It Must Be Spring: The SRT Computers Are Working Again

Those of us who make daily expeditions on the SRT have known, every winter, that operations get rather flaky once it gets cold and especially once there is a lot of snow. This year, the SRT stopped running in automatic mode around the start of February more or less when the major snowfalls came.

The first few weeks were a bit rocky with very long holds at stations as SRT control managed the trains by radio. Believe me, when the wind is howling through those stations, you don’t want to be sitting in a train with the doors open. (Of course, the SRT cars manage to have snowdrifts inside them even when the doors are closed, but that’s another matter.)

Later, the TTC seems to have figured out that running a line with six trains where the operator can easily see trains in front of them isn’t all that hard, and the quality of service improved quite a lot.

Finally, about last Wednesday (March 27), a miracle! A train pulls into Kennedy station without its marker lights flashing (the tell-tale sign of manual operation), and it behaves as if it is being run automatically.

I checked with the TTC to find out whether they had finally activated the new, replacement ATO system for Scarborough, but, no that won’t be ready or a few weeks yet, and they have revived the old one. The saddest part is that they never really needed it in the first place, but it’s a showcase for our technology, don’t ya know.

29 thoughts on “It Must Be Spring: The SRT Computers Are Working Again

  1. Why is the TTC extending this ancient, unreliable line? Don’t we all know that ICTS technology is unsuitable for our climate? This line ought to be replaced with a subway and not extended.

    Steve: The decision to refurbish the ICTS line was based on some rather dubious financial comparisons of ICTS versus true LRT, and I suspect there was some heavy duty lobbying from the makers of this technology to ensure that Toronto didn’t discard their toy trains. Once we start to talk about extending the line, cost comparisons with LRT completely fall apart, but that won’t likely come out in detailed studies as we won’t have a mode to mode comparison of costs and impacts. A subway extension to Markham is laughable, particularly when there’s a good commuter rail line crying out for upgrades.


  2. Hi Steve:-

    Showcase indeed! Of course as prophesied by the great sales ghurus of the past at UTDC we see that the world is beating a path to Scarborough to stand in slack jawed awe at this miracle of transit technology. (If any knowledgable, caring transit type visitors even venture to look, their sleeves would not be large enough to conceal the guffaws of derisive laughter at the marvel of it!) It was and has proven to be, the answer to all of the ills of antiquated LRT technology, hasn’t it, oh my!!? It’s good on toast too boys and girls and oh so nutritious, yup, yup!!

    Please wake up TTC and smell the coffee and the roses before re-committing to this over priced, inappropriate, retrogressive retrofit of the SRT! The route is emminantly and potentially upgradeable to more desirable, integrateable and by far and away less costly LRT. Please abandon the unnecessary desire of saving the face of suppliers, defunct governments, developers and manufacturers who lied to you and us and showed Scarborough for the goat of gullibility it has proven to be; as a Commission and their knowledgable, expert employees once attested to.

    Is retaining the ALRT technology a veiled ruse? By continuing to keep SRT, the world will visit just to see how not to make the same mistake twice! I see now that it is very, very generous of Toronto to offer such an example to transit researchers considering alternates to LRT so that they may see the light of good reasoning and run in fear of being made laughing stocks too by not to going within miles of that horrible choice!

    Why the about face now when vindication is at hand? You and we owe them nothing but our derision for forcing those with pride in a system well designed prior to this unwelcome forced intrusion on common sense!! Mr. Webster, you of all people should be amongst the leaders of opening the eyes of decision makers here, for you above most at the TTC know the difference and should be able to eloquently and articulately argue against ALRT! A change to something better is totally and unequivicably justifiable with no loss of face at the TTC, for history already has said over and over again, that, “we (TTC) told you so” (Scarborough Council and UTDC)! Approved studies of retaining ALRT in hand or not, please, please for all of our sakes and the future too, revisit and rethink this poorly chosen decision for goodness sake!!!!

    Mr. D

    Steve: A few historical points worth noting:

    The TTC’s “expert staff” don’t have quite as clean hands in all of this as you imply. The original LRT proposal was going to run through the Town Centre at grade, but then staff came out with a cock-and-bull story about how it had to be on an elevated structure so that it would not block access to properties on the south side of the right-of-way. Yes, boys and girls, people won’t be able to cross over the tracks for all those dangerous streetcars!

    Scarborough Council was not amused at the idea of a massive el through their town centre, but they swallowed hard and approved it. Later came the technology change that required an el, but the TTC had already paved the way and lumbered the LRT proposal with the structure.

    The Bell Canada property was of concern at the time, but, surprise, that building faces south and is cut off from the Town Centre by (wait for it) the bus loop!

    The recent co-opting of Richard Soberman’s study on the future of the RT shows the clear hand of interference by someone. Soberman was headed toward an LRT proposal at his public meetings, but then the report emerged as an ICTS upgrade and Soberman was nowhere to be found. In my books, that’s a dishonest public participation session — tell people one thing but then recommend another.

    Finally, a good friend of mine whose history in Toronto goes back to the early 70s said of the former head of the UTDC “nobody ever bought something from him twice”. Toronto appears poised to forget that lesson.


  3. “A subway extension to Markham is laughable, particularly when there’s a good commuter rail line crying out for upgrades.”

    I’m hoping this is a view solely reserved for this specific case. If so, then yes I don’t see a point to a subway extension from Scarb to Markham. There isn’t much to connect to that far out east in Markham.

    But if that view carries over to the Yonge line expansion as well, then we have a problem. 😉

    I have a hard time believing in commuter rail lines as the future of transport when Markham/Vaughan/Richmond Hill are involved. They’re far too close to try to convince people to take rail instead of car/bus/subway.


  4. I think commuter rail would be a lot more attractive if they ran at something near subway frequency. To use Raffi’s example, if the Richmond Hill line ran every 120 seconds (like Paris’ RER A), people would probably use it instead of an extended Yonge line. This would require that GO transit gets its own right of way, but that is a much more worthwile use of money than the SRT (and would still improve service in scarborough).

    Steve: A 120 second headway may be a stretch, but even if service gets down to every 10 minutes, people stop worrying about the schedule. The important thing is not to shift all of the riding to commuter rail, but to shave the top off of the peak by placing the long-haul riders on that system leaving the subway (or LRT) lines to handle shorter-haul traffic.


  5. David, that’s hardly surprising. I’ve only ridden it once, and while there were no delays, I would never ride it again if I had the option. Oddly enough, the one thing that stood out as the most annoying thing on that line was how the door closing chime sounds as if it is broken, but apparently that’s how it always is. Scary.

    Steve, I agree that the commuter rail should take care of the long-haul riders while the subway/bus/LRT should deal with the short-haul riders. However, most of the time people tend to just use the service that they always use. If someone is using GO on their morning commutes, they likely have a monthly pass so they’re going to want to use GO whenever they can, including short-haul trips on the weekends.

    Case in point, when Viva was introduced YRT kept their buses running on the line to service the stops in-between the Viva stops. I ride the Viva when I’m on the Yonge line, and when the need arises to go to a stop in-between Viva stops I tend to forget that the YRT service even exists so I ride the Viva anyways and walk the extra distance.

    I guess my point is that it’s not so easy to divide long-haul riders and short-haul riders between services.


  6. Steve, I like that you used the term “Toy Train” to describe the SRT. While your intent may have been different, I view the SRT as kind of a toy. It’s rough and loud ride, and minimal capacity seems childlike. Not to swipe the SRT, I do like certain aspects of it, like the futuristic whurr it makes as it speeds out of a station, but that’s hardly practical.

    As for comments on the stoufville GO line, I wonder why DEMU’s can’t be run. Diesel-Electric Multiple Units (built to heavy rail standards) could troll the line off peak, and share it with regular GO trains during the peak. The argument has been made that it’d be silly to feed a 15 (or 30) minute headway LRT or DEMU line into a 1-hour commuter rail line – and this is true – but I fail to see why the DEMU’s cannot end their journey at Kennedy Station.

    Frankly, I think they should study the idea (and if it’s feasible, then carry it out) to run (in conjunction with the above idea) the SRT as a 2-station shuttle train between Kennedy and Scarborough Centre.

    Steve: GO is already looking at an off-peak shuttle service on the Stouffville line. Which equipment is another issue because there is no point in having separate trainsets just for off-peak service while regular equipment sits in the yard.


  7. I have a hard time believing in commuter rail lines as the future of transport when Markham/Vaughan/Richmond Hill are involved. They’re far too close to try to convince people to take rail instead of car/bus/subway.

    I’m not so sure. I have a friend who lives fairly near the Danforth GO station (Woodbine and Kingston Road, basically) and works in an office tower downtown. Instead of taking the subway or streetcar downtown, she takes the GO to Union — a 10-minute trip instead of a 40-minute one. I think more people would do that if the option was there, and if the frequency of trains was higher, and most importantly if it occurred to them. 😉


  8. “DEMU on Stouffville line” – “… there is no point in having separate trainsets just for off-peak service while regular equipment sits in the yard.”

    Well, but that should cut the operating expenses. If all what is needed off peak is a set of 2 or 3 single-decked cars, that should be cheaper to run than a set of 10 double-deckers.

    And, the use of DEMUs off-peak would reduce the required number of large trainsets. Currently, there are 5 southbound trains in the morning and 5 northbound in the evening, hence GO can manage the line with 3 or 4 trainsets. But for a frequent all-day service, much more trainsets would be required. Presumably, purchasing 8 DEMU 3-car trains is cheaper than buying 5 full-size regular trains.


  9. GO has actually experimented with reverse-commute operations on Stouffville Line, although it was a rather pathetic attempt, but they had to make-do with a single-track corridor north of Scarborough GO, so their hands were a little tied at the time. Currently, the problem with running any frequent service on any of the “northbound” GO corridors is that they are mostly single-tracked (I find that people often forget this important piece of information). GO has double-tracking projects currently in the pipeline and I believe some are even under construction currently (it’s not directly under GO’s control though). Until these double tracking projects are complete, GO cannot run frequent bi-directional service to the north.

    As for the SRT, the revamp and extension project is a complete farce force-fed to us – Bombardier should realize that the Toronto example hurts this technology’s marketability as a failed experiment (as it can’t meet demand, it is obviously failing as a product), not a successful application to showcase as an advertisement. The sad part is that had the GO-ALRT been built instead, along its “northern” route that linked MCC to STC via YYZ and Finch, it would have been a more successful application of that technology (after all, it was proposed to go from somewhere to somewhere, via somewhere, unlike certain subways to nowhere), and would not necessarily destined to orphan status (since GO is a standard gauge network).


  10. Hi Steve:-

    I think it makes a lot of sense to use different equipment on GO for off peak services if operating economies can be achieved. Using 2 or 3 heavy bi-levels and 4000 hp locos is overkill and surely fuel sapping for less demand. If there is a product on the market (Colorado Railcar perhaps?)which will run using less hydro-carbons to carry the smaller loads I believe that even though the other equipment will sit in the yard, the cost savings will trump that seemingly redundant idea. Too, it will give the opportunity to roll up fewer miles on that heavy equipment thereby giving more overall months/years of expected use, as miles travelled is more of a key to equipment retirement and maintenance cycle time than is age. Plus, if it’s in the yard, maintenance schedules and minor unforseen repairs are more readily handled since it’s right there.

    And Steve, my point about the TTC’s experts and their bristled objection to ICTS was ICTS, not the route or form of it. It appears though that the TTC may have shot itself in the foot here by insisting on that el structure as ICTS cannot be permitted to be in any kind of mixed traffic, even pedestrian, thus playing into the UTDC’s hand by making one less objective arguement against ICTS on this alignment.

    You and I have the option to disagree and we have before for as you know I’m a fan of els. They can have their place. Although the reason why this one was installed, agreeing that your observations of the proceedings leading up to the choices is accurate, is typical of the mindset of the times (still very slow to change as this web-site points out). They just wanted their cake so that they could eat it too. One of my best friends (a professional transit/ urban planner and a heavy rail kinda guy, LRT only if necessary) is responsible for some of that policy and he and I have had many debates about why LRT should have relatively frequent stops (compared to heavy rail) and travel through areas where the people are, rather than bushland corridors. But for all that, the joke of the el’s necessity through the Town Centre is indeed the fenced off (pedestrians need not try) bus loop. Yuck!

    Mr. D


  11. “Instead of taking the subway or streetcar downtown, she takes the GO to Union — a 10-minute trip instead of a 40-minute one. I think more people would do that if the option was there, and if the frequency of trains was higher, and most importantly if it occurred to them”

    I would generally agree, however keep in mind that Kingston road is nowhere near York Region, the area that I was talking about. If, let’s presume, a subway extension is built from Finch to Highway 7 then we would have more people (myself included) using a local bus to get to the subway and then take that train the rest of the way down.

    I have the option right now to take the GO from a few different stations (I happen to live in the inconvenient spot between 3 fairly distant stations on 2 different lines), but I still either drive to, get dropped off at, or bus to Finch station to take the subway. This is for a number of reasons.

    1. Cost. No matter how frequent you make that service, there are still going to be people who take the cheapest way, which will likely be the TTC for a long time coming. GO is quite a hefty investement that one must consider.

    2. When I buy a Metropass, I can go anywhere and do anything in Toronto. When I buy a GO monthly pass, I can go to work…. That’s about it. I would have no intention on using GO to go downtown because just because I’m going downtown doesn’t mean I want to be at Union.

    3. I have faith that one day some heavenly representatives from York Region and the TTC will come together and finally announce a transit solution for commuters from Yonge North to Toronto. The provincial funding is there, but they seem to be ignoring it for the time being. One day…

    Steve: I should point out that one reason GO is so expensive is that it recovers such a huge proportion of its operating costs from the farebox. It’s a great deal for Queen’s Park — they get all the good will (such as that is) for running GO, but the riders bear most of the cost. Meanwhile the bus routes feeding GO are cross-subsidized out of GO revenues (it’s cheaper than building parking lots), and cost recovery in the 905 systems is nowhere near TTC or GO levels.

    If GO fares were set at a lower recovery rate more in line with goals for the region as a whole, the fare differential wouldn’t be as bad, and we might even hear talk of [gasp] integration of fares between GO and the regional systems including TTC.


  12. Steve:

    Interesting, I didn’t know that most of GO’s operating costs are recovered from fares, since I figured the province would be putting more money into it since it is owned by them.

    But at least the YRT does something close enough to fare integration. See here:

    As long as you have proof that you are going to be riding GO, you can hop on a YRT bus to get to that station for 50 cents. Much better than $3.00.

    The 905 definitely is not a transit loving place. They (we?) love cars, and to so much as tell someone here to use transit, bike or even (dare I say) walk will get you weird looks and sounds of gagging. I think this is heavily due to the fact that there just isn’t that effort being put in for residents in the 905 to use effective and efficient transit. Our buses come on 30 minute frequences at best. The only areas that have efficient transit are the areas served by the Viva (businesses and touristic attractions. Not residents).

    Steve: You get that cheap fare on YRT because GO pays them a subsidy which comes from, wait for it, GO’s overall revenue. I will post the info on individual system subsidies in a future update.


  13. Karl: What you are referring to is basically right concerning the technology that would have been used for GO ALRT. For one *big* thing the power would have been drawn from an overhead catenary and instead of a linear induction motor propelling the cars it would have been regular electric traction motors.

    As I could see with a scale model of the Ajax station for the project (which was being stored at GO’s east end office at north east scarborough when I last saw it in mid 1999), the stations would have used platform edge doors. I even found a document full of illustrations showing the various types of options available concerning the station designs.

    As I have gathered from the general opinion of transit advocates in Toronto, the term “ALRT” has been described as being a technological failure. While I do agree that the linear induction motor ICTS ALRT trains were a failure, GO ALRT simply would have been much different. And to this day what little was built lives on today as the section of exclusive GO Train track between Pickering and Whitby.

    Jordan Kerim

    Steve: GO ALRT might have been a great thing, but it was stillborn. Meanwhile, the term “ALRT” was applied to ICTS to highjack the “LRT” nomenclature advocates were using for, well, LRT. If you call it something it isn’t, the name sticks, and ever since there has been great confusion about just what “LRT” really means.

    As for the proposed network, there remains the issue that it was very oriented to vacant rights-of-way that may have been great for medium to long haul regional travel, but dubious for neighbourhood services. ICTS was supposed to do that, of course.


  14. On the Stouffville – since GO owns the alignment unlike all the others, it would be just the place to push forward its own agenda. It would of course be easier to double track the alignment if the SRT wasn’t running alongside on one of the widest stretches of it.

    While the running cost of F59+10 would be significant, so would the capital cost of DMUs, spares, maintenance and training. The business case is not entirely clear cut.


  15. GO achieves over a 96% cost-recovery ratio, much higher than the TTC’s 76%, and if I remember correctly, the highest such ratio in North America. The only place in the world that I remember seeing a higher ratio is in Japan, where they put the term ‘cattle cars’ to a new level.

    GO does have a number of improvements up its sleeve for the northern (York Region) lines. Instead of paying to double-track the entire legnth (which may cause complications at stations, which would likely require a second platform) they are instead installing ‘passing tracks’ along the lines. This will end up limiting the headways of trains to between passing tracks if headways ever need to be shortened. Although this is a good first step, it isn’t possible to extend headways once those tracks are built, so if demand is underestimated, GO won’t be able to cope.

    Steve: GO manages such a high cost recovery in two ways. First, they have always priced high, and their service is perceived to be worth it because the competition is a long drive plus the need to find parking downtown. TTC on the other hand allowed its recovery to fall to about 66% during the period of rapid suburban growth as a matter of city policy — the suburbs were paying for subsidies and they wanted service at the same cost as their friends downtown. TTC was forced back to higher recovery ratios through years of underfunding. The point here is that what someone considers an “excessive” fare has a lot to do with what they used to pay for the same service.

    It is also worth noting that in 2007 GO carried about 3.6-million “fare integrated” rides and paid the various local transit systems $5.8-million, or about $1.60 per rider. This is a great way of generating GO ridership, but that money came out of the general revenue pot and every GO rider helps to pay for it. Oddly, people who think they are getting a great deal at a 50-cent bus ride probably wouldn’t pay $2.10 for the same trip even if GO fares went down. As GO becomes part of Metrolinx, this sort of financial shenanigans won’t be viable any more because it will all be one agency, revenue stream, etc.

    GO does save money on parking lots with this scheme, but it depends on there being reasonably good local service. As GO becomes an all-day, two-way operation, so must the local feeder services improve to support that kind of ridership.


  16. Actually, while some people don’t know of anything except the bi-level cars, back in the day when GO was using single-level cars, some of those cars with cabs at the end (or even both ends on a couple of them) were self-propelled (with 330hp). The bi-level cab cars are not self-propelled to my knowledge. If there is any way to fit an engine in there (the same strength would probably suffice), to allow a 2- or 3-car trainset would probably be good for GO, as the rolling stock would still be the same cars they use now, so no additional rolling stock, just an extra engine in the cab models. Rush hour services could just uncouple in the Bathurst Yard near Union Station and make runs with the shorter trains. One key thing to address though, is that it needs a cab car at both ends for that to work. This would likely mean an expansion in the cab models within the fleet are needed, as a trainset would need to be assembled with two cabs at (or towards) the same end per trainset, facing opposite directions (all cabs currently face west at Union).


  17. I think GO is stuck with the trainset they chose. I don’t understand why they chose to operate such massive trains on such long headways rather than providing far more convenient service with smaller trains on shorter headways. Does anybody know why GO went with these 10 car bi-level trainsets?

    As for SRT, what is the difference between ICTS and the technology of the proposed Transit City? With ICTS being so unsuitable for our climate, why or how would LRT technology be better suited?

    Steve: A major problem for GO is the amount of “track time” available for its trains. If they run shorter, but more frequent trains, they will run into constraints of capacity for both GO service and other traffic on the lines. The situation varies from line to line, and as GO adds more tracks, some of the limitations on frequent service disappear. However, GO has historically has this problem on all of its routes, and so long trains are preferred.

    This problem is also acute at Union Station and the surrounding approach tracks. Work now in progress will increase the capacity of Union to handle more trains, but ridership growth projections suggest that this will mean more frequent long trains.

    As for the SRT, ICTS and LRT, I will try to do this briefly:

    The SRT is an automated system requiring a completely segregated right-of-way. This means that it must be either underground, on an elevated, or at grade on space where no level crossings are required. In this sense it is much closer to a subway in physical requirements than to “LRT”. In the case of an elevated system, if this is in the middle of a street, stations can be a major intrusion into neighbourhoods as they require platforms, stairways, elevators, etc., not just the “light, airy” guideways so often used in promotional literature for such schemes. Notably in Vancouver there is very little elevated structure in the middle of streets.
    LRT is a relative of the streetcar, and does not require complete right-of-way separation. Where this is advantageous is that part or all of some lines may not have service at a level requiring complete segregation. On Eglinton, for example, the central part of the line must be underground due to limitations on surface road space. However, east of Leaside and west of York (comprising over half of the entire length of the route), the line could run on the surface saving a large amount in construction costs.
    Lines with elevated or underground structures tend to have stations further apart than lines running at grade in the middle of a street. The Official Plan encourages medium density growth of neighbourhoods along routes rather than high density point developments at major intersections. This is much more suited to LRT operation.
    A line with a completely segregated right-of-way (regardless of technology) will have a higher operating speed than one which shares space in the middle of the road. This is a tradeoff between serving neighbourhoods with fairly closely spaced stops and serving regional travel with widely spaced stops.
    Both LRT and ICTS are electrically propelled, but ICTS uses a linear induction motor rather than the rotary motors found on subways and streetcar/LRT vehicles. There is no inherent need for linear induction on an “ICTS” line, and indeed the new Canada line in Vancouver to the airport uses cars with rotary motors. This technology is left over from the early days of “GO Urban” and magnetic levitation which required a contactless propulsion system.
    The power pickup for the SRT uses two side-contact power rails compared with subways (a single top contact power rail) and streetcar/LRT (overhead wire with trolley pole or pantograph). The combination of the power rail design and the tight clearance between the linear induction motor on the car and the reaction rail (in between the running rails) makes ICTS technology very susceptible to snow. A related problem with the electronics on these cars is that they are quite sensitive to power spikes caused by icing on the power rails. Subways can have similar problems with snow on the third rail, although it takes more to stop service. LRT can be blocked by icing of the overhead wire. All three modes can be blocked by snow accumulations on the right-of-way.

    There is more, but that’s enough for one comment.


  18. For all the differences cited here between GO-ALRT and the ICTS-ALRT of the SRT, I have a brochure somewhere (I’m going to have to dig for it during spring cleaning so that I can scan it and post it somewhere) that shows a rendering of a train that remarkably looks like the SRT with a GO logo on it.

    Steve: You can see this on the Transit Toronto site.


  19. Karl Junkin wrote, “back in the day when GO was using single-level cars, some of those cars with cabs at the end (or even both ends on a couple of them) were self-propelled (with 330hp).”

    Nine of the original 17 cab cars, to be exact. Though, two of the nine self-propelled cab coaches had cabs at both end, while the other seven had a cab at one end like the non-powered versions.

    GO’s almost-original (see below) plans had two trains of self-propelled cars. The original order was for 32 non-powered coaches, 8 non-powered cab coaches, 9 self-propelled cars, and 8 locomotives. The design of the non-powered coaches were to be similar to the self-propelled coaches so that it would be possible to later power them and retire locomotives. History reveresed that and had the self-propelled coaches later lose their engines and become non-powered coaches.

    There were a lot of problems with the DMUs. First, they were delivered late. Instead of being ready for September 5 (1967), the first two cars only arrived on September 7 (so GO had to lease old steel coaches from ONR along with a locomotive for each end, and string control wires so that both locomotives could be operated from either end).

    On the first day of operation (Nov 21), one of the DMU trains was supposed to stay out all day, but was pulled after the morning rush because the crew had to keep restarting their engines when they kept shutting down for no apparent reason.

    For a good description of the planning and early days of GO’s operations, see for Wilfred Sergeant’s history. Chapter 4 describes what caused GO to select self-propelled cars, which were not part of their original tender for equipment.


  20. Steve: I agree completely with you that trying to manipulate words to make ALRT seem superior to LRT was simply a way of making money off the technology that the province had wasted so much money on. Now that I live in Scarborough and live next to a lakeshore GO station, I can see firsthand just how busy some of the passenger rail corridors can get. I honestly could care less if the platforms for the GO ALRT stations were simply lined with ashphalt serviced with regular GO bi-levels be they EMUs or locomotive hauled.
    Calvin: Yes, I know that the original design for the GO ALRT trains looked very similar to ICTS trains. But look closely and you can see an overhead pantograph, a three car married pair unit with articulated walkways and only one set of doors on each side of each car. I can understand though why people could get confused due to some of the similar design features; especially since the original GO ALRT car design from 1982 had the individual cars be basically the same dimensions as an ICTS car.

    ~ Jordan


  21. The ICTS MkII will have much better winter performance than what we have right now. Very soon, the ICTS systems in Seoul and Beijing will be operating. Beijing in particular has more snow than Toronto. If ICTS can run there, the upgraded Scarborough line should be much more reliable.

    Linear induction motors produce much higher rates of acceleration than rotary motors. The Shinkasen is a fast train, but it takes the rotary motors over 2 km at full power just to reach 150 km/h. This would render the speed advantage useless in an urban envrionment. ICTS can accelerate to 100 km in less than 700m. In an urban envrionment, fast acceleration means more service and time saving. There are no rotary powered metro systems in the world that can achieve 60 seconds headway (even with ATO). ICTS can deliver 60 seconds headway if the line is design for it.

    From an engineering prespective, the Scarborough ICTS line is well designed. The stations are evenly spaced out and the average operating speed is much higher than let say the Spadina tram line. This is important since transit should be competitive with the car. If the ICTS is Scarborough’s main line, it should be fast. In the future, maybe the TTC can build some tram lines that radiates from the stations to serve local riders.

    If Toronto is located in a foreign country, Export Development Canada would literally shower cash over us just to upgrade the line. EDC gave Air Wisconsin “incentives” just to purchase CRJ jets from Bombardier. Why can’t the TTC get some low rate financing, bridge loans and cash incentives like foreign customers? The TTC needs to engineer some deals like this to save some money.


  22. ICTS can’t reach 100km/h in an urban environment either, just like the subway – stations in the core are around 700m apart, some less than that, so the speed advantage argument is relatively void in the grand scheme of things. Acceleration power is important, but capacity is more important, and it is capacity that is the main problem with the SRT’s ICTS application.

    It is not smart to have tram feeders to the SRT either because it cannot handle the capacity, rather, tram lines are needed to steer riders away from the SRT as a superior alternative to the SRT, which is simply not capable of meeting demand (this is already practiced today with bus routes).

    The extension is a joke, because one of the LRT lines is also going to be built to the same area as the extension. And if a Finch East LRT to Malvern appears, which should happen after Transit City’s first batch of 7, it would be more popular than the Malvern extension of the SRT as well, luckily. SRT is not capable of being a main [trunk] line as Scarborough’s proverbial “backbone” because the LRT lines have a capacity superior to the ICTS application.

    What’s the point of building an expensive extension of an inferior technology when at the same time a cheaper superior technology is being built to the same place to outperform it from opening day? It is a complete scam, and the TTC deserves any loss of trust from people that results for going along with the salvaging of this useless (to Toronto) technology.

    Steve: For the likely demand in any Malvern or SRT extension corridor, I would not argue that either LRT or ICTS are inappropriate technologies simply from a capacity point of view. Far more to the point, ICTS will almost certainly have to be elevated or underground adding significantly to the cost, and this problem will compound the further north the line goes. At that point, we reach the usual debate about the regional nature of the transit system: should we be building lines that will compete with GO Transit, is the relative speed of a segregated right-of-way for ICTS worth the cost and what are the design tradeoffs of at-grade operation. This discussion is pre-empted when ICTS is arbitrarily chosen as the technology.


  23. Hi Steve and Benny:-

    Beijing and Seoul actually are voluntarily saddling themselves with this wasteful technology? Wow, will wonders never cease. Why not if we’re paying for it, saps that we are. I guess they truly want to decend back into 3rd world status, ’cause that’s what their going to get with this junk.

    Mark IIs will run better in the snow? Since none of the other aspects of the technology are changing other than the cars, that likelyhood is pretty slim. Bigger cars demanding a greater power draw should render them dead when the snow drifts against the power rails and they can’t get an electrical supply.

    As to the acceleration rates of ICTS, I suggest Benny that you review the history of the lowly, outdated, extremely successful, widely adopted PCC car. While under development, acceleration rates were a major focus of their design, as passengers were given extremely uncomfortable rides when, as the rates were initially tested and adjusted gave some very fast feet tripping performances.

    Just because ICTS can have a higher acceleration rate doesn’t mean that it should. The PCC and the Philadelphia and Western ‘Bullet’ cars being cases in point of rotary motored cars that could accelerate beyond a passenger’s comfort and safety level! Present day technologies for rotary motored cars balance the needs and profiles of the line, weight of the cars and the needs of the Janes and Joes onboard, thus making it appear like ICTS retoric is gospel for modern transit design. It ain’t! What has gone on and been constantly under scrutiny and redevelopemnet for the last 100 plus years in the ordinary and mundane of the transit industry makes it appear that throwing something like ICTS into the mix is indeed an improvement. ICTS still ain’t!

    Mr. D


  24. Just a correction from someone with SRT driving experience…

    The flashing marker lights are not the tell-tale sign of manual operation. When they are flashing, it means a certain piece of equipment used for yard safety is isolated (this does not affect mainline safety) or that the train is in emergency mode (which you would recognize if the trains are traveling at far slower speeds than usual). The trains would have been in emergency mode if control was managing them by radio, as the operators would not have had signals to rely on.

    If the train is being driven in normal (not emergency) manual mode, you will not notice any difference from normal operation other than perhaps a slower than normal start and jerkier braking at the stations. The top speeds will be the same as in automatic mode. This is because the trains are being governed by signals and not by the radio… hence the improvement in service speeds that you witnessed (it would be blatantly irresponsible to allow any number of trains on a line to run at normal speeds without signals, regardless of how easy it is for the operator to see the train ahead).

    Finally, the trains continue to run in manual, and not automatic mode… and they will continue to do so until around July or so according to the Danforth Health and Safety representatives. Those trains were not designed to be driven manually, and the way the controller is set up is a recipe for repetitive strain injuries, which is why the TTC wants automatic train operation back sooner rather than later. So while yes, there was no need to make the SRT an ATO line in the first place, running in ATO is now necessary in order to avoid operators’ wrists being injured.

    Steve: Thanks very much for this clarification.


  25. Looks like Mr. D has beaten me to it. Since all a linear induction motor is a standard three phase AC motor laid out flat, how does it have a higher acceleration rate? Seriously, acceleration rate’s a design parameter of the propulsion system of the train and it can be accomplished with whatever type of motor you like as long as you don’t underspecify the torque or power ratings.

    It also doesn’t matter what the size/current draw of the cars are either. As soon as there’s enough buildup of snow or ice on the two power rails to break contact, the train stops working just like it doesn’t matter whether your desk lamp has a 40 or 60 watt bulb in it – they both go out as soon as you pull the plug out of the wall.

    The Scarborough RT’s an ill-conceived basket case. It should be immediately obvious to anybody with common sense that building a train line where half the electric motor lies flat between the rails where snow can fall on it and come in contact with the other half of the motor mounted on the train cars in the Canadian climate is not a good idea.

    Steve: Leaving aside passenger comfort, acceleration rates for conventional equipment are limited by wheel/rail adhesion. Above a certain level (which varies with conditions such as moisture or grease on the track), the wheels will spin rather than moving the train. Since the LIM uses a magnetic rather than mechanical coupling with the guideway, in theory there is no limit on acceleration. However, passengers cannot stand safely at rates well below those possible with rotary motors.

    Another important concern is power consumption. Fast acceleration takes more power, and this affects the design of the entire traction power system for the cars as well as the power pickup. On the streetcar system, we are already familiar with the slower acceleration of the CLRVs and ALRVs compared to their predecessors, the PCCs. The PCC was designed for operation in stop-and-go traffic. The heavier CLRV and ALRV (design nightmares in their own right) have slower acceleration to limit their power draw.

    One design difference between ICTS and conventional subways is in the power rail(s). ICTS uses two side running power rails, and from what I have heard from TTC reports, it is harder to scrape ice off of these than from the top running power rail on the subway. Also, I believe the height to the first ICTS power rail is lower than on the subway, and so it takes smaller snowdrifts to reach the ICTS power rail. There may also be issues with the ICTS rail covers providing a backstop against which snow can accumulate.

    ICTS used dual power rails so that the supply voltage could be cut in half and delivered plus or minus to ground, with the full voltage only between the two rails. (This is similar to the scheme whereby home appliances get 220 volts through two feeds which are 110 plus or minus.) The advantage of this arrangement is that less insulation and car weight are required for the lower potential to ground, and car weight was critical when ICTS was first conceived due to low power efficiency in the early linear induction motors.

    That problem with weight also dictated the small size of the Mark I ICTS cars. As LIM technology improved, the larger, heavier Mark II cars became possible.


  26. Karl wrote:”The extension is a joke, because one of the LRT lines is also going to be built to the same area as the extension. And if a Finch East LRT to Malvern appears, which should happen after Transit City’s first batch of 7, it would be more popular than the Malvern extension of the SRT as well, luckily. SRT is not capable of being a main [trunk] line as Scarborough’s proverbial “backbone” because the LRT lines have a capacity superior to the ICTS application.

    Karl if both Transit City and the SRT were built to Malvern, you can bet the SRT would be more popular. Why? Because of speed.

    I don’t think anyone in Toronto except a few people have realized yet, that Transit City is a total farce, and that it is not rapid transit. Transit City is not even true LRT. It is just a well marketed streetcar line.

    People in Malvern will not sit on a Transit City LRT for an hour and half to get to the subway, when the SRT could get them to Kennedy in 15min.

    Concerning the SRT. I am a daily rider of the line, and if I am riding when the Nugget Express is operating, then I take that instead now. I just don’t understand how the SRT can not be operating normally when there is no more snow or weather problems.

    Steve: I agree that the Scarborough/Malvern line would lose out to the RT for a trip to Kennedy Station, but this misses the point. In a way, having “Malvern” in the name is misleading because this route is intended more as an Eglinton East / Morningside service and it certainly does not take a direct route to Kennedy Station. 90 minutes however is a huge exaggeration for the running time.

    I too am a daily rider of the SRT and lately it has been fairly well behaved, technically speaking. It’s overloaded, and the Nugget bus is intended as a relief valve. However, there are nowhere near enough Nugget buses to make a big dent in demand for the trains.


  27. On the subject of this new ATO system I tend to wonder how much more dependable it will be as compared to the old ATO system. Obviously the SRT has never been able to claim a very strong dependability record but perhaps the new ATO will help matters at least some. Knock on wood!


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