Where Should the Subway End?

In the ongoing discussion about whether the York U / VCC line should be built as a subway, many comments flowed back and forth here and on other blogs suggesting that I (and LRT advocates in general) are a naive bunch.

I was part way through responding to a comment from John Sutka (see below) and decided that this needed its own thread.

I won’t argue with you Steve, and the other gentleman who disagreed with my remark about government funding as the only source of corruption.  No doubt, in my mind, it’s the marriage of big business and big government that becomes the major stumbling block to making sensible decisions, like rapid transit to York, etc.  I work in the private sector, and yes, corruption reigns there as well. 

I did not realize the extent of the behind the scenes lobbying that the York folks have with the TTC and the Ont. gov’t.  Does this not, at least, implicitly support my point above? 

But my concern in all this is having Downsview as another ‘Kennedy’, or even ‘Humber loop’, (Don Mills-is a compromise, ending at a major mall, but not addressing the commuter patterns in the NE), which are transfer points in the middle of nowhere.  Major terminii should be ‘organically’ determined, not created as artificial nodes on the map-it should follow natural commute patterns.  For example — I hope I never see another subway line built in the middle of a highway again!

We can’t turn back the clock, what’s done is done.

Going forward, there has to be a major ‘culture change’ in city hall and the TTC when dealing with outside lobbyists getting an inner ear with the big decision makers.  Once people get too friendly with each other in that level of decision making, objectivity becomes skewed and the guy on the street suffers.

Bottom line, there needs to be a rapid transit line to York, yes, to capture more riders from NW Toronto/SW York Region before they hit Yonge.  The other reason is to allow better access to the major industrial areas north of Steeles and West of the 400.  There are plenty of working poor in that part of the city that will benefit.

Being relatively new to this site, I trust your knowledge better than most, since you have been at this for decades.  Keep it up!

It’s odd to talk about natural patterns of development of the transit system.

The Spadina subway and expressway are where they are because a developer owned the land that became Yorkdale Mall.    Exactly the same thing happened at Scarborough Town Centre with the additional wrinkle of its becoming a municipal centre as well.

The subway connects in via the planned expressway corridor, rather than being much further west, because its purpose was to politically sanitize the espressway.

The Downsview extension exists only because it was the only common part of two competing proposals:  a line to York U, and connection of the Spadina line east across Sheppard to Yonge.  Council couldn’t make up its mind, and the decision was to build to Downsview even though it was the middle of a field.

Over in Scarborough, the original scheme for what became the RT started at Warden Station, and it was an LRT line.  Later, when the BD subway was extended east to Kennedy and West to Kipling, the proposed terminal shifted.  However, there was also to be an Eglinton subway back in those days, and Scarborough Council feared that a node with three lines would make Kennedy/Eglinton much more competitive for development than STC.  Development at Kennedy Station was discouraged in order to force-feed the Town Centre.

I continue to argue against the Spadina extension, even though it is a “done deal” in order to show what might have been, and to underscore the need for a radically different way of looking at rapid transit planning.

There will always be a transfer somewhere.  We cannot keep soaking up all our capital to push high-cost subway lines out forever.  Somewhere has to be “the end of the line” where another mode takes over be it local bus services, BRT, LRT or park-and-ride. 

Even GO Transit depends on feeders, mainly parking but also some local transit service, and local transit will be more and more important to GO as parking lots fill up and the cost of expansion is prohibitive.  Moreover, some of those lots will eventually be prime development sites and their use for parking may actually poison the potential of surrounding lands. 

The entire TTC network is built on the concept of feeding rapid transit lines with surface routes, and our subway system wouldn’t be the success it is without all that riding pouring into subway stations where people transfer.  We can’t build a subway for all of them, and the real debate is over where the subway stops and something else starts.

36 thoughts on “Where Should the Subway End?

  1. I have the Light Rail Transit report and it shows a couple of proposed streetcar transfer points with the planned Spadina extension. The first one would be the Etobicoke-Finch West Streetcar which would have a projected 2021 of 24.6 million riders. The other streetcar line to intersect the Downsview extension would be the Jane Streetcar which has a projected 2021 ridership of 24.0 million.

    Now all these projected ridership numbers of the two streetcar transfer points with the Spadina extension aren’t all going to transfer to the subway but with these projected volumes of rapid transit lines, the subway and the two streetcar lines, they will compliment each other well by making two new major transit hubs.


  2. Why does York U, a natural feed focal point, or even Steeles Avenue, which preserves the TTC from future fights with Vaughan over operating subsidy, not make a more logical end point than Downsview which might be a transfer point but has little if any origin/destination traffic? Taking York commuters from downtown north and leaving them short and forcing a transfer is ludicrous, and surely the prospect of the subway turning east to link with the Sheppard died with the end of Lastman’s mayoralty leaving Downsview’s raison d’etre moot.

    Steve: If the line goes to York, it must go to Steeles as York won’t allow a massive bus transfer facility on the campus — they want to get rid of the plague of buses, not add to it.

    The point I have been trying to make is that we have to stop somewhere. I expect to hear in due course that VCC is going to be the next “natural” end point for the subway, and, who knows, the line may reach Barrie some day.

    For people commuting outward into the 905, the issue is to have a good network of surface routes taking them to their jobs. These may be buses, or LRT, or both, but those lines are essential.


  3. Steve, by continually attacking the Spadina subway extension, you’re damaging your credibility as a transit advocate.

    Any rail expansion in this town is good news. That kind of money would not have been given to the TTC “carte blanche”, so stop dreaming. We’re not losing it to something else. Let’s suppose you were the province (and pro-LRT of course), and the TTC was was anti-LRT pro-subway. Would you give the TTC $2B and say “here, do what you want with it”, knowing that they might use that money to build a subway? Of course not!

    Until the TTC and the City of Toronto can fund these projects themselves, that’s the way it will always be — there will always be a string attached. The City is getting a “bargoon” — for $397M they’re getting a subway extension to Steeles. The province, the Feds, and York Region are paying for the rest.

    To get Transit City built, I suggest we find the lobbyists at York and ask them “what’s your secret?”

    Steve: I believe that my credibility is enhanced by raising issues of how the Spadina Subway proposal came to exist and how our transit planning processes have been hijacked over the years by a subway-only outlook.

    The “bargoon” for the City may turn out to be fool’s gold if future project requests like Transit City, or even just more buses and the operating subsidy to run them, are rejected because “we’ve already given you your subway”.

    York’s secret is simple: The Treasurer is a York Old Boy, and the line goes to his riding.


  4. I totally agree with you Steve. Otherwise, people will eventually demand the subway end in Barrie!

    Re: the original Eglinton Subway: What was the story there, and wasn’t that line killed because of fears by businesses along Eglinton that they would lose more business to the newly opened Yordale Mall?

    Steve: The original Eglinton line was to be an elevated line with GO Urban technology. This eventually morphed into the RT, but in any event an el running down the middle of Eglinton would have destroyed the community and that’s why they objected.

    The Eglinton line announced by David Peterson in 1990 was a full-scale subway, but it only ran west from the Allen Road. There were construction impacts while the small piece that was built was underway, and more would occur if the line is resurrected (regardless of the technology) for Transit City.


  5. People will always want a subway line extended just a few stops further if there are poor transfer facilites at the existing terminal. Kennedy is a good example, but will hopefully be improved as much as possible with the SRT upgrade.

    Don Mills worries me, because it’s a long way up and then over to the bus terminal, which I assume is where the Sheppard LRT will terminate. Ideally, you want rail to rail transfer facilities to be one on top of the other, like the St George subway transfer. If that existed at Kennedy, and if that is how the Sheppard subway/LRT transfer can be built, then people won’t complain as much, in my opinion. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem possible to build Don Mills that way, so we’ll likely end up with another annoying transfer. If only they could extend the Sheppard subway to VP…

    Steve: Extending the subway to Victoria Park is expensive and that’s why the line ends at Don Mills. I have already written about my preferred layout for a Don Mills/Sheppard LRT terminal — put it at the east end of the existing mezzanine so that people can make a direct transfer down to the subway without walking miles.

    Also important will be a good link with the north-south LRT service on Don Mills itself.


  6. Great reply to Mimmo, the treasurer and/or his family also have numerous properties along the proposed route to VCC according to newspaper reports (Mimmo, you’re not related to Mr. Sobara, are you?). The value of properties next to any subway would naturally have increase, making them more valuable to the owner.

    Steve I applaud your efforts to prevent this boondoggle. Limited resources require that we get maximum benefit for the tax dollars spent. A wise politican once observed there is only one taxpayer!

    If there was any place north of the city that would benefit from subway expansion it would be Yonge Street thru to Richmond Hill! The packed TTC, GO and VIVA buses confirm that need. Moving the commuter parking, Kiss and Ride and GO terminal from Finch to Major MacKenzie would cut the commute from Newmarket in half. It would also have enormous benefits for Aurora, Markham and Richmond Hill commuters, something VCC doesn’t help.

    All that said the Transit City proposal makes far more sense than the single high priced and likely very low use subway expansion to the hinterlands. We need John Tory and Howard Hampton to be supporting better use of public funds. Especially for public transit.

    As to the federal government they are just doing a “oh yeah here’s some dough for transit look at us, aren’t we good”, rather than thinking through where the money is going! Canada doesn’t have a federal agency that’s the slightest bit concerned with public transit, unless it flies, floats or has VIA on the side (and we could debate how little they really care about VIA).


  7. Steve, though I completely agree with you that the subway extension is certainly excessive and probably unnecessary I think that we can’t put all the blame on the Provincial and Federal governments. I think Toronto has been very short-sighted until very recently in not having a clear vision of where WE want rapid transit to go and the approximate priority order for building the various pieces. The new LRT plan is a good start – though it has few priorities as far as I can see – but as far as I know it is the first recent attempt to create a clear and city-wide transit plan. If we had had a prioritised plan we could have said to both the Feds and the Province. “Thanks for thinking of funding a subway extension but that’s our 15th priority and until we get funding for priorities 1-14 we really can’t pay anything towards priority 15.”

    I also disagree with Mimmo about the desirability of accepting the Provincial and Federal $$ because, unfortunately, the capital costs for the subway extension are only one part of the funding needed. As with the Sheppard line, operating costs will far exceed the extra fare revenue and we all know who is likely to be left to pay for that!

    Steve: Apologies to Queen’s Park and Ottawa if I implied that they were the only source of our transit problems. We have had decades of politicians who are more interested in ribbon cutting (in their own ward/city of course) than in providing good transit, and of TTC management who offered no alternative to subways for rapid transit plans in Toronto. It could be argued that TTC might have taken an alternate tack given a decent push from the political side, but I’ve heard enough hogwash justifying subways over the years from the TTC that I can’t let staff off the hook on that one.

    Indeed, it was the TTC staff who rushed through an amendment to the Ridership Growth Strategy so that the Commission would re-affirm its commitment to the Spadina and Sheppard subway extensions. These were added to the original RGS as a last priority, but quickly eclipsed the others, especially plans for better service.


  8. What about new stations on existing lines?

    There is a huge Townhouse type development in behind Yonge just a bit north of the 401.

    Cars flow out of this area as it must be “too much” of a walk to the Sheppard Stop.

    I wonder if there may be time a new station would be built between York Mills and Sheppard.

    Steve: This is extremely unlikely as the line is on a steep downgrade into Hogg’s Hollow at that point. In general, if a station is to be added in the future, provision is made in the original design by keeping the grade almost flat and the alignment straight. Everywhere else, the lines are dodging around all sorts of things and retrofitting a station is almost impossible. Also, of course, development of surrounding lands must be controlled to protect for future station construction.


  9. MGV — no, I’m not related to Mr. Sorbara, and I don’t think he needs the money.

    The Yonge Subway can’t be extended north into Richmond Hill because of capacity constraints at the B-Y interchange — all the result of increased ridership and the TTC not operating the Y-system as originally intended. If it had, there would be no Spadina subway — it would have been built as a streetcar line. So let’s blame Mr. Sorbara and the York-U lobbyists for that as well.

    Steve: No I think we can let York U off the hook on that account.

    The problem on the Yonge Subway is that there needs to be more capacity for long-haul trips into downtown Toronto. This means that we have to intercept riders before they get to the subway and, if possible, put them on a GO train. We don’t need to get all of them, only enough to shave the peak demand to keep it within the subway’s capacity. All day service on GO wouldn’t hurt either so that people could plan on making the trip in both directions by the same route.


  10. That’s a good point, Steve.

    If I had a choice between taking YRT/VIVA to Finch, and TTC downtown, or just YRT to the GO Langstaff stop and take the train in, I’d do the latter.

    But I don’t have that option without all-day service, do I?

    I honestly hope that the GTTA gives GO Transit some loving…and maybe a GTTA website going, too.


  11. I’m reading Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies by John Kingdon and there’s a quote in there that I had to share. It’s an American book, but I found the quote interesting nonetheless…

    Some respondents even argued that political processes systematically favor inefficiency…economists somehow think that waste is a politically potent issue. But they get to the Hill, and they discover that congressmen favor waste. You know, “What do you mean, waste? You mean small town service is waste? Do you mean servicing the beet growers in my district is waste?” The very place that there is waste is also the toughest thing to handle politically.

    Another spoke of large-scale, expensive subway systems:

    It has always been apparent to me that subways are not the way to go. But they take so much money, they are so inefficient, that there is a great deal of support for them.

    Then he added, in an absolute masterpiece of pithy summary,

    “For a politician, the costs are the benefits.”

    John Kingdon (2003) pp. 137


  12. But not everybody is going to Union Stn., and a lot of passengers don’t want to pay GO and then the TTC to head back north.

    If some sort of parallel N-S line could be built to intercept BD passengers, along, let’s say, Church St. (or Bay), from Bloor to Union, then B-Y would be relieved to the point that Yonge could be extended north into Richmond Hill.

    It’s hard to believe that after 30 years, that line still ends at Finch. The traffic going down into Finch is beyond belief.


  13. “This means that we have to intercept riders before they get to the subway and, if possible, put them on a GO train.”

    I agree with you 100%.

    I used to live in Markham, and come downtown everyday, however I was forced to take the subway because the only bus options to get to the GO station, were going to take me the same time as the subway, and cost me twice as much.

    We need a vast restructuring of our 905 area’s transit. In Europe, most suburban systems get riders to the nearest “GO like” transit (long-haul commuter rail). I think we need to have this style of system, if we have any hope of cutting Yonge long-haul ridership


  14. Thanks for a great blog. I’ve been learning a lot from it for quite some time, and am finally moved to comment on your remarks about using GO trains to divert passengers from the Yonge subway line.

    I have often been puzzled at GO’s “all or nothing” approach. GO provides either a Great Big Train that can carry thousands of people or else empty track. This is particularly ironic since many of the GO routes started out life as radial lines running what were essentially streetcars between cities.

    There are big issues with track congestion on the Lakeshore line, but I rarely see a freight train on the GO Richmond Hill line.

    It seems to me as if it would be quite easy and comparatively cheap to run standard-gauge diesel streetcars on this line. I see them stopping at the existing GO stations and Leslie subway station.

    It would probably be necessary to lay additional rail for the final approach along the lakeshore to Union Station. However, the result would be to create what is in effect an express alternative to the Yonge subway line at a minute fraction of the cost.

    Of course, freight trains and streetcars can’t co-exist on the same track, and there would be issues with oncoming cars passing each other.

    But this is one of those cases where a limited pilot project can be run at extremely low cost using existing infrastructure.

    Steve: We still need the bigger trains for rush hour travel when demand is high, and the “diesel streetcars” would be a special fleet just for off peak service. Also the Richmond Hill line is single track with passing sidings, and this limits the number of trains per hour than can provide all-day, bi-directional service.

    If any parallel line is going to have an impact on the Yonge Subway, it needs substantial capacity.


  15. The problem on the Yonge Subway is that there needs to be more capacity for long-haul trips into downtown Toronto. This means that we have to intercept riders before they get to the subway and, if possible, put them on a GO train. We don’t need to get all of them, only enough to shave the peak demand to keep it within the subway’s capacity.

    True enough, but wouldn’t the Don Mills LRT and VIVA combined actually suck ridership off the Richmond Hill and Stouffville GO lines, especially if an lrt service started at Steeles. Sure, passengers on this route wouldn’t all go downtown, but as the Don Valley BRT study points out, passengers would also divert from the Lawrence, York Mills and even Sheppard lines. Many of these passengers would ultimately use the Don Mills lrt to transfer to the Bloor Line, and put even more pressure on Bloor-Yonge station.

    Steve: The Don Mills LRT is a local service intended to serve people living and working in that corridor. They are a completely separate group from the riders of the two GO lines. Yes, this line will bring additional riding to the Bloor subway, and as much previous comment here has noted, there will eventually be a need to extend the line into downtown. This was not included as part of the initial Transit City plan because it would not be needed in the timeframe of that scheme.

    I hate to sound negative about VIVA, but their Don Mills service already connects with the Sheppard subway, and I have never seen a bus at Don Mills Station with a substantial load. Someone going downtown today has a fast trip via the Sheppard and Yonge subways, and I don’t think that a VIVA to LRT connection is going to make much difference to VIVA’s riding.

    The TransitCity lines on the map which has brought so many oh’s and ahs, has a lot to be desired. Just as subway extensions should have had comparisons of technology and cost-to-benefit analyses so should each component of this $6 billion plan.

    For example, could 80-foot buses be introduced into North America in the next few years, as they are in Europe. Proponents will be examining the possibility of these for LA’s popular Orange Line, built because of lower costs than the original lrt proposal. This line has better ridership than the lrt lines in LA, except the Red line subway. Lrt proponents hiss at this success and at VIVA, which I find funny, because it reveals a cultish following among many of them.

    Steve: The TTC has a tender call out right now that includes articulated low-floor buses.

    Looking at the LA Metro schedules, the peak service on the Orange line is one bus every 4 minutes. That is equivalent to one standard-sized bus every 2’20”. We have regular bus routes in Toronto running at this service level. The Orange Line carries about 21,000 riders per weekday, and this is half of what we carry on the Dufferin bus.

    Also, the LA Metro stats show that only the Gold Line has lower ridership than the Orange line.

    I have no objection to buses, but like all transit modes they have their place. Transit City proposes an LRT network because of its capacity for expansion. BRT, as discussed elsewhere here, is best suited to line-haul operations.

    Why must we “bite the bullet” and build an Eglinton subway? The Rapid Transit study shows higher densities along Sheppard. That is one of the reasons why Sheppard rated higher than Eglinton. (BTW, neither should have been started). So what if one can travel all the way across the city through the pre-amalagamated cities using lrt and would be on surface a good portion of the way. This is just the same thinking as those of being accused of never wanting to stop extending a subway, The GO buses don’t even yet connect the airport well to anywhere except Brampton. That should be a higher priority for sure than an lrt, Blue-22 or whatever.

    Steve: The intent of the Eglinton LRT is not to travel from West Hill to the Airport, but to be able to travel between all of the places in between. There is heavy bus service and ridership on both the Eglinton East and West routes and a lot of it is not going to the subway. I am suspicious of all of the studies supporting a Sheppard line as this was a very politically charged situation where the outcome of any study was known before it started. Eglinton has much potential for increased density as an Official Plan Avenue, and the LRT line will support this growth.

    No, Queen’s Park didn’t demand a cost-benefit analysis of the Spadina Subway, but I, for one, would be delighted if they demand it of every capital project they are asked to fund for now on. And yes, they should start with the Spadina Subway extension.


  16. Hi Steve,

    It seems that the core of the debate is the difference between regional transit and local transit. Many look at any extension to subway lines and see the ability to travel from one end to the other, which “must be a good thing”. However, I agree with you that subways are best suited for all those stops in between. Getting from VCC to Union, or from Richmond Hill to Yonge & Bloor is regional transit, and should be provided by GO (At least, the bulk of the travel, I don’t expect a GO train to stop next to Holt Renfrew at Y&B).

    I’d like to compare our set-up to the Dutch model – there they have a train network that nets over the entire country (surprisingly, not all that much bigger than the GTA) and you can step from an airplane at Schipol airport onto a train from a dozen-platform station UNDER THE AIRPORT and travel to any city core where either buses or low-floor LRT will take you to the part of the city you want to reach. The train system is a combination of Snel (express) trains and Stop (local) Trains. Admittedly the Stop trains are dated and not luxurious, but then they’re not meant for long commutes.

    BTW – from the airport to downtown Amsterdam is 50% farther than from Union Station to the VCC, and it’s reached by train not subway.


  17. It’s funny that Gabe Lerman mentions the problem with having no all-day service on the Richmond Hill GO line.

    The roadblock to all-day service on the non-Lakeshore lines has been grade crossings with freight lines. GO is currently building grade separations at Haggerman (Stouffville line), West Toronto (Georgetown line), and the one at Snyder (Bradford Line) is already in operation — but no grade separation at Doncaster for the Richmond Hill line.

    Of all the lines that could use this upgrade to permit all-day service, this one could really use it!


  18. Hi Steve:-

    I have held the opinion for a very long time, that the subway should never reach the City’s limits (ie:- Steeles, Pickering, West Mall) unless capacity is built into the central part of the system. If people are forced to change or heaven forbid, choose an alternate system, from the furthest edges of the city, then as you stated in an earlier answer, the core will not have extra pressure put on it that it can barely handle now. As a city dweller, I don’t mind sharing my space on the transit lines that pass through my neighbourhood, but share is the word here. If I can’t get on because those who are already on have it jammed to the doors then I’m poorly served by the system that I chose to support by living in the neighbourhood that I do. Alternatives are needed for those living way beyond the outer limits.

    The best subway system in the world is in New York City and although there are many serious gaps in its catchment areas, many of those portions that have been built allowed for the long haulers from the burbs from the get go. The legacy of the Manhattan el lines (those evil unsightly things) taught New Yorkers that local riders would get served as well as those coming in from the Bronx, ‘express track(s)’. For medium, distance riders in Manhattan, it also gives them the option of riding express part way and transferring to a local train giving them a faster overall trip. But at what cost? Even New York can’t afford any more properly. Look at the 2nd Avenue subway and the long long time it’s taking to build it all.

    New York too has the New Haven, New York Central, Long Island RRs, etc. to siphon long haul riders from the city system. Note I called it a city system. Because in my mind, it serves the needs of the city. Suburbanites need to address suburban issues with suburban solutions.

    The LRT proposals, on the surface, will address so many of the needs of the City dweller in the City’s suburbs that it should move ahead quickly. Spin off advantages will see improvements for those who ride in from the Vaughns and Markhams, etc. who are not going all of the way downtown and who see a city bus in mixed traffic as no alternative at all to driving.

    But LRT cannot exist well in a vaccum either if beyond Toronto riders use it to get downtown. GO heavy rail needs to be a part of the mix with as many interchange nodes as possible. Yes it may cost the outer suburban rider more for a fare than the single TTC token, but they are travelling further and demanding more of the region’s resources.


  19. This is silly. The Yonge line has plenty of capacity north of Bloor all day long, and during rush hours. The problem is the BD traffic moving on to Yonge.

    Even with an all day GO service, the trains would never run more frequently than once an hour, and this just isn’t good enough. Why does everyone here overlook the basic facts? You complain about a bus running every 30 mins and not a train running once a hour, that only goes to one station? Come on.

    The proper solution is to divert the BD traffic on a parallel route south of Bloor and extend Yonge northward. Oh, sorry, this involves subway construction. What was I thinking?

    Steve: I am really getting tired of having my position misconstrued. First off, the intention is to provide a relief for the peak period demand on the subway that originates outside of the 416. Note the word “peak”. The GO train runs more often than hourly today. Off-peak service should exist on the line for those who don’t want to return on the handful of peak period trains. The intent is not to provide off-peak relief for the subway but to make the GO service attractive for bi-directional trips where one half is outside of the peak period.

    Next, if we really wanted to build more subways, yes, I agree that the Yonge line should go further north. The amount of bus traffic feeding into Finch Terminal shows there is a need for better service. We can have a big debate about whether the northerly extension should be, say, subway to Steeles and LRT to Richmond Hill. After all, even the York Region’s own EA said that Yonge would need an LRT line to handle the forecast demand in 2021.

    Many people who ride the Yonge line don’t want to go to King and Bay, and may not even want to come as far south as Bloor. We need to make sure that there is capacity for this type of trip rather than filling up the line with commuters who could be taken on GO directly to downtown. This is as much a debate about pricing of alternate routes (fares, integration, local transit versus GO) as it is about transit technology. If the fare on GO were the same as the combined YRT/TTC fare, where would the demand go?

    Finally, yes, there is a need for more capacity into the core. However, the received political wisdom for at least two decades is that building such capacity will only encourage developers to centralize and the regions will die off. I’m sure that all the developments in the outer 416 and inner 905 are a direct result of Jack Layton’s deal with Mel Lastman to support the Sheppard Subway and kill the proposed Downtown Relief Line. [That is sarcasm in case anyone missed it.] Developers build where developers build and expect the transportation system to keep up with them.

    The huge irony in this is that if someone influential owned a lot of land at Yonge and Steeles, the subway would have gone there years ago.


  20. In regards to the GO Richmond Hill line and all day service, I believe the constraint may be parking at stations along the line. The stations in Richmond Hill are full by 8am, and there’s little density or transit oriented development nearby for others to take more trains after the last morning run.

    Thus there is probably not alot of mid-day ridership to support all day service.

    There are 2 exceptions. Langstaff GO station, with the abuilding pedestrian connection to the Viva Richmond Hill Centre station later this year, could be a prime mid-day GO traffic generator. And Oriole GO /Leslie TTC station.

    For what it’s worth, the GO Train Richmond Hill station is not the one at Richmond Hill Centre Viva station. Confusing? You bet.

    The Unionville GO station on the Viva Pink and Green lines, but neither of these GO connections appear on the Viva route map. Nor does GO Transit mention Viva routes at all on its map.

    The Viva Purple and/or Orange lines should also stop at the York University GO Train station on the Bradford/Barrie line.

    It’s only with these intermodal connections and all-day service feeders will non-auto travel be a realistic and viable solution in the so-called cities above Toronto.


  21. And while I think about it, some better GO-local transit integration will be needed as well. As someone noted above, paying double for 2 different transit systems going in the same or complementary directions is a major disincentive. Mississauga and cities west have the 50 cent transfer to/from GO Trains, which is great, but it doesn’t apply (last time I checked) to GO Buses.

    I’m really hoping the GTTA will straighten out these disincentives, different station names, and inconsistencies, so that taking transit is much simpler and straightforward. One of their key goals should be the branding of GTTA transit as a single entity, like Transport4London, RATP in Paris, etc.

    Given that almost all the GTTA board’s made up of politicians, it seems to me like it’s going to be business as usual.


  22. More to Mimmo’s point about travelling to Union. I think we’ve uncovered the curse of the former Metro and Regional government’s planning (or really the lack of planning at the provincal level). We have too many downtowns. Not everyone wants to go to Union Station. We’ve got North York, Yonge-Eglinton/St. Clair, Bloor-Yonge, STC, other destinations in the city and countless others in the suburbs. Add in destinations like the York U, the airport and we’ve got the mass-transit mess we have today!

    Long haul GO train service is great at servicing downtown Toronto (to the end of the Path Network). But try living in Newmarket and commuting to Yonge-Eglinton or even Bloor-Yonge, GO doesn’t work. The Yonge “B” service is stuck in traffic. Only to dump you on the already over crowded Yonge subway.

    The 400 run drops you at Yorkdale where there’s no cross over except surface level transit to Yonge until you get down to the B-D subway. The Eglinton subway was never planned to go to Yonge (which is another thing in Transit City’s favour!).
    The hour or more on the GO Train that costs an extra $ takes you to Union where you have to ride back up north.

    GO dropped [their] run into Richmond Hill GO from Newmarket soon after the Sheppard subway opened. That still means that if you want to get to Yonge you’re back on the Yonge subway. GO has talked about extending service to Aurora on the RH line but so far that’s all thats happened. As a single track main, neither the RH or Bradford is suitable for all day bi-directional service. Competition with CN Rail and ONR would make service unpredictable. Ask anyone that regularly travels the Lakeshore GO service about the problems they have.

    What I can see is we’ve got decisions made years ago coming back to haunt us. Extending the subway to VCC looks much like another one of those decisions. One that we will rue the day it was made.


  23. How much would it cost to expand GO train service enough so that it could provide an alternative to the subway? I would imagine the Richmond Hill line would have to be double tracked almost the length of the line, and considering some of the narrow ravines it passes through it certainly would be very expensive.

    Other lines that have frequent freight service would have to have additional tracks built as well. As most GO Trains have transfer opportunities to the subway, the fact that all trains end at Union Station is not that big of a deal. Until we can do something about the fares, however, I feel GO will remain something that only white collar workers will take.

    Steve: Don’t forget that “an alternative” does not have to be “the same as”. As other writers have pointed out, GO is good at getting people to Union, and lousy at everything else. We need to encourage more of the Union-and-environs riders to be on GO, especially with some sort of fare integration so that a short double-back via the subway isn’t a disincentive.

    Also, it’s probably cheaper to subsidize riders to take that sort of route than it is to build and operate more subway capacity.


  24. It’s also worth noting that capacity issues could be partly addressed by the new signal system on the way for the new Yonge subway, theoretically allowing headways to decrease to 90 seconds — assuming of course (and we’ve had this discussion before) there was a place to short turn half of Yonge’s trains so that each terminal had three minutes of time to turn trains around. This, ironically, suggests a need for a Yonge subway extension north to Steeles or Clarke Blvd, with every second train turning back at Finch.

    Not much to add to Steve’s points here. I think he’s right on the whole Spadina boondoogle, even though it probably amounts to just shouting — a fact that Transit City seems to acknowledge by working in the York University extension into its LRT network.

    Well, if we have to live with it, let’s move on. Is there any hope that Toronto has the ability to go it alone on Transit City? Perhaps slowing the growth of its LRT network so that its annual expenses become more manageable?

    Steve: Claims of 90 second headways are, I believe, vastly overblown. Running on that headway over the entire length of a line requires that everything work perfectly. Passengers don’t dawdle in the doorways (we know that passengers are responsible for all subway delays, after all). Crews will always be ready to take over their trains at terminals and handover points along the line. Nobody will ever be sick (darn those pesky passengers again!). There will never, ever be a track patrol crew or some other slow order to screw up the service.

    Quite bluntly, given the spacing of our stations, and the highly unpredictable dwell times, I do not believe that a 90 second headway could operate on the Yonge line even with perfect double-terminal configurations such as those suggested here. Automated operation would remove some of the problems, but not all of them.

    And, of course, we have not even started to talk about the ability of stations to handle over 50% more pedestrian movements per hour. More trains means more riders means more need for escalator, stairway and platform capacity. Oh yes, don’t ever, ever think of shutting off an escalator much less disassembling it. Can you imagine College southbound with that one pitiful stairway and trains arriving every 90 seconds?


  25. Steve

    Kicking people off the subway at Downsview where they don’t want to be and when a majority if not a supermajority want to keep going another couple of stops *and no further* is crazy. To compare a trip generator like York to Idomo station or the Vaughan stops is just being contrarian.

    Now as you say, York don’t want a transit hub on campus. Seriously Steve, which do you think is going to happen first, persuading York to have a campus hub or stopping the subway extension entirely? Even then, extending to Steeles gives coverage to the northern part of campus as well as forming a logical transition to York services without jurisdiction, extra fare or shared funding issues. Going one foot further means some or likely all of the above.

    If you suggested a plan such as – stop the subway at Steeles, extend Jane LRT into York Region to gather in York Region university riders and put the savings into more GO tracks and trains to put downtown commuters on rather than sending them on a 20 stop trip to Toronto, I’d be behind you, in fact I just said as much on the Transit Toronto yahoogroup.

    Instead your blind faith in a single form of transit will hinder rational debate on urban form and transit integration and make no sense to riders who hate transferring in the middle of nowhere between modes when going in the same direction. I hope that you will reconsider and move towards a compromise position.

    Steve: I have already said as much elsewhere. Many people seem to have missed the point I was trying to make: in the grand scheme of things, the York U line, let alone Steeles West and beyond, is not really the top priority for transit spending in Toronto. But where is the funding to go? To that line and to various projects in the 905.

    Yes, Toronto and the TTC asked for the Spadina subway and now we have it. A shame that we didn’t officially change our priorities because we hoped to get support for transit generally, not just for a vanity line to VCC.

    If we must build a subway, yes, Steeles is where it should stop and an LRT and bus network — and the important word here is network — should radiate out from there into York Region.

    However, don’t ask me to cry over all the students who would be forced to transfer at Downsview in my scheme. They represent about 1/5 of the total traffic coming to the York campus, and all of those other riders will have to transfer onto the subway from a feeder bus at VCC, Highway 407 or Steeles West (unless they walk into the campus). An LRT network radiating north, south, east and west from York could have given one-seat rides to the campus for many, many people.

    We often talk about how everyone does not work at King and Bay, and the same is true of students travelling to York. They don’t all live in the Spadina Subway’s catchment area.


  26. People visiting me from Europe recently asked why the GO corridors haven’t been electrified for hi-speed passenger trains, and said we were backward. I didn’t quite know how to answer them.

    I used to take GO frequently and it was a mess. All it takes is one snowflake and your train is an hour late. Then, every morning was a panic if you were running just a few minutes late or hit a bunch of red lights. Taking the subway was much easier on the nerves because I knew if I missed it, I wouldn’t have to wait 30 minutes for the next one.

    The Georgetown line that I used to take got all day service a few years back and it runs every 2 hours during the day. Not bad, but no parking after 9am.


  27. In the first presentation for the SRT study, there was a great map that showed the origin of groups of SRT riders as red dots of different sizes. It made it clear that the idea of an SRT “corridor” was an illusion: most people ride the line because it’s the only rapid link in the area, not because it’s along their “natural” route.

    Without a similar map for the north end of the Yonge line (plus, ideally, the data on where people want to go), it’s pretty hard to say which solution would do the most to reduce crowding while boosting transit use in the area.

    Steve: This is an excellent point. We need to see similar projections for the Transit City proposals (not to mention that little subway line in the northwest).


  28. Some general comments;

    1 Bleeding demand from Yonge:

    There will not be capacity on Yonge, especially south of Bloor, if Yonge is extended north to Richmond Hill. Perhaps what should be extended is the Don Mills LRT but I shudder to think about the time required to ride down to Pape or Donlands from Steel’s or Langstaff. Then how do these people get down town Bloor Danforth to Yonge? This creates the same problem as would the Jane LRT to Dundas West. So both Lines should continue on the rail rights of way to downtown Toronto, maybe not Union Station but resurrect the old Queen St subway? At least they would get a transfer to the street car lines.

    2 GO Transit Richmond Hill Line:

    I believe the problem with trying to put more service on this line is that it is CN’s main transcontinental line north and west out of Toronto and CN does not want any more GO Trains. Putting passing sidings or double tracking in the Don Valley is not that big a problem. The problem is capacity north of the York Sub and I doubt that there is room for a third track which CN would probably want. GO had to double track from The York Sub to Richmond Hill to get the service that exists now. If you want all day service it will have to be on the Newmarket or Uxbridge Subs which is why GO put in grade separations in those locations but not on the Bala Sub.

    3 Electrifying GO Transit:

    When I worked for CN back in University I asked about electrification of GO and was told that CN would only allow it if it was at 25 000 or 50 000 volts AC. This would have required the replacement of most of the existing road bridges over the CN as they did not have the required clearances. CN would not allow 600 to 3000 volts DC as it would not be compatible with possible future electrification. Since GO now owns the Newmarket and Uxbridge Subs they could probably be electrified with 600 to 3000 volt DC if GO could get a separate set of tracks along the Lakeshore line between the two subs. These could then operate a more rapid and frequent service into Toronto. With self propelled MU cars the service could be varied to meet demand, but it still might be more efficient to operate locomotive hauled trains. Remember that with the increase in intermodal traffic it will be more efficient for trains from Montreal to Chicago or west to cross through Toronto on the lakeshore lines rather than use the York and Halton Subs.

    4 Cross town connections between The Newmarket Sub, the Spadina Subway, the Yonge Subway and the Uxbridge Sub:

    I agree that there is the need for this preferably at Finch or at least at Sheppard if these lines are to have any success in truly serving the York region commuters fully. And it could also serve York U. It might be arguable that it would make sense for the Spadina line to GO at least to Finch and the Newmarket Sub to provide a truly convenient intermodal connection. The land here would truly appreciate in value so start buying it up now. There are two chances of this happening soon and I believe that Slim has left town.

    Remember that while GO is a bureaucracy, it is not inherently stupid. If it hasn’t done something that would appear logical for it to do there are probably two good reasons.

    1 It does not have the money.
    2 The railways won’t let it.


  29. You call our subway system a success? You’ve GOT to be kidding me here. Hard plastic cards, crappy subway and bus routes, a subway system that closes before bars close, etc, etc. Hardly successful, IMHO.

    Steve: The TTC carries a very large number of people every day. They could do a lot better, and politicians who bleat about their support for transit need to be held to account when it comes time to pay the bills. I’m not sure what you mean about crappy routes, and I’m not going to entertain that discussion here. Many routes don’t have enough service thanks to funding cutbacks and a reluctance by the Miller Council to invest in transit seriously, always waiting for daddy to bail them out.

    If your measure of a great system is that the subway stays open until the bars close, you will get a big surprise visiting just about any other major city in North America where transit systems are oriented to peak-period commuters, and the late-night crowd are expected to have their own cars or take taxis.


  30. I don’t think the GO corridors can be electrified, because North American freight trains, which use the same tracks, are taller than European ones, and would be unable to clear the catenary. Also keep in mind that the GO tracks are privatly owned.


  31. The ‘Diesel streetcars” are called rail-diesel cars, and GO had a small number of them when they first started up. They are cheaper to run than full trains for out of rush hour service, if the capacity of a full train is not required. (They quickly became overcrowded and GO sold them along with the single level coaches). They are also compatible with other mainline trains. As far as track space they are a train and cannot be allowed to occupy a section of track until all opposing moves are clear.

    The old interurban streetcars operating on mainly single track, had the same restrictions (a car could not leave a siding until the opposing car arrived), and this limited the scheduling possible. This worked well unless there was a problem, then everything stopped.

    GO has the same problem with the Brampton bi-directional service (mostly on single track). A train delayed for 15 miutes or more for any reason is returned to Union and the run cancelled because otherwise it would corrupt the service for the rest of the day.

    If the line was double tracked all the way from Brampton to Union, it could support 2 way service shared with other users of the track down to about 20 minutes. Service down to 15 minutes would require a dedicated double track line all the way but could still be done with conventional railroad technology. More frequent service would require dedicated LRT/subway vehicle technology with close in signals and electrification.


  32. Gordon said …

    The ‘Diesel streetcars” are called rail-diesel cars, and GO had a small number of them when they first started up. They are cheaper to run than full trains for out of rush hour service, if the capacity of a full train is not required. (They quickly became overcrowded and GO sold them along with the single level coaches). They are also compatible with other mainline trains. As far as track space they are a train and cannot be allowed to occupy a section of track until all opposing moves are clear.

    The main problem with these cars and the RDC’s was the hydraulic transmissions. These were high maintenance items which is why the vehicles were stored with motive power and not with coaches. The other problem with the GO self propelled cars, SP’s, is that they were single engine and if they had an engine failure the other car did not have enough power to get the set off the line quickly. GO de-engined them and converted them into cab cars as it soon became apparent that a 2 car train was not enough for base service.

    If you want self propelled GO cars it should be done as Diesel-Electrics, not Diesel-Hydraulic equipment. You could take a cab version of the 2500 series coaches and remove the three seats under the steps by the doors and put a 300 to 400 kW 575 volt 3 phase diesel generator there in a sound proof enclosure. Each generator would power DC motors in the adjacent truck and the lighting, heating and air conditioning on one side of the coach. The motors would be run by simple solid state controllers. You would not need choppers as you are starting with AC. This would save money and weight. A two car train could seat 300 people and would have more than enough power to continue on if there were an engine failure. If you wanted to get fancy you could train line the AC power with the addition of automatic synchronizers.

    It would be possible to put a couple of these cars at the end of a standard locomotive hauled train that ran to say Georgetown and then uncouple the SP’s and continue them on to Guelph or Kitchener. A two car set of these could provide more seats than a four car VIA train and have a lower operating and crew cost. They could also provide odd peak service on the Uxbridge or Bala subs more efficiently than trains. I don’t think that GO or VIA like the idea of self propelled cars because they remember the high maintenance problems of the RDC’s and SP’s. If VIA would put in proper platforms and use a modern fare collection system they could run these with two man crews and cut station dwell time to a quarter of what is now or less. It might even make the service run without an operating deficit. GO and VIA have to think outside the normal box if they want to improve service. The current method VIA uses to load and unload passenger is over 100 years out of date.

    That is my two cents worth.


  33. I also agree that the general end of the TTC subway should be relatively close to the natural eastern, western, and northern boundaries of Toronto.

    It is just wrong to place a subway into an untested, untried area. Subways are high-stakes construction and need to be built in places where demand is existing, consistent, and proven.

    Here in Malaysia the same problem is happening. People want to extend the elevated ‘LRT’ (or call it a ‘Skytrain’) out into the suburbs of the city and even further.

    However, they are not planning anything to be in place in order to create and measure demand.

    Rapid Transit will not work effectively if the planning process amounts to “if you build it, they will come….”

    As for GO lines or Urban Frequency Service in the inner suburbs of Toronto…well, arguing over specific technology is not going to do much. What needs to be done is to find ways to make frequent service possible, through double tracking and (ugh) grade separations if that is what will get the service in place.

    Even Malaysia has electrified and multitracked the rail around Kuala Lumpur and is currently working on double tracking and electrification projects all the way to the borders with Thailand (north) and Singapore (south).

    However, it is the double tracking that will make the most difference to the service.

    Electrification is something to look forward to in North America…not (as it should be) a basic piece of infrastructure.

    Cheers, m


  34. The article about Montreal’s proposed LRT line in La Presse has an interesting bit of information. They are planning on running a bus along the proposed LRT route to establish a ridership base, as well as to confirm the actual routing of the line.

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if the TTC did the same thing along the proposed York/Vaughan subway route? The portion to York already exists with the well-used 196 Rocket, but it would be funny to see just how low the ridership numbers would be from York to VCC. Of course, that’s exactly why this will never happen, and it shows just how ridiculous this subway extension into Vaughan really is.

    Steve: Between the busway from Downsview to York U, plus the Viva service, we should get some idea fairly soon. Of course everyone will blame the poor loadings on transfers and infrequent service rather like the 190 Rocket from Don Mills Station to Scarborough Town Centre which is not exactly an alternative to frequent LRT or subway service. At times, I have waited for this marvel far longer than the time I am supposed to save with this “express” service.


  35. The fact that there is even a debate going on about where the subway should end, and if the subway should go to YORK, shows why transit is losing out here in Toronto at the moment.

    If we keep make people switch modes and wait for connections at different points, from subway, to LRT, to bus. Its no wonder people are hopping into their car instead.

    The situation on the east end at Kennedy should show you all, why the subway just needs to be extended to Steeles, to connect with TTC bus routes serving the north west area of the city.

    All I can say is thank goodness we do have people and elected officials who do see this extension is needed and are funding it.

    It already takes way to long to travel anywhere in the York U North West Toronto area. We don’t need to make it longer, by making people switch ten million times.

    Come live in Scarborough a little, and see how bad the transfers are at Kennedy, and then at Scarborough Town Centre.
    Maybe thats why so many people in Scar just skip the TTC and drive downtown anyway.

    Steve: I live downtown and work at STC. Lucky for me, I only have to deal with the buses when the RT is broken. However, your comments reflects a much more pervasive problem on the TTC — the level of service provided on the subway system is much higher than that on the surface system relative to the demand. If the TTC used the same measures to evaluate subway service, the Sheppard line would probably close on the weekends and at evenings.

    Oddly enough, cutting service on the subway doesn’t save money on the same scale it does on the surface because the primary cost of having a subway is the huge amount of infrastructure, and the staff you need just to “mind the store” one way or another whether there are passengers or not.

    The TTC’s idea of a bus route that will act as a catalyst for a future Sheppard rapid transit line is a bus that runs from Don Mills to STC and comes at best every 12 minutes, and is rarely on time. Significant gaps are common, and I run into them about half of the time I attempt to use this service.


  36. Well, I’m sorry to say that I don’t share your opposition to the Spadina subway extension but I DO agree your statement that if a subway must be built that it should end at Steeles Avenue. My position on this extension is that here is a line that needs any traffic generator it can possibility get. Historically, the University and Spadina segments haven’t always had the greatest success. I wonder if this controversial extension will possibly be built in phases.


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