Tramways for Montréal? [Updated]

Over at spacing, there’s an article about the proposed return of streetcars to Montréal.  Nothing on the grand scheme of Transit City, but a first step.  Let’s hope Toronto manages to build something of their new network rather than spending endless years on studies.

Update:  Bryan Adare sent in a comment pointing out that a lot of the design in the study documents (linked from the first comment to this post) looks much more like ICTS technology than LRT.  Oddly, examples cited of working systems go all the way from full-blown grade-separated automatic ICTS systems down to true LRT lines like the Minneapolis Hiawatha line.  One wonders whether the authors of the study entirely understand what they are talking about.

If you compare the description of the line in La Presse to the one in the study, it is clear that there are two separate schemes here:

  • one is for an ICTS Mark-II high capacity line south across the St. Lawrence to address congestion on the Champlain Bridge, and
  • the other for a true LRT line linking downtown with Old Montréal.

Unfortunately, Montréal seems to have a common problem with Toronto:  people use the term “LRT” interchangeably for both modes when ICTS is quite bluntly not LRT because it require a completely dedicated right-of-way.

TTC Riding Growth Continues in Early 2007

The Chief General Manager’s Report for January and February, 2007, tells us that riding is up 2.8 percent over 2006, and 1.0 percent over budget.  Most of this growth came in February where riding was up 4.4 percent over last year.  Metropass sales in February were 24 percent above the 2006 level.

The TTC has not, at this point, revised its ridership projection for 2007 which remains at the 454-million mark.  However, the City clearly expects the TTC to do better than anticipated because the operating subsidy will be lower than the TTC’s initial request.  Part of this will come from a reduction in the planned increase in the number of Special Constables, and part will come from as-yet unspecified savings or growth in revenue.

The strong Metropass sales are a double-edged sword depending on whether they represent a net increase in revenue (passengers trading up to a pass) or a decrease (passes attracting riders who now will pay less than previously, especially when pass transferability is taken into account).

Service improvements are planned for the fall, and the TTC hopes that these will “alleviate” overcrowding problems.  I put that in quotation marks because, of course, we don’t yet know whether the new service will both absorb rising demand and permit implementation of the Ridership Growth Strategy improvements to loading standards.  Moreover, the TTC has no plans for further RGS-based improvements, and only limited provision for fleet growth going into 2008.

Streetcar Track Construction Update

The TTC agenda for April 18 includes a report recommending award of a three-year contract for “rubber encapsulation” for special trackwork.  This technique, technically called “elastomeric isolation”, extends the mechanical isolation of track from regular tangent rails to the intersections where there is much more vibration and potential for roadbed damage.

The TTC pioneered this design for special work installation with three test sites:  King & Queen (Don Bridge), Main Station Loop, and finally a large-scale project at King & Dufferin.  The impending work on St. Clair at Robina and at Oakwood, as well as intersections along the Dundas line will all be encapsulated.

Other design changes are in the works according to the TTC’s Jim Teeple:

Not only have we been evaluating the polymer used for the isolation, we have also been reviewing fastener and tie technologies as well. Our primary objectives are: life-cycle (including future vehicle fleets) , in-street construction timelines (panalisation to minimise disruption), reduced preventative maintenance, ongoing maintenance costs, capital costs, in roughly that order.

The St. Clair project this year will see Hydro working between Vaughan Road and Westmount Avenue (one block east of Dufferin Street) to underground its services, while the TTC rebuilds the streetcar right-of-way from Westmount to Caledonia (where Hydro services are already underground).  St. Clair West Station Loop will also be rebuilt this summer, and the work will include repair of expansion joints in the station structure.

The remainder of the line’s reconstruction (Vaughan to Westmount, Caledonia to Gunn’s Loop) will take place in 2008.  There is no word on the proposed extension westward, but this is included as part of the Transit City scheme.

In a previous post about the overall plans for special work replacement, I raised the question of why some intersections on Spadina were listed even though they are comparatively new.  It turns out that budget estimates are done based on formulas including service intensity and the time projected for special work to deteriorate to the point of needing replacement.  The Spadina intersections were built long before the move to mechanically isolate the track and this, combined with the extremely frequent service, will bring them up for replacement sooner rather than later.  However, the actual timing of the project will be based on actual conditions on site, not simply on a formula.  The TTC’s track construction plans change every year, and we may see the Spadina intersections move further out if they remain in better condition than expected.

Taking A Bite Out Of Spadina

The City of Toronto Budget Committee fired back at Queen’s Park in their ongoing battle over proper funding of provincial obligations under legislated shared-cost programs.  Ontario’s underpayment for 2007 is $71-million.

Councillor Mihevc, who also sits on the TTC as vice-Chair, moved that the city withdraw $30-million of its contribution to the Spadina Subway Extension trust fund.  The remaining $41-million shortfall will be taken from City reserve funds.

Councillor Rae moved that the City Solicitor be instructed to apply for a judicial interpretation of provincial cost sharing obligations for various social services.

Both motions carried unanimously.  The motion regarding the Spadina funds will go to Council as part of the final budget debates, while the motion about the legal situation for shared cost programs can be approved at Executive Committee next week.

There is already budgetary pressure on the Spadina extension project because final approval has been delayed beyond the date originally anticipated by the TTC (there is a passing reference to this on next week’s TTC agenda without any specific numbers).  Inflation will push up the final project cost if the line is not built on the planned schedule.

The Budget Chief, Councillor Carroll, as well as Councillors Mihevc and Rae, indicated that the Spadina Subway extension is a Provincial priority, not a City priority.

Queen’s Park wants Toronto to spend on a Provincial pet project, but won’t pay their share of social programs forcing Toronto to pick up the tab.

As of midday April 12, Queen’s Park has not responded to this situation.

Expanding Bloor-Yonge Station

[Comments are now closed on this item.  I am getting tired of repeating myself about the physical possibilities at Bloor/Yonge and the fact that this is not the only place we would need to look at expanding if we substantially increase subway capacity.  There is nothing more to add to this discussion.] 

Several people have left comments or sent emails on the subject of capacity at Bloor-Yonge.  Mark Dowling’s was the latest, and I thought it would be a good place to start a new thread.  (The poor-man’s diagram below has been corrected to match the actual station layout.  Thanks to Miroslav Glavic for pointing out this howler of an error.)

A letter writer to the Star this morning mentions the 1 Bloor East project as a way of expanding Bloor Line capacity – I am concerned about the possible effect of this building on peak crowding. Would it be possible to “stagger” a second platform so that it would be under the 1BE site? I guess the connection to the Yonge line would be tricky but this might be an opportunity we won’t get again.

====================   existing WB track
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX   existing centre platform
====================   existing EB track

On the Bloor line, it is important to understand where the station sits physically.  All of the station is north of the 1 Bloor East site.  The west end of the station is inside the structure of the Hudson’s Bay Building at 2 Bloor East and is roughly under the east side of Yonge Street.  You can tell where it is quite easily from the location of the western exit from Yonge Station which comes up to street level between the Bay and Starbuck’s (formerly Britnell’s Book Shop).

The silver columns at Bloor Station on the Yonge line are directly under Bloor Street.  This used to be the entrance to the stairs up to the Bloor streetcar transferway.   Note that these columns lie south of the mezzanine area and the stairs down to the Bloor Subway.

The east end of Yonge Station lies under Bloor, and the turn into the tunnel is roughly under the intersection of Park Road and Bloor Street at the east end of 2 Bloor East.  The round tunnel runs east under Bloor to Sherbourne where the line turns south and runs parallel to Bloor east of Sherbourne before turning back to the north to cross the Rosedale Valley Road.

Many years ago, the TTC produced a plan for expanding Bloor-Yonge Station including a new eastbound platform as shown here, not to mention a new centre platform on the Yonge line.  Indeed, it was this scheme that was used to justify “phase 1” — the widening of the platforms at Bloor Station.

One big problem with adding such a platform is that you need to connect it with the station “upstairs”.  This is extremely difficult given that much of the structure would be inside of the existing 2 Bloor East building.  Indeed, the TTC’s own plans showed a large column directly conflicting with what would be the new eastbound platform.

The basic point is that 1 Bloor East may be adding more demand at this station, but I doubt that every resident will spill out onto the subway at the same time if only because there wouldn’t be enough elevator capacity for that.  Structurally, the site is completely separate from the Bloor subway line and offers no opportunities for expansion.

As for the Yonge line, the TTC did have a scheme to add a third centre platform, but building it would be extremely complex (again it is inside of existing buildings) and parts of the work would require that the station be closed (yes, closed) for at least half a year.  You don’t just shuffle platform space and track around as an overnight job.

Many capacity issues in transportation (and indeed in other systems) can be approached in two ways:  either we go into panic mode and desperately try to expand at the perceived site of the problem, of we figure out how to reduce demand at that point by directing traffic elsewhere.  As I have written in many other posts, this comes down to improving GO rail service so that the subway isn’t lumbered with all of the long-haul trips and adding capacity into the core to divert traffic off of the Yonge line itself.

Can We Redecorate the Toronto Subway?

The post about artists decorating a New York Subway car reminded me of a conversation earlier this week at a gathering of the Jane Jacobs Prize winners.  A few of us were talking about ideas for getting stories of the transit system’s history out where people could easily find them, and I brought up the issue of subway station decor.

Decor is not quite the word I would use when describing the TTC, but the mathemeticians among you will understand the concept of the null set.  Even the total absence of decor is a form of decor itself, minimalism taken to the extreme.

This brings me back to a topic discussed here in the early days of the site, subway station beautification.

Why can we only have subway station makeovers when someone wants to drop millions of dollars, and a lot of capital-D Design on a few stations? The current proposals for Museum, St. Patrick and Osgoode involve complete makeovers with a high ratio of design and construction effort to finished product. Will they stay relevant in five, ten, twenty years, or will they fizzle out from staleness of content and indifferent maintenance like Arc en ciel at Yorkdale Station?

Why must decor take on the character of a station domination advertising campaign?  Indeed, could future proposals run aground for fear that they would compromise the TTC’s ability to sell entire stations to advertisers?  Imagine Union Station bereft of advertising and full of imagery of transportation!

The Poetry on the Way program is a tiny, occasionally heartwarming touch in the sterile subway environment, but it’s far too little.

Toronto is in the midst of considering a complete makeover of its street furniture, a scheme designed to sell every square inch of the city for advertising revenue.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were places in the subway, prominent places, not just out of the way corners in stations like Bessarion or Ellesmere, where we could see images of the nearby city past and present?  With a bit of thought, the design of such presentations could even fit in with the character of each station.

An even more aggressive scheme would involve actually changing these displays from time to time.  Yes, panels cost money to fabricate and install, but think of it as part of the cost of making the system attractive.  “Hey, look, that picture wasn’t there yesterday!”

I throw this out as a challenge to all those would-be benefactors of arts and urban life.  Instead of building up funds for mega-construction projects, think small, but on a big scale.  Don’t try to put the same cookie-cutter generic Toronto photo in every station, don’t just slap a cheap piece of cardboard or plastic in an advertising frame as filler during the off-season, put in something that will last.  And do it everywhere so that art, decor, a bit of warm feeling about our city, aren’t just the preserve of a few stations dedicated to grand construction on the University line.

Bathurst 511 Diverts to Union Station

Today, I was down at Fleet Street looking at the site of reconstruction planned for May and found that the 511 service is all running to Union Station.  The track on Fleet is in very bad shape including one quite serious drop in the rail height.

I just checked the Transit Toronto website where there is a description of the situation — a car derailed last week and the line is closed west of Bathurst.

Of course the TTC’s own website does not even mention this diversion.

Meanwhile in the Beach

In case everyone thought that this had turned into a blog about the Spadina Subway and intercity rail travel, let’s come back to the real world of the Queen Car with the following note.

Hi Steve
This is not really a comment, but rather a follow-up to my earlier comments re: service in the Beach.  It’s not getting any better.

Let’s start with a math quiz . What’s the next number in this sequence?

18,33,1,14,2,10,11 ______(??? )

Give up? Well the answer is “who knows, could be any number”.  It’s the 501 from Neville.

These were the 501 headways departing Neville westbound on a normal, dry road, no traffic, no accidents type middle of the weekday when all a person wanted to do was spend $10 on a streetcar going to Queen & Lee etc to do local errands. Can you believe it? Is anyone in charge of supervising this major streetcar route???

Walked down to the loop from Fallingbrook at 12:30 and saw 42xx departing westbound. 12:48 (run#7) finally came 18 minutes later. Thought I would hang around and see what followed:

  • The next car, 4244 departed at 1:21-33 minute gap!!!!
  • Then in a brilliant move, car 4250 left one whole minute later at 1:22 (came empty, left empty).
  • 4210 left 14 min later at 1:36.
  • Then run 14, 4230 left 2 minutes later at 1:38 (again empty)
  • 4225 left at 1:48, and finally
  • 4225 left at 1:57.

This is a very common situation, not unusual at all. What happens with this mess down the line? Where do the supervisors supervise from?  Do they know what is going on here????

This is sad and funny at the same time. Is anyone in control of this route??

Thought you may find this interesting Steve.

Yes, it is interesting and far, far too common.  The service at Neville Loop is supposed to run every 5’30”.

I am still mired in detailed analysis of the King route (which I hope to finish over Easter weekend) and have not had the heart to look at Queen Street yet.  The bottom line, however, is that service is quite irregular even on days, like Christmas, when it should run like a clock.

Bob Brent Writes

Bob Brent left a very long comment, and I’m putting it in a post of its own.  Please note that I do not intend to do this regularly, and don’t want to encourage people to try to turn this site into their own blog.  However, after some of the [expletive deleted] comments I have received here about my pro-LRT orientation, it’s nice to get some fan mail.

[The bad link in the first paragraph has been corrected.  Note that it goes to a Power Point file, not a PDF.]

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