The 2008 Capital Budget & the Future of the RT

My recent post about the capital budget spawned many comments regarding the future of the RT.  I am moving them here into a separate thread to leave the original post free for general discussions about the budget itself.

unim Says:

November 21st, 2007 at 4:51 pm

Now that the Scarborough RT extension and renovation project at $1.279-billion will cost more than the extension of the subway at $1.22-billion, wouldn’t it make much more sense to go the latter route? This extension has been on the books for years, and originated when the massive Palmerston Place office development was planned for Markham and Sheppard. That project is long-dead, and there is no obvious need for rapid transit to that intersection. Malvern residents will still have to take a connecting bus from Neilson and Finch, creating an additional transfer if they are going to Scarborough Town Centre. The extension will do nothing for the many SRT riders east along Ellesmere or north in the McCowan corridor.

The subway extension will benefit all of these riders, as it will allow them to eliminate the Kennedy transfer and the reliability issues surrounding the RT. It will also eliminate the need for a separate maintenance staff, vehicle yard, and fleet for the orphan SRT technology.

The eliminated stations at Midland and Ellesmere are right at the bottom in terms of ridership on the entire TTC network, while Lawrence East users primarily transfer from the bus and would benefit from the subway extension.

In the original study, the reason for the subway extension’s dismissal was that the cost would preclude other transit projects. With MoveOntario funding, this is no longer an issue.

The RT extension and replacement’s benefits could instead be delivered for minimal additional cost by replacing the RT with a subway and simply adding a branch of the Sheppard East LRT south to Scarborough Centre.

Steve: The subway cost estimate was only for a line from Kennedy to STC, not up to Sheppard. All the same, the so-called advantage of RT over LRT in this corridor is badly oversold by the TTC. Richard Soberman was clearly headed toward an LRT conversion proposal based on his comments at public meetings, but by the time the TTC massaged his report, his tune had changed.

unim Says:

November 21st, 2007 at 5:55 pm

I know it’s just to STC. That’s the most suitable final destination for any rapid transit line. The area up to Sheppard from STC is hardly suitable for RT, let alone subway. LRT is more than sufficient, and the branch south from Sheppard would certainly cost no more than a hundred million or so.

This renovation and extension will cost the same amount as replacing the whole thing with a subway extension, which would benefit every rider currently using the RT, not just the small fraction in the area around Markham and Sheppard.

Ned Carlson Says:

November 21st, 2007 at 6:43 pm

I have to agree, an extension to STC would be better than the combined upgrade and extension. The only real problem with this view is the manufactured demand for an SRT extension created by the Sheppard East LRT (which I’m currently thinking is a larger mistake than the SRT itself).

The concern of course is now that the momentum is there, would changing course prevent progress. My suspicion is no; if it were city policy to replace rather than refurbish the SRT, I strongly suspect money would be forthcoming from somewhere with the reality of the absolute need for rapid transit in Scarborough. As for Sheppard East, why not drop it to the bottom of the priorities for Transit City, and if no money becomes available for a subway once the other lines are done we can look at options? Remember, an LRT on Sheppard DOES NOT comply with the official plan, which requires direct and transfer free connections between centers, light rail from Don Mills being neither.

Richard . A . White Says:

November 21st, 2007 at 6:55 pm

I am surprised there is no money in there to do work on kennedy station after all it is in shambles now with chunks taken out of walls and metal stripping off the ceiling.

Steve: Work like that comes out of the operating budget and does not show up as a line item.

Michael Forest Says:

November 21st, 2007 at 8:31 pm

Hi Steve,

The Scarborough RT extension cost estimate is really amazing. The distance from STC to Sheppard / Markham Rd is about 1/2 of the distance between Kennedy Stn and STC. Yet, the cost of RT extension (840-million) is 70% of the cost of Kennedy Stn – STC subway line (1200-million). I struggle to comprehend that …

Another surprise is the Transit City cost estimate going from 6.5-billion to 9-billion in less than a year since the announcement. I just wonder what the actual final cost will be …

Aaron Williams Says:

November 21st, 2007 at 11:30 pm

The comment by unim makes a lot of sense. Is the SRT reno/expansion a done deal?

Steve: I think there is considerable pressure not to abandon this technology, the pride of Ontario’s fleet.

Michael Forest Says:

November 22nd, 2007 at 12:54 pm

Regarding the Scarborugh RT plans, there is another option – to preserve the “pride of Ontario’s fleet” but still save a bunch of money. How about upgrading the existing SRT to use Mark II cars, but not extending it anywhere?

Instead, a branch of Sheppard E LRT can reach STC, with routes Don Mills – Toronto Zoo, Don Mills – STC, and STC – Toronto Zoo. For the majority of BD subway-bound commuters, the number of transfers will be same. For many of the STC-bound trips, this scheme actually saves one transfer.

For some of Centennial College students, not having SRT close to the campus may be a disadvantage. But that can be compensated by an express bus between STC and the campus during rush hours. One extra transfer, but the bus coming right into the campus which SRT would not do.

If the cost of the Sheppard-STC LRT branch is about 100-million as Unim said, versus 840-million for the planned SRT extension, then the difference is large enough to build a whole additional LRT line! Perhaps both Sheppard E and Malvern LRTs should then be built with priority, to appease Scarborough chancellors.

Benny Cheung Says:

November 22nd, 2007 at 3:47 pm

ICTS technology must be continually expanded to help promote this technology around the world. A replacement car order might look nice on a press release, but it will not help to move the stock prices up. We are all Bombardier shareholders anyways. If Bombardier does well, our CPP and pension plans all do well. In other words, what is good for Bombardier is good for Canada.

One way the TTC can save money is to borrow the money in USD. As the USD declines another 20% in the next five years or so, the TTC can pay them off using decpreiated USD.

The Scarborough ICTS will get the funding no matter what the cost overrun is. Bombardier is good at lobbying. For the ICTS expansion, Bombardier can form a consortium with companies like Ellis Don. The more lobbyists, the more likely the project will go through. This is political science at its best

Toronto should really stop looking for other level of governments for funding. When politicians gets involve, bad decisions are made. Instead of a loop line for Spadina and Yonge, we get extensions to Highway 7. This is why the TTC is run as a commission. Even in Japan, the central government build Shinkasen lines to the middle of nowhere. The local government is given the task of paying for the operation cost. Local government becomes bankrupt.

This is why I am a strong advocate of using gaming revenues to pay for transit. It is a stable source of funding and recession proof. In the province of Quebec, Loto Quebec generates more revenue than their PST.

Put some large gaming properties on Cherry Street, we can easily raise $300 million a year. This can build 2 km of new metro every year or whatever. In addition, we do not even need to build a new tram line to serve that area. The gaming owners will probably build a monorail link themselves using private money.

Steve: Although I don’t agree with much of what is said here, I am publishing this comment in the interest of giving everyone a shot at the debate.

Kristian Says:

November 22nd, 2007 at 8:55 pm

The Scarborough RT technology is named ICTS – Intermediate Capacity Transit System. By definition this means that it serves a lower capacity than full-scale subway. In other words, once demand exceeds intermediate capacity then the system (or technology) is intended to be replaced. While the RT could have easily been built to accomodate substantial capacity growth, the TTC never fully allowed for this and in fact reduced capacity through later alterations.

The McCowan, STC and Kennedy stations were built with long platforms to accomodate six-car trains. For who-knows-what-reason the intermediate stations were built with four-car platforms only and no provision for extension. (Perhaps they were planning alternating ‘local’/’express’ trains?) Kennedy originally had independent in-bound and out-bound platforms which would allow for two six-car trains to occupy the station at a time. After elimination of the (dangerously-sharp) loop turn, the station was converted so that it could only handle one four-car train at a time. This represented a dramatic reduction in capacity handling that forever put a severe cap on the whole line.

If the TTC were serious about the future of the RT they would find a way to extend the platforms at the four-car stations and create an entirely new terminus at Kennedy with two tracks and a centre-platform in-line with the GO Transit track. The longer Mark-II cars will do little to increase capacity during the rush periods. They have to stop pretending that the RT is a subway as it is currently configured and make substantial improvements. Without these upgrades to the exisiting portion of the line, any extensions will be a complete waste of money. Either down-grade the line to LRT or upgrade to subway and extend it. The question to answer is whether or not we intend to treat the line as a major backbone. Much of the population will have no faith in the RT as a backbone without dramatic and effective upgrades. How long are we supposed to carry the financial burden of this crippled line before someone finally pulls the plug on ICTS??

Steve: Of course, much of the configuration is left over from the original design as an LRT line, tight curves and all. The loop at the west end of Kennedy was intended for CLRVs, and the RT cars used it until it was determined that this was damaging the trucks. At that point, the station was re-engineered in its present configuration. (You can still see the original streetcar platform at track level complete with platform edge markings.)

The intermediate stations were going to be grade crossings with traffic lights, and the original STC station was also planned to be at grade before the anti-LRT, pro-ICTS machinations got started.

One reason the “reconfiguration” of the existing RT line is fairly expensive is the need to reconfigure Kennedy Station to get rid of the curve (which Mark II cars cannot negotiate). I have not seen a new design, but understand the intent is for a north-south platform orientation, possibly underground.

Benny Cheung Says:

November 22nd, 2007 at 11:06 pm

The new Kennedy station for the ICTS will certainly not be underground. It will be built in a north south orientation parallel to the GO tracks. It will take some space away from the parking lot. A center platform will grace the new station. Escalators will bring passengers down and through a pedestrian tunnel to the mezzanie level of Kennedy metro station. It will provide improved access free from elements.

Midland station can accomodate 240 ft (4x ICTS Mk II). The eastern end of the station has the platform already built. One simply has to put a roof over it and it is done. As for the other stations, extending them to fit 240 ft rolling stock is not hard. Since the platform is not part of a weight bearing structure, no significant alterations are required.

Steve, do you know if the TTC will install heaters on the third and fourth rails? I know the metal strip is heated, but it is the third and fourth rail that freeze up preventing the ICTS trains from operating in winter.

Finally, to Kristian’s comment. ICTS systems achieve capacity not by the shape of the vehicle themselves. ICTS trains are barely wider than a wide body business jet, so fitting a lot of people is not possible even if it is 100 ft in length. Capacity is achieved through running them on a frequent basis (60 seconds headway) and using many trains. This is why 44 MkII trains on the newly renovated Scarborough line can provide a capacity of 8000 to 10000 people per direction per hour. On the Sheppard Metro Line, 36 T1s can provide well over 15000 people per direction per hour.

Steve: I don’t know if the TTC plans additional heading. I believe that the work they have already been doing was supposed to correct this problem.

Karl Junkin Says:

November 23rd, 2007 at 2:21 am

There is a very regrettable case of bad timing in the whole SRT fiasco going on right now. Had the lifespan of the SRT been a little longer and its report on its future happened early-mid next year, we’d have an amazing option available to us right now well worth looking at. Steve, I’m not sure if you are aware of this or not, but I imagine you’d be rather supportive of it.

At Japan’s Railway Technical Research Institute, also together with Kawasaki Heavy Industries, trial runs of new LRTs are being done to confirm the efficiency in the recent development of battery-powered LRVs – streetcars with no overhead wires between stations (overhead wires would still be needed at stations themselves though).

The battery is good for 15km, 70% is recharged through regenerative braking. The overhead wire at stations, access by a retractable pantagraph on the LRV, replenishes the difference.

The tests currently taking place are with a low-floor model. However, in the SRT’s case, a high-floor model is what would be needed to make it accessible.

The LRV in question here is the same as current LRV technology with two additions; A battery power source on board, and a retractable pantograph. Regenerative braking is nothing new.

The SRT could, using this vehicle, easily “revert” to its originally designed intent.

It would require a vehicle different from the rest of the streetcar network, which is practical anyway since the gauge is different, but it would not be fundamentally different technology like the ICTS is.

A vehicle could be designed based on existing LRVs, or maybe even a PCC, put the battery in the high floor, add articulations, prop on a retractable pantograph, remove the third rail along the SRT, set the vehicles to standard instead of TTC gauge, drop some overhead wires at stations only, restore the Kennedy Loop and two track setup, make the Ellesmere Tunnel a little higher, and you have the cheapest possible solution to the SRT issue here.

The TTC shoots itself in the foot by allowing politicians to strong-arm it into keeping that ICTS garbage.

Michael Vanner Says:

November 23rd, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Karl I can’t dispute your damning comments on the SRT/ICTS fiasco. I rode what could best be described as the Toonerville trolley a couple of weeks ago. The story of how I ended up on the SRT is like the movie Trains, Planes and Automobiles, but I digress!

The SRT is much noisier than I remember when I first rode it on launch day, it’s bouncier than a PCC running on the Queensway at high-speed and the cars look like they’ve been trashed. The stations are in a sorry state as well. What an image for what is supposed to be Canada’s premier city!

I think that we should cut our losses and knock most of it down, keeping only the bridges and tunnels that make sense. Replace it with simple technology (like the conventional LRT you suggested and that it was supposed to be in the first place) that is easy to maintain and will run for years with a minimum of trouble. It could even be extended overtime, down to Kingston Road and out to the Zoo.

We should keep the number of technologies to a minimum and not have a myriad of non-interchangeable technologies (and one track gauge). With a simpler approach we could actually build Transit City and not spend time inventing new problems to solve!

Mark Dowling Says:

November 23rd, 2007 at 2:52 pm

If we must retain the RT technology – is there an option to do a deal with Vancouver for some of their 150 MkIs, for them to buy MkIIs and for Toronto to refurbish the MkIs and use them in longer trains? This would simplify the fleets of both cities, and it might be be an option to retrofit some MkII features into the MkI fleet.

Toronto’s current RT has 44 cars for 11 trains – if TTC bought the oldest 88 Vancouver MkIs and had Bombardier refurbish them that would provide 22 6-car trains.

[Before anyone jumps on me for suggesting Toronto “take the old crap”, my point is merely that Vancouver already has IIs, so part of the acquisition cost of IIs in Toronto will be new training, procedures, maintenance tools etc. etc. etc. The alternative is to junk the MkIs at end of life which seems wasteful, or to break them up for parts to keep Detroit and Vancouver’s MkIs going.]

Steve: This option was explored several years ago, and the price that Van wanted was astronomical. Basically, they wanted Toronto to pay the cost of replacing the Mark I’s with an equivalent fleet of Mark II’s. If we were going to do that, we might as well buy Mark II’s ourselves. Moreover, the Mark I’s would wear out eventually and then we would be forced to adapt the line for the larger Mark II cars. If we are staying with RT technology, we need to bite the bullet and adjust to the Mark II car profile now.

28 thoughts on “The 2008 Capital Budget & the Future of the RT

  1. Hi Steve:-

    Was your comment ; “the pride of Ontario’s fleet” tongue in cheek? I hope so because I recall when ICTS was attempted to be introduced at an early LRT Symposium in San Diego. Those in attendance basically told the UTDC to take a hike for they didn’t have any interest in Mickey Mouse technologies. Thus the UTDC and therefore Ontario, was the laughing stock of that conference. Continued shunning of ICTS by all of those who have invested in light rail in North America (many of those buying into LRT were at that San Diego info session) since that time in the early 70s has proven that ICTS is no more than an expensive joke on us Ontarians and more specifically on Scarborough and the TTC. If being a laughing stock is prideful, then the UTDC gave us pride in spades.

    After a hard sell (read Ontario taxpayer giveaway) Vancouver was finally persuaded to purchase (euphemistically speaking) the ICTS technology. With no one there in Vancouver remotely remembering what streetcars could do, they bought into ICTS hook, line and sinker. Without anyone there aware of what real transit technology could do (read LRT ala San Diego and the like) comparisons were merely confined to looking at their Trolley Coach system. I think I’ve heard that new lines in Van are being considered for conventional rail technology. Finally, but now they’re saddled, as is Scarberia, with ICTS.

    Thankfully though, ours is short enough, that by admitting the mistake of ICTS, we could actually replace it with other Bombardier (if with Bombardier we must) products that are more in keeping with the reality of reliable, expandable and cost effective technologies. They could even introduce cars that would find the curve radii leading into Kennedy station and around Kennedy loop generously wide and comfortable. I think they’re called PCCs, CLRVs, Birnies, ummm streetcars, yeah, streetcar that’s the term! Now’s the time to fess up and get rid of the Mickey ride and get some real transit into the hinterland that is Scarborough and make it a real part of Metro.

    I’m not particularly in favour of full subway to the Town Centre for a variety of reasons, cost being only one of them. I do feel that changing to conventional LRT technology on the existing right of way (el sections and all) could be done in a shorter time span and at a lesser cost than TTC’s mid summer report outlined. It would then be compatable (therefore more reliable, cost effective and expandable) by being truly a part of Transit City. If money has to be spent on the RT in Scarborough, let’s do it right for once. Let’s junk the ICTS and go for an integratable line! Now is the time, for no one in their right mind is going to seriously look at ICTS when it has been eclipsed by the streetcar! Let’s put the TTC back on the world transit stage and lift it out of the circus ring!


    Steve: I am clearly going to have to include more graphic punctuation in my barbed cynicism! “The pride of the fleet” was a deliberate joke at that excuse for a transit system coupled with a glance to the Swan Boat thread.

    As for Vancouver: The reason Vancouver didn’t get the originally planned LRT line was that Bill Van der Zalm didn’t like streetcars. Period. It was going to be LRT, but then the NDP got defeated before they could ever get something underway, and the Socreds came back into power. However, BC didn’t want to be on the hook if the system flopped and they demanded that Ontario back the project. One big problem: the UTDC was not a crown company and didn’t have government backing.

    A tiny little bill made its way onto the order paper fixing that problem and allowing Ontario to backstop any financial exposure in Vancouver. This was during a minority government, and when the Liberals started making noises about defeating it, they were told it would be considered a motion of confidence and there would be an election. Such was the political investment of the Tories in making the UTDC’s technology a success.

    To be fair to my friends in Vancouver, the use of ICTS allowed the double-deck operation through the old CPR tunnel under downtown that would have been impossible with full-size LRT cars. Also, the Expo shuttle operation showed off the ATO to its best. That system succeeded because the people there wanted it to work and had to make it work.

    By the way, from the first day of operation, they produced graphic “as operated” timetables showing how the line had actually run for every day’s operation. These are exactly the type of charts I am now producing from CIS data. Vancouver actually cared about measuring and recording how the system actually operated, and used these charts to fine-tune their system and to train operators in their control centre.


  2. Mark, I’d love to know where the extra 16 cars came from. The RT boasts a total of 28 (not 44) cars, formed into 6 trains of four and four spares. They can’t run more than 6 trains on the current 3-1/2 minute peak headway as the turnaround time at Kennedy won’t permit it. Even if we had four extra trains they would be pretty much as useless as the line itself!

    How’d this one get by you, Steve, a regular rider of the Mickey Mouse line? (he said, tongue in cheek).

    Steve: I was so fixated on addressing the issue of buying Mark I cars from Vancouver and reciting that system’s history that I completely missed that important detail.


  3. Steve, could you clarify what the province’s original funding commitment was in exchange for going with ICTS? I thought Queen’s Park agreed to pay for any cost over-runs and eventual extensions of the line to Malvern.

    Steve: Yes and no. Queen’s Park did pick up the tab for the cost overrun, but any commitment to Malvern is long dead. Also, there was some creative accounting where the car order was split into two contracts. This kept the original contract at the projected level, and pushed all of the overrun into the “add on” for “extra” cars whose cost per car then was more than we have paid for subway cars until quite recently. The grand total came in at around $240-million, up from a bit under $100-million for the original LRT proposal.

    Also, keeping in mind that $140-million bought a lot more then than it does today, the question then as now was the appropriateness of spending so much more (a) on a technology that was supposed to be cost effective and (b) on the base Scarborough line rather than other projects including the Malvern extension.


  4. Right on Dennis! The SRT was, and still is, a very costly political joke. I believe it was also offered to Hamilton, but they told the Ontario Government what to do with their “Snow Job”. I also think that the term ICTS fits the operation to a “T”—It Can’t go Through Snow.

    It is my belief that there is a real difference in how money is spent on the day to day transit “operations” as opposed to the monies that are spent on capital projects. The operating budgets are scrutinized pretty carefully but some of the capital projects seem to be a “cost no object” item. I think that would be the case if the SRT were upgraded with the same technology, or the subway was built up to Vaughan. Either put the money into a full subway to STC and/or invest in more LRT lines, at a fraction of the cost of the SRT. When the government(s) hand out the money for these projects, it’s not like they earned it and then gave us a gift—it’s our money and they took from us. Our money should be spent wisely. Let’s hope that the politicians that vote on the these crucial decisions have what it takes to “stand up and be counted” for the transit riders, the city and the taxpayer.


  5. I think it’s important to get back to the original point here. For perhaps 10% additional cost (maybe even less), we could have a transfer-free ride from Scarborough Centre to downtown, as well as a direct light-rail connection from STC to Sheppard. Instead, we’re throwing good money after bad renovating an orphan RT technology, and extending it where very few people actually want to go. The extension will be useless for people riding from Don Mills to STC, since it would take people several kilometres out of their way. It’s useless for Centennial College students who would much rather have a bus right to their campus than an RT station that’s a 10 minute walk away. There’s very little development at Markham and Sheppard to justify a major rapid transit route (they’d have the Sheppard LRT anyway), and Malvern residents could suffer an additional transfer from their bus if they’re riding to STC. They’d benefit far more from something as simple as moving at least some of the Neilson buses off Ellesmere, which already has two other full-service bus routes, and onto the 401 from Neilson to McCowan with shoulder bus lanes like on the 403.

    The obvious solution here is extending the subway from Kennedy, eliminating the orphan line, and building an LRT branch south from Sheppard to Scarborough Centre. Everyone wins, and there’s virtually no added cost.


  6. I think that the ICTS should be converted to LRT, using fairly long streetcars (40m or so) running at frequent intervals. The ICTS has been extremely expensive to operate and maintain; we should get rid of this unreliable technology. The extension of the ICTS to Centennial College ($800M + overruns) is a completely waste of money. Then, the existing RT tracks could form the backbone of an LRT network to Scarborough – for example, LRTs could continue along Sheppard East, Ellesmere, McCowan or Markham from Scarborough Centre. If we need more Kennedy-Scarborough Centre capacity, we could build a second north-south LRT link along Danforth Road/McCowan instead of a subway extension.


  7. I’m going to chime in here on calls for a subway replacement.

    This is a problematic proposal (as certain Scarborough councillors found out the hard way).

    First off, politically, the city wants to keep the alignment the RT sits on for future redevelopment reasons. The two proposed alignments that engineers put forward did not meet this requirement. This alignment is not compatible with the existing Kennedy Station (unless you want to build a 150m diameter turntable immediately east of Kennedy’s current subway platform… (that’s a joke)). Using such an alignment would require a new Kennedy Subway platform (at a roughly 45 degree angle probably right underneath Eglinton Ave). Obviously, this is not going to happen, despite arguable benefits, the hassle (or costs) are not palatable, even considering the option that the existing platform could be retained for the Eglinton LRT in such a configuration (which is not easy in its own right, it’s quite a pain).


  8. Steve – I thought the Vancouver swap might have been explored before but had no direct knowledge. Thanks for sharing. However, I note that last year Vancouver ordered 34 more ICTS with options for 38 more so perhaps they are looking to the retirement of some Mk Is either way.

    John F Bromley – thanks for the correction. I’m not sure where the 44 figure sneaked in, I guess when I was googling for specs of the RT I picked up some duff information.

    Now, as you point out the existing configuration of the RT doesn’t allow for the operation of so many trains. However, my comment made four assumptions based on other comments in the thread – lengthening of intermediate platforms to 6 car length, replacing the existing Kennedy terminus with an at-grade platform, lengthening of the SRT track to the Transit City proposal and that – again – no technology other than ICTS would be countenanced by the combination of money and politics which dictates that we are having this discussion at all.

    Personally I think the proposal to extend SRT is misguided, that the best choices are subway or LRT and that the current alignment might perhaps be vacated in favour of an expansion of Stouffville heavy rail. Given those choices I also don’t see it as necessarily a good thing to extend the subway to facilitate STC commuters to downtown – all that will do is stress Yonge/Bloor further by adding commuters who previously didn’t like having to transfer at Kennedy. Expanded GO service from Kennedy/Agincourt should be the way commuters get downtown from STC.

    Remember however Scarborough councillors “gave up” for “the greater good” the extension of the subway and the TTC have yet to provide any evidence that will persuade the residents of Scarborough that they are competent to design and construct something LRT based with the capacity to replace and expand on ICTS-I. All the handwringing and wishing in the world won’t change that – it’s up to TTC to not screw up the LRT lines they are currently proposing, and build them fast before ICTS-II contracts are signed.

    Finally, I am curious for the conspiracy theorists to tell me what kind of political pressure the conniving bureaucrats that made Toronto buy SRT brought to bear on the more recent customers for ICTS-II such as Kuala Lumpur and New York. Vancouver might have forsaken ICTS for the Canada Line but it’s worth remembering that Bombardier were barred from using commonality as a financial factor in the CL RFP.

    Steve: In both the cases of Kuala Lumpur and New York (JFK Airport), conventional at-grade LRT was not a viable option. The KL system was designed for an initial capacity of 10K/hour with growth potential well beyond that. As a conventional LRT, this would have meant running in the upper range of what LRT can handle from day 1, with constraints on growth. KL was really looking for an above-ground metro, not an LRT line (although they use this term to describe their system).

    The setup at JFK is well-suited to ICTS-II for a number of reasons including both technical constraints (curves, etc) and the ability to provide service at all hours at any desired level based on airport demand without worrying about staffing issues. The ridership stats quoted on Bombardier’s site work out to somewhere around 30K per day, but this is spread out in a much different way from conventional transit lines with their am and pm peaks.


  9. One of the negatives of the ICTS technology, as mentioned, it does not take well to those white flakes on the rails. If I read correctly, during this week’s snowfall the RT was running on 2 trains only with shuttle buses also running (why some trains could run but the majority could not is beyond me).

    Vancouver doesn’t have this problem since it hardly snows there (benefit of being on the coast), and they instead get rain, which (as far as I know) the Skytrain has no problems with.

    I agree with your opinion Steve of converting it to LRT. The section from Ellesmere to north of Eglinton is mostly fine, just change the guage and station platforms (maybe it would be easier to raise the tracks up to the current platform instead of reconfiguring and demolishing the current platforms to meet the tracks). As far as north/east of Ellesmere, running at-grade on a line parallel to the elevated would work better, but probably having to duck underground around STC for the platform there. The guideway is ugly and would be difficult to expand, although Midland does have a very wide area just past the end of the platform where an extension would be able to be put.

    The LRT line should go inside (or right outside) the Centennial campus; why the designers of the line would ever want to skip such an important stop is beyond anybody but them. And finally, the extension to Sheppard would be convenient, as it allows a direct transfer to/from the Sheppard LRT without the confusion of branches along Sheppard. After all, the Transit City plan was almost built upon connectivity.

    Steve: I am not sure why only some trains were running, although I do know that there have been problems with arcing on iced up rails damaging the electrical systems and disabling trains. Either that, or they were stuck in the yard at McCowan.


  10. When the new SRT station at Kennedy is built, won’t they be able to run RT trainsets at 60 second headways? (assuming they had enough trains)

    Steve: This depends on how the terminal is designed and whether the line operates totally automatically, or with drivers as at present. As I have discussed elsewhere, there is a physical limit on terminal headways that depends on crossover placement, geometry and train length.

    If the trains have drivers, they will need a very different style about getting onto their trains and being ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Step-back crewing will be an absolute must so that the time needed for a driver to walk the length of a train is eliminated. This is used at times on the RT, but not all day or all year to minimize the need for extra staff.


  11. Interesting — thanks for the info. Why does the TTC not use ATO for the RT? Certainly by now there’s no doubt ICTS ATO is safe.

    The stupidity of the TTC never ceases to amaze me. I read over the weekend that the TTC is planning to use ATO for YUS (and then BD) to increase capacity with the new trains, but they don’t mention any redesign of the terminal station layouts.

    If they have to implement short turns at Finch and Wilson to achieve 90 second headways downtown, they’re going to run into the same problems they experienced with the Y — ie, each train having to wait for its pre-determined pocket. And how would BD work with no short-turns?

    Here we have an RT line that’s already fully ATO-ready, and they refuse to use it. Makes no sense at all. When they redesigned Kennedy back in the 80s, why didn’t they just rebuild the circular loop so that the RT cars could negotiate it? That would allow them to run the trains (assuming they had more) closer together.

    Steve: I don’t know if the Mark I cars’ control systems include the ability for “hands free” operation as the controls were designed so that the driver opens and closes the doors and “starts” the train away from the station. After that, unless they are in manual mode (often due to failures of the control system), it runs automatically.

    As for “safe” ATO, the system has failed every winter (I know, I ride it to and from work) for the past several years because the electronics cannot handle the cold weather. Part of the problem is that the TTC is still using a lot of original equipment from when the line was built while Vancouver re-provisioned a lot of their gear years ago. TTC is now in the process of replacing the control equipment for the RT. (That’s the reason for some of the weekend shutdowns recently.) Long overdue.

    The loop is a challenge because Mark I cars have problems with it, never mind Mark II’s. That’s the reason it was converted to a “tail track” used only to store a dead train — too much truck damage from running around that tight curve. Expanding the loop for Mark II’s would require that it be much bigger and I’m not sure how such a structure would fit with adjacent property (the Post Office). In any event, they are unlikely to run 60 second headways, and a proper double-track terminal with no curves at all sitting north-south in the existing right-of-way should permit quite frequent operation.

    On the YUS line, the “secret” to running turnbacks is that each service must be run independently on a first-come, first-served basis. For the sake of argument, one service from Finch to York U (and beyond) overlaid on a Clark to Wilson service. Any attempt to interline trains between these (as was done for the Y operation) should not be attempted. Bloor is trickier, and the real problem will be what to do at Bloor-Yonge and St. George when the YUS delivers passengers faster than the Bloor line can absorb them.


  12. Would it not make sense for the TTC to build the terminals of new stations (including the rebuilt Kennedy and the terminal stations on the YUS extension) so that trains reverse and change tracks in the tail tracks beyond the station, rather than ahead of the station? This would allow frequent headways on the entirety of the line, as is seen for example in the Paris Metro.

    As for ATO, there is no reason whatsoever for the TTC not to use it on the RT. It would allow increased frequencies (assuming that there are enough trains) and for the TTC to reassign drivers to the bus and streetcar divisions (where they are badly needed).


  13. In that case, I have to agree with your earlier assertion that the RT be converted to conventional light-rail and extended up to Y interconnect with a future Sheppard light rail line. Just how many transfers do those pinheads at the TTC expect Sheppard LRT passengers to make?

    If the RT were converted, the junction would allow Sheppard LRT trains to route E-W through and W-S to Kennedy, or maybe even E-S. There is already some speculation that the only reason the Sheppard LRT project is first on the TTC’s list is so that they can nuke the idea of extending the Sheppard subway eastward before the powers that be change their mind.

    If the Sheppard LRT and the converted RT could at least be combined in some way, then from a network-connectivity standpoint, the only missing link would be a westerly extension of the Sheppard subway to Downsview. What would your position be on an extension in this context? Would you support it?

    Steve: The problem I have with a Downsview extension of the Sheppard line is that it runs through a lot of low density areas (including the west branch of the Don which will be expensive to cross). On a hypothetical basis, I could argue for it as a matter of connectivity as many here have done, but on a financial basis, I really am tired of the “just one more subway” phenomenon that has prevented us from turning to other modes for so long. Subways soak up a lot of capital and a lot of political effort, for in many cases comparatively little return.


  14. Steve, in an earlier comment you mentioned the Vancouver SkyTrain system. For one thing, it may have been the SoCreds who initiated the SkyTrain, but it was Glen Clark’s NDP that made the specific decision to reject street-level LRT and build a second SkyTrain line instead. Since then Vancouver has initiated a third line (including Canada’s first rapid transit airport connection), and a fourth line is in the planning stages.

    Was this the right decision? Wikipedia’s article on the SkyTrain mentions a poll that was done in 1998. The results:

    61% of residents in Greater Vancouver were “more likely” to support the construction of SkyTrain rather than ground-level LRT;
    69% felt that SkyTrain would have the largest impact on traffic reduction of all possible new transit modes (LRT came in at 32%); and
    71% said that “even though SkyTrain is more expensive to build, it is better than ground LRT”.

    The poll may have had biases, but it certainly looks like Vancouver is (or was, in 1998) basically happy with the SkyTrain over LRT.

    I’m not aware of any related polls being done with respect to the SRT, but I would be willing to bet money that you would find even less support for LRT among residents of Scarborough. Especially given the example of St. Clair, which certainly speaks to your comment about “want[ing] it to work and [having] to make it work”.

    Steve: A few points here. People tend to like what they have, and Vancouver has had the very successful Skytrain for many years. However, the Canada line, now under construction, is an automated railway using similar technology to that on Skytrain, but it is a conventional rotary-motor rapid transit system. The Evergreen line (the fourth one you refer to) is a conventional LRT line as you can see on their website.

    The ability to use an elevated structure depends on having someplace it will not be objectionable. The existing Skytrain lines took advantage of existing rights-of-way to thread their elevated structures through the city largely without running over streets. If the original line had been built as LRT, it would have used many of the same rights-of-way, but would have been much cheaper to extend beyond its original terminus.


  15. Hi Steve.

    I am not sure if this belongs in the funding section, but I wanted to draw your attention to the story on page A18 of Saturday’s “Globe & Mail” concerning the Spadina subway funding and Ottawa’s insistence on a 3P funding. David Miller is quoted as saying that Ottawa wants to review the project through their ideology.

    I would like to suggest that at this time we tell Ottawa to get stuffed, change the transport mode to LRT and get on with the project ourselves. I hate letting Ottawa off the hook for funding but, clearly, there seems to be little interest in infrastructure funding unless it can be coupled to a conservative philosophy that costs the taxpayers more. I also believe that we should proceed with the new LRT without Ottawa and hope that we can get a federal government that believes in infrastructure spending. Clearly, anyone who cares about cities and the quality of life in them should work to defeat the Tories at the first chance that they get.

    As an interesting aside, John Barber’s column lambasting the Tories for their idea of representation by population contained a “wise” quote by John Stewart Mill

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are Conservative.

    I know that I touch off a firestorm, but I will not stand by as these people ruin this city.

    Steve: Ottawa is hung up on process and is complicating everything they touch. When they say that they have funded projects, they don’t mention that the City and Province are tied up in red tape working to meet Federal requirements. I know that some here think the one-cent campaign is a waste of time, but if Ottawa just gave us the money, we would save a fortune in all the work needed to get their approvals. The Tories may talk about waste in government, but they are masters of it in their own right.

    Now if only the Liberals had someone to call a Leader.


  16. As I remember it – and I am sure Steve and others will correct me if my memory is faulty – the original impetus for the UTDC-ITCS “technology” was that the linear induction engine would not only provide propulsion, but also allow the car to float on a magnetic cushion and avoid friction, noise etc. In the end a “compromise” steel wheels on rail support system had to be substituted for “floating”.

    While I was then, and remain today, a bit of a socialist, it is difficult to envision how a small provincial government agency could provide “world first technology” (which of course in the end it did not). However, transit – and many other things – after the input and compromises of the political system – ends up “designed by a comittee”. I wonder what today’s enthusiatic and young transit advocates will remember on their blogs in years to come about the current mania for building a subway to empty fields when they reflect on the stupidity in their middle age.

    Steve: Actually, the floating was to be accomplished by a separate set of magnets that would lift the car, and this would prove to be impractical. There are two types of LIM implementation, and the one used by the original Krauss-Maffei high-speed system was repulsive so that the train rode up on its own magnetic field. This only works at high speed, and even those cars settled down onto rails and wheels at lower speeds. The RT uses an attractive field and the reaction rail needs to be firmly mounted to avoid pulling apart by the motor.


  17. Regarding the federal portion of Spadina subway funding: apparently, every infrastructure project with federal funding in excess of 50-million needs a 3P screen study. TTC and the City are not required to actually include 3P in the Spadina project. They should just conduct a formal study and conclude that, well, private participation in operating a section of subway does not make sense. In fact, they should have done that long ago, right after the federal funding was announced.

    Steve: According to comments at the TTC and elsewhere, the problem is that the feds do want a 3P study and that’s what is holding things up in the main.


  18. On the SRT part, another plan that would make the system work more integrated would be to extend the sheppard subway underground up to around Warden Avenue. Just East of there, where the current CN rail-line is located, bring it out of the ground and make it elevated (diagonally south-east from Sheppard-Warden) and put one elevated stop at Kennedy where Kennedy Commons is. That would make a perfect 401-TTC terminal stop like the current York Mills and Wilson station.

    From Kennedy station onwards keep it elevated and join in with the current Scarborough RT where it elevates just west of Midland Avenue.

    Estimated Cost? A lot, but a LOT less then the subway proposed. And yes, that would mean from Don Mills to Yonge-Sheppard would have to be converted to ALRT. the only loss would be the proposed GO Station connection with Agincourt.

    I make this proposal because it is quite clear that Sheppard Avenue does not ever need an LRT at ALL from Kennedy and eastward. Markham and Sheppard with an LRT? That area is about as Suburban as the 905, i don’t see the need ever coming there. However, that area would be served *anyways* because of the SRT extension up to Malvern. Malvern does need a rapid transit line, there’s just too much people in that one area that use Public Transportation.

    Don Mills -> Birchmount – Underground
    Birchmount -> Existing SRT – Elevated

    How much would that really cost?? I would say maximum $800 Million?

    About the P3 Model for Spadina, If it can be guaranteed like other P3’s that there will be no cost-overruns then what’s the problem? If they say it will be NO MORE THAN $2.3 B for example (not sure what the real figure is) then that means through a recession (which I see possibly happening) the cost will be the same.

    What’s wrong with the P3 for the Canada Line in Vancouver?

    Steve: P3 contracts are set up in different ways in different jurisdictions. There is a sad history in Ontario where the private sector wants all sorts of guarantees that they won’t lose money. The idea that they would actually be responsible for coming up with a proposal and living with it is foreign to them. The moment things go awry, they want some sort of bailout.

    In the case of Highway 407, the deal was structured so that the private owner can jack up fees whenever they feel like it. A license to print money.

    The mother of all P3 disasters was in London where Bombardier and other investors had to walk away from a huge investment. That’s the double-edged sword: if the contract is written to protect the public partner from non-performance by the private partner, then walking away from a contract may be the cheapest out for the private sector. The public “partner” is left holding the bag.

    The estimated cost for the Toronto/York line is now $2.6-billion and climbing, but only $2.1-billion has been committed.


  19. “The estimated cost for the Toronto/York line is now $2.6-billion and climbing, but only $2.1-billion has been committed.”

    One thing that has me confused to no end – the Spadina-York extension is included in the MoveOntario 2020 plan. This means it is part of McGuinty’s promise to fund 2/3rds of it while the other 3rd comes from Ottawa. However, the municipalities involved have already put up their 3rd of the cost. So is McGuinty going to keep his promise and pay 2/3rds of this subway project, or not? Has anybody tried to call him on this yet?

    Although, if that last 3rd doesn’t come through, we can just drop the 905 portion from the project (and be a lot better off) – has that deal been attempted yet? (Vaughan would get their money back, but if the provincial commitments remain as is and the 905 shortfall is entirely blamed on Ottawa, the 416 portion still flies and McGuinty gets off scott free by pulling a Danny Williams).

    Steve: The extra 1/3 that Queen’s Park decided to throw into the pot replaced the originally planned municipal contributions, and the cities are no longer holding funds in their budget to cover this. Ottawa has the project tied up in knots with a Federal Environmental Assessment and review of Private Sector involvement.

    A previous comment here suggested that some of this, especially the EA, should have been in progress long ago. There’s probably enough foot dragging to spread the blame around at various levels here.


  20. What would be the cost of converting the Sheppard Subway into an LRT by raising the tracks before and after the station platform?

    Steve: I am not sure that the stations have enough headroom to accommodate this, although it is an intriguing proposal. The biggest problem is that the change in elevation would eat up much of the length of the station. Even with a 3% grade, a two-foot transition takes about 65 feet, and this must be doubled for ramps at each end. That uses up 130 feet of the 300 foot platform, and there isn’t enough room left for a two-car train (close to 200f). These numbers are rough, but it’s a tight fit. Then you have …

    Are the tube tunnels too narrow for overhead wires?

    Steve: Not too narrow, but too short, even with pantographs.

    Even if the subway would have to be closed for a while, wouldn’t it be the most ideal solution so that the LRT is seamless without having to transfer at Don Mills?

    Steve: It’s nice to dream.

    I know i’ve asked this before but considering that the TTC plans to raise the tracks for the Eglinton LRT to future conversion to Subway, can’t the TTC do the opposite to the Sheppard subway? (Making a provision to convert to Subway again….one day like being planned for the Eglinton Line?)

    Steve: It is unclear exactly how the TTC intends to build an Eglinton LRT subway for low-floor cars with provision for future upgrading to high-floor subway operation.

    What would the cost really be?

    Steve: A lot. Annoying though the transfer at Don Mills would be, I would rather spend any available money on more of Transit City than trying to “fix” the Sheppard Subway.


  21. All this talk of funding being tied in a knot seems to be an endless parade of stupid.

    The comments here tend to suggest the federal government has things tied up pretty badly. While I don’t want to relieve them of any blame, as I believe the stupidity is spread around pretty evenly, there are those claiming it is all due to the City of Toronto not filling in the appropriate paperwork (Conservative candidate Peter Kent claims in a letter at that the city is delaying the processing of paperwork on the Spadina extension and that neither the city nor the province has asked for money on the Yonge extension).

    It really makes you want to rent a conference room to get representatives from all levels together where you can slap some sense into them (or use your own expression like “open a can of whoop-ass”).

    Steve: Peter Kent, who used to be a journalist, should know better than to take what he is told by governments at face value. Everything I have heard suggests that the Feds are throwing complications in the way of funding applications. This is not just a case of filling out a postcard and sending it in for a free prize.

    As for the Yonge extension, that’s part of MoveOntario, and Ontario is already on record as inviting Ottawa to participate in 1/3 of the cost. It’s in the announcement on the Premier’s website.

    The Province is calling on the federal government to cover at least a third of the cost. The Province will cover the rest of the capital costs and continue to share operating costs with municipalities through the existing provincial gas tax program.

    Ottawa can play games and say “we haven’t received a formal request yet”, but to claim Ontario hasn’t asked suggests that Peter Kent needs a fact checker.


  22. I’ve seen the Sheppard LRT-downgrade proposal on other sites before.

    The first correction I’d like to make on that one is that it is likely much… much easier to lower the platform than raise the trackbed for low-floor LRVs.

    The tunnel height is indeed a problem. The difference in tunnel heights I see here in the Tokyo system (which use pantographs) is indeed pronounced. However, referring to an earlier comment I made in this same thread, this could perhaps offer a role for the battery-powered LRV, with the retractable pantograph allowing it to fit in the current tunnels. It would be able to go through from the 404 to Yonge and back on a single charge (since the battery is supposed to be good for 15 kilometers, although I am unclear how non-recharging station stops affect that figure). When it comes back to the surface at the 404, raise the retractable pantograph, rejoin the power grid, and be on your merry way. The surface potions of the line would be able to use either LRV (battery or non-battery), but the underground portion would only be usable by the battery-powered LRVs… makes for a confusing operations strategy and schedule, so arguably not worth it. I think “downgrading” any part of our network is a bad practice in principle that should simply not take place.


  23. Well, the simple solution to the tunnel problem is to purchase cars that can run off third rail. This type of car was planned for Orange Country, before their plans were canceled, and wasn’t expected to be a major cost. Of course the problem is that high level platforms, and vehicles that can use them, are needed (or are they really, the lawyers would say so, but a slightly raised platform and signs could make the point IMO).

    What about the French system for third rail at street level , only powering the segment under the car ( It’s not cheap (Wikipedia has some uncited info on costs which seem to match up with what I’ve heard), but there don’t seem to be any operational problems with it in Europe, and ours wouldn’t even be exposed to the elements. Without solid numbers I can’t say if it would cost more or less than tunnels sized for overhead, but subway size tunnels would certainly offset the cost.

    It would be a simple solution to Eglinton’s compatibility requirement (we could just build subway tunnels with low platforms), make a Sheppard conversion a matter of cutting down platforms and be a possible cost cutting measure for any other tunneled sections.

    At the moment it’s only produced by Alstom, but I don’t see this as being something other companies couldn’t adapt to (and doesn’t appear to be patented). It’s proving very popular for new systems in Europe (although only operational in Bordeaux at the moment). Of course it is another technology to manage, but not a particularly complicated one (all it really requires is a third rail and a computer that knows the accurate vehicle position). It would be widely usable given the amount of tunneling needed for a true rapid transit network, certainly more so than ICTS/ART, which we seem to have committed to for another 30 years.

    Steve: You cannot have live third rail shoes on cars that load from low-platforms where passengers have direct access to the shoes on the platform side of the car. As for the Alstom system, my main concern is that the underside of the cars will get a lot of dirt and snow in the winter, and by the time they reach the tunnels, they may not be able to switch over to underground power pickup reliably.


  24. The transfer from LRT to subway at Don Mills will be a minor nuisance compared to the ordeals of mixed-traffic bus or streetcar travel … waiting forever for a bus at a stop without shelter, or crawling with pedestrian’s speed during the rush hour. Hence, even if the subway to LRT conversion can be achieved at a modest price, those funds can probably be better spent on expanding the LRT network.


  25. I’m not trying to split hairs and certainly not trying to defend the opportunists in power in Ottawa but posting “an invitation” on a website or requests in a speech from the throne is not how governments usually communicate.

    Mr. McGuinty is as guilty as Federal Transport Minister Larry “Loose” Cannon and Mr. Miller for the hold-up in getting on with transit initiatives. The federal EA and PPP requirements should have been understood when the subway was extension was proposed. Although the skeptic in me tells me there’s a lot of politics going on here by all of the parties involved that’s just posturing for advantage. Which in the end is to our detriment.

    I’ve read that it was federal EA processes that held-up the Red Hill Valley project in Hamilton. And if I have my facts straight the group trying to stop the expressway was actually hoping that the federal EA would come in against it!

    We certainly can’t have things both ways.

    Steve: I agree that there are formal ways to do these things, but for Ottawa to pretend that Ontario has never asked is rather ingenuous.


  26. Regarding the ICTS technology, it has occurred to me that UTDC tried to offer it to Hamilton and perhaps a couple of other Ontario cities and I can’t remember which ones they were. I also have reason to believe that one, maybe 2 or 3 corridors in Metro were considered for it. If I had been the person behind getting the TTC to take on the technology, I would have picked another corridor instead of causing a midstream change on the Scarborough Line.

    Steve: Scarborough happened to be on the table as an about-to-be built LRT line. Nothing else in the network proposals at the time could be built with ICTS technology due to length or prospective demand.

    As for Sheppard East, I’ve stated in another entry about how I would have preferred that the Sheppard subway be extended so as to free it of it’s reputation of being the Subway to Nowhere and your response, even as much as I want to see that line extended, was quite understandable . I would settle, if I could, for the LRT-subway transfer point being further west. That being said, if there’s anything I can say for the way it’s going to be it’s that Don Mills station is going to be one interesing place with the Sheppard East LRT terminating there and the Don Mills LRT Going right by the place. I sure hope the subway-LRT transfer there is much easier the subway-RT transfer at Kennedy Station.


  27. I was wondering if you could possibly name any cities where UTDC tried to push ICTS technology and was rejected. Where in else in Toronto was ICTS considered? I seem to remember reading about some sort of line in the vicinity of the lakefront which caused me to think that the UTDC had put blinders over the TTC’s eyes.

    Steve: ICTS has always been a technology looking for a home. It started back in the Davis era at Queen’s Park, and Toronto was going to get a network of magnetic levitation trains all over the city with a prototype line circling the CNE grounds. The only construction work ever done for that was that some trees near the Princes’ Gate were cut down for a station and a few foundations were poured for support columns.

    When the technology reappeared as the Mark-I ICTS, Toronto was strong-armed into buying it as an act of faith in Ontario industry. Queen’s Park was working hard to sell this to Vancouver in time for Expo, and the Toronto deal was a pre-requisite. One small loop was built in downtown Detroit of all places (Davis was a football buddy of the then Governor of Michigan) — this was one of those pork barrel projects where lots was spent on the hope that somehow a shuttle around downtown would revive a dead city centre.

    The Docklands thought about it, but wound up with their own automated system once again proving that this type of thing is not a Bombardier monopoly.


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