs on its own dedicated lanes and has loading islands for passengers. They get on and off without blocking passing traffic.
Second, the problem of vehicles being unable to pass never seems to bother subway advocates. Yes, it’s a problem, but it is a double-standard to complain about streetcars blocking each other when the usual alternative scheme on the table is another few billion dollars worth of subways, not buses.
This is really exciting. The City & TTC have finally gotten KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly. The key now will be the implementation. The speed and transit priority issues will need to be dealt with, to keep LRT attractive to the public and to the successive politicians. Will the Mayor be able to use his clout to enforce transit priority with respect to auto left turn lanes?
And the driver issue. If the TTC’s short 100 streetcar drivers now, they’ll need to really reevaluate their training process. I’ve heard from inside the TTC that the streetcar trainee flunk out rate is 40-80% per class after the first few months in operation.
There were hints in the papers, or maybe the radio, that something would be suggested to improve service on the downtown streetcar routes, King & Queen, which are packed. This is as important, in my opinion, as the LRT suburban network, to making Toronto a transit city.
Sheppard’s subway looks very lost in the new map. Even more so than usual. If this plan goes through, Sheppard needs to be converted to LRTs in the current tunnel, to avoid the stubway transfer.
Whether this involves lowering the platforms to accommodate low cars, or raising the tracks at stations, this is the only way Sheppard’s existence could ever be justified.
The only point in your post I would dispute is: “Transit City is completely new.” I would argue that it is the product of an entire generation of transit activism. You, of course, have always been at the centre of that activism and should be proud that many people who have learned from you (including the Mayor) had their hand in today’s announcement. I was at the ceremony when you won the Jane Jacobs Award. Today the wisdom of granting you that award was proven.
Councillor Gord Perks
Steve blushes at this point. Gord was, until quite recently, a rabble-rousing enviroactivist and one of the people whose work contributed to getting a plan like Transit City the support it has today. Many thanks to you too, Gord.
Saw the proposed map. I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t line that goes directly downtown. Someone going from Don Mills to downtown must take the Don Mills LRT to Pape and then transfer on to the BD subway west to Bloor/Yonge and then another transfer on the Yonge line. This doesn’t do much to relieve the downtown office crowd.
Steve: The problems in the suburbs are even bigger than the problems downtown. As I mention in some of my comment responses and in my post (written after you left this comment), there is a future option to bring the Don Mills line into downtown. It’s just not in this round of proposals.
Now, Steve, I know you will delete this comment, as you like to do, but please learn how to link on the Web. One does not write “at this link” or “here” or “click here.” Make the actual descriptive words the links.
Steve: I have exchanged some testy emails with Joe on this subject, but will try to mend my ways. The web design police are everywhere and an honest blogger can’t get any respite [sigh].
Most of the routes make perfect sense. My personal favourite is the Eglinton Route, which would be a true crosstown LRT, with a 9 kilometre tunnelled section. For an estimated $2.2 billion, it is a bargain from Kennedy to Renforth via the tunnel from Keele to Laird. That is the best solution for Eglinton in the medium-to-long term, as long it is built that it can accomodate subways (pre-Metro) if the need ever arises.
Finch West is a good route, as long as it does not use the ROW (it looks as if it will be in the middle of the street, but it’s hard to be sure). Jane and Don Mills also make sense, as does the long-proposed Lakeshore West LRT.
Issues that that I see:
– Jane south of St. Clair (and in a few other spots) is tight – are we actually going to be able to restrict cars to a mere two lanes? Pape will also be a difficult section.
– Nothing is planned for the downtown core – why not bury the most congested part of Queen (Jarvis to Spadina), as planned for Eglinton?
– Sheppard is a dog’s breakfast, with a half-a-subway and then a forced transfer to a LRT at Don Mills. Almost makes me wish we built the subway at least as far as the EA, to Victoria Park, where a transfer to LRT would make a bit more sense as travel patterns start to change here.
For the most part, a reasonable plan. But we can not ignore other major corridors, like Dufferin, Lawrence East and West and Wilson – all-day express buses might be a good stop-gap.
Yes, Finch is in the street, not the right-of-way.
Jane should go to Dundas West via the Weston Corridor, but we have to sort out the future (if any) of Blue 22 first.
The mosty congested parts of Queen are not Jarvis to Spadina, but the sections in Parkdale and the Beach. A tunnel in the central part of the line would be a huge waste of money.
Extending the Sheppard subway east of Don Mills apparently is very expensive because of the topography and the crossing under the DVP. Yes, it would have been nice as an LRT line, but we can’t have everything.
If the politicians balk at the cost, we just have to say that this is the most cost-effective way to build a transit system. We won’t get anything close to 6 billion all at once, but we have a good chance of getting portions of the money if we can effectively argue that that the 2 billion the York University subway will cost will buy the entire Eglinton LRT, which will probably serve several times the number of passengers per year when completed.
Let’s hope that this doesn’t have the fate of Network 2011. It’s a much more reasonable proposal.
Good start, about time these guys finally started looking at the big picture. However I’m disappointed with the proposed Don Mills LRT. This line is useless unless it goes all the way downtown. BD trains westbound are already at near capacity when they reach Pape, so pray tell me how are all these people on DM LRT supposed to get downtown? This is not a Downtown Relief Line if the people on Don Mills still have to take BD to Yonge and join the already ridiculous crush of frustrated people trying to get a train southbound.
Steve: As I discussed elsewhere, a southerly extension of the Don Mills line is a future option. I know all about problems with crush loads on the Danforth subway as I live at Broadview.
Steve, I gotta say I love the lines proposed by Transit City, but I see two concerns with the proposal:
1. the Don Mills, Jane, Eglinton and Finch line feed more people into YUS and BD, meaning more people feeding into the busiest part of the subway system. There’s no substitute for getting downtown; meaning the long-fabled Downtown Relief Line.
2. And this might seem to contradict my previous point, but the Waterfront West line only feeds downtown. There’s no where else you can go from south Etobicoke – why not loop up to Bloor on Islington, Kipling or East Mall? There’s a chance people in New Toronto/Mimico might want to visit somewhere else then Union Station.
Just two things that jumped out at me, though I’m very much in favour of the plan overall.
Steve: I have already commented elsewhere on the options of bringing both the Jane and Don Mills lines into downtown. One line that was considered, but not included in this plan, was a line on Kipling. There were other “plan B” lines as well. In the end, it’s a question of getting a big enough network to be credible while keeping the overall costs reasonable and having an end date that might actually be achieved. Additions to the network can come later once we turn public opinion around to support the basic concept of an LRT network.
Let’s hope that Toronto succeeds with the one cent of the GST campaign. This will provide a steady stream of funding for this project.
After reading through the reports on the transitcity website, this seems to be very well thought out, and overall looks to be a great plan.
There are of course a few problems with the plan, money not withstanding.
All of the north-south corridors terminate at the Bloor Subway. At peak times, the Bloor Subway (and especially the YUS line) are more or less already saturated with riders. Does this scheme assume that people would just be shifted from other places and thus the subway ridership would still be around the same, or are we fully adding in new riders? I wonder if the subways could handle the influx of new passengers.
Secondly, it is LRT and that’s great for transit visibility and reliability. But as far as travel times goes, it would be good to see some sort of indication of how travel times will be. Will it be good enough so that people will be making the long way around (i.e. transferring from YUS downtown to Bloor to the north-south lines) and then to these LRT lines, or would they still be going up YUS and then taking the east-west buses to their final destination because the travel times are about the same thanks to transfers.
Unless these lines have full signal priority and don’t have to wait for turning lanes and aren’t designed like the Spadina lines with the streetcar stopping right after stopping 2 mins at a red light already, it would be fast. But if the design is similar to Spadina, I doubt it would be much faster than today.
While I am cheering and saying, “It’s about time,” the one thing that concerns me is the LRT compatibility with the existing streetcar network – I fear it may be proposed as being TOO compatible, and that could be detrimental, as far as the public is concerned.
While a discussion of track gauge is probably premature, I recall seeing on another site the suggestion that standard gauge equipment would be less costly than TTC gauge. I don’t know if that is true or not, but perhaps Steve might be able to shed some light on that. Ideally, staying with TTC gauge would likely be best, even if LRT vehicles could not negotiate all the curves on the existing streetcar network.
My bigger concern deals with power collection. I just don’t see an LRT network that uses trolley poles. Will we see a more reliable pantograph-equipped fleet to serve the LRT network, even though there are mechanical issues when trolley pole-equipped vehicles running under pantograph overhead and vice versa?
Steve: The gauge issue is less important than the physical constraints such as minimum curve radius and maximum grade. The TTC is already planning to convert the streetcar network to pantographs for the next generation of cars.
It’s great to hear the buzz that this plan is generating. It seems that people have so many questions about the details of each route. Although the plan is “high level”, the interest shows that people are starting to open their minds to LRT.
What Toronto needs to do next is show the real potential for this plan by converting its existing right-of-way lines into true LRTs. This means introducing signal priorities, a proof-of-payment system and modern LRT vehicles.
I understand that the city is ordering new vehicles for the streetcar lines. I suggest that they use the new vehicles exclusively on St. Clair, Spadina and the Waterfront, keeping the old vehicles on the traditional streetcar lines. York region has done an excellent job at branding its rapid transit service (VIVA) and Toronto needs to do the same.
Many media outlets reported the Transit City plan as a network of streetcar lines. The plan is for LRT: people are now thinking about the new plan, we can convince people that the plan will work by showing them what LRT really is.
I agree with Jeff’s notion of branding rapid transit service — the poorly used but well-known “Rocket” brand could be a perfect fit.
Another place where St. Clair or Spadina could be used as an LRT proving ground is in fixing transit priority. A pilot project to eliminate streetcar waits at red lights would be a good short-term investment, and the lessons learned could be built right into the design of the new lines.
How will fare payment work at the LRT “stations”? Will the new lines be proof-of-payment with ticket machines at each “station”? This way we can have fast loading through every door of these hopefully low-floor vehicles. Has the TTC even thought of fare collection? Also, will these “stations” have proper protection from cold winds and rain?
Although the proposed design seems like a good idea, the actual implementation can kill its advantages if not done properly. We already have a transit “network” with buses. People need to see this new plan as different and better.
Steve: The next generation of streetcars/LRVs in Toronto will be low-floor and will use all-door loading. Some form of self-service ticketing is a must, and this ties into the SmartCard schemes now under development. As for stations, yes we need shelters but there is a limit to what can be done. Even surface rapid transit stations can be glacial — I have shivered through enough long waits on the Scarborough RT — and no technology is immune from the weather unless you put the whole thing underground.
I am aware that the costs they mention include vehicles but I wonder whether they will keep two different standards regarding the above ground rail systems, since we currently use trolley poles instead of pantographs on streetcars and the also uses a proprietary TTC rail gauge for the streetcar system and subways. Will the new systems use standard gauge and pantographs and the old ones continue to use trolley poles and TTC gauge? It could get expensive to maintain couldn’t it? Maybe not the most important question but I am curious.
Steve: The TTC is already studying conversion of the existing system to use pantographs in preparation for the new streetcar fleet. As for the gauge, I frankly don’t see that as a huge issue.
Sorry, I didn’t mean for it become an alienated westerner thing. But a part of me did feel a bit alienated.
I just think a wise decision for Toronto, would be to show pictures of the LRT in Calgary. Europe is simply to distant for Toronto. Far to many Torontians believe that Toronto’s LRT is unique to North America.
Compared to Europe, Calgary is much closer and has a lot more in common with Toronto. Show Torontians that LRT can work in an North American setting.
I don’t think Miller wants to deal with the problems, which Klein had to deal with. Klein was the mayor of Calgary, when LRT construction began (oddly he was a Liberal back then). Most Calgarians at the time wanted a Subway, which was the city’s original plan, but the city and the province wanted an LRT, like the one in Frankfurt. So people dubbed the LRT, Little Ralphie’s Train.
Today, Calgarians love the LRT. It has been quite successful. If you are intrested, here is the development study for the West Bound LRT:
Click to access West_LRT_Report_1983_Consolidation.pdf
Construction is begging next year :D.
As for traffic priority. The city HAS to include that before the LRT begins service. It makes the system much easier to sell.
The plan’s almost great except Queen and Hwy 427/Renforth deserves lines too. More people would ride to the the airport via Renforth connecting directly to Queen and the downtown core than via Eglinton. A Queen line between Victoria Park subway and Humber Loop is more important than say Don Mills or Jane. A Front St-Central waterfront area line is also necessary.
Steve: The point of serving the airport is not to do so by a line that only goes to the airport. That’s the problem with Blue 22 as well as with your scheme to go up the 427. The Queensway is one possibility for future LRT development connecting in with the existing line at Humber, but redevelopment of that area is many years in the future and there’s a limit on how much can be included in an initial announcement.
However I have a question about the tunneled portions of the LRT plan. Will the stoppage in the tunnel be more subway-like, i.e. stops appearing at every bipartite or tripartite? I envision something like Keele, Caledonia, Dufferin, Oakwood, Allen, Bathurst, Chaplin, Avenue, Yonge, Mount Pleasant, Bayview and Laird.
Steve: No detailed design has been done, but the sort of spacing you suggest is reasonable. Once a line is underground, stops are expensive both to build and to operate. There is always a balancing act between stop spacing, cost and attractiveness of the line. This is one reason why LRT lines should go underground only as a last resort.
Also why couldn’t the tunnel run east to DVP/St Dennis and west to Scarlett Rd? The Don Mills intersection is very bustling so I can’t imagine people using surface LRT here. Reaching the Wynford Hts area the traffic diminishes somewhat to make surface routing pedestrian safe.
Steve: East of Brentcliffe (the top of the hill leading down to the Don RIver and Leslie Street) all the way to Don Mills is wide open with no on-street development and no reason for a line to stop. Buses in this section typically fly from Don Mills to Leslie, maybe stopping for the odd passenger, and then up the hill to Brentcliffe. Why put a line underground on one of the most free-flowing sections of the route. Also, this would require that the line go under the river, and that gets very expensive. Similarly, east of Don Mills, Eglinton is quite wide and is not exactly beset with pedestrians j-walking across the street. This is not Spadina Avenue.
In the long term, there could be an argument for putting both the Don Mills and Eglinton lines underground here so that the interchange and pedestrian traffic would be separated from the road traffic. This would be a “1 below” station built as close to the surface as possible to minimize the length of the approach ramps and the cost of vertical access from the street to the platforms. Of course, unless there are major changes at that corner, the only pedestrian traffic will be between the LRT lines.
West of Keele, the line would have to be elevated to connect with the GO line and be aligned with Eglinton/Weston intersection. The tunnel could go onto Scarlett to avoid surface traffic around Jane and Scarlett.
Steve: First off, a connection to GO does not require that the LRT rise up to track level on the GO line unless we are running an LRT down the Weston corridor to Dundas West as discussed elsewhere. One writer here has already suggested going down Black Creek Drive instead of the railway at least to the Keele/St. Clair area where Black Creek Drive ends.
Second, the line in Weston and beyond would be on the surface. Yes, we will have to elbow some traffic out of the way. That’s one of the design decisions with any surface transit proposal.
This is a great plan, but I have a slight concern about stop spacing. Take Don Mills from Sheppard to Finch, the stops are relatively close together, yet far enoguh that walking to the next one is rather inconvinent, and most of the stops see good usage. If the LRT skips some of the stops (like he 500m distance), then service will be worse for many people, or a bus service will still have to be provided, but if it stops at every stop, the line would not be much faster than a bus service if there isn’t adequate signal priority. Was there mentioning about what stop distance standards this will be built to?
Steve: Detailed design for all of these lines is yet to come, and stop spacing will be an important part of this. We have to look at what the neighbourhoods will be in 20 years, not just what they are today. Some areas that are low density industrial or strip malls may be redeveloped, and existing stop layouts will not be appropriate.
This is a good example, in common with many other comments I have received, of the fact that we cannot simultaneously announce a system wide plan and have detailed engineering drawings for every detail two days later. The importance of Transit City is the change in the way we think about planning a transit network, and the details need to be worked out properly so that the network will serve transit riders.
It’s gonna be an interesting couple of years in Toronto.
I think I might just stick around.
It’s a good thing all the details aren’t worked out yet, since there hasn’t been any opportunity for public input!
On your comment about a future station at Don Mills and Eglinton: there’s a large parking lot on the southwest corner for the Ontario Science Centre (and therefore owned by the province). It might be cheaper than going underground to use part of this for off-street platforms that would allow easy transfers. It could also have a stop for the Flemingdon Park bus (or what would remain of it).
Steve: If the LRT vehicles are going to veer off of their respective streets, that is a traffic design nightmare in its own right. Design of that intersection can take advantage of the large amount of vacant land to give “elbow room” for a better transit and road junction, but we don’t want to create a mini cloverleaf just to shift the transit off of the roadways.
For Aman: I’d guess no Calgary photos were shown because, like many in North America, it’s a high-floor/high-platform system. The European pictures give a more accurate preview of the platform and vehicles, even if Calgary’s streets, buildings, and politics have much more in common with ours.
Someone has already suggested that the TTC get a mock-up of new streetcar as soon as possible and after reading a rather sad letter in today’s Star this seems like a VERY good idea.
If people think that the new LRTs are going to be like the current streetcars the public acceptance and support will be harder to build. It is all very well to have almost all transit advocates in favour of the Transit City plan but if ‘the man in the street’ isn’t it will not happen. Even better than a mock-up, could the TTC get one new streetcar very soon and put it into regular service?
Steve: I hope that the message will get out soon that the new streetcar fleet will be accessible. The letter writer is badly misinformed, and it’s a shame that the Star didn’t include a clarification under the letter.
I know there are hopes at City Hall of getting sample new cars here soon although running them is another matter due to technical incompatibility between any “off the shelf” car and the Toronto system.
The TTC will be issuing requests for bids on the new fleet in the fall of 2007 for contract award in 2008 and first delivery in late 2010 if we’re lucky.
Uh, if I were a manufacturer of light rail vehicles, and had a chance to sell my product for a proposed 120 km network, wouldn’t I consider offering a test vehicle for free to the city in question?
And send it as fast as humanly — and mechanically — possible?