The Construction Industry Discovers Transit

Today, the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) released a study called “Transportation Opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area — Building on Transit City and Move Ontario 2020”.

Dr. Richard Soberman, author of the study, is the grand old man of transportation planning in these parts. I first met him at the offices of the Metro Toronto Transportation Plan Review up under the rafters of Old City Hall in the early 1970s. We go back a long way. Richard gives humourous public presentations, but more than jokes are needed in planning something as complex as the GTA’s future transit network.

As I read through the RCCAO Report making copious notes, I couldn’t help seeing many places where Soberman advocates what is already happening, or can easily be melded into current plans. However, he writes with a tone suggesting that his 99 pages are miraculous pearls, revelations dropped from the heavens for the adoration of we poor mortals. Soberman sets up a field full of straw men: short-sighted fools, politicians dominated by boundaries rather than embracing regions, advocates, planners and even fellow engineers with vested interests in the status quo.

As I started to write this post, my thought was “where can I begin”? Let’s start with the basic premises. My apologies if I misrepresent something, and for definitive info I refer you to the website.

The Premise

  • All plans should originate with professionals and experts based on careful study rather than from politicians based on electioneering
  • Transit City is LRT centric and ignores alternative technologies that might better suit its corridors, and some of these corridors are misplaced
  • Regional plans should make greater use of BRT
  • Some existing and planned subways would be better as LRT lines (I am not making this up)
  • Eglinton should probably be a full subway or an “extension” of the Scarborough RT
  • Some alternative delivery models for infrastructure (private sector design/build) might work

Only Trust The Experts

Dr. Soberman urges that we return to those wonderful days when politicians signed cheques for big fat contracts and left the serious thinking to the professionals. That era brought us such wonders as the unbuilt expressway network for Toronto. This outlook presumes that Soberman and his colleagues are “professionals” in the most altruistic sense of the word.

They would never skew a study or make recommendations to curry favour (and future work) from their patrons, would they? They would never design routes that support private development interests rather than the overall good of the transportation network, would they?

Let us pause a moment to remember Soberman’s performance in Scarborough Council Chamber talking about the future of the RT less than two years ago. Clearly, he was headed to a recommendation for replacement with LRT technology because it would be cheaper to extend the line that way. He joked about having sold us the RT in his former guise within the Urban Transportation Development Corporation, and one could almost hear a ghostly cry of “suckers” on the wind.

Something happened to Soberman’s pro-LRT sentiment, and suddenly we found that the RT should be retained and upgraded, never mind that the financial comparison only worked if we didn’t extend it. Now he wants to run the line all the way along Eglinton to Keele. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We have politicians for a reason. Fallible though they may be, they actually listen to voters some of the time. We have a politician to thank for the absence of an expressway network and for the support, for a time, of transit expansion in Toronto. We have another politician to thank for the rebirth of interest in transit, for the concept that “Transit City” isn’t just an election promise.

Leave the decisions to the professionals, and you will get more of the same, a vision ending at the tips of their noses, and an arrogance challenging anyone who isn’t one of the brotherhood.

Those Pesky LRT Lines

Soberman’s biggest problem with Transit City is that it doesn’t seem to be well thought out. In fact, some of Soberman’s arguments were part of the Transit City discussions, but those who worked on the scheme didn’t call him for advice.

He dislikes the emphasis on LRT, but sets up straw arguments to “prove” that it is inappropriate in situations for which the lines are not intended. This is hardly the work of a dispassionate, seasoned observer.

The biggest problem seems to be that Transit City dispenses with a detailed alternative analysis and sets the Environmental Assessments the task of merely looking at how LRT would be used in each corridor. For shame! As if we have never had BRT or RT or subway proposals so loaded against LRT alternatives that these don’t even make the short list for detailed review!

LRT’s biggest problem has always been that it has no sponsor, no patron. The civil works are comparatively simple, and this hurts both the engineering and construction firms whose profits depend on the biggest, most complex boondoggles available. Anyone who watched the construction of Sheppard-Yonge Station, a vastly overblown structure, must ask how much transit service, how many vehicles, how many kilometres of LRT might have been built for the same price.

LRT requires an incursion into the roadway and introduces limitations on existing users. Nobody wants to fight the car lobby, although BRT schemes, taken to their logical conclusion with a separate right-of-way, have the same impact. I suspect their advocates hope that those routes never get past “phase one”, the road widening that was their original and only agenda.

Early in the report, Soberman hints that LRT is bad because it makes incursions into road space and, by implication BRT is good. However, later (on page 67) he admits that both LRT and BRT require changes to the use of road space. He acknowledges that this is a political decision.

Soberman really goes off base with a quote:

Perhaps the main argument for LRT is based on the pervasive idea that buses are a ‘second-class’ mode, compared with rail, that neither attracts the same level of ridership nor serves as well as a catalyst for ‘transit friendly’ development.

This quote is from a 1992 Transportation Research Board paper from Washington, DC. What this has to do with the rationale for Transit City is hard to fathom. LRT was chosen to give the Transit City network a unity and capacity on its major lines that BRT could not. Yes, some lines have lower future demand than others, but by proposing only LRT, we have something to unify support around a single entity, an LRT network. Indeed, if Transit CIty had used BRT, many route segments would have been impossible because of limited surface road capacity and the network would have been criticised as wildly impractical.

There will be plenty of chance during the detailed examination of each route to see whether LRT really is overkill for each corridor. Dr. Soberman could see this process first hand as he has already submitted a proposal to the TTC to perform just such a comparative analysis. However, based the material in the RCCAO paper, he cannot bring an unbiased view to this task and his proposal should be rejected.

When Is A Subway Not A Subway?

Soberman argues that having a broken line aross the city — Sheppard LRT to Don Mills, subway to Yonge with a transfer up to Finch, then LRT west on Finch — will hurt regional travel. He proposes instead an LRT line that would run through the existing Sheppard Subway tunnel (converted for LRT operation) all the way to Dufferin, then north to the Finch Hydro corridor and west into northern Etobicoke.

He also clearly states that the Spadina subway extension should be an LRT line, but that things are too far gone politically to make this change. If I were a real cynic, I might take this as Soberman’s attempt to gain credibility with activists like me by advocating something he knows can never, ever happen.

On Eglinton, Soberman plumps for either a full subway or an extension (that’s some extension) of the Scarborough RT from Kennedy across to somewhere in Weston. This is based on the claim that LRT can never handle the demand that this subway will eventually face. Oddly, Soberman appears not to have consulted the professional staff at the TTC whose estimates of demand in this corridor are easily handled by LRT operations.

Soberman misses a great strength of LRT. We could run frequent service in the “subway” part of the line where demand will be greatest, but turn back some trains so that the “surface” operation is at a headway that fits with that environment.

Finally, Soberman urges that we extend the Yonge Subway to Langstaff, a proposal already on the books, but goes on at some length about signalling and terminal issues. Readers here will be familiar with this debate, but they will also know that work is already underway on increasing the Yonge line’s capacity.

What Might The Private Sector Do?

This section is vintage Soberman. He begins with wry observations about the political impetus for P3 schemes calling them almost “the mantra” of both Queen’s Park and Ottawa. The nub of the problem is on page 73:

Since all Canadian transit operations presently fail to recover the full costs of operation from revenues, let alone make any contribution to capital, the likelihood of private investment in expansion of the existing GTA transit system is very low.

After some remarks about “cherry picking” by private interests, Soberman goes on to say that there is a place for the private sector and that the resistance to this will come from:

… the conservative, risk aversion, and ‘not invented here’ cultures that eventually come to characterize any long established organization.

If that isn’t pure political oratory, I don’t know what is. After taking a swipe at right-thinking politicos, Soberman dismisses opposition to P3’s with blanket contempt for existing organizations that include many of his colleagues. Is he making fun of politicians here, or getting on the P3 bandwagon? His cynicism comforts those on both sides of the argument, but adds nothing to the debate.

The Proposals (quoting from the report at pp 75-76) are:

1) A continuous LRT service between eastern Scarborough and the Downsview subway station in the Sheppard Avenue corridor, including conversion of the Sheppard subway to LRT, and a possible extension of LRT service from the Downsview subway station to the City boundary via Dufferin Street and the Finch Hydro corridor.

Is Soberman serious? Even I, in my wildest nights of champagne-induced fantasies about Swan Boats know that the Sheppard line isn’t going to change technologies. He wants an “independent review” of the work involved. This is a gratuitous slur on the TTC’s staff. Maybe Soberman would like another consulting contract.

The Finch Hydro corridor has been discussed elsewhere on this site. Its major problem is that it is empty. The people and the traffic generators are on Finch Avenue.

Finch itself has extremely frequent bus service and, next month, Finch East’s headway will move from 90 to an astounding 79 seconds. This operation is possible only because some of the buses run express. A very strong argument can be made for a Finch East LRT line.

2) A continuous higher-order transit route linking Scarborough and Mississauga within the Eglinton Avenue corridor based on:

  • a combination of RT, LRT, and BRT technologies that would require numerous transfers, or
  • an extension of the RT technology from Kennedy in the Eglinton corridor, or
  • subway construction from Kennedy in the Eglinton corridor.

For each of these alternatives shortening the rail transit portion and extending the Mississauga Transitway BRT technology to a bus/rail transit transfer point in the general vicinity of Keele Street is an important variant to be considered.

Soberman assumes first of all that the majority of trips would travel the full width of the line and be subject to transfers. He should know perfectly well that this is not true. The question in any network is always where the transfers should occur.

Even in his scheme, someone bound for Eglinton east of Kennedy Station or west of Keele would be forced to transfer, and notably there would not be a direct ride from Eglinton West Station to Etobicoke and the airport.

If Eglinton actually has high demand in its central section, this can be provided by extra trains that never get out to the surface where frequent service is impractical.

The RT technology is already known to be at least twice the cost of LRT, and this proposal is nothing less than a flagrant plug for the long-dead Eglinton RT line that the UTDC would have foisted on us years ago.

In describing demand, Soberman describes Eglinton as one of the most heavily used corridors in the system. In fact, the 32 Eglinton West service runs every 2’12” in the AM peak including various short turns and branches. On Eglinton East, the combined headway of the two frequent services (34 and 54) is comparable. The implication that the existing corridor has demand well into rapid transit territory is false and self-serving.

3) A network of higher order transit that integrates the Brampton AcceleRide project, higher order transit in the Hurontario corridor, and the Mississauga Transitway, preferably using technology that minimizes the need to transfer and provides a high level of connectivity throughout this rapidly growing area of the GTA.

Sounds great, although even Soberman recognizes that some of this network might be LRT and some might be BRT. Oddly, he points out that LRT won’t fit down the main street of Brampton, but doesn’t explain how a high capacity BRT would fit there either.

4) Extension of the Yonge subway north to Langstaff, including modifications to a number of existing stations and replacement of the block signal system now used on the entire Yonge-University- Spadina subway by a modern, moving block, system of train control. Even without a subway extension, modernization of the Yonge train control system to increase frequency of service and capacity for existing users is long overdue.

I am beginning to think that Rip Van Winkel has awakened to the news that the wheel is a recent technology innovation. All of Soberman’s proposal is already in the works in the TTC’s plans.

5) Protection of a right-of-way in the Finch Hydro corridor for potential use as a busway both for public and privately operated buses.

The main threat to the Hydro corridors is the fee that Hydro wants to charge transit systems to use public property.

6) Relocation of the existing inter-city bus terminal to permit better access to Union Station for all services offered by public and private operators.

Studies of new bus terminal sites are already underway as reported by Metrolinx last week.

7) Improved transit between Pearson International Airport and Union Station.

Blue 22 is dying a slow death, and only Dr. Soberman appears to be unaware of this. The proposal, with a 15-minute peak service, would make a miniscule contribution to regional transit capacity, and its premium fare would doom it to be a service for the well-off business travellers to the airport.

Soberman claims that LRT into the airport is unlikely because of the GTAA’s people mover. In fact, the GTAA recognizes that this has capacity limitations and wants the LRT service to come right into Terminal One!

Meanwhile In Other Parts of the Forest

The Queen Streetcar Subway

Soberman cannot resist a shot at the central city and proposes a streetcar subway on Queen to soak up all that demand in the King and Queen corridors. He bemoans the fact that the TTC’s scheme for King Street transit priority is ignored by politicians even though the heart of the problem — the use of curb lanes for cabstands — has never been addressed.

He implies that we waste a valuable resource with the statement “some underground structures [are] already in place”. Yes, a few hundred feet of tunnel at Queen and Yonge barely large enough to hold part of a new station. To exploit this treasure, we would build three km of streetcar tunnel and lose the fine-grained surface stop arrangements.

Commuter Rail

There is some discussion of additional commuter rail capacity including much hand-wringing over the CPR North Toronto line. Obviously, plans to use this corridor are ill-conceived having come from those thoughtless folks at GO Transit who don’t fit the bill as transit professionals.


There is a long discussion about funding as well as thoughts about road tolls. Nothing is new here.

Labour Savings

Soberman argues that potential labour savings might be thwarted by union work practices. This is political grandstanding, not professional judgement. How can a report that is co-sponsored by many labour unions include such bilge?

Improvements in labour productivity also afford opportunities for reducing subsidy requirements. Labour is the largest single component of transit operating costs. Since the nature of transit demand is highly peaked during the morning and afternoon ‘rush’ hours, transit is a service that is ideally suited to greater use of part-time labour. Moreover, the nature of LRT service that is so predominant in Toronto Transit City speaks to the need for more flexible work rules for surface operation involving multiple unit trains.

It comes as no surprise, of course, that the use of part time labour and reductions in crew size are very contentious matters, politically, and from the standpoint of labour-management strife. However, at the risk of repeating what has already been noted in the RCCAO Transportation Challenges report, “when all is said and done, transit is subsidized in order to provide a needed public service that is not commercially viable; it is not subsidized as a means of employment creation.”

Potential improvements in labour productivity through greater use of part-time drivers (even when viewed as a labour benefit if part time drivers are restricted to the pool of former, retired employees), as well as changes in work rules, however, are generally viewed very sceptically by transit officials. The prospect of labour action and service disruptions are simply the cause of too much public concern.

Under these conditions, if improved labour productivity and corresponding reductions in operating subsidy requirements are the real goals, the solution is obvious. It involves provincial legislation that limits, in any one of a variety if ways, the extent to which the failure of management and labour to reach satisfactory agreement is a price paid by the entire community. Court orders or back-to-work legislation already almost always end up being the mechanisms for ending service disruptions that are the cause of tremendous community costs and frustration.

The actual nature of demand in Toronto is that off-peak labour requirements are growing and the concept of “part timers” is a relic of the suburban systems whose only function was to handle commuting traffic.

On LRT trains, there will be a question of crews for the second or third cars. Frankly, even though no driver is needed, a move to self-service fare collection and ongoing issues of security will increase the labour requirements.

The Grand Tour

The website for this report includes photo tours of three lines — the Sheppard, Eglinton and Hurontario corridors. Aside from providing a nice tour (and begging the question of what happened to other routes like Don Mills), the tours contain a few intriguing remarks that are not reflected in the main study. Several of the comments have been duplicated from page to page, and a few are inappropriate for the page on which they appear.


From Morningside westward, we see a street that can easily accommodate an LRT operation as proposed both by Transit City and by Dr. Soberman. The need for an underpass at the GO Agincourt Station is noted, although the photo of the crossing is rather distant. The transition to an underground operation at Don Mills Station obviously requires careful design, but no photos or plans actually show the complexity this might involve.

The photos at Sheppard and Yonge show clearly that it is too narrow to handle an LRT line, something, of course, Transit City never proposed. Soberman proposes to keep his LRT line underground to near Bathurst at the crossing of the Don River.

West of Bathurst, there is some room on Sheppard to take the centre left-turn land, but road widening will be needed to accommodate an LRT and its platforms. This may bring the roadway quite close to houses in some areas.

For the Dufferin segment, the comments include an observation:

The route could extend to the Finch hydro corridor or turn west along Finch Avenue. Though not shown, Finch Avenue obviously offers better redevelopment and ridership potential than the hydro corridor but the hydro corridor does offer better access to the large ridership potential at York University without the need to transfer at Keele Street for a one stop trip.

Oddly, this does not appear in the main report. The trade off essentially is between a line that would serve primarily the York U campus and one which could serve the community and stimulate its growth. Oddly, Soberman chose to omit this option from his comparative analysis.


Soberman describes the section from Kingston Road to Brentcliffe (west of Leslie) either as having “ample room for LRT” or of being able to accommodate LRT with acceptable changes to the road layout. He does not reject the possibility of LRT. From Brentcliffe west to Keele, the line would be underground in both the Transit City and RCCAO schemes

How exactly this fits in with an RT extension west from Kennedy Station is unclear.

West from Keele or possibly the Jane Street flats, Soberman prefers a BRT solution. This would provide an unbroken link through to the Mississauga network, but would impose a transfer that otherwise would be avoided for riders on a continuous LRT line.

At no point in the tour does Soberman explain how an RT extension, and especially its station structures, would be incorporated into the streetscape.


Hurontario is proposed as an LRT corridor by Mississauga, although Soberman dismisses this by saying that “It is difficult to rationalize a higher order transit operation other than BRT” in some sections.

Probably the most telling photo is in the set on Queen Street in Brampton (the last shot in the Steeles to Queen set). This is a four-lane street with parking and loading in the curb lanes, not much different from Queen Street in Toronto. Somehow, BRT will magically fit on this street when in downtown Toronto we need a streetcar subway.


I think that it’s time to call it quits on this. Sadly, the RCCAO has produced a needlessly contentious report, a gripe session that ignores much of what is already happening, an author’s rant in the guise of professional advice.

32 thoughts on “The Construction Industry Discovers Transit

  1. Steve we crossed paths on this one.

    I love the labour savings part. As I commented in my post on the Cost of Building a Subway thread BRT will drive up labour costs not reduce them!

    In my experience strawman examples are one of the devices used by someone masquerading as an expert that doesn’t know the field of study.

    Please will someone put Blue-22 and the Queen Street subway out of their misery once and for all!


  2. Thanks for this analysis; the report struck me as a bit…undercooked, shall we say. While I agree with many of your comments, what’s wrong with “taking a shot at the central city?” It seems to me (and a lot of people, I imagine) that the huge missing piece in Transit City is the lack of help for anyone who happens to live or work south of Bloor. That strikes me as a massive long-term liability for the city, since we’re all aware of the ongoing problems with streetcar service.

    I would also object to the tendency to characterize anything south of Bloor, or anything that would improve transit south of Bloor, in terms of “downtown” or “the central city.” Often we’re talking about neighbourhoods not much closer in to the core than, say, Avenue and Lawrence, areas which deserve improved transit just as much (if not more, due to some having a status as retail/cultural/nightlife destinations in addition to being local communities) as the vast swathes of the outer 416 targeted by Transit City.

    Steve: By “taking a shot”, I meant that Soberman was looking at a purely local, downtown issue even though he professes to concentrate on regional improvements. As for Transit City, it concentrates on the suburbs where much better service is required to make up for decades of neglect.


  3. The RCCAO says they’re trying to contribute to public debate but a lot of the questions they raise aren’t constructive. Transit City is a light rail plan — certainly the LRT/BRT debate will rage on, but I think we’re at the point where the cost of having another round of debates is far greater than any advantage one technology might have over the other.

    I’m sure Transit City could be refined by years of competing reports, discussion, nudging lines on maps, and comparing technologies. But given a choice of a perfect mid-capacity transit system getting started a decade from now or an imperfect system getting started within a year, sooner is better for the city and the environment.

    (However, I’m all for a discussion of Swan Boats in the Sheppard subway — take out the electrified third rail and you have a ready-made underground canal. And surely crossing under the Don River creates some interesting transfer options.)


  4. While I haven’t read the report, I think that there’s one idea that you are too quick to dismiss.

    Converting the sheppard subway to LRT is a reasonable option that should be looked at more thoroughly. When you laugh at the suggestion of conversion, I assume it is because your picture of LRT is based on the low floor ‘transit city” vehichles that would require massive renovations to existing stations and are unreasonable as a result. Not all LRT is low floor, and there is no specific loading gauge or vehicle type. Even overhead power is negotiable. Bombardier has actually built high floor models of one of their existing 70% low floor offerings, simplifying fleet maintenance.

    There are a few scenarios that may enable through service on Sheppard without significantly reducing capacity in the subway section or facing subway-like costs on further expansion.

    First, it could be possible to simple add catenary current collection to existing subway vehicles, and running them as ‘LRT’ on the surface, complete with (protected) grade crossings. It should be possible to convert the existing tunnel to overhead power- it doesn’t take too much room- but if not dual current collection is an option, and although I wouldn’t reccomend it, third rail systems cross streets in Chicago by spanning a gap in the rail with the length of the train, allowing one end to be in contact with the third rail at all times, and feeding power through the train.

    Alternately, a custom, TTC loading guage/platform height LRT could be ordered to suit the tunnel and the new platforms could be built to suit. While a custom vehicle would be expensive for only one line, if the Eglinton and Don Mills/DRL were to use the same vehicle then the order would likely be large enough that the marginal cost over a standard high-floor LRT would be minimal. Some manufacturers already offer LRV’s in a variety of widths. Again, once out of the existing tunnel it could be built essentially the same way as Transit City has proposed, although higher platforms would add somewhat to the cost.

    As a third option, platforms on the existing tunnel could be widended to suit a new LRV quire easily, up to a certain point. It could even be done without disrupting service for more than a weekend.

    In either scenario some trains could stay within a central section (Downsview to don mills?) for higher capacity and others could traverse the entire length of the line.

    I know nothing about the politics of using Hydro ROWs, but if costs are reasonable a LRT in a utility ROW can draw significant ridership. Edmonton’s LRT runs in a mostly abandoned CN ROW outside of the downtown, and attracts about 50,000 riders each day, many from bus transfers. Calgary’s LRT is larger, very heavily used and also runs primarily in highway medians and old rail ROWs.

    The key is that there is no real line between LRT and Subway. Rail transit offers a wide variety of solutions that can be mixed and matched to suit each situation. Edmonton’s LRT or London’s Dockland Light Rail are more like Toronto’s subway than they are to Transit City, just as Transit city lines will be far different from existing streetcar lines.

    Steve: My incredulity at the Sheppard subway/LRT proposal is political, not technical. Soberman wants politicians to admit that building the subway was a mistake (at least as subway technology), but avoids proposing a similar change on the Spadina extension that is only in the design stage. He is turning a technical discussion (the basis on which he claims all decisions should be made) into a political one, and opting not to press for a change that might undermine his credibility. This is the same person who was all for LRT on Scarborough until the political support for retention and expansion of RT technology became clear. He told the public one thing at workshops and a completely different story in the final report.

    As for rail and hydro corridors, the issue in Toronto is that Transit City is intended to serve both local and commuting demands, and Finch Avenue has more potential for high demand than the hydro corridor. Soberman says this in the photo tour notes, but not in the main report.


  5. Reading that I was thinking that Soberman should go read up on Calgary First 25 Year LRT report. When picking a system the city came to this conclusion:

    The analysis concluded that the capital cost of a LRT and busway system would be similar but that LRT offered significant advantages over the other options in regard to speed and service reliability, reduced operating costs, impact on the downtown road system and urban environment, and ability to achieve a more compact urban form.

    Today the City does have one “BRT” Line. It runs between the Western leg of the city to the Centre North. It is not a full BRT, as it doesn’t have a reserved lane. Currently it would resemble the York Regions VIVA Bus.

    The western leg is currently being phased out, by extending the route 201 LRT to the Western side of the city. This is the city’s justification for converting it into an LRT line:

    LRT is considerably cheaper to operate when there is high passenger demand…With an average of 600 boarding passengers per revenue operating hour, the average cost per LRT passenger is only $0.27. In comparison, the average cost per bus passenger boarding is approximately $1.50, or almost six times the cost of carrying an LRT passenger.

    And since Toronto is a denser and larger city, I am sure that more lines could be supported with similar results. Although those figure do make me wonder why the single rider fare went up. Higher Oil prices?

    I do like his proposal for the Sheppard subway. Converting the existing tunnel into an LRT tunnel and building the rest of the line at surface level, is a really good idea. Although that would probably mean Highfloor Trains on this line.

    Steve: I too like the Sheppard subway/LRT, but from a political point of view it is a non-starter. Moreover, if Soberman can make such a recommendation, why does be back away from the Spadina extension LRT saying it has progressed to far to be reversed. I would call an already built line “progressed”. The Spadina subway extension survives because politicians who should oppose it don’t want to tangle with the powerful subway lobby.


  6. I’ve pondered the possibility of converting the Sheppard subway to LRT myself (and may even have sent a half-baked musing your way, Steve). Other than the fact that it’s not going to happen, would it be a terrible idea?

    Also, how wary should we be of the viability of long(er) distance “continuous LRT” solutions, given the push to break Queen up into more reliable chunks?

    Steve: As I have replied to other comments, I like the idea of continuing the Sheppard LRT via the subway, but politically it is a non-starter.

    As for transfer-free routes, Soberman has patched together several route segments into his Sheppard/Finch line. Most people don’t want to make one continuous ride, and the real issue is to determine the optimal place for transfers. Soberman takes the Finch line via the hydro corridor even though he admits that there is more ridership and development potential on Finch itself in order to provide an easier link to York U. Sorry, but that’s what the Spadina subway is for. We cannot give every York U student a one seat ride from the entire GTA to their campus.


  7. I disagree with you about the Queen streetcar subway. The Queen and King lines are among the most used surface lines in the system. They used to be not much less than the Yonge or Bloor streetcars, but surface cuts and the car killed them. Unfortunately, because they run in mixed traffic, they are very, very slow and even good transit priority will only increase the speed slightly. Yes, we can address the problems with RELIABILITY easily but we will never be able to address the problems with SPEED unless we close Queen and King to private traffic, which would be politically impossible.

    We should revive the streetcar subway plans from the 1940s. They are just as relevant today as they were then. The underground line would extend from Roncevalles to Carlaw and Queen and then up to Pape & Bloor. (King could be used instead of Queen if desired.) A portal would be located near Queen & Carlaw. From the tunnel, routes could be operated to Long Branch, Queen East, Kingston Road and Don Mills. If a tunnel under South Kingsway is built (I know, hardly anyone lives there, it’s just a convenient connection), a link to Jane could be added. Stations would be every 1km or so. Thus, this line would serve not only to relieve Queen (and parallel lines) but also to relieve the Yonge subway from users of feeder buses.

    Steve: Soberman’s proposal is not to build a Queen subway end to end, but only for a short stretch downtown. In fact, as my review of CIS data has shown, a great deal of the problem with congestion occurs in parts of the line that are not covered by the Soberman subway.

    Your subway scheme has, as I have mentioned many times before, the problem that it concentrates all travel in one corridor and increases walking distances to transit.


  8. I don’t see this report as contentious. There is more meat in here than in the material I’ve seen on “Transit City”. (Too bad that I can’t read those funky charts with the state of my eyesight!)

    It seems to me that Mr. Soberman is correct that Transit City pre-emptively decided on streetcars (“a priori”). I don’t see any analysis or decision points on when streetcars are better than “BRT”. Normally, technology selection should be based on requirements – rather than selecting technology that you like and figuring out where to use it. I don’t remember any public debates, public consultation etc. that talked about the selection. If anyone can document that these happened, please pipe up.

    Steve: Every single network that has been announced for the past 40 years has presupposed a specific form of technology be it busways or subways, and nobody ever complained about that approach. The assumed technology has a huge impact on the network one might design. If one assumes subway, then certain corridors will simply not be considered because a subway won’t fit there even though something else might. Oddly enough, even when there is an EA, other technologies drop off of the table as “unsuitable”. Surprise! By starting from an assumption of LRT, we get a network that may not be suitable for subways and certainly isn’t for BRT, but we get service where it should go, not where it will fit.

    Oddly, the Hurontario LRT, something Mississauga has always intended to build with that technology, doesn’t come in for the same contempt as Transit City even though Soberman is clear in stating that some areas seem poorly suited to that mode.

    A south downtown subway should be strongly considered. Increasing walking distances – in and of itself – does not make a transit option unattractive. If this were so, we should really not even consider the Transit City plan – as it increases walking distances.

    Steve: My complaint about the proposed Queen/King subway in Soberman’s report is that he misrepresents the value of the existing asset (the underpass at Queen Station) and only addresses congestion in a short part of the corridor. The demand here is not at a level where it needs to go underground, and if the city only had the balls to manage its roadspace properly, we could provide good service with the existing lines.

    The Queen subway proposal is a fine example of Soberman’s self-contradiction. He wants a full evaluation of alternatives to Transit City, but for downtown isn’t prepared to look at anything other than his own scheme.

    As I understand it, cities such as Philadelphia and Boston funnel their trams/streetcars into common underground sections. People may have to walk a couple of blocks – but it’s worth it the tunnel makes for faster service. Transit users generally makes decisions based on how quickly and reliably they can get somewhere. If a transit user can save 10 minutes in transit time by walking a couple of minutes – it’s just short of a metaphysical certainty that he or she will do so.

    Steve: The Boston streetcar subway dates from 1892 and it was built because there was huge congestion from surface streetcar operations. The underground stations are close together. In Philadelphia, there is a combined streetcar/rapid transit subway where the streetcars provide the local service and the subway runs express on its own set of tracks. This line is also quite old and was built to deal with surface congestion, among other things. Both systems have lines radiating from the portals of their streetcar tunnels as, indeed, does San Francisco where the streetcar lines converge on Market Street downtown.

    The situation on Queen and King is completely different given the grid pattern of our network.

    Converting Sheppard to LRT and extending it has the advantage of eliminating transfers – in comparison to leaving the subway as is and creating a streetcar line for the continuation. Transfers add to the riders overall trip time and add increased variablity in trip times. The same is not true for the Spadina extension.

    Steve: I agree that running the Sheppard LRT through the subway would eliminate transfers at Don Mills. My gripe with Soberman is that he suggests the Spadina line should be built as LRT, and this will create precisely the same sort of transfer issue at Downsview as he abhors at Don Mills. If Soberman’s arguments exhibited any consistency from one line to another, I might take him seriously, but as it is, he picks an argument to suit each situation. How can we trust his advice as a consultant if he cannot even argue from a reliable point of view?


  9. About your concerns about political viablity of converting the Subway into an LRT line. I think that can be solved using some invovative techniques.

    I was reading about he Olso Metro and I found out it has an LRT system (the tramways) on some of their lines and then they have Heavy Rail Metro on others. But then there is this third line which is a hybrid of Metro and LRT.

    The Holmenkollbanen line was originally built as a Tramway with overhead wires. Later on it was expanded and part of it shares a tunnel with other Metro lines (like the 7th Avenue Transit Mall in Calgary). There it uses Third Rail to run. But once it leaves the tunnel it goes back to using Overhead wiring.

    If such a system was used in Toronto, I don’t think it would be as much of a political hot potato since the only change would be the vehicles. Obviously it wouldn’t be done on all lines, it would be done just on this one line. So it would be a fair compromise.

    Here is the Wikipedia Article for the line:


  10. Steve, I too agree that there’s no way the Sheppard subway will ever be converted to LRT (for political reasons). However, back in November I was staying at my in-laws for a few weeks over in Highland Creek, and had to travel from Meadowvale/Kingston to Yonge/Sheppard on a few occasions. Today, it takes two two buses and a subway to make that trip. With the Transit City proposal, that same trip would involve three transfers over four vehicles (two buses, LRT and subway). To be honest, I’d rather keep what we have now because the more transfers you have, the longer your trip will take (and the more annoying it will be).

    Another point I’d like to make is that while there is a lot of turnover on the Sheppard bus along the entire length of its route, many people do ride all the way from Don Mills to beyond Morningside. When you factor in the long dwell times at the terminal stations on the Sheppard subway, along with the multiple transfers from subway to LRT to bus along Sheppard that will be required if Transit City is built, I doubt riders will end up saving that much time to make this worthwhile. I’d almost rather have the Sheppard subway extended as far as we can with the money we would spend on LRT (I’m guessing to Victoria Park or Warden), and continue running buses beyond that point.

    Another thing that concerns me is losing the Rocket route along Sheppard to STC. I find that to be quite useful and have noticed that those buses have been getting more and more full lately. People seem to have taken a liking to this route and it would be a shame to lose it. What do you think?

    Steve: Taking your last point first, yes I notice the increased demand on the 190 as I use it from time to time to get from STC to Yonge Street. Service improvements are planned for February. What I am seeing also is that people use it as an express bus on Sheppard and get on or off on that street without going to or from STC. This tells me there is latent demand on Sheppard itself.

    Transfers are particularly tedious if they are not easy and quick to make. Hundreds of thousands transfer at St. George and Bloor/Yonge every day, not to mention many bus/subway interchanges.

    The trip you describe (Meadowvale/Kingston to Yonge/Sheppard) takes, as you describe, two buses and a subway. With Transit City, there is a good chance that the Sheppard line will go east of Morningside giving you the same short bus ride up to Sheppard you have now, followed by an LRT ride replacing the Sheppard East bus.

    In every network change, there are some trips that will benefit from new connections and services, and some that will not. I could also point out that you would also be close to the Malvern line on Morningside and could ride this down to Kennedy Station and transfer to either the BD subway or the Eglinton LRT.

    You cannot use one trip as a barometer of the benefits or harm of any specific proposal. We could go on all night thinking up trips that will have more transfers and trips that will have less. That’s not the issue — improving transit overall, including reduction of waiting times wherever they occur — is the goal.


  11. Steve says:
    Your subway scheme has, as I have mentioned many times before, the problem that it concentrates all travel in one corridor and increases walking distances to transit.

    Exactly. What is wrong with this? With all respect to your rights as a knowledgeable blogger, Steve, your opposition to a full Queen subway is mystifying, and a little frustrating. There are many, many people who would find the speed and frequency of a subway in the Queen corridor to be just the solution to the alternative at the moment, the 501. There will be no Transit City-style reserved ROW in the central city. Yes, stops will not be as close together. Those that have origins or destinations not on Queen or whatever corridor is chosen will have a slightly longer walk. But can we please at least acknowledge the upside here for once, and that is speed and reliability. Many on this blog act like these factors are completely irrelevant to whether or not someone chooses to do the right thing and take transit, when they are in fact huge and field-tilting. I am a fan of this blog, and of Transit City, but willful blindness bugs me very much.

    Steve: My opposition to the Queen Subway is shared with my opposition to unneeded, high-cost proposals wherever they are made regardless of the technology. The demand on King/Queen do not justify a full-blown subway line, and if one is built to assume the role of both streetcar lines, this will do more harm than good to transit. There will never, ever, be a subway in the Beach, and the best one could hope for east of Yonge is the old Downtown Relief Line proposal that turned west on Queen from roughly Logan westward.

    West of Yonge, the WWLRT will provide an alternative route to downtown for many riders dropping the demand in that sector on King and Queen.


  12. I am against the conversion of Sheppard subway to LRT. First of all, that would mean spending money to downgrade the system, while those money can be better used for building a new line. Secondly, Sheppard subway is overbuilt for the present ridership level, but 30 or 40 years from now a new E-W subway in the north will likely be needed. Converting back to subway would mean spending money once more.

    If the Crosstown operation in the north is that important, why not consider building Finch E LRT before Sheppard, to complement Finch W LRT? Moreover, the 2005-2006 Ridership data show higher transit use on Finch E than on post-subway part of Sheppard E (Finch E, buses 39 + 139: 38,300; Sheppard E, buses 84 + 190: 32,800 per day).

    On the LRT vs BRT issue: it should be noted that some of the TC routes are not suitable for BRT due to the expected demand level. In that situation, it is preferable to implement the whole 416 network as LRT. That has technical advantages (such as the ability to shift spare vehicles from one line to another, plus savings on scale) and is more suitable politically. (Otherwise, try telling one Councillor that his riding’s route is downgraded to BRT while another Councillor’s riding is getting LRT, and hope that their resolve to support transit will not decline …)


  13. Gotta go with those favouring a Queen/King subway line. If ever there was a route/area that was screaming for subway this is it – dense, old, multiple destination, mixed-use. Best it should run through the Beach and up to B/D. But political will has it that we should build subway into the 905 instead.

    The same excuses for not building it could be used for other new subway more fittingly and could also have been used for existing subway before it was built.


  14. Thanks for your response Steve. You raised some very good points (as usual). I had forgotten about the proposed Malvern line which would indeed be a good alternative for people living in that area.

    Another item I forgot to mention with regard to the 190 Rocket was the planned development at Kennedy/Sufferenance (a few blocks south of Sheppard). This development will include six or seven condo buildings (some as high as 40 storeys), a few office buildings and room for a “transit hub”. Apparently, there is talk of moving Agincourt GO station a few hundred metres south to this new development, and land is also set aside for a future “Sheppard Subway”. I suppose what could be done in lieu of a subway is to add a branch on the Sheppard LRT to STC via this new development (basically replacing the 190 but with the routing of the old Sheppard subway proposal). Hopefully the TTC/City will consider this option.


  15. Hi Steve:-

    Mr. Soberman, will you please review my resume and hire me to help with the study to convert the Sheppard Subway to LRT. What a joy it would be. I’ll need to go to Madrid and Milano and Roma in the winter and Melbourne in Summer, all on the consultant’s nickle of course. By allowing me the opportunity to make these study tours I will write you the best report that you ever wanted to hear!

    Too, I could help you understand that streetcars run on the street with shared traffic and the exact same vehicle (one seat ride) when on private reservation in today’s terminology is called an LRT. (In the olden days they were referred to as suburban, radial or interurban cars). These vehicles could and did fit on any town’s or city’s main drags, thus Brampton could have a real transit line on its Main street which when the track is out of the hemmed in by existing properties core, could run LRT. I can’t for the life of me understand why Mr. Soberman you would say that a streetcar could not fit in a situation like Brampton’s downtown, when big ugly diesel belching suburban buses (Gray Coach/GO) did share road space there, and being free wheeled needed a few more inches of road space for safe operation verses the rail guided streetcar.

    Please consider me for this position as I’d dearly like to have a job for the rest of my working carreer that would be as fulfilling as talking and studying transit all day!

    Mr. D.


  16. While I agree with the idea to put Queen and King into a LRT subway (preferably under Richmond – close enough to have the station exit stairwells exit right onto Queen street) I think the rest of this is bunk.

    An LRT line from Downsview into Vaughan would be great if there was one logical place to put it. Does it go up Jane? Dufferin? Keele? None of these streets have ridership to deserve this. In fact, while Jane looks like the “main street” of Vaughan the main YRT bus along the road, route 20, runs at 30 minute intervals, and tends to be more then half empty.

    The reality is the Spadina line extention to Vaughan is not needed. Dare I say if the “Finch Via Allen” bus were brought back, that you would not need to extend the Spadina line one inch.

    On the idea that a BRT can fit where a LRT can’t – obviously this would be a VIVA like BRT – EG just a pretty bus route called BRT, but in reality, just a pretty bus route. Extending the SRT to Keele just… well, for lack of a better term – Dumb. To be honest, I think the real reason for this proposal from the construction companies is because different people would do different things.

    Tranist city will mean quite a bit of work for people who build LRT, but not so much for people who build BRT or Subways. I think this proposal is just suggesting they spread it around so the construction industry can maximise profits.


  17. Steve, I have to challenge you (partially) on this Queen point. Hasn’t the city south of Bloor (again, not using term ‘Downtown’) been just as neglected as anywhere else? Sure, there are streetcar rails down, but what I would give for service on the 501 at 79 second headways like what the Finch bus is going to. I am not an advocate–or at least not a realistic one–for a full-blown, end-to-end Queen subway. But it seems, frankly, nuts to me that we are planning two north-south LRT lines–Jane and Don Mills–that will end at Bloor/Danforth without any plans for a southern extension. A partially underground connection between those two lines south of Bloor and through the core would, to my mind, totally transform the city’s transit scene, and take Transit City from being ho-hum to a real network.

    At the end of the day, the King and Queen lines (in particular) are struggling to serve the most densely populated and popular areas in the city, often in appallingly crowded conditions and with some really poor service. Of course both can be improved somewhat, but there are definite limits to what we can do with the current arrangement. Interesting to note that back in the golden age of the streetcar Parkdale had two heavy rail stations. Huge swathes of the south-of-Bloor city are undergoing massive intensification. If things are bad now, how is slightly improved streetcar service going to fix anything?

    It just seems a little backwards to me that we are cutting the most transit-friendly, densely-populated, and highest-demand part of the city in transit planning.


  18. With all due respect, I have to agree with Aaron’s comments. Given the relatively close spacing of King, Queen, and Dundas, it is highly likely that a rapid, underground line would relieve a lot of the pressure on the heavily loaded 504 and 505. Anecdotally, I know people in the Beach who hate taking the 501 but would be more than happy to take a subway downtown. And the WWLRT doesn’t address the local demand.

    Where are you drawing the line by saying “the demand on King/Queen does not justify a full-blown subway line”? I would point out that you are free to set the bar arbitrarily high to shoot down any proposal you dislike.

    But what’s particularly baffling about your stance is your dogged support for burying the Eglinton line. Looking at the Eglinton West bus (where the single route carries essentially all of the traffic), the ridership statistics indicate less use than on Queen: on the order of 38k riders, as opposed to the 501’s 40k riders. Furthermore there’s less opportunity to poach riders off adjacent routes. So it seems you have already set a threshold for a subway — at the Eglinton level, which is lower than the level of ridership on Queen.

    Steve: Your ridership comparisons are “apples and oranges”. The 32 is equivalent to only half of the 501, the part from Yonge west to Highway 27. To put the lines on an equivalent footing, you would have to count only those riders who use the west end of the Queen car, not the entire route.

    Looking at headways, the 32 runs every 132 seconds, or 27.3 buses per hour, in the am peak. The 501 runs every 292 seconds, or 12.3 cars per hour. Adjusting for vehicle capacity (bus 55 versus ALRV 108), the theoretical capacity is about 1,500/hour on Eglinton, and about 1,300 on Queen West. Indeed, King West has better service with 30 cars, of which 7 are supposed to be ALRVs, inbound in the peak hour. This gives a capacity of almost 2,500 per hour.

    The riders on King, and over the next decade or so on Queen as well, actually live on the line in the growing forests of new housing. Easy access to surface transit is essential to such neighbourhoods as it will be for the outer parts of Eglinton as it redevelops.

    Unlike Queen West, there is no parallel east-west service close to Eglinton and so its catchment area is bigger. One could argue (and many have) that the combined demands on King, Queen and even Dundas could be considered as customers for a Queen subway. This is true in theory, but at a huge increase in access times to transit service.

    As an LRT line, Eglinton has a good deal of potential for growth, but it can’t be run as LRT without the central tunnel unless we are going to take over surface space there as has been suggested for downtown streets. I’m not thrilled with putting the Eglinton line underground, but politically, I don’t think we would get the LRT line without the tunnel.

    As for the east end of Queen, as I have already commented, the demand simply doesn’t warrant a subway, nor does the congestion. Indeed, the worst congestion is during off-peak periods east of Woodbine. A short downtown subway would make a slight difference for travel times from the Beach, but the same effect could be achieved simply by running regular frequent service with predictable, short wait times. When the wait for a car is over 10 minutes on a line with “frequent service”, and this is demonstrably the fault of line mismanagement, not congestion, spending millions on a subway is not the answer.


  19. “On the LRT vs BRT issue: it should be noted that some of the TC routes are not suitable for BRT due to the expected demand level. In that situation, it is preferable to implement the whole 416 network as LRT. That has technical advantages (such as the ability to shift spare vehicles from one line to another, plus savings on scale) and is more suitable politically. (Otherwise, try telling one Councillor that his riding’s route is downgraded to BRT while another Councillor’s riding is getting LRT, and hope that their resolve to support transit will not decline …)”

    Tell that to 905 folks that the LRT is politically suitable. I can find you 100 people who don’t want Toronto to get an LRT network.

    Quote from one of my co-workers regarding BRT vs LRT:

    “Well the VIVA system up here has been so much of a success, why can’t the TTC jump on the bandwagon and save us some coin?”

    Sure, call them ignorant if you want, but the LRT is going to be a hard sell to anyone outside of Toronto who don’t want to see their tax dollars falling into what they would consider a “sinkhole”.

    I will also mention that an article recently published in the Toronto Star says that the funding promises made by McGuinty will not hold water unless it is written into law. And even then, it is not guaranteed. If the Tories come into power at Queen’s Park, those funding promises (especially to the TTC) will have some issues. Especially with what is seen as an “exorbant cost” of LRT compared to BRT.

    Now that I have some time to think about it, I favour a hybrid approach in which a combination of LRT and BRT is used for Transit city. Obviously, we should look at Eglinton being a LRT due to the underground portion, and maybe the Waterfront West LRT given that much of the infrastructure already exists. It would probably pass political muster in the 905 area, while giving the TTC the tools it needs to fight traffic congestion, like it is supposed to.

    Finally, I hate to say this, but I’d like to see the Sheppard Subway extended, to Victoria Park in the east, to York University in the west. Leaving the Sheppard Subway in its current state will serve as a reminder of what a worthless white elephant that subway has become. Had it been built along its entire length, I’m pretty sure no one would be saying that at this point. I agree with Steve, downgrading the Sheppard subway to an LRT is a non starter, but it is indeed a significant mistake. We need to finish off what we started.

    Steve: My argument for a network premised on LRT is based on a combination of future demand, network structure and on the need for underground operation in some places, not just present demand.

    I am getting tired of hearing about the good burghers of York Region and their VIVA system — isn’t that the same system that’s supposed to evolve into LRT, except for the part that will be replaced by the Yonge Subway? How will they explain the “exorbitant cost” of that system? Are not these the same people who are getting two subways in areas where LRT would do just fine?

    It’s odd that you quote the Soberman report (as covered by the Star) about the need for a legal mechanism to entrench funding when this is the same report that advocates the Sheppard subway/LRT and hints at a Spadina subway/LRT. People read what they want to read, I suppose.


  20. Hi Steve:-

    Is this really the same TTC seriously proposing 79 second headways on Finch the one that emphatically stated that service on a surface route at anything less that 4 minutes will cause bunching and therefore cannot be done? Is it because we’re comparing minutes and seconds here that there is no corollary between 4 and 79? Isn’t 79 much more than 4 so what’s your unscientific point here?

    Can light speed ever be achieved with a Hybrid bus on steroidal fuels?


    Steve: Shhh!!! You’re not supposed to notice this. It’s ok when they do it with buses but not with streetcars. To be fair, there are some differences on Finch because it is wider, and half of the buses run express. Even then, that’s a lot of buses and Finch Station is already a nightmare of traffic congestion.

    The really interesting part is that in the original demand models, all of that traffic on Finch was supposed to be diverted down to the Sheppard Subway, but it didn’t quite work out that way.


  21. An underlying critical point in Dr. Soberman’s recommendations is the assertion that outside of the City of Toronto, road and expressway enhancements take priority over public transit/LRT projects because:

    1) the commercial transporatation industry requires immediate relief from congestion in the GTA and this can be accomplished most quickly and directly by improvements to the road and expressway network.

    2) the modal split for residents in the 905 areas heavily favours driving by car and so expensive public transit projects at the expense of road and expressway improvements are viewed by them as a substantial expense of tax payers’ money for service they don’t want or need.

    The special interest groups favouring roads and expressways over public transit may collaborate with their friends in the Harper govt. to propose an alternative plan that would be weighed in favour of road users. Given that this may be an election year, the Tories would love to be able to be seen as financially helping the GTA solve its transportation problems and then dare the Ontario govt. to turn it down. Those of us who support public transit should be vigilant and fully engaged to ensure that any such plans are compatible with Metrolinx’s Regional Transportation Plan and the Transit City concept.

    Steve: What is really odd about Soberman’s report is that it starts to read like an apology for road expansion in the 905, but quickly evolves into an extensive discussion of transit schemes. It’s as if the sponsors wanted a road report, but Soberman just trotted out all his pet peeves about transit plans. Nowhere does he talk about a highway network, and he certainly doesn’t address overall transportation capacity needs of the 905.


  22. Admittedly, I did not read the Soberman report, nor did I read your initial post. I only skimmed through the Toronto Star that day and noticed something about legalizing the funding so that it makes it harder to undo. Initial impressions are that this may be a tool to prevent other parties from “derailing” the transit city plans (as Mike Harris infamously did to the TTC when he came to power).

    My whole point when I quoted that “article” was that if Ontario is serious about getting its transit plans on the ground, they had better strike while the iron is hot. The more they waffle over the plans, the more likely that these plans will either not bear fruit or get stopped in its tracks when the Fiberals are defeated (they will in the next election, trust me).

    Unlike other right wingers, I believe that transit funding is crucial to the development of this city and by extension, the province.


  23. If the 905 folks think that Toronto is eating their tax dollars, then their view is misguided. Large cities attract money streams, and with those come taxes. Hence the lion’s share of Queen’s Park revenues comes from Toronto (note corporate taxes and sales taxes). So, Toronto residents have more ground to complain about their tax dollars used for maintenance of local roads in the countryside. (Although I think that both those kinds of complaints are counterproductive.)

    Toronto makes almost half of Queen’s Park electoral base, and can’t be ignored as such (federal level is another matter).

    A Hybrid LRT / BRT implementation of TC is a valid option, and is certainly better than the current, mostly mixed-traffic operation. However, the peak hour bus frequency on the today’s busiest Toronto routes is approaching the 1.5 – 2 min range. If the busways succeed in attracting more riders and hence require even higher frequency, the limit of the BRT technology will be reached very quickly. If the routes need to be converted to LRT after that, there will be twice as much neighboughood disruption and higher total costs.

    The idea of extending Sheppard subway to Vic Park and York U is not without merit, but let’s mind the costs. Judging by the distance, the Yonge-Downsview segment plus the Don Mills-Vic Park segment will cost about 1.5 billion, this is likely comparable with all possible “BRT in lieu of LRT” savings. If the Downsview-YorkU link is implemented as LRT instead of subway, that’s a further saving in the range of 1 billion or so.

    It is easy to make an argument that getting a functional LRT network and postponing subway extentions (except Yonge/Finch to Steeles to help increase the frequency) is preferable to adding one or two more high-quality (but underused) subway links and sticking with inadequate service in other quarters.

    I think that the need to expand Sheppard subway will come eventually, but not anytime soon (perhaps in 20 – 25 years).


  24. Who is this Soberman anyway? — he sounds like a “for real” dodo bird. Anyone who proposes that the SRT be extended west along Eglinton definitely does not have all of his cookies tightly stacked.


  25. Speaking of the Sheppard subway, someone on another site made what seems like an excellent suggestion: “branching” it into Y-U-S so that, rather than dead-ending at Yonge, the Sheppard trains would turn south at Yonge and run down that line, at least until whenever Sheppard would run properly crosstown (like in our great-grandchildren’s time). Conversely, an equal number of trains going north would turn east at Sheppard (interlining?).

    Are the lines compatible? If so, whatever bit of necessary reno to accommodate a turn would seem worth it.

    Steve: There is no physical connection to make a west to south turn from the Sheppard line onto the Yonge line. Only curves supporting yard moves were built into the massive complex under that intersection.

    The north to east curve splits off just south of Sheppard Station (in the middle of the crossover) and joins into the eastbound track some distance east of Yonge. A train making this turn cannot actually stop at Sheppard-Yonge station.

    The east to south curve begins in the tail tracks west of Sheppard-Yonge Station and joins into the southbound track directy opposite the point where the north to east branches off. A train wishing to run from Bayview to York Mills station would have to operate into Sheppard-Yonge on the south track, then go through into the pocket track beyond the station, reverse, and turn down into the Yonge line.

    Neither of these operations is attractive.

    Finally, the stations on the Sheppard line are only four cars long, and we would have to expand all of them in order for the six-car Yonge trains to fit.

    This is more than “a bit of reno”

    That’s the long answer.

    The short answer is “no”.


  26. You may be tired of this by now, so I don’t blame you if you don’t post this.

    “Your ridership comparisons are ‘apples and oranges’. The 32 is equivalent to only half of the 501, the part from Yonge west to Highway 27. To put the lines on an equivalent footing, you would have to count only those riders who use the west end of the Queen car, not the entire route.”

    You’re right, I see my mistake; for some reason I thought that the total ridership was the max of the 32 and 34, but that’s actually a lower bound; it’s really somewhere between the max (which assumes that all trips include both routes) and the sum (which assumes that none of them do). Nonetheless, even if we take the upper bound (the sum), we get around 60k rides per day, which is more but not outrageously more than the 501.

    However, the remainder of your response leaves me even more confused:

    “Looking at headways, the 32 runs every 132 seconds, or 27.3 buses per hour, in the am peak. The 501 runs every 292 seconds, or 12.3 cars per hour. Adjusting for vehicle capacity (bus 55 versus ALRV 108), the theoretical capacity is about 1,500/hour on Eglinton, and about 1,300 on Queen West …”

    Unfortunately, I can’t see what capacity has to do with ridership. But even so, based on these numbers, it seems like Queen West is overloaded, which lends support to the premise that a higher-capacity alternative is a good idea.

    But then we have this:

    “The riders on King, and over the next decade or so on Queen as well, actually live on the line in the growing forests of new housing. Easy access to surface transit is essential to such neighbourhoods as it will be for the outer parts of Eglinton as it redevelops.”


    “Unlike Queen West, there is no parallel east-west service close to Eglinton and so its catchment area is bigger.”

    To me this appears to be a contradiction. Everyone wants access to transit, so large catchment areas are bad, which you use to argue against burying Queen. Even though you agree that those on Eglinton want the same thing, now ridership-boosting large catchment areas are good, which justifies burying Eglinton.

    But finally this:

    “I’m not thrilled with putting the Eglinton line underground, but politically, I don’t think we would get the LRT line without the tunnel.”

    I don’t know if you keep track of your commenters, but I’ve had this discussion with you before, and I’ve never found your arguments in favor of burying Eglinton (while arguing against burying Queen) to be convincing; as a result, I had always suspected that you didn’t really believe in it yourself. But of course, you realize what this means: from now on, you will have to hear people say, “If you are in favor of burying Eglinton, how can you be against burying (insert pet line here)?”

    Steve: First, the comparison between Eglinton and the downtown streetcar lines is that those lines are already in place. The neighbourhoods and traffic patterns have grown up around them over the decades. Eglinton would be a brand new implementation. As a streetcar line it would have to fight its way into an existing traffic flow and would probably bring many complaints from the locals. Also, Eglinton has potential for much ridership growth due to its length and density of surrounding development.

    Second, I concur with Eglinton being underground only where this is absolutely necessary (and that term is defined both by operational and political considerations). Various “pet” lines are usually proposed as full subways and are underground by definition.

    Third, Queen/King is a split corridor and if anything there is more demand on King than on Queen (although this might be reversed in time as Queen redevelops and if service improves). A short Queen subway downtown only addresses part of the problem with that line, and does nothing for King. A long Queen subway, especially if it means raiding service from the 504, costs a lot of money and makes service much less convenient for people living on the heavier route.

    King itself has big problems downtown, but they are caused by illegal parking/stopping during the peak period, and by congestion in the Entertainment District on busy evenings. Let’s make better use of the roads we have today before spending a fortune to bury the streetcar service.

    My overall philosophy is that lines should only go into a grade-separated structure as a matter of last restort.


  27. “….the stations on the Sheppard line are only four cars long, and we would have to expand all of them in order for the six-car Yonge trains to fit.”

    Or just run the 4-car Sheppard trains down Yonge, or get people to move from the end two cars (on the new, no-barrier-between-cars trains) through signage and announcements, for the Sheppard segment.

    As for the turn problems – sounds very complicated. But it also seems like incredibly bad planning to not allow for this option. Guess they were more worried about the station art.


  28. I feel that the general purpose of this report has been misrepresented by your posting. You obviously have a history with Dr. Soberman and in your own words you are far from being a dispassionate observer. This is your blog though and I respect that you can post whatever you want. I have enjoyed the often lively discussions that can be found on your blog. I provide this information here to further the discussion in this topic.

    I would first like to point out that the point of this report was not to come up with miraculous new ideas. Soberman is trying to work within the framework of the existing MoveOntario and TransitCity proposals but has suggestions as to what improvements can be made and what parts of these documents are most significant to regional transit (and therefore should be studied and implemented first). It is clear that Soberman has not attempted to take full credit for these “pearls.” This is the stated objective of the study:

    “since so much political capital has already been invested in Places to Grow, MoveOntario 2020, and Toronto Transit City, if the goal is to actually get something done, the best course of action is probably to work within the parameters of these recent announcements. For this reason, this study attempts to prioritize some of these proposals in order to develop a plan of action for a number of the more regionally significant transit initiatives.”

    I believe that the report is a good step forward in this regard and meets its stated objective. You may disagree with some of the content (the conversion of Sheppard to LRT is a no go) but I think that his selection of key projects, as summarized in the seven bullet points of the “Main Message,” are sensible. For example, I really think the discussion of the Eglinton Line west of Keele is particularly good. The level of development along this section does not merit LRT and would be well served by the BRT technology that is to be used for the Mississauga Transitway. If there is to be a transfer at some point why not put it further along the line when the conversion to the higher capacity service is required.

    The report does not piss on LRT per se. It only says that it should be placed where it is merited … some TransitCity lines are more conducive to LRT than others. Surely, it is not the best technology everywhere. The determination of detailed routing and technology “a prior” is something we should avoid. I think this is something everyone can agree on regardless of the history of past studies which have short changed the consideration LRT. We can’t change the past we can only work to ensure that future plans are done properly. Indeed, Soberman’s main message is that sensible studies analyzing projected demand and costs are required, not politicized documents. I urge people to read the report for themselves and come to their own conclusions.


  29. If, and let’s face it it’s pretty unlikely, there was a question of joining the Sheppard to the YUS, it should be to the US not the Y, at Downsview – the Sheppard line could take half the services at 6 car length either with refitted stations or movement between cars, and the Sorbara line the other half.

    It would cost a pretty penny for 4 km of tunnel, the curvature difficulties of a junction at Downsview and a semi-open station at Bathurst with the eastern half resting on the crossing bridge. That said, you get additional network resiliency by linking Wilson Yard to the Sheppard line and if tunnelling began right after the Sorbara line finished or after the Yonge line extension there would be fewer startup costs.

    Essentially you would be removing Yonge/Sheppard and Downsview Turnback as termini which I imagine would be good in terms of increasing the ratio of running time to dead positioning time.

    And yes, I realise you could get a million squillion km of LRT for that money – or at least LRT as cities other than Toronto build it.


  30. 2 Mark Dowling / joining Sheppard subway to US

    I think this is a very good idea: better connectivity + network resiliency + when either Y or US line stalls anywhere between Bloor and Sheppard, commuters will bypass using the Yonge-Downsview link.

    However, I wouldn’t suggest building that link right after “Sobrana line”: yes the startup costs would be lower, but a more important factor is “return on transit investment”, or how much social and economic benefits a given line generates per invested dollar. From that viewpoint, the priority sequence should be: 1) Functional LRT network [Transit City]; 2) Downtown Relief link [either LRT in rail corridor, or DRL subway]; 3) expanding Sheppard subway.


  31. About the issue of merging the Sheppard Subway to the Yonge Line: Not only will it be prohibitively expensive to build the necessary track for the interlining, but you will have to improve the signaling, to deal with the extra trains, or reduce the number of YUS trains, to compensate for the Sheppard Trains. Considering the current capacity issue on the line, this is not acceptable.

    Why is eliminating transfers so important to people? You wish to spend millions, have residents suffer through another round of construction disruptions, just so people will not have to walk up a flight of stairs? Madness!

    Transfers are a necessity of transit travel. Get used to it.


  32. Branching Sheppard into Y-U-S would not neccesitate a reduction in the number of Y-U-S trains, Justin. They would BE (S-)Y-U-S trains. It’s not like they wouldn’t stop and open their doors at all the non-Sheppard stations along the rest of the trip. And signal/system upgrades allowing for more frequent trains are already a part of TTC improvement plans. As for cost, neither you nor I know what the junction reconfiguration expense might be.

    More transfers makes for less user-friendliness, which is part of the reason Sheppard runs mostly empty now. Branching is an idea worthy of consideration to salvage that white elephant known as the Sheppard subway.

    Steve: OK guys. End of this discussion. A west to south connection from the Sheppard to the Yonge line would cost a fortune and I would not be at all surprised at an estimate in the $100-million range. We can make a lot of other changes to the transit system to improve ridership beyond whatever benefit eliminating that transfer might bring.

    There seems to be an idea that we should provide point-to-point service, but this is impossible.


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