Low Technology Has Its Place

This morning I had the dubious pleasure of riding the SRT from Kennedy to STC in what was clearly a manual dispatch mode. Trains were not always at full speed, and each station-to-station move was made after clearance from SRT control.

Much grumbling was heard from passengers around me as this sort of thing is not uncommon in bad weather.

I couldn’t help thinking how the SRT was supposed to be an LRT line originally, and how the capabilities of its ATO system have never been exploited or needed on a line with such infrequent service. As an LRT line, it would have had limited signals at the terminals and for the underpass at Ellesmere, and operation would be “on sight” for most of the route.

I have seen the train control system do wonders with interlined services on the Vancouver SkyTrain where, also, the operation is completely automatic. In Toronto, the signal system just gets in the way, an example of technological overkill.

31 thoughts on “Low Technology Has Its Place

  1. I had thought that the original LRT plans had turning loops at both ends. Why would signalling be needed at loops?

    Steve: You are correct! Only if there were something like a crossover arrangement with automatic dispatching would we have needed signals at the terminals.


  2. Clearly the answer is to fill the SRT guiderail with water and put in swan boats. Maybe the instrumental music at Kennedy can be synchronized when passengers are waiting!

    Steve: Obviously, the theme music will have to be from Swan Lake.


  3. Steve, I think your bias is showing through on this Scarborough RT topic. My own bias is quite the opposite. I have recently moved here from Vancouver (where I really grew interested in public transit) and have really got to like the RT since moving here. The cars don’t hold as many people as Vancouver’s Mark II cars hold but the Scarborough RT moves a lot more people then an LRT could, and moves us efficiently as well.

    True the SRT is getting old, but it would be beneficial for the TTC to follow through with Scarborough RT Strategic Plan from Aug. 2006 rather then tear it up and install an LRT to appease Steve Munro. Check out the Scarborough Town Center bus Station during rush hour. It handles a lot of people and both TTC buses and Go buses. Quite a percentage of this feeder traffic goes onto the SRT. This is a highly used station and a well designed one, the bus depot anyway. I wish the SRT platform had a center platform. I always preferred the Vancouver Skytrain station that had a center platform. The Scarborough Town Center has such high volumes they could use the extra room that a center platform provides, and, the two directions of RTs (east and west bound) would share escalators. elavators and stairs saving money in a way.

    The announced MoveOntario 2020 has money set aside for this Scarborough RT Strategic Plan- which is a really well put together plan that looks at all possible solutions to fix some of the RT’s faults. It ain’t perfect but it services Scarboroughs population well — myself included.

    Steve: I ride the RT to and from work every day and am resigned to the fact that it will be upgraded and extended remaining an odd duck in our network. My point in this post was to note that as an LRT line, the many problems we have had with the control systems would not have existed because an LRT operation on the surface doesn’t need it. Moreover, there are a lot of ice-and-snow related issues for the RT that don’t for the most part affect operations in Vancouver.

    I agree with you about centre platforms so that the cost of vertical access is shared between directions. That’s how the Sheppard Line and most of the North Yonge line were laid out, especially important with their very deep stations. North York Centre is odd man out because it was added after the line was finished around the existing box tunnel.

    As for how many people the RT can move: The service is operated with 4-car trains on a 3’30” headway or 17 trains per hour. Each car has 30 seats and can realistically hold another 30-40 standees. This gives a maximum capacity per train of 280 (4 times 70), or 4,760 per hour at crush conditions. Moving to the Mark-II cars will expand train capacity, and planned revisions to the terminal layouts will allow closer headways to be operated.

    Note that the TTC, for service design purposes, uses a train capacity of 220 for the SRT, or a per-car capacity of 55. This translates to an hourly design capacity of 3,740.

    A three-car train of CLRVs, the sort of thing originally proposed for this line, has a design capacity of 222 with a crush capacity of about 300. If we use ALRVs, the design capacity is 216 for two-car trains. In either case, these are roughly the same length as a four-car SRT train. As you can see, the capacities are all comparable, and an LRT service of 3’30” is easily operated. By using longer trains (either with more cars or longer cars) and more frequent service, LRT capacity could easily be increased.

    Saying that LRT cannot handle the current demand, even the latent demand which is constrained by the fleet size, on the SRT is simply inaccurate. As for “efficiency”, once the TTC decided to have operators on the trains, much of the “efficiency” of the RT technology went out the window. Indeed, the many occasions when the line must resort to manual operation, as it did today, would have been impossible without on-board crews.

    Finally, the Scarborough RT Strategic Plan was clearly headed to a recommendation that it be replaced with LRT based on statements made by the consultant, Richard Soberman, at all of the public meetings. Then the study disappeared for a while, Soberman changed his tune, and the study came out with a pro-RT recommendation despite everything that had been claimed at the public participation sessions. So much for giving the public clear information about what their choices are.

    I still believe that the RT was the wrong choice for this corridor, but I’m not going to the wall to fight for an LRT line. However, it’s worth remembering what might have been and contemplating all of the hassles we would not have endured over the years had we chosen differently.


  4. Thanks for the informative reply Steve. You have a lot of figures that back up your pro-LRT stance but I have one other factor in favor of upgrading the RT to handle the Mark II cars and it is something I can’t support with statisical data as to why Scarborough would be much better served by upgrading this technology.

    This is only anecdotal evidence, so it doesn’t carry as much weight as your empirical statistical arguement does. When I walk from Scarborough Town Center to the transit station their is a large sign above that states “Trains and Buses”. The fact that I have a choice between trains and buses fills me with pride that we have such a diverse network of transit to serve us. Buses feeding trains and vise-versa, I am grateful to be able to witness this infrastructure move a large amount of people on a daily basis. I am sure that people, transit loving public like myself, but more people in general would be more inclined to take transit if trains are involved. I am not arguing with you Steve, I just feel that the TTC is a lot richer for having such a diverse infrastructure.

    On another note, I am part of the Metrolinx website and they just gave a very informative paper called the Green Paper #3. I am not schooled in urban planning but have learned a lot from public meetings and other forums like Metrolinx is offering. The Green Paper #3 talked a lot about something called Transit Nodes and I think that the Scarborough Town Center would fall under this important definition of being a ‘transit node’. Their are many GO buses, TTC buses, the train or Scarborough RT and a lot of pedestrian traffic from Scarborough Town Center and Scarborough Civic Center. This Transit Node, I feel, needs to be served by rail as well as all the buses.

    Steve: I have no objection to rail at STC, but would have preferred that it was LRT, not ALRT. What one calls a train is very much a case of local usage. For example, if we told Calgarians that they were running streetcars, they would look at you oddly (well even more oddly than they might regard a Torontonian). Those are C-Trains. Similarly Vancouver’s incarnation of ALRT is SkyTrain, a name that is surely far better for marketing than the inept “RT” which was chosen — wait for it — after a competition here in Toronto.

    “To Trains” can mean anything that runs on rails. I think that one of the best examples I saw of that was years ago on my first visit to Riverside Station where the signs, leading me proudly to three-car trains of PCCs, said “Trains For Boston”. That was an LRT line built on an abandoned rail corridor connecting into the Central Subway, a streetcar subway in downtown Boston. The oldest part of that “subway” opened at about the same time Toronto was starting to electrify its horse car network in 1892.

    The Metrolinx Green Paper is intriguing to me because, among other things, it echoes a lot of the comments I have made about how GO sterilizes space around its stations with parking lots. The TTC’s corporate culture comes in for a lot of criticism on this blog, but GO Transit needs to stop thinking beyond the realm of a commuter railroad.


  5. I forgot to mention one more note that might help shorten the headways between trains on an upgraded RT. The planned Kennedy Station RT terminus is to have a center platform at grade. This means that two ‘sets’ of trains can be at the station at the same time. Hopefully they put center platform on the other terminus at Markham and Sheppard — the Malvern terminus as well.

    This design feature would be like the Kennedy subway station or the Finch subway terminus allowing the TTC to shorten the headways of the trains. This feature would help prevent the slow downs you experienced today. While they’re at it put a center platform at Scarborough Town Center to please George S.

    Steve: The problem today was caused by a complete failure of the signal system and the need to dispatch the service manually. No terminal design would have saved the TTC from that mess.

    As for STC station, don’t hold your breath for a centre platform. That could require massive reconstruction including moving the approach tracks further apart. They will be pinching their pennies on this extension and conversion for Mark II’s.


  6. The Scarborough RT needs to be mothballed and replaced with a subway extension to Scarborough Centre or Sheppard & Markham. It is overcrowded (increased train frequencies on the RT will help somewhat, but not very long), it is unreliable and it has high operating costs because it is an orphan technology made by one supplier (Bombardier). Most of its users transfer to and from the subway at Kennedy and many users are going to Scarborough Town Centre, a significant node in its own right.

    LRT is not suitable for this route because the demand on the line is very high. It would be possible to run very long light rail cars on the Kennedy-Scarborough Centre section, but beyond STC demand drops off greatly so running long LRT cars to destinations beyond STC makes no sense, eliminating any supposed advantages of LRT. (Don’t even think about coupling two cars together, uncoupling them at STC and sending each car along a different route. If you do this, then the cars won’t always meet up on time and service will be unreliable.) Plus, the cost of converting the SRT to LRT is not that much different than converting it to run Mark II cars, once platform and track modifications are made and new rolling stock are bought.

    It would be best to do this right the second time and build a subway to STC, where transfers to LRT lines would be provided.

    Steve: Aside from the big problem at Kennedy Station where the subway points east, not north, a subway extension would definitely be a case of overkill for this line. Even the most optimistic projections show a peak demand of about 8,000 per hour, well below what is needed to justify subway construction. There is also a big problem threading a new north-south subway alignment through STC, the more diect route it would take to avoid the dogleg via Ellesmere and Midland Stations.

    Split service past STC? It’s called a short turn. We have been doing this on the subway, among other places, for years, and I can guarantee you that all the service would not make it past Kennedy Station.

    If we are worried about train lengths, there’s nothing to prevent the line from being completely grade separated just like the ALRT. I would be very surprised if the TTC didn’t plan to run two-car trains of the new LRVs down the middle of Eglinton, and if they can do that, they can do it in Scarborough too.

    We would avoid the overhead of an orphaned line with its own technology, carhouse, etc. An ALRT line to Sheppard and Markham (let alone a subway) will never be extended north, but an LRT might very well be.

    The single biggest objection to LRT vs ALRT is the longer conversion period for LRT. My own feeling is that the TTC didn’t try very hard to figure out how to minimize the down time for LRT because doing so would work against their own goal — making the ALRT scheme look favourable. They managed to terrify Scarborough Councillors with the thought that the RT would be out of service forever for an LRT conversion.

    I myself could make a credible argument for retaining ALRT on the SRT, but what the TTC did was excessive and showed the weakness of their underlying premise. But a full blown subway?


  7. Surely Du Lieber Schwann from Lohengrin.

    Steve: Don’t forget Camille Saint-Saëns, although if the swans are losing their feathers, it might not inspire confidence in the passengers.


  8. I have to agree that a subway to Scarborough Centre makes more sense than either the upgrade or light rail (mind you, light rail is massively better than ALRT). No, the capacity isn’t needed, but the improved service would, IMO be worth the cost, and more useful to the system as a whole than an extension to Sheppard and Markham road (which, as of the latest estimates is, combined with the MK II upgrades, about the same cost as an STC subway). The the current plans for the Sheppard LRT make the RT extension necessary to get passengers to Scarborough Centre from Sheppard, but there really is no reason it couldn’t be rerouted into STC directly.

    No, the subway will never go farther than Scarborough Centre but the point is that STC is a major destination and a natural hub. The reality is that transfers are one of the largest factors discouraging people from using transit, and one bus to the subway is massively better than bus – SRT – subway. Taking the subway to Scarborough also allows much better network connectivity, supports the official plan and is a cheaper service to operate.

    My point is that there are times when subways are worthwhile despite the capacity not being needed to create a better service. Scarborough Centre and York U (Vaughan is completely unnecessary, and doubly appalling given the Jane LRT plans) being rather dramatic examples, yes, light rail could handle the demand, but a subway provides a better and more attractive service, while creating a much more sensible network. In the case of Scarborough allowing the subway to terminate at a designated city centre and elimate a massive number of transfer, and in the case of York providing an actually attractive transit option to the city (and most important for justifying the funds) a good Yonge bypass for Viva riders.

    I’d be very interested to know which riders would prefer, the SRT extension to Sheppard and the presumably shorter bus trips it allows, or the elimination of the transfer at Kennedy but no extension.

    Steve: The question of where nodes exist naturally in a network has an intriguing historical background in Scarborough. Back in the days when an Eglinton line was under discussion, Scarborough Council worried that Kennedy and Eglinton would be such a strong node in its own right that this might threaten the Town Centre. Development around Kennedy Station was discouraged, and the mish-mash at the intersection we have today is the result. Once the Eglinton LRT is in place, Kennedy Station may finally come into its own albeit at a more modest scale.

    As for elimination of transfers, there will always be transfers in our network and we cannot provide one-seat rides for every trip. If we have, say, a billion dollars to invest in transit, does it make more sense to build more routes, or to re-engineer something we already have just to eliminate a transfer connection?

    Don’t forget that with the SRT extension to Sheppard, the transfer at STC many riders now have will be eliminated for the lucky ones, but for most it will only be shifted north.


  9. Skytrain in the snow isn’t always that fun.

    “Skytrain is now running it’s Snow Plan. There is an attendant on every train. Due to heavy snow, there may be sudden stops. Please hold on at all times or stay seated, thank you.”

    Well, that post made it sound like fun, but it wasn’t on a weekday, when they normally run more trains than there are attendants employed. The automated system can’t tell if there’s anything on the tracks when it snows, so you get fewer trains, running slower, with a human with their finger on the brakes.

    Of course, there’s not to say it can’t be a pleasant ride.


  10. In his reply to my last message Steve said:

    “As for elimination of transfers, there will always be transfers in our network and we cannot provide one-seat rides for every trip. If we have, say, a billion dollars to invest in transit, does it make more sense to build more routes, or to re-engineer something we already have just to eliminate a transfer connection?

    Don’t forget that with the SRT extension to Sheppard, the transfer at STC many riders now have will be eliminated for the lucky ones, but for most it will only be shifted north.”

    That’s exactly my point; it’s my contention that in this particular case the re-engineering is more valuable than the expansion. I don’t see a particularly great value in shifting the transfers north, certainly not as much as in eliminating the Kennedy transfer for people coming from further out in Scarborough. It also helps a lot that this creates a direct connection between the BD and Sheppard lines, especially important if we get a transfer at Don Mills; keep in mind that the official plan says that centres should feature “an integrated regional transportation system, featuring direct, transfer-free, inter-regional transit service”.

    As to the nodes, yes, Kennedy is one, and will remain so, but I see current plans as largely abandoning Scarborough Centre, which has been much more successful in terms of development. The GO station ensures Kennedy will stay attractive, and it is an ideal location for development, but STC is continuing to grow, and is a larger destination at the moment.

    Now, from a practical standpoint, I acknowledge that we probably won’t get a Scarborough subway anytime soon, I do however feel that the ALRT upgrades are worth fighting.

    ALRT will provide an acceptable service for this line, but not in a financially responsible way, or in a way that well serves the larger transit network. Even with permanent Kennedy and Don Mills transfers, the Sheppard & Markham road interchange serves no purpose whatsoever but to make access to STC difficult. A light rail line would allow Sheppard East to follow the same rail corridor south, and enter STC directly, removing the need for the SRT extension. Such a line could return to Sheppard on Markham road, at ground level, if the section east of STC is really found to be worthwhile (it also lets an eastern routing by way of Lawrence an option). Actually, I’m not sure theres any need for rail east from STC in the short to medium term if we build the Morningside/Malvern LRT, a Viva style express bus on Lawrence, forming the tail end of a Durham service on Kingston road could well be enough.


  11. “As for elimination of transfers, there will always be transfers in our network and we cannot provide one-seat rides for every trip. If we have, say, a billion dollars to invest in transit, does it make more sense to build more routes, or to re-engineer something we already have just to eliminate a transfer connection?”

    A large number of people currently transfer at both Kennedy (from subway to RT) and Scarborough Town Centre (RT to bus). STC is the most logical place to put those buses because it allows for the shortest bus trip to north-east Scarborough. All those people would have one transfer instead of two if the subway were extended, and transit users HATE transfers. In addition, STC is a major development node in its own right now. Eliminating the transfer will encourage ridership and get cars off the 401. The same argument can be used with the York U (not the Vaughan) extension.

    The Scarborough RT is heavily overcrowded. Modifications to allow Mark II cars to run at 2 minute frequencies will help somewhat, as will the Malvern LRT for certain trips (mostly to UTSC), but this will only provide temporarily relief. Replacing the RT with LRT has only one real advantage: the ability to run service beyond Scarborough RT. However, there is such an imbalance between the traffic between Kennedy and STC and the traffic beyond it (on any one individual bus route) that we will only be able to justify service every 10, even 15 minutes beyond STC with the 40-60m LRT car that would be needed on the Kennedy-STC section. Thus, this makes no sense.


  12. Let’s be honest here: most of the time, the SRT runs very well, and very fast. I’m not sure if it’s just my perception, but it seems to me as though SRT cars run at faster speeds than even subway trains.

    Anyway, I agree that the LRT could have worked for this corrider, but I doubt that the TTC would have ever run the cars as fast as the SRT cars are usually run (assuming that LRT would not have had a signalling system). So if you consider that point, and also consider the fact that there are maybe a half dozen days of inclement weather per year that affect service on the existing SRT, it’s really a pretty good service. In fact, I’ve wasted a lot more time sitting on subway trains that crawl from Warden to Kennedy (happens almost every morning to me) than I have ever wasted on a slow moving or delayed SRT.

    Steve: The RT runs at speeds comparable to the subway, and the CLRVs originally proposed for the line are easily capable of the same speed. Indeed, before the TTC screwed up the Queensway with interfering signals and stops to avoid left turning motorists, the speed along that stretch was quite impressive. The Transit City lines will be constrained by running in the middle of the street and will never get up to subway or SRT speeds, particularly considering the 2km stop spacing from Kennedy to Ellesmere.

    As for the queue at Kennedy, yes, that’s a big problem, and any time I have gone out to Kipling, the queue there is even worse. This shows a fundamental limit of the way the TTC schedules subway service. The running time is based on the maximum required, but inevitably this is more than needed, and trains bunch up. As we move to closer headways, such excessive time will not be physically possible.

    What should happen is that the time be deliberately shorter than the maximum, and by the time the rush hour’s impact is felt at the terminal, the inbound headways can be stretched out a bit. The TTC may think of all sorts of reasons not to do this (they have never liked flexible running times), but they won’t have a choice when they try running headways under two minutes on YUS.


  13. Hi Steve and all:-

    Well, we’ve come back to one of my pet peeves and with knowledgeable justification, the SRT!

    This is one technology that should never ever have been built, anywhere in the world. Instead of the UTDC investing in alternative North American manufacture of wanted and needed replacement new and retrofit light rail parts for an already expanding market (they were already in the streetcar business for crying out loud, i.e.:- overhead parts, complete LRT cars, track special work, etc.), they foolishly opted to develop linear induction hardware no-one really wanted and then had to scramble to find ‘Marks’, umm, I mean buyers, for it all; for it had to go as a package. Thus instead of keeping Ontario and our TTC as leaders in North American transit, they doomed us to laughing stocks in the transit field. This still hurts, for the TTC said all along we told ya so; but politics got in the way of reasonable thought. So much for knowledgeable transit advice going to waste.

    When the UTDC foisted this idea of improving transit on the unsuspecting bleating sheep of Scarborough Council and at the same time paid for Vancouver (with Ontario taxpayers money) to buy into this marvel of the modern age, we all lost. Vancouver now big time, since yes even I agree that to change systems midstream for them is more unwise than to upgrade their system with something better; for they’re stuck with it now and the TTC for being forced into paying hard earned and fought for subsidy money by throwing it into the money pit of the RT just to keep it moving on a daily basis.

    For examples, the TTC had to waste money to retrofit heaters in the power rails, because the technology won’t allow ice scraping shoes like real tried and true transit technology can. By abandoning a return loop, that would have been more than perfectly suitable for real transit vehicles unlike those Mickey Mouse ALRT things, thus closing down the line for two months while a crew of trackmen replaced it with a single turnout. By having to have a dedicated work force to be trained on and maintain a sophisticated computer system and vehicles to run the orphan line. Our TTC and their riders had to wait for a further year and a half plus to have a rail line into the wilds of Scarborough while the change to ALRT technology took place, thus paying wasteful penalties because they had to scrap already let contract agreements, reams of designs and even some physical work. Instead of having already purchased, tested and proven vehicles to run on it, far more expensive and lower capacity cars had to be ordered. Even now, time and money is being wasted on reports and arguments as to why it should be kept. The TTC of all transit operators should know better by now than to support this fiasco in any manner; shame on them for this report of theirs.

    All of this is exampling throwing good money after bad. You could say that these teething problems are now behind us and we’ve learned from our? mistakes! But all of these costly extras will now need to be repeated over every foot of track if linear-induction is allowed to expand. Now’s the time to see that this short little rinky dink line of ours be upgraded for once and for all with more appropriate and more economical technology. Now’s the time to discard the inappropriate failed and flawed linear-induction experiment that exists because we certainly should not take a donkey’s ear approach to the sow’s ear by changing the fetid thing to Mark IIs. (Note, by buying into ALRT in the first place we were classed as gullible ‘Marks’. Buy more of it and we’re now classed, in the parlance of the ‘Shill Gaming Duper’, as ultra-gullible “Mark IIs”)

    If anything, the full subway to the Town Centre is a better solution than keeping, (gag) ‘improving’ and extending SRT. The subway argument though has innumerable drawbacks and should be considered and then discarded in favour of the LRT solution. If LRT is to become the norm in Transit City, then there is no room in a modern Transit System for this ALRT minority that never can be compatible with the rest of its connections. Its capacities too can only match, but not exceed LRT in our lifetimes, so why even consider retaining it?

    If the only real value of UTDC’s ALRT is in its automatic capabilities, I’ll bet dollars to jelly doughnuts that LRT cars can also be operated that way if it is indeed truly desired. (Lindenwold anyone?) Once beyond the heavy traffic core part of the line (I’m assuming the south end, Town Centre to Kennedy) the vehicles can revert to line of sight and run with all of the traffic conditions that no linear induction thing could ever do over the entire rest of the system and all of its branches! This would give the interlining capability you mentioned Steve, plus space the ‘trains’ out at a safe but very tight headway. Wow, a bit of high tech thrown into the low tech, could it really be possible? You betcha it could and if the computer fails; well we’re running streetcars for a while boys and girls on the same line and with only slightly diminished capacity!!

    As for terminal times, well it was hard to beat what the Detroit streetcars and streetcar ‘trains’ once did at shift change at the Ford plant. Multiple tracks and loops; wow low tech or what. It has been said that forgetting or ignoring history can doom man to repeating his errors. When examples of non ALRT are looked at with an impartial eye, low tech and exceptionally palatable solutions are right under our noses.

    Like you Steve, I truly believe that the SRT can be upgraded to LRT technology fairly quickly, since much of the work could be done before the line closed to the last RT train forever, (what a vision I just had, oh-joy, oh-bliss) thereby minimizing the time required to retrofit for the future and ultimately the better. I know that this is achievable from project management experiences, thus one time to have the ‘pain’ will get us a desirable and reliable permanent ‘gain’. If the line is going to be shut down anyways, do it right once, rather than badly twice.

    Am I arguing from a position of strength, like those in the know at the TTC once did to not change the un-built Scarborough line to ALRT in the first place, to find myself out argued by the unreasonableness of political choice? I truly hope not, but do have my fears!

    Mr. D.


  14. Hi Steve and Leo Gonzalez:-

    Leo, I imagine that there are places in the world where comparable 1930’s technology still outperforms in speed and ride quality what the RT presently offers, but unfortunately my mind is drawing a blank for I cannot get the one recently passed example out of my head and that is the Philadelphia and Western’s Brill Bullet cars. These cars had had some teething troubles in their careers, but what retired them was not their electrical and speed capabilities being out shone by something new, but just plain old-age. Their aluminum cast underframes could no longer be kept up as the castings were perishing beyond any hope of further repair.

    When in their prime these cars were amongst the ultimate speed demons. When I rode them for the first time in the 70s, they had been subjected to a decision by their new masters to standardize all substations on the DC operated lines to 600 volts, down from the 750 volts that they had beeen built to operate with. One upside to this change for these cars was that then they had a longer life expectancy for their traction motors as they had been suffering premature failures with the higher voltage. One of the teething problems that the P & W management lived with for the sake of overall top speeds. So when I had the good fortune to have my backside ‘G’ forced into the seat cushions when riding an accelerating ‘Bullet’ I knew that they were most definitely not misnamed! But while enjoying this ride and the relatively high speed experience, one of the older hands I was riding with said, ‘ya shoulda bin here when they were at the full 750 volts, now that wuz somethin’!

    I really don’t know what their top speed capability was, but most assuredly it was a darn sight faster and smoother than the RT even at the diminished 600 volts and this over twisting, superelevated and jointed railed track, in ballast and with wood ties.

    In other words, low tech ala 1930s best street and radial railway cars of the day were mighty zippy and definitely a lesson for the transit advocate of today!

    By the way; one reason that I feel that the P & W is a worthy example of a comparison to the Scarboro RT is that it connected with the end of the Market-Frankford Subway-elevated line and proceeded to service beyond the subway’s reach with electric rail. The similarity is too great to not mention it.

    The line is still there and I’d dearly love to sample what the new replacement cars can do. I imagine that they have similar operating characteristics. Any one know for sure?

    On a different line and with a higher speed example, were the everyday schedules on the London and Port Stanley Railway. This 1500 volt south western Ontario electric line daily put in speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour just to maintain those schedules. Mind you here we’re not talking hundreds of feet per stop, but a number of miles.

    Dennis Rankin

    Steve: Stop spacing is an important consideration. For urban settings, a top speed of anything beyond 50 mph / 80 kph isn’t worth having because trains will rarely get to exploit it. Moreover, higher operating speed requires more intensive track maintenance. On the line Dennis describes, some peak period trips ran express at much higher speeds because they didn’t have to stop.

    The current schedule for the line still shows “express” and “limited” trips.


  15. I think we have to look at the riders and not just our own ideas on the SRT vs subway, vs LRT for Scarborough Town Centre.

    I find it very hard to believe that current passenger loads would be considered to low for a subway extension. Not all parts of the subway are going to carry 20,000 people per direction from every segment. But as a whole, a BD extension to STC makes the most sense, and would carry a hell of a lot of people.

    We can go on about building LRT instead of the SRT, etc. But at the end of the day, the people of Scarborough are sick of transfers.
    Yes you need to transfer sometimes. But the SRT/Kennedy transfer is a needless one, and it does discourage people from using transit.

    So if you really do want to see improved transit in Scarborough, then the subway extension would be the way to go.

    I know tons of people in Scarborough who will not even take the TTC downtown because of that Kennedy transfer.

    Transit advocates may not put much thinking into travel time. But the general public does. And what would you prefer?

    Scarborough Town Centre to Yonge-Bloor
    By car: 20min(or even less with no traffic).
    By SRT/subway: 35min.
    By LRT/subway: 35min or longer.
    By subway for whole trip: 25min.

    The subway looks like a winner and people would switch from driving, if you offer competative travel times, and no transfer.

    To be honest, I sometimes just wonder if it would be best for all the buses that terminate at STC, to just run express from STC to Kennedy. Because if you look at the loads, people get off the bus, onto the RT, and then onto the subway. We are causing people to transfer way to much in Scar.

    So I say, either extend the subway, or extend the buses.

    Steve: I am really tired of people misrepresenting travel times. If an LRT were implemented on the existing SRT alignment, the travel time from STC to Kennedy would be IDENTICAL because the acceleration characteristics and top speeds of the vehicles are the same. Slower times often cited for LRT presume grade crossings. These might be present in the extended segment beyond STC, but not on the original alignment.

    Also, for people driving to Yonge and Bloor, you need to add the time to find a parking space, unless you are one of the chosen people with their very own. Many of the parking lots in this area are vanishing under condos, and parking will become an even more scarce resource in this neighbourhood.

    As for running buses between STC and Kennedy, I assume you saw and rode the recent snow shuttles. The traffic jams of buses were quite impressive.


  16. Hi Steve and Michael B.:-

    Michael because none of Transit City has been built yet and the present situation makes it appear that the B/D is the answer to Scarborough’s woes, you are overlooking a major problem and that is that unless the TTC can be coerced into putting in express tracks, anywhere from about Woodbine in, to take the loads that you’re proposing be fed onto the B/D line from the east, where are the people who presently use the original B/D going to ride, on the rooves? Once TC is working, the probability that Scarborians will find alternate ways west means that the extra expense required for yet another dollar sucking subway extension won’t be the necessity it appears to be now.

    Also, if the outer Scarborite is riding on the subway now, which I gather from what I’ve been led to believe by those who study such things, the majority are not likely going downtown anyhow, but because there are few if any other alternatives, the B/D is their way to elsewhere as well. Therefore if and when the alternate northerly paralleling lines are up and running then those that can, will find the other lines more appealing than the Yonge-Bloor transfer to go north and or north-west.

    GO Transit needs to be brought into the mix too as a far more appealing partner than it presently is. If a rider is travelling much of a distance from beyond the Town Centre and is going downtown, then would a more accessible, easily transferable to GO train not be an alternate answer to this rider’s needs? As marvellous as a subway to everywhere Metro sounds, it needs to be remembered that the core is where the intense ridership is. A one seat ride to the extreme north east is a lovely ideal, but if those riders then have the trains chock-a-block full by Woodbine, those who live along the line won’t be well served. Transfers are a necessity to spread out those loadings and the unfortunate reality is that the further that one lives from where they work and play the more likely that a transfer will be a requirement of commuting.

    We can only hope that the GTTA will be able to see and understand well the needs of Scarborough’s riders and recommend and ultimately see implemented the mix that needs to be built. If double tracking the Uxbridge Subdivision from Scarborough Junction to Unionville is an answer, then let’s see that happen. Not just for the 9 to 5 commuter either; because Toronto is a great place to be living near for the attractions (theater, symphony, baseball, CNE, etc.) as well as what’s left of the employment. With TC lines intersecting a more vibrant GO train, then the late evening theater attendee can get a convenient ride home.

    Dennis Rankin

    Steve: There is a diagram in the Final Report of the SRT study from August 2006 showing the distribution of origins and destinations of SRT riders (on page 16). What is quite clear from this is the way that many would-be SRT riders are located close to the CPR line through Agincourt. If and when this receives GO service, and if this service is available at reasonable cost, this will be a major new way for people to get downtown from northeastern Scarborough. The chart shows riding in 2001, and much new population has grown up in this catchment area in the past seven years.

    I am not suggesting that every single rider from Malvern is going to move over to GO, but that we could shave a major chunk off of the peak RT demand by diverting riders to a GO rail service.

    We persist in studying transportation problems one line at a time rather than looking at the whole network.


  17. One advantage of the subway to STC that hasn’t been discussed is that the very fact that it will have excess capacity will be of great benefit to the riders – imagine everybody getting a seat in the morning versus the same overcrowding on a LRT replacement that is currently found on the RT. In addition, it is no means certain that the TTC will be able to run LRT trains of 3 cars on much of the street alignment section of any Transit City route; short blocks on many of the arterial streets could result in 3 car trains blocking intersections. And certainly a subway would eliminate the need for the 131 Nugget express buses from Kennedy, which I presume were added because of RT overcrowding. Savings from the elimination of those buses would have to add up to something.

    That said, there are other far more pressing needs for better rapid transit than spending money on any replacement of the RT. Although it’s too bad that they had to get that technology, it’s better than much of Toronto has it.


  18. Hi Steve:-

    The snow flakes got ‘er again this morning!! What a shame. Will this problem really disappear with a renewed RT? I really doubt it for the basic premise of how it is expected to function is what will defeat it every time. Not overkill, but innappropriate technology for our City. Now that mega bucks have to be spent on it anyhow, now’s the time to replace it and replace it ASAP please folks!!!!!

    2 Chris, you missed my point entirely about why the subway should not go further east yet; for you said “that the the very fact that it will have excess capacity will be of great benefit to the riders – imagine everybody getting a seat in the morning”! Which riders are you talking about, for those living in and around the original B/D won’t be able to get on let alone get a seat. Should those riders be excluded from having access to a route that they’ve supported and lived with for decades so that someone else can usurp their basic transit needs?



  19. You don’t build a great city by going on the cheap. The subway must go to STC, and if there is additional capacity, then it will be used up as the city continues to grow. How is this city suppose to support growth and making our suburbs more urban, if we cheap out on transit expansion?

    Mr D. As for seats for BD riders in the inner city, there is a simple way to fix that. The TTC would have to do like many other cities do, and have trains that go no further then way Victoria Park or something like that. These special rush hour trains would keep seats free for inner city riders.

    But really let’s be honest. It’s not like people in the inner city get seats now, because of the transfer at Kennedy. All that happens is the entire SRT load of people goes down three floors and gets on the subway. So by extending the subway, you are saving us people that transfer.

    If you want seats, tell the TTC to start operating inner city tripper service. Or operate a proper express bus network from Scarborough to downtown, to remove a ton of riders who are forced onto the subway at the moment.

    Steve: To drain riding from northern Scarborough, put better service on the Uxbridge GO line and start running trains on the Peterborough CP line. If this week’s experience teaches people anything, it is that buses are no replacement for the capacity of rail trains, regardless of the technology. Running an express bus all the way into downtown would free up a tiny amount of capacity on the subway at great cost.


  20. Well this morning I had to catch a shuttle bus at Scarborough Town Center on the #21 Brimley platform because the snow stopped the RT. I didn’t have to wait for the shuttle at all and I got to Kennedy in a reasonable amount of time- not as quickly as the RT does the same route but quick enough. This service interuption still hasn’t jaded my view of the RT, but gave me some time to think about what Steve Munro has said about the RT.

    One thing I wanted, but knew I would never see, was for the STC station to have a center platform. Steve said it won’t happen because of costs, but, I thought about the present day side platform being widened considerably. Montreal’s STM has a lot of side platforms that are much roomier then the STC’s rather narrow platforms. The south bound platform, to Kennedy Station sometimes gets uncomfortably crowded during rush hours and I thought widening this platform and the Northbound one as well because that direction will get busier when the SRT gets its extension to Malvern.

    The SRT isn’t perfect but I think with a few improvements it will serve Scarborough 650, 000 population proudly. Especially if it gets extended to Markham and Sheppard (Malvern) planned terminus. I wish that they would extend it further north and east to Malvern Town Center as well. This is where a lot of the rides originate for the RT anyways- will save a transfer for a lot of us RT users.

    One last hope to save and improve the RT. Get rid of the Ellesmere Station. This would save the TTC the salaries to staff this little used station. I was at a TTC meeting a while back and some condo residents on Brimley wanted a station built at Brimley to serve them. Adam Giambrone stated that this would be too close to Scarborough Town Center for a station to be placed their and he would look into building a covered walkway from Brimley to STC. Well this idea could be transferred to the Ellesmere station as well, couldn’t a covered walkway be built from the parking lot on the east side of the tracks to Midland station- that way the TTC parking lots would still service the RT. Then they could dismantle the Ellesmere station, keep the underground walkway from the present day station so that the parking lot users can still use this if needed.

    Hope the SRT stays and continues to improve. STC is one of the best planned stations I use — needs a few improvements but is a very important hub in the TTC’s system.

    Steve: On the platform issue, don’t forget that if the RT is extended, many passengers who now transfer at STC and wait on those cramped platforms will already be on trains when they come through STC. I use the station every day, I’m lucky enough to be going counterpeak, and still the platform is crowded.

    I agree that Ellesmere should have been closed a long time ago. Daily usage stats are abyssmal. The RT shuttles are spending a lot of time going out of their way to loop through that station to serve nobody.


  21. DENNIS RANKIN: “As marvellous as a subway to everywhere Metro sounds, it needs to be remembered that the core is where the intense ridership is. A one seat ride to the extreme north east is a lovely ideal, but if those riders then have the trains chock-a-block full by Woodbine, those who live along the line won’t be well served.”

    Dennis, I think we have to look at the fact that the inner city and suburbs both have high ridership. It is not like the inner city has that much higher ridership in most cases.

    Infact I just looked the % of work trips and non work trips by transit in different city wards in the suburbs and inner city. And the stats are pretty close. In fact my Scar ward for example has transit use that is only 5% below the Beaches. And the shocker, many of the inner city wards have non work related trips completed by something like 60-70% by auto. Almost the same as the suburbs. So it seems the inner city is not as transit friendly as thought. The suburbs and inner city both need quality fast transit. The TTC must remember the majority of its ridership is the from the suburbs.

    Steve: Where the ridership is from is a separate issue from which trips can be provided with one-seat rides. I agree that we need better suburban transit, but we will not, for example, be able to run every single transit city line to York University.


  22. Mr D,

    My ride on the ‘tried and true’ subway from Coxwell to Kennedy took over 30 minutes this morning, versus the usual 15. Same problem as usual with snow build-up between VP and Warden. Also, don’t forget that snow build-up completely shut down this section of the subway back in January. So let’s not pretend that anything other than the SRT technology would have been operating reliably today along that route.

    Steve: Today, they seemed to be holding trains so that there was a clear run from Vic Park to Warden with no chance of stopping on a dead spot for a red signal. This, coupled with the slow order on Kennedy crossover since the derailment, made for extremely slow service.

    At the risk of sounding catty, if they had used overhead power collection, it might have problems with ice, but not snow. I’m not sure what mode commonly uses pantographs …


  23. This Scarborough issue really brings out a lot of strong opinions as to what should be done. From what I can see no matter what is done there’s going to be plusses and minusses. If the TTC had decided to convert the line to LRT there just might have been someone accusing the TTC of being one thing or another in it’s decision. The same thing would have happened if they had decided to go with a subway extension. That may well become necessary someday anyway if the RT gets too overcrowded. One reason the Jubilee line in London got extended was because the Docklands line got too crowded. Now I really hate to beat a dead horse but since it still comes up about how UTDC forced a switch to ICTS after LRT construction had already started it has just recently that had I been the person behind the big switch, I would have chosen the proposed Kipling-Airport line rather than forcing the proverbial oars to be changed in midstream In Scarborough. Toronto would have one more rail line today had they done that and there woud never have been this big debate.


  24. Hi Steve and Michael B.:-

    Michael, please re-read ‘all’ of my comments! For one, I didn’t say it was necessary for the city dwellers to get a seat, I said they wouldn’t be able to get on let alone sit. There were a number of other points made which if reread may say, hey Mr. D. you could be right. Once too we finally start getting Transit City in place, you’ll realize that a lower cost option doesn’t nesessarily mean cheap. Once in place we will start to have that world class city back that you alluded to; for more Torontonians from all of the constituent former burbs will be getting a much fairer shake and the presently ignored NE Scarborough will have its place in the sun too.

    And Steve, off hand I can think of two high platform lines that use overhead collection, the old North Shore Line in Northern Chicago to Skokie (although not over its whole length) and the airport line in Cleveland. The former doesn’t use a tunnel and the latter only a short bit of it is in a tunnel. Point being that to dig tunnels to allow the extra height for overhead power collection is a major extra expense that’s why so few have adopted it. Not impossible to have it happen, just not the norm. Better to dig out from a few snowstorms. I just remembered a third, Buffalo, half in and half out as too a fourth, Edmonton, half in and half out and all high level platform lines although these latter two are considered light rail.

    As for the regular subway getting stuck in the snow. Yes it can and has happened, but not as frequently as the RT. Under normal snowfall circumstances storm trains and sleet cutting shoes are usually enough and for the most part this winter has proven to be so. The RT, no such luck. Sleet cutting shoes were considered and rejected as an idea since they would damage the stainless steel cap on the power rail. Since too the pressure of the shoes has to be light due to consideration of the power rail’s support system, heaters are a necessity. Unlike the RT where every foot of power rail has a heater there are heaters affixed to the power rails in the regular subway too, but only in places where stalling could occur, like VP to Warden with the interlocking just outside Warden Station being on a grade. It is entirely possible that these heater cables have failed and are awaiting replacement, thus creating a different operating pattern than is the norm, thereby avoiding getting trains stuck until the repairs can be accomplished.

    Mr. D.

    Steve: I was being wry when talking about overhead for the RT. It’s completely in the open, except for that dinky tunnel at Ellesmere that was downsized specifically to preclude the TTC having second thoughts about sticking with RT versus LRT. As you point out, the RT’s dual power rail system’s design makes it harder to clean off.

    Yesterday afternoon, I saw a work train pushed by the RT locomotive out presumably attempting to clear the ice, but as the day wore on, no regular service appeared.


  25. Steve, now that the signaling system on YUS is being upgraded is there a chance interlining could be re-introduced without opening lower Bay? This would help in reducing capacity on Bloor/Yonge stations. The TTC’s excuse that it will screw up service goes out the window now since the new signaling will be based on a moving block system instead of the old block system am I right?

    Steve: In practice, this would probably require resignalling of Bloor-Danforth as well to minimize train spacing where services blend together.

    BD is close to its practical capacity with the current system at some locations, and “downtown” trains could prove to be a problem if they were over and above existing service. Unlike YUS, the BD line does not have convenient turnback locations existing or planned that would allow for a split terminal operation (e.g. the planned Downsview/YorkU terminal split on the west, or the Finch/Clark split to the east).

    Also, there could be crowding problems at Yonge Station westbound in the PM peak if some trains were bound for downtown, not the west end, and the effective headway for “Kipling” passengers was nearly doubled.

    The whole issue of interlining services is not straightforward, and needs to be examined in a broader context than just fitting in a few more trains on University Avenue.


  26. I read your comment that dismissed my suggestion of widening the STC side platforms to accomodate more passengers. I had forgotten that when the SRT route gets its extension the STC bus platform will lose a few TTC bus routes.

    I think that the #129 route will still cross the 401 route to get to STC but some of the other routes such as 130, 131, and 132 might stay north of the 401 and use the planned Markham/Sheppard station as its Terminus. That means the excellent bus station that is at Scarborough Town Center is going to be a lot emptier.

    To put this well designed bus depot to use wouldn’t it be a good idea to split the #95 York Mills bus into two routes. Keep the original #95, with its western terminus at York Mills Station and have its eastern terminus at Scarborough Town Center. Then create a whole new route call the Ellesmere bus route. Its Western terminus could be at STC and its eastern terminus at Kingston Rd. or UofT Scarborough. This might help maintain the headways and help the route from having the buses bunch up like they presently do.

    Shorter bus routes seem more manageable to me then long ones and the extra bus routes would keep the Scarborough Town Center Station as being an important transit hub.

    Steve: I agree that shorter routes are preferable to very long ones, but we also need to determine what the travel patterns are and whether a route split (or overlay of a new route) would serve a route’s demand. If Ellesmere Station had been configured like Lawrence East, there would be a short turn service on the 95 today just as there is on the 54. This shows how relatively unimportant service on Ellesmere was considered when the SRT was built.

    In the case of the 95 and STC, there is already a service from the eastern part of Ellesmere to STC: the 38 Highland Creek bus. It doesn’t run as often as the 95, but the February round of service changes includes improvements on the 38, and clearly this line will build up on its own.


  27. Close Ellesmere station? How about looking at the reason why station usage is so low, namely the fact that there are no local bus connections into that station. I use Ellesmere regularly and sometimes see the odd person getting off the 95 bus at the end of the bridge and then walking all the way over to the station. I’m sure if there were proper transfer facilities, many more people would actually use that station (granted, it will never be a high volume station).

    Imagine if we removed all local bus and streetcar connections at stations such as Broadview, Coxwell, Woodbine, etc. Sure, they would still have more walk-up ridership than Ellesmere, but usage would be much, much lower than it is today. Just look at the usage levels for Chester and you’ll see my point (around 5000 per day, which is not much more than Ellesmere).

    Steve, you’ve mentioned in the past that there is no room at Ellesmere for a bus terminal like the one that exists down at Lawrence E. I had a close look at Ellesmere after reading that comment and even though you can’t fit a full bus platform, you could easily accomodate buses and bus stops along the roadway, with a small turning loop adjacent to the west side of the station in order to allow buses to turn around and continue in the same direction along Ellesmere. Paving a semi-circle and adding two bus stops can’t cost that much money, and I am perplexed as to why this has never been done.

    The last thing we should be doing is closing rapid transit stations in this city. It’s not like we have an abundance of them, so instead let’s do whatever we can to encourage more ridership at the few we do have.

    Steve: Having ridden through the existing road that loops by Ellesmere Station on the RT Shuttle, I know that it’s possible to bring buses in here, although on smaller scale than at Lawrence East. However, if we’re going to do this, we should review the station design and passenger flows overall including accessibility needs for what would now be a transfer connection with a surface route. (The current arrangement is inaccessible simply by virtue of the stairways and walking involved to get to the bus stop.)


  28. Say, what what all do you know about the future of the transfer between the RT and the subway at Kennedy? I thought I saw where a new RT facility at either ground level or underground was to be built to make the transfer much easier. The present setup is definitely not one of my top 10 favorite transit experiences. I sure hope some kind of improvement is in the works.

    Steve: From a point of view of station geometry, there will always be a grade change, but exactly how much depends on exactly where the new RT platform is.

    If it is at ground level (same as the bus loop), it could connect down into the existing passageway under the CN tracks, although changes would be needed to make this within the paid area of the station.

    If it is at mezzanine level (one below ground), then it has to be a stub end station with a connection off the south end of, presumably, a centre platform into the station mezzanine. I have not seen any preliminary designs yet, but anything to get it down from the elevated loop will be an improvement.


  29. I went to Los Angeles a month ago and rode the LRTs there. Living in Toronto, this was my first time actually being on a LRT system and I was real surprised how efficient it is. The LRT trains in Los Angeles have about the same capacity as the MARK I cars. They have all door loading to speed up passenger loading (The entire metro in LA is actually proof of payment, honor based system). The trains always get traffic priority at intersections, something not seen in the city of Toronto. Most of the LRT lines in Los Angeles are at street level and run just as fast as a subway. I’m not sure if Queensway counts, but the GTA has never seen a true LRT line and I think that’s why we are so afraid of change (e.g. converting the RT to LRT, making at-grade intersections). Our perception of LRT is Spadina/Harbourfront, which is not true because those lines are missing important features of LRT such as traffic priority and capacity. I think the people of Toronto are going to be in for a BIG surprise once Transit City is complete.

    P.S. The public transportation system in Los Angeles, while getting better, is quite dysfunctional. Their metro system is much more politically influenced than our system in Toronto.


  30. Any discussion of future station options at Kennedy also has to factor in the Eglinton and Scarborough LRTs.

    Abandoning SRT in the rail alignment in favour of an LRT on Kennedy/Ellesmere/Markham *and* a subway extension might solve the problem of the N-S buses throttling SRT ridership as well as opening the door to additional double track on the Stouffville line to permit service expansion/enhancement. It would also mean SRT could keep running pretty much right up until the LRT and subway extensions opened to minimise disruption, depending on any conflicting work at Kennedy station.

    It would also open up the notion of shared maintenance facilities for the three Scarborough LRTs somewhere in the Sheppard/Markham/Morningside area as well as a “circle LRT”.

    The interesting thing about Scarborough-Malvern LRT is that properly operated *and marketed* and with a covered walkway, it could really increase ridership at Guildwood VIA for those on the Danforth line travelling to points east. Travelling from there on those services that stop shaves 16-20 minutes from journeys ex Union if the time to reach either station is equal.

    As for Warden subway disruptions – decking and/or tree planting to shield the alignment from drifting snow should rise up the priority list. Yes it would cost a bit but we’re talking about disruption of an asset with a capital value of billions.


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