B.C. Announces Major Support for Transit

The government of British Columbia has announced funding for major expansion of transit especially in the Greater Vancouver area. This was covered in yesterday’s Globe & Mail and the full details are available on the government’s site.

There is a glossy brochure (4MB) with maps and other info.

Looking at all this, I am reminded of Move Ontario and similar announcements. They look great on paper, but there are problems in the details. As with so many plans, this one depends on money from various levels of government. The total is $14-billion, but it comes from:

  • $2.9-billion in existing commitments
  • $4.75-billion in new money from the province
  • $3.1-billion from Ottawa
  • $2.75-billion from Translink (the Vancouver equivalent of Metrolinx)
  • $500-million from local governments

The major components of the announcement are:

  • The Canada Line (now under construction) linking the airport and Richmond to downtown.
  • The UBC (University of British Columbia) Line which will serve the heavy crosstown Broadway corridor and run into the UBC campus where there is already a large bus and trolleybus terminal.
  • The Expo Line (the original SkyTrain) will be extended and will receive additional cars to boost capacity.
  • The Evergreen LRT Line will connect Coquitlam Centre to Lougheed Town Centre SkyTrain station
  • A network of rapid bus routes will provide BRT service primarily in outlying areas.
  • 1,500 new “clean buses” of various technologies will green the fleet.

Like the Canada Line, a good chunk of the UBC Line will likely be underground as an elevated down the middle of Broadway would not do wonders for the character of the street with stations posing a particular problem. Unlike existing SkyTrain routes, the UBC Line runs along a main street rather than through back lanes, industrial districts and railway corridors.

The Evergreen line is the odd-man-out in this plan as the only true LRT line. Support and funding for the line has been slow to come, and I would not be surprised to see it fall victim either to funding constraints or to a change of heart in the interest of standardizing rapid transit technology.

The clean bus plan involves hydrogen, hybrid, electric, natural gas and low emmision diesel options. The announcement is rather vague on the actual mix, and one only learns that these technologies are under consideration in the glossy. The hydrogen bus project is a rather sad reminder of the dreams for Ballard fuel cell technology. The company itself has decided to get out of the vehicle market and concentrate on smaller stationary plants such as emergency power supplies, but dreams of large-scale fuel cell applications die hard.

When the 20 hydrogen buses arrive in 2008, BC claims it will have the largest fleet of such vehicles in the world. At a cost of $89-million, that’s an expensive demonstration.

Notable as part of a rapid transit announcement are plans to improve bus services. This is a welcome change from the capital rich, capacity poor, transit announcements so popular in Toronto for decades.

As for fare collection, BC will move completely to Smart Cards which will include on-the-spot fines for scofflaws.

Probably the saddest part of this announcement is a chart showing the hoped-for market share by transit (page 5 in the brochure). By 2020, Vancouver will move up from 12% to 17%, and then to 22% by 2030. Percentages are lower in other parts of the province. I can’t help wondering what that other 78% of the trips will be, and why they won’t be on transit.

All-in-all, there may be good times for transit planners, builders and riders on the west coast. Tactically, an important role for such announcements (like Transit City) is to have something on the table. Someday, someone may want to get elected, and they may want to spread some money around. We hear that times are tight in Ottawa, but strange things happen in elections.

If there are enough plans from enough cities looking for funding, this may scare off the Feds, but alternately it makes the basis for a truly national transit investment program. We can dream.

42 thoughts on “B.C. Announces Major Support for Transit

  1. So wait, a city that has literally NO FREEWAYS and very poor road capacity has a ridership of only 12%?

    What does that say about their planning policy? Yet Vancouver has more port container traffic then Toronto can ever dream of and a very under capacity freeway system to carry it.

    Correct me if i am wrong but doesn’t Toronto’s suburbs have a ridership that is maybe 1-2% lower then Vancouver? and Toronto itself is much higher…

    Vancouver likes to liken Toronto to Los Angeles yet if these numbers are true, whats the deal here??

    It clearly sets the point straight, forcing people to take transit (as explicitly shown in Vancouver) is not the way but rather offering something fast, efficient, and reliable. If people like it, they will ride it. People love GO Trains, people love subways, and people in Vaughan (where i reside) are actually trying VIVA because they are willing to give it a try because it shows exactly how many minutes it will take to come. Buses to York U are packed, i’m sure these people have enough $$ to drive to York, yet they have decided not to.

    Wow, i was under the impression Vancouver was a “Transit City”

    Still quite shocked…


  2. How come you haven’t trashed their plans to build a new subway using Skytrain technology? If the TTC proposed another RT line, and built it underground, you’d be screaming bloody murder.

    Steve: I was writing a commentary on the announcement and the spin involving funding, not the technology choices. Also, there is a big difference between Broadway in Vancouver and the alignment of the SRT now and proposed. Just as the Eglinton LRT line will have to go underground in the central section, so will the Broadway line regardless of technology.

    SkyTrain is deeply entrenched as the technology of choice in Vancouver, and my railing about it from Toronto isn’t going to change anything. Indeed, I will be very surprised to see the Evergreen line built as LRT especially considering the high capital cost for the proposed line.

    Have they cooked the figures? Possibly. The Canada Line study did some great magic comparing an LRT-type alignment to one that was completely grade separated. The great irony is that the supply contract did not go to Bombardier. What they actually built was a mini-subway, not SkyTrain.


  3. Now just if Québec and Alberta could come up with these kinds of plans. Well not the ones which are pumped out by the city. I would love to see the province in both of these areas take such an initiative.


  4. Also to answer your second question about the other 77 percent of the trips. I think that would vary where in Greater Vancouver we are taking about.

    If it is north of the Frasier River, most likely most of the trips will use a variety of different forms of Transport. That areas is generally very pedestrian oriented and there are lot of alternate forms of transit. Vancouver itself has a policy of building in this order: Pedestrian then Bikes then Transit then Automobiles. So I would say it would be good split between transit, walking, biking and automobile. It would really depend for what the trip is being made.

    South of the Frasier River it is a very different, I think then it would probably be mostly the Automobile. The nice thing about Greater Vancouver right now is, that most of it is evenly split between the two sides.


  5. I didn’t get a chance to read the whole thing (I’m supposed to be working!;)), so, when they say electric buses, are they including trolley-busses?

    Steve: They are not mentioned explicitly, but considering that Vancouver is taking delivery of a large new fleet, I think a reasonable answer is “yes”.


  6. Steve

    Is there any money for heavy rail in this plan? I can’t see it but maybe I missed something.

    Steve: By “heavy rail” do you mean subways, or commuter rail? If subway, the closest thing is the Canada Line (under construction, opening late 2009 or so) and the UBC Line (largely underground). In both cases, the technology is a mini-subway with cars more the size of SkyTrain. For example, the Canada Line construction uses stacked tunnels in some cases to minimize the horizontal requirement for the structure and stays close to the surface so reduce cost. This is possible through a combination of vehicle size, route alignment and utility placement on the affected roads.

    There is no plan for enhancements on the commuter rail front, and the only line with this type of operation is the West Coast Express. Vancouver is not blessed with an array of feeder rail lines that can be used to serve downtown the way Toronto is.


  7. M. Briganti: The difference between the Millennium Line extension along Broadway and the various extensions proposed in Toronto is that Broadway is a major city-centre street with a long history of high public-transport usage. Toronto covered its equivalents to Broadway years ago, and is now proposing lines off into the suburbs; Vancouver, by contrast, built most of its SkyTrain as a link to the suburbs, with lines running alone railway corridors and highways, and is now proposing to dramatically increase coverage of the city centre.

    They’ve conducted various studies and found that trams running along Broadway – at least, if they were built to provide the grade of service that is desired – would reduce the street’s pedestrian-friendly characteristics, not to mention forcing an unnecessary transfer at Broadway-Commercial Drive station.


  8. After reading some of these posts about modal splits in Vancouver and Toronto, I have to wonder if any of the posters here are married with kids or if they actually own a car or have ever driven a car themselves.

    Once you are married with kids, you are going to drive for the majority of your trips out of necessity. It doesn’t make sense to shell out a ton of money on a car and insurance and then leave it in the garage to rot. You’d feel stupid doing so.

    That modal split is normal — once people reach their mid 20s and can afford it, most of them switch to cars. The rest either can’t afford it, or have a phobia about driving that they can’t overcome. It’s crazy to expect a modal split better than that, especially in a suburban area.

    Steve: This touches on a number of issues. First off, the percentages for Vancouver appear to be all-day figures for the region, not peak period for selected, congested areas like the core. Therefore, compared to places like Toronto, the numbers may not be all that bad. Second, an issue raised by another reader here is the proportion of travel that is taken by pedestrians and cyclists. This sector is already in the “good” column from an environmental point of view and isn’t really part of the target market for conversion to transit.

    As I have said before, one of the real design goals of Transit City is to provide improved transit to accommodate population growth in some of the major corridors. Although the total market share, dominated by existing patterns, may not seem to change much initially, the goal is to capture a large chunk of the new demand. This can only be done if transit is in place and seen as a reasonable option before the demand arrives. Otherwise we perpetuate the reality that the only acceptable form of transit is subways because that’s the only form where we can get good service.

    There is a wealth of interesting information in the “Archives” section of the Canada Line site including detailed ridership estimates and extensive discussions of factors affecting the use of transit for airport trips.

    An important point in that regard is that the destinations of airport traffic are dispersed throughout the Vancouver area. There is a considerable block of demand for the core area due to the presence of the cruise ship terminal to or from which many airline passengers are bound. The data from Vancouver should be used with care when looking at other cities like Toronto.


  9. Quite a while ago, I read that Vancouver’s ambitious transit plans had the support from the Federal Government. Especially since a certain Vancouver MP switched ranks from the Liberals to the Conservatives (I hear that the Canada Line runs directly through his riding).

    This means two things:

    1) Toronto cannot hope to get any form of significant transit infrastructure investment unless it lands something big. Like the Olympics.

    2) Unless Toronto is painted Tory Blue, no big transit projects will ever come out of this. This is why, despite my support for Transit City, the Feds will never go for it and will most likely opt for a lite version with BRTs instead.

    But even if these two things were to happen, I doubt the feds would listen anyway. Toronto is Toronto, and anything that is good for Toronto is not good for the West so we shouldn’t get it, as the old saying goes.

    Steve: I will take a BRT system before I will vote Tory.


  10. When Stephen Harper laughed in the face of Newfoundland about the seven seats, I was sickened. Whatever happened to a government that helps everyone no matter what political stripes they are. I too will take a BRT system before I vote Tory


  11. The Canada Line may run through Emerson’s riding (I don’t know–I’m 3 blocks away and in someone else’s) but the persistent grumbling here is that it doesn’t go through his neighbourhood. Whether or not it would have made any sense with respect to local ridership, there is an abandoned railway corridor going right through the middle of one of the nicer areas about 4-5km west of the current route. Local bloggers tend to bring up the fact that a surface line would have been much cheaper than digging a trench down Cambie. Personally, I think the route they chose makes more sense in terms of local traffic. Others just see the the line, like the others, as a way to get from downtown to the suburbs.

    Also, with respect to UBC, they’re actually digging a (surprisingly cramped) underground bus terminal right now, as part of a development scheme to put some more retail on campus. I’m not sure what they’re going to do when they have to fit a station in there.

    Steve: I know that there were proposals for years for an LRT line on the Arbutus corridor. One big problem was that CPR wanted the earth for the property. Also, when you add in the way the evaluation was done, faster trips to downtown were seen as attracting more riders to the line and more development, and this had an economic benefit that outweighed the capital savings of LRT over the subway alternative.

    Comparing the Canada Line’s construction style to what happens in Toronto, I must say that Vancouver has worked hard to keep the cost of a fully grade-separated line down, although this limits the capacity compared with what we are used to. Whether you actually need full 40K/hour subway capacity in most corridors is quite another question. On Cambie, the terrain allowed for a simple tunnel construction, and the stations are close to the surface. Anyone who has plumbed the depths of the Sheppard Subway will know that the line is a long, long way underground and the stations are very expensive as a result.


  12. David, are you saying their Broadway is like our Bloor and needs a subway?

    Classic double-standard. Queen or Eglinton here (which is the same as their Broadway) doesn’t need a subway, but their “Broadway” needs one? … and, even worse, using a technology that has the same capacity as light rail (and isn’t true heavy rail).

    If people are going to be anti-subway around here when it comes to Toronto, at least be consistent when it comes to Vancouver.


  13. Steve – sorry about that, I did mean West Coast Express. According to this article, WCE is at 90pc capacity and Bill C-11 gave an arbitration process which could get past CP reluctance to yield up slots. There does seem to have been adverse reaction from outside Greater Vancouver to the absence of a WCE expansion such as this letter and this one.


  14. To M. Briganti latest post, I don’t think you should cast anyone over 20 without a car as some sort of Luddite!

    I have long had a drivers license and I currently don’t own a car. Living downtown and only a short street car ride (when we’re not “Riding on the Roof”) or walk to my office I don’t require one for my day to day endeavors. I have a Zip car membership for the errands that require one, but I generally don’t use a car more than 10 hours a month.

    I know of many people that live in the city that use the TTC as their primary mode of transportation for themselves and their children. The number of people with strollers on the King car bears witness to this fact.

    I’m sure there are many people who are forced into the expense of car ownership in the ‘great suburban wasteland’ because the transit isn’t there to serve their needs. We need more of the “if you build it, they will use it” attitude. Which is exactly what happens with adding road capacity, latent demand will fill it to over capacity.

    Steve: For the record: I do not own a car. I do not have a driver’s license. I live five minutes’ walk from Broadview Station. This does not make me immune from knowing that many types of trips, especially by families with children, cannot easily be handled by TTC. However, many families also struggle with the problems of getting around the suburbs with multiple breadwinners and jobs at odd hours. Having to operate multiple vehicles adds to the cost for such families, and better transit could relieve some (not all, but some) of this burden. As suburban populations intensify, more corridors will be jammed with cars, and the situation will only get worse.

    We cannot fix every development problem of the 20th century with any one plan or in a short period of time, but we must try to change the model.


  15. In response to Stephen Cheung, he should bear in mind that rolling the costs of the Canada Line into this announcement was the ultimate in good old-fashioned re-announcement political theatre — construction is into the final stretch at this point, and funding from the cities, province and feds was put in place ages ago. Indeed, the very name “Canada Line” didn’t come about until whenever the federal funding was committed (it was part of the deal), and I’m pretty sure that puts it back to the days of federal Liberal government. From what I know, the newly-announced projects are now in the same spot that MoveOntario 2020 is, without a federal funding commitment.

    For what it’s worth, the Canada Line misses Emerson’s riding altogether, actually — that corridor is fedLib-held the whole way. In any event, the conventional wisdom is that the Tories’ hopes of holding Vancouver Kingsway with either Emerson or any other candidate are pretty miniscule. While the margins of defeat for the Tories aren’t quite as hopeless in the transitty-dense core portions of Metro Vancouver as they are in 416, they’re certainly not competitive enough that they’re seen as targeting priorities in order to win a majority. As such, I can’t really see the funding situation being a hell of a lot easier for Vancouver than it is for the GTA.


  16. The reason why Vancouver has a relatively low transit usage is because it’s a victim of its own success at promoting mixed-usage in the downtown peninsula (being from BC I would know this). The glitzy condos on False Creek look pretty on postcards, but by residentializing Yaletown and the West End they essentially forced new office development to the suburbs, with cheaper land. As the metro area is decentralized, commute patterns resemble a web rather than a hub-and-spoke as is the case in Toronto or Calgary, which in turn make high transit usage a challenge. It doesn’t help that the region’s geography gets thrown in play.

    Overall, I’m impressed at this plan, but I have a feeling that some of the BRT lines proposed would be much better off as LRT. Richmond has already had the experience of a busway being demolished after four years of service to make way for the Canada Line. We can’t make the same mistake again.

    And to Stephen Cheung: I think you’re referring to David Emerson. His riding is nowhere near the Canada Line (it’s on the original Expo Line), and construction began in late 2005. So Harper did not reward his riding in this way.


  17. Stephen in response to your second point,

    If that was the case, Calgary would be swimming in Transit Money. But we are not. the last time Calgary got any money for transit was a few years ago, when Anne Mclean secured a contract with the Martin Government to buy new LRVs for Calgary. The Harper government has stuck to the contract.

    The Tories have given nothing to the city. The provincials do on some occasions, but that is after a lot of fighting and name calling.

    Toronto got the Subway Extension, because Harper is counting on getting some seats in the Greater Toronto Area. Most seats in the 905 region are considered to be swing seats, as are some in the 416.

    The way to win support is not by being loyal to one party or another. It does help to very small degree to be loyal to the party in power. But what do you get, not much. We got 21 new LRVs yes, but the cost for all of that was in total 81 million dollars. The cost was shared between the three orders of government, so in total we got 27 million dollars from the Federal Government. That might be a lot to an individual, but not to government.

    What really helps is to be a potential swing area. Giving the party a glimmer of hope that if they were to impress you, they would have an actual chance of winning that riding you would get more attention from government.

    The irony of all this is that Western Alienation (or at the very least Alberta Alienation) is probably the fault of Alberta. The old saying out here is that a rock could win a seat, as long as it was painted Tory Blue. So none of the parties are going to pay attention, because Albertans will simply keep voting Conservative. So it really is not worth anyone’s time. Québécois in my opinion have figured this out. They have en masse voted for other parties, as long as they have the promise of better days.

    Now this whole thing changes if you change the electoral system. If we used a model of proportional representation, then parties are no longer guaranteed every seat in a particular region. So what Political Parties are forced to do is maximize their support in all regions of the country. Because a handful of swing voters voting one way could mean the difference between gaining another seat and not gaining that seat. So what happens is that political parties will expand their support in areas where their support is weak and where their support is strong. The will do that by appealing to the interests of those areas. That really is the only way you can win a government in a system of proportional representation.


  18. Actually, I think Vancouver does a much better job of channelling development to core areas than Toronto does. Although downtown Vancouver is close to capacity due to height restrictions on buildings, from what I remember new commercial construction is focused in transit friendly areas (either existing or future) like Metrotown. You have to remember that the service area for Translink is huge, and includes very rural areas. Kind of like if the TTC had to have routes serving the countryside north of Milton.

    If Tokyo in the rush hour still has an automobile mode share of 32%, then Vancouver achieving an all day split on transit of 20% will be quite remarkable.

    I hope the relatively low cost of building the Canada Line underground is studied well by the TTC, although for sure having Eglinton Ave undergoing intense cut and cover construction for several years will definitely annoy lots of people.

    Steve: The Cambie subway portion of the Canada Line takes advantage of several factors. The corridor itself is wide, and there is room in the middle to excavate where there are few or no utilities. The geology is fairly consistent, and the terrain is flat. Eglinton is narrow and in most of the section to be placed underground there will be a lot of utilities to dodge around. There are also many hills, and it is preferable to flatten this out within the subway. However, that means deeper tunnels in places that don’t work for the trenched construction style used on Cambie. Oddly enough, the parts of Eglinton where a Cambie style tunnel would work are also the parts where there is room on the surface.


  19. > Classic double-standard. Queen or Eglinton here (which is the same as their Broadway) doesn’t need a subway, but their “Broadway” needs one? … and, even worse, using a technology that has the same capacity as light rail (and isn’t true heavy rail).

    We ARE getting a subway on Eglinton. Actually, it’s underground LRT, and it is only underground along part of the route, but it will be designed to be upgradable to full heavy-rail subway – just like the metros in Brussels, Belgium.

    Has Vancouver ever thought of doing this?

    Steve: The related question is whether Eglinton in Toronto or Broadway in Vancouver will ever have demands high enough to warrant full-scale “subway” service. Vancouver’s projections are nowhere near subway-level demands, nor are Toronto’s for that matter. However, we have such a history of subway building here that nobody wants to take the chance of being proved wrong by under building.


  20. Vancouver really has some excellent plans that I hoped for for a lot of years and are really making me consider moving back. I lived for about a decade of my 15 yrs. in Vancouver living in the Westend. I always wished for rapid transit to the very busy UBC transit hub and now they are finally going through with it. The dense Kitsalano area will be well served by this transit plan as well as UBC. I suppose Granville will still have some of the buses that go up to Kitsalano and UBC but they will lose the Broadway buses. Granville will lose a bit of importance as a transit hub I imagine as will the Burrard hub since most of the Richmond Buses won’t be needed with the Canada Line.

    Really am impressed with Vancouver investing in rapid transit to their airport! Are you listening my hometown Toronto and my birth place of Montreal. Airports are an important part of any city’s transportation system.


  21. I have always disliked third rail technology as a way for all public transit rail services in terms of heavy rail. I personally would like to see the subway converted to pantograph technology. By doing this we could upgrade the Eglinton LRT to full fledged subway without expensive reconstruction on the then existing underground. By building provisions such as hydraulic lifts to raise platform levels to high floor we could do the reconstruction within a day. and reconstruction of escalaotrs and elevators within a week. I feel within thirty years of opening Eglinton will need to be converted to heavy rail, and the only subway construction justified in the time frame.

    Steve: If Eglinton needs more capacity and reaches the point where the combination of train lengths and headways just won’t work on the surface, then the solution is to run a completely grade separated “LRT”. The cars we will be buying are longer than subway cars, just not as wide. Simply by planning to run long trains of such cars, we would avoid the need to build tunnels with future provision for high platforms and third rail operation. Cutover to the “subway” would not require massive reconfiguration. With low floor LRVs, the old “streetcar” problems of boarding high floor cars at low floor stations (such as Union, Spadina or Queen’s Quay) disappear, and stop service times with LRV trains would be comparable to subway operations.

    Eglinton is not going to need 40K/Hour capacity like Yonge or Bloor and building infrastructure on such a premise will just waste a huge amount of money and artificially inflate the cost of Transit City. If the goal is to build a subway on Eglinton, then build a subway on Eglinton.


  22. There is a good old saying, don’t shoot the messenger. The stuff that I heard about the Tories “rewarding” Vancouver with the “Canada Line” was through other news sources. They didn’t specify whether how long this project was going on, but I was under the impression that it was recently started, went through David Emerson’s riding, and was a “reward” as noted in the source. That and the fact that my faith in the political process is rather low at this present moment. No surprise I didn’t vote anyone (including Tory) in the last election (despite my right-wing tendencies), and no surprise I will vote for anyone in the next one.

    Keep in mind that the Tories (rightly) have not given their blessing to the Spadina Subway extension. It is perhaps the only case in which the Tories’ anti-Toronto bias actually has some use here. Like other Right-wingers on this board, we feel that the money proposed for the Subway-to-Nowhere is better served to a system wide increase in service generated by the Transit City LRT plan. However, the Tories’ anti-Toronto bias may actually mean that a BRT rather than an LRT will materialize, and even if this happens, I hope Toronto does not balk on this opportunity. I spoke to someone who worked for the Tories in the recent federal election, and he believes that the Tories are more likely to offer a BRT than an LRT considering their concern of the “cost” of an LRT project of “such magnitude”. The Sorbara Subway is dead in its tracks as far as he is concerned, and I hope he’s right on that.

    Even if you don’t vote Tory, you still don’t have to say no to BRT, do you? I don’t plan on doing so, but I’d rather take a BRT rather than no Transit city plan at all.


  23. To Stephen Cheung / BRT in lieu of LRT

    Hi Stephen,
    Would that substitution apply to all Transit City lines, or at least some would remain LRT? On Eglinton for instance, it does not seem to make sense spending zillions for a tunnel from Jane to Leslie just for buses, given their limited capacity and the issues with exhaust in the tunnel.

    It is interesting what position the Ontario goverment would take. Would they pay their promised 2/3 and settle for BRT, or contribute more than 2/3 and get LRT in line with MoveOntario 2020, despite the Fed Tory’s reluctance?


  24. I don’t think ridership on Eglinton will ever approach BD levels. It’s better for the proposed Eglinton line to run in mixed traffic on the surface in the central portion than go underground. If you’re going under, then just build a subway and be done with it. The money that they would save on the underground section of Eglinton could go towards a new line on Dufferin or Wilson.


  25. On Eglinton, mixed traffic in the narrow central sections may be agonizingly slow during the peak hours. I used to live there and it could take me up to 40 min just to ride from Bathurst to Yonge. A couple of times I walked all the way and actually beat all crawling buses : ). I don’t think that surface rapid transit is an option there.

    The HRT subway option should be on the table, potentially at least. The problem though is that either we will have a subway from Jane to Don Mills and LRT / buses as appendices, hence no Crosstown function; or a subway all the way from Pearson to Kennedy at an astronomical cost (likely more than the whole Transit City package). Politically, the chance of the latter being funded is about as big as that of Jim Flaherty being elected MP from Parkdale.


  26. I agree Eglinton will never see 40 K an hour, or at least not for a long long time. My main concern is that I know once this line is built the ridership numbers will be higher then any stat that they tell us, on Eglinton at least. The main reason people don’t use the 32 Eglinton west, and 34 Eglinton east route, is the crowding and time the route takes from point A to point B.

    I can tell you the ridership would explode especially in the middle part where the underground would be built. When Transit city was announced a couple friends argued their anti streetcar rants and I had to show some Wikipedia links. They were shocked and they would use the Crosstown line when built. A cheap mini subway is how I describe the plans and the support and potiential ridership is very high once I describe and try to educate. 40 K no way we can achieve that, but I would bet my house deed that within three years 10-12 K at Eglinton station will be achieved.


  27. I live near Yonge and Eglinton so I can vouch for Michael Forest’s comment (change “may be” to “is”). I’ve regretted every time I’ve taken the bus to Eglinton West station — it feels like it’d be faster to go down to Bloor, across, and back up on the subway. The central stretch of Eglinton East is served by a flotilla of buses on various routes, all fighting for space on a road with five lanes total. (I think it used to be four, and then they squeezed in a westbound HOV lane that oddly runs 9 am to 4 pm.)

    It has enough density, so much potential as a midtown east/west connector, and so little room for a private ROW that underground is really the only option that makes sense. I’m not claiming it’ll approach B/D ridership levels, but it will be very well used.

    As an aside, I don’t think Stephen Harper puts much stock in the saying “don’t shoot the messenger” (ask nuclear safety chief Linda Keen).


  28. I have to be honest, I scratch my head at your comments. First, I don’t understand what’s so great about LRT when Vancouver needs a full fledged subway, and not this LRT-turned-subway that they are building in the Canada Line. Second, I don’t understand why everyone needs to take transit, so what if people choose to drive. New York City only has a 51% transit mode share, and that’s about as high as it gets.

    As for the plan, I think it’s a great plan, and don’t see what the problem with it is. It’s a good BC “Move Ontario 2020” alternative. Hopefully Quebec and Alberta can come out with something like this, and maybe even Winnipeg can begin to look at changes.


  29. Just a quick note: Broadway in Vancouver carries about 70,000 transit passengers per day, so it’s more like Queen St than Eglinton. Kudos to Vancouver for rapidly becoming the nation’s best transit system.

    BTW, we don’t have to pack them in like we do on Yonge and Bloor in order to justify heavy rail. I bet the central part of Eglinton LRT will pack them in like that in narrower and shorter trains.

    Steve: The important point in all this is that building Eglinton to full subway standards with provision for 500-foot long stations and wide cars is a huge waste of money and a monument to our inability to accept that only a few corridors have this type of demand.

    There is nothing to prevent us from running two or three car trains of LRVs. At 30 trains per hour, that’s 12K or 18K per hour peak capacity. Depending on the configuration of the line and the distribution of the demand, this does not have to be two separate surface and subway operations. Some trains could operate mainly within the subway portion (Jane to Don Mills, say) with less frequent service beyond these points.


  30. Michael Forest:

    Regarding your comment on Eglinton and the possible BRT scenarios, I have no idea. The Tory rep didn’t mention any specific scenarios about what to do about that particular line, only to say that BRT is possibly the best “solution” to implement Transit City. Again, don’t shoot the messenger. It would be interesting if the Feds insist on a “hybrid” option, in which some lines would be BRT and others (like Eglinton) would be LRT. But I digress, I would prefer any solution that will at least put a noticeable impact on Toronto’s Transit issues.


  31. 2 Stephen Cheung:

    Thank you for the update. I appreciate your input as surely most of the readers do. There is no question of shooting the messenger here.

    Regarding the finding [of] compromises, I agree that accepting a hybrid solution with some LRT and some BRT lines is better than waiting for the complete funding endlessly.

    On the other hand, it is worth looking at cutting costs by downgrading the Spadina extention from subway to LRT, before downgrading Transit City LRT lines to BRT. The former can generate quite a bit of saving, and then other LRT lines can possibly be built as planned.

    It looks like Spadina subway extention is no longer a done deal, and as I understand, the Federal portion of funding had been allocated for “transit infrastructure upgrades” rather Spadina specifically. If so, the Provincial goverment should be able to reallocate those funds.


  32. The trouble is, when corridors are given good transit service, they will eventually build up extremely high ridership levels, due to the development (read: condos) that good transit service attracts. Yonge and Bloor were overcrowded streetcar lines; when the subways were built only shorter trains were needed at first but eventually those lines reached capacity. University used to be closed on evenings and Sundays, but now it is full all the time. You can never say never; if Eglinton is given good transit service, there WILL be development and ridership WILL eventually reach subway capacity.

    Building an underground LRT that cannot be easily upgraded to increase capacity is foolish because 20 years down the road when it needs more capacity, it will cost a LOT of money to upgrade; if an underground LRT is built on Eglinton, it should be upgradable to subway standard or we will waste a lot of money in the future.

    However, this is not a problem if we opt for surface LRT. Surface LRT is cheap, so if we need more capacity we can easily build underground and write off the cost of the LRT if necessary. Retrofitting underground tunnels to reduce curve radius, make stations longer, platforms wider, tunnels wider, etc. is VERY expensive. Either we choose surface LRT, or we build an underground LRT properly.

    Broadway has higher ridership than Eglinton or Queen, but it also has better service (BRT versus non-express buses on Eglinton and slow streetcars on Queen), and reserved bus lanes; compare to Eglinton with sluggish service and no bus lanes in many parts, or Queen which has been cannibalized by numerous cutbacks.

    Steve: Broadway is also wider than Eglinton or Queen in its most heavily travelled section. Geographically, it is a major east-west street carrying many routes in addition to the Broadway service itself as they funnel to crossing points such as the Granville bridge. Queen and Eglinton do not perform comparable functions in Toronto.

    The buildup of ridership on the Yonge and Bloor lines arose from feeder bus services, not from development on the lines themselves (with the exception of the growth in employment in the core). There is very little redevelopment for much of the “old” Bloor-Danforth line where the streetcars used to run. I live at Broadview Station (in an apartment block), and the number of people carried into this station by feeder buses and streetcars is much, much higher than the walk-in trade.

    As for the University line, no it is not full all of the time. I am often on it in the evenings (as I was tonight), and the only time I can’t take my pick of seats is right after a major event at a sports arena lets out downtown.


  33. Transit City lines Jane and Don Mills could be BRT but Finch and Sheppard and Eglinton must be LRT. This city has a HUGE HUGE! problem with east west travel and the 401 is clear evidence of that…People will always drive cars to go east-west if a real line isnt built.

    In reference to another post about driving cars. I agree, if you have a family, it is necessary to have a car. I drive and I take transit, depends on my destination. However, Steve mentions that transit can help to avoid multiple cars. Agreed! Focus on reducing multiple cars but drop the dream of getting families to own zero cars and think that they have no problem with taking small children into a crowded streetcar in the winter cold because clearly nobody is going to do that!

    Steve said: There is no plan for enhancements on the commuter rail front, and the only line with this type of operation is the West Coast Express. Vancouver is not blessed with an array of feeder rail lines that can be used to serve downtown the way Toronto is.

    That’s because Toronto used to be quite progressive back in the day and not hesitant to give up land when railways needed to expropriate it. Vancouver just had the NIMBY problem much much earlier then Toronto did. Today, any type of expropriation errupts into a big NIMBY explosion in both cities but at least we built a railway network that is best comparable to Houston which has an excellent freeway network. Both have many lines going in many directions all coming together downtown. Union Station has 10+ tracks and is quite ugly to walk under a tunnel and etc but it works and thats why it’s great. Same way Gardiner is ugly but gets trucks off streets…

    Now that Toronto isn’t so “progressive” like it used to be, I will only believe when we improve our infrastructure when I see it…everyone is too worried about how it looks or if it’s too big or “not in my backyard” so we end up going nowhere!


  34. All this talk of what ridership on Eglinton is going to be like may be overly pessimistic. The reason i say this is as follows: although it doesn’t happen 100% of the time, there is a tendency for new rail operations to surpass their initial ridership projections in short order. the recently opened LRT line in Charlotte, North Carolina is doing just that. The planners working on the Eglinton line had better be prepared for any eventuality as to how high ridership might go and how soon that might happen.

    Steve: Even allowing for very rosy riding, Eglinton is not going to need a full-scale subway with six-car trains carrying over 1,200 passengers each. Building the line to accommodate that sort of thing would needlessly complicate construction and make the stations much more expensive. I won’t even mention the cost of provision for an interchange with the existing subway network. If you want to see a hugely overbuilt station, just look at Sheppard-Yonge.


  35. I don’t know that much about the ridership on Vancouver’s Broadway – but it doesn’t really ‘funnel’ to the Granville St. bridge to get downtown. I’m sure many of the passengers are headed to and from UBC.

    The TTC could implement a subway (or beefed up underground ‘LRT’) I don’t really care what people call it) on Eglinton and design the feeder bus system to build ridership. If the line is underbuilt and proves popular, then we’re back to crisis mode.

    I was reading the Canada line website. It mentions building a line to meet needs for 100 years. It’s a different philosphy that building something for 20 or 25.

    Steve: Broadway is interesting as a corridor because it has overlapping demand patterns going to different places. Service into downtown is constrained to cross via the Burrard or Granville bridges (also Cambie further east, but that’s a separate demand pattern). Near Granville and Broadway, many routes converge to cross into the peninsula that forms the core via the bridge, and service is very frequent. This is a function of geography, not of inherent demand on Broadway itself.

    Similarly, UBC is the focus of routes that converge via multiple approaches from different parts of the city. Broadway is the main one, but not the only one.

    There is, very roughly speaking, an analogy of geographic effects on transit service in Toronto. Many bus lines run along Eglinton East to the subway not because of inherent demand in that corridor, but because the Don River gets in the way of the standard Toronto grid, and because historically Eglinton was the end of the subway line. Lawrence East goes to Eglinton, not Lawrence Station mainly because winding through the Bridal Path might upset the locals. Leslie and Leaside go to Eglinton because Leslie and Laird, respectively, end at Eglinton, and because historical travel patterns to the Leaside industrial area depended on connections to both subway lines. An argument could be made that Leslie should be combined with Leaside and run down to Donlands.

    As for building for decades or for centuries, it is important to recognize that the Canada Line is not built to carry full-blown subway loads as we know them. The ridership projections show a peak demand in 2021 of well under 10K/hour. In Toronto, the Eglinton line will likely have higher peak demand, but the question remains how much of that is true Eglinton corridor demand, and how much is demand induced to use the corridor by its presence.

    If Eglinton ever gets into the 15K to 20K per hour peak demand range, where are these people going? If they are headed for downtown, there won’t be any room for them on the Yonge subway and the real problem, as many have pointed out here, will be to divert this traffic via new rapid transit lines into the core. A similar situation exists with projections for the Sheppard subway — most of the simulated demand on the line was going downtown, not to destinations on Sheppard, to the point that the Yonge line would be hopelessly overloaded with passengers whose trips should have been on GO Transit northeast rail services or on a downtown relief line.

    The issue is not to worry about how we would retrofit Eglinton, but to plan for system expansion elsewhere so that Eglinton doesn’t become jammed with traffic that should be on other routes. In a way, we have the same issue on the Yonge subway. Yes, there are things that we can do to expand its capacity, but even these have their limits, and at some point the real problem is total rapid transit capacity into the core. In this context, “rapid transit” includes new commuter rail services which have been sadly absent from most TTC demand projections, and one or more north-south services (technology to be determined) in corridors such as the Weston rail line or, broadly speaking, Don Mills.


  36. RE: Lawrence East running to Eglinton Station instead of Lawrence: Actually, that’s not the entire story: the roads in that area are not designed for a heavy duty bus route. That and the fact that Glendale College is literally in the way of any surface connection between both sides of Lawrence.

    If you recall, a section of the Lawrence Ave (I think it was) was washed away in a flood several years ago, resulting in service on the 162 literally being cut in half (never mind that it had hourly service to start). If I recall correctly, when the road was reconstructed, it was only reconstructed to handle local traffic.

    Routing the Lawrence East bus to Lawrence Station would require the reconstruction of several streets to handle bus traffic, not to mention upgrading that stretch of Lawrence so that it can better handle weather related issues. I would think that the thought of noisy construction vehicles on those streets would be a bigger issue to the “locals” than a few extra buses on the roads.

    Steve: My point is that historically any attempt to reroute the 54 to Lawrence Station has met with strong resistance from the locals — it goes to Eglinton because they don’t want it in their neighbourhood.


  37. Re: LRT tunnel convertible to subway

    I think that such design is good for Don Mills LRT. Although the original plan calls for that line to be entirely on surface, in reality the section from Overlea to Bloor / Pape probably have to be placed in a tunnel. If so, then it sensible to make the tunnel convertible. If DRL subway gets built later, it could be eventually extended to Eglinton / Don Mills and use the tunnel.

    On Eglinton though, even if the underground LRT section is built convertible, replacing it with subway will break the route into 3 parts, hence no Crosstown any more. To avoid that, the subway would have to be extended all the way from Kipling (or Pearson) to Kennedy, and that would be very, very expensive.

    Hence, it is better to address the capacity issue on Eglinton the way Steve suggested – make sure the central section can handle long, frequent LRT trains, and develop alternative routes. Btw, Lawrence can be evaluated for that role.


  38. “It looks like Spadina subway extention is no longer a done deal, and as I understand, the Federal portion of funding had been allocated for “transit infrastructure upgrades” rather Spadina specifically. If so, the Provincial goverment should be able to reallocate those funds.”

    I take it you mean “rather than Spadina specifically”, meaning that the money was not earmarked for the Sorbara Line.

    Operating under that premise, don’t bet on the Provincial government “reallocating these funds”. Given their penchant for top dollar high profile projects, I would bet my money that they will simply sit on that money and use it for their own means. I honestly think McGuinty and Co do not believe in a “Transit City” plan, even if it cost a fraction of what the Sorbara line would have cost.


  39. McGuinty and Co can’t use those “transit infrastructure” funds just for any means; they may direct them to Sobrana Line, other MoveOntario2020 projects, or (in theory) something else coming out of the blue, but that will be a transit project …


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