Why Transit City is an LRT Plan (Part 2B)

[This is a continuation from the previous post.  Note also that some missing text has been inserted in the section about operating speed.]

Grade Separation if Necessary

Some parts of Transit City clearly require underground construction — Eglinton from Weston to Leaside, Sheppard at DVP / Don Mills Station, Don Mills through East York, the south end of Jane — but these are exceptions rather than rule.  The advantage of LRT is that where space is available, surface operation is possible.  BRT cannot run underground unless electric vehicles are used, and even then the capacity limitations of buses would require either very large stations or an investment in tunnels far out of proportion to the traffic they could carry.

The presence of some key underground or grade-separated LRT sections gives interlining possibilities such as:

  • Service to the Airport via the Eglinton LRT linked with other routes such as Finch and Jane, a Mississauga LRT and even a “Blue 22” LRT via the Weston corridor to Union Station.  This type of interlining is impossible with any other mode at reasonable cost.
  • The Don Mills LRT is likely to be grade-separated south of Eglinton (although it reasonably would emerge onto a viaduct of some flavour to cross the Don Valley).  This provides the option of continuing into downtown as a “Relief Line” from the east.  Because service south of Eglinton would be completely grade-separated, it could be operated more frequently than the LRT surface operation on Don Mills Road to the north.  (There is an extensive discussion of the Downtown Relief Line on spacing’s website.)
  • A similar strategy of mixed subway-surface operation could be used to provide more intensive service on the central part of the Eglinton line while allowing for some services to emerge onto the surface where high capacity was not required.

Extensions into regions cannot possibly be afforded or justified with subway technology, but with LRT they can be part of the network.

The question of building to subway standards has also been debated here.  This type of argument assumes we can always use something bigger, but it avoids some basic issues:

  • LRT is a low platform technology while subways are high platform.  Stations must be convertible, and modern accessibility requirements make this more difficult than in the early days of “semi-metro” proposals.
  • Subways require provision for at least a 300-foot long station to handle four-car trains.  This has implications for station locations.
  • Subways run with wider cars than LRT.  It may be possible to build a single tunnel (the Madrid model) to hold a pair of LRT tracks, but not necessarily with the width for full Toronto subway cars.
  • A line intended to operate as a future subway will require a connection to the existing network for car servicing.  The expense and complexity of such a link can be seen at Sheppard and Yonge where a huge excavation was needed to provide for two curves linking the lines.  These curves were only possible because both the southeast and southwest corners were vacant for new construction. 

We must be careful not to burden an LRT tunnel with costs and design constraints for a conversion that may never occur.  Additional capacity, if such a day ever comes, may better be provided by a new parallel route rather than adding to what is already in place.

Speed but not speed at all costs

What is the ideal station spacing?  How fast can service be expected to run?  These questions come up when we frame the goals of a transit scheme in terms of getting people out of their cars.  However, more is involved in a transit trip than the actual speed of the vehicle — the walk to the transit stop, the physical conditions at the stop (weather protection, space for passengers to accumulate), service frequency and reliability (how long do I have to wait, and how likely is it to show up when advertised), and finally how crowded will the vehicle be when I get on.

Indeed, the actual in-vehicle time for transit users is well-known to be a lesser determinant of riding habit than any of the factors mentioned above.  If we concentrate too much on speed but forget the overall quality of the experience, then any new network will fail.

Stop spacing is dictated mainly by the street grid. Although pictures of streetcars flashing across intersections with railway-style crossing protection look impressive, the service levels on routes in cities with this configuration are much lower than proposed for Transit City. Indeed, in the debates over transit priority for Spadina, anti-priority arguments turn on the frequency of streetcar service that, if given priority, would block cross-traffic for much of the day.

In Toronto, stop spacing should not be greater than 1km. In theory, this means a maximum walk to transit of 500m, although local conditions don’t always favour walks to the “closest” stop. The street grid is such that there will be a signalled crossing for an LRT or BRT at least every 1km and in some areas, more often than that. Unless the transit line is given unquestioned priority at signals where there are no stops, then the idea that wider stop spacing will speed operation is dubious.

It’s also important to remember that most riders are not planning to travel from Scarborough to Etobicoke. Even on the fast BD subway, the lion’s share of riding goes from one side of the city or the other to the core, and commutes from Kennedy to Kipling are quite rare.

I am often amused by competing claims that the Transit City routes must be built as subways in order to provide enough capacity, and counterclaims that they must be built as BRT because LRT infrastructure is overkill for the likely demand.  And, of course BRT can do everything because it’s so cheap and, wait for it, fits on the surface.

Many claims made for BRT are for implementations vastly different from Transit City, but I will come to those in a future post. Buses on the surface, even with their own lanes, will not run any faster than LRT in same corridor, probably slower at high volumes due to number of vehicles and congestion at stations.

Getting people out of their cars

Is the intention to woo existing drivers, or to provide attractive service for new populations in redeveloping areas?  Getting drivers out of their cars is very hard because many trips tend not to lie easily on the transit network.  Serving long trips, something the expressway network has encouraged, requires a parallel high-speed regional system.  Just as the road network has local and express components, so transit needs local and regional services.

If we had built the road network like the transit system, we would have a small collection of expressways, some ending in the middle of nowhere, fed by a rudimentary collection of local streets, some of which might even be paved.  We would hear sad stories of potholes and the limitations of horse-drawn carriages.

Transit needs the local component to be successful.  New population growth should occur in areas where transit is a real option, and people will choose to live where such options are available.  They won’t take transit for every trip, but for enough trips to make a big difference in the transit/car modal split.

Changing travel habits, looked at on the large, regional scale, will be long and slow, but transit must be in place first to support new development.  Once a new neighbourhood travels by car through lack of alternative, the travel pattern is set for decades.  A critical issue for Toronto is on the waterfront where there is a real danger that we will build “downtown suburbs” by skimping on good transit service.  If we wait for people and demand to appear before building, we will guarantee an established population of car-drivers for whom transit, as usual, fails to offer a real option.

The Yonge and Bloor subways were not built to get people out of cars, but to carry huge and growing demand in existing streetcar corridors.  Both lines depended on bus feeder services, not on walk-in trade or parking.

GO Rail demonstrably did not eliminate congestion on QEW/Gardiner, but prevented the need for much more road capacity.  GO enabled growth in core employment while population growth came in suburban dwellings.  Downtown is more attractive now due to changes in lifestyle and constraints on growth of commuter rail service.  Indeed, reverse commuting is now a big road and transit problem requiring attention by all levels of transit agency.

Transit should provide for growth in demand to and between many neighbourhoods of which the core is only one, important yes, but only one.

What’s Next

In the next post, I will go into mode-by-mode comparisons of capabilities and impacts.

23 thoughts on “Why Transit City is an LRT Plan (Part 2B)

  1. … article. (oops, either my last word got cut off, or the entire post was lost!).

    Steve: All I got was this sentence. Please try again.


  2. Wow, quite a post! Lets see here.

    Coverage VS Connectivity -> I pick Connectivity. Waiting 10 minutes to get on a bus is one thing. Waiting 10 between two buses really puts people off.

    “The whole idea of the commuter rail network was to avoid the need to build more highways”
    I don’t know if the ‘idea’ was such. Transportation is not an either-or, its a with-and. The Gardiner/QEW and the Lakeshore West work together, and do it well.

    Steve: The stated reason for building the GO Lake Shore service was to avoid highway construction, and GO still reminds anyone who will listen of that benefit. The point is that nobody ever pretended that somehow the Gardiner would be empty of traffic at 5 pm once the trains started running. Metrolinx has a big problem because they see part of their job as reducing traffic congestion, something that is simply not possible given the latent demand.

    “Transit City does not attempt to reduce current traffic congestion, but to avoid even worse to come as the city’s population and travel demands grow.”
    This is the most realistic approach that one can take. Getting someone out of their car is much harder then nabbing someone before they even get a car and get them hooked on transit. It’s taking the strategy of the cigarette producers and using it to get people hooked not on tobacco, but on transit.

    I fully agree with your assessment that transit and city planning need to go hand in hand. Even highways don’t match up with some high-density apartments, which is just silly when you consider the impact on traffic and transit crowding.

    On road space. This one might get me in trouble with those more pro-car then I am, but I am very flexible on this. In most cases I don’t think that we should be eliminating parking, therefore you need at least 6 lanes, 3 in each direction. One for transit, one for cars, and one for parking. I am, however, willing to accept a plan that would go below this in certain circumstances. Take for example, Jane Street between St. John Road and Eglinton. While the road here is 4 lanes at points, the road is residential, and not commercial. I would be willing to support a right of way though this area. On the flip side, south of St. John Road, there is a need for parking and therefore not much space to fit a RoW, and at this point, there will likely need to be a tunnel to Jane Station.

    You said: “The Don Mills LRT is likely to be grade-separated south of Eglinton (although it reasonably would emerge onto a viaduct of some flavour to cross the Don Valley). This provides the option of continuing into downtown as a “Relief Line” from the east. Because service south of Eglinton would be completely grade-separated, it could be operated more frequently than the LRT surface operation on Don Mills Road to the north.”
    I support this fully and have myself been pushing for it for a little while. IMHO you can run the line down a RoW though Don Mills and Overlea. I’d then also support mixed-traffic cars though Throncliffe and Flemingdon Parks. After Overlea and Millwood you can run the line Grade Separated down to Bloor, and if you do it right, down King and Bay, and Union Station. There’s your “Downtown Relief” line right there. Interline this with Eglinton (as the demand is greater west of Don Mills then it is east of it) and you end up with a nice and truly Rapid transit connection that services a large portion of the city.

    As for building to subway standards, that is bunk. We should NOT be building a subway, we are building a LRT line.

    You said “Additional capacity, if such a day ever comes, may better be provided by a new parallel route rather than adding to what is already in place.”
    I agree fully. York Mills and Lawrence will (one day) become excellent candidates for their own LRT rights of way, perhaps in 10 or 20 years. Add that and another 30 or so years, and then you might need a full fledged subway, but by then who knows where it will go. At one time, Queen was where it was at, then it was Bloor. Now Eglinton is the focus of the city. By 2050, perhaps people will view York Mills as the middle of the city, who can say. The point is that we should leave those decisions for the future.

    You said “What is the ideal station spacing?”
    Average of 400m or more, even on grade separation, and bit less without it. St.Clair and Spadina’s 150m does not work.

    “commutes from Kennedy to Kipling are quite rare.”
    Unless you account for the time I spend Transitfanning! LOL, a little joke.

    On BRT, I think part of the problem is “what is BRT”? Is it fancy buses like VIVA? Is it a transitway like OC Transpo? There’s no reason the TTC can’t take any bus, throw a different coat of paint on it, and call it BRT right now.

    Steve: Except that the TTC’s version of “BRT” would be about as close to some high-end BRT systems as the Spadina streetcar is to the C-train in Calgary. Toronto has a bad habit of calling things by names they’re not — just look at the “ALRT” in Scarborough. The name was chosen specifically to swindle people into thinking it was somehow related to true LRT.

    “Just as the road network has local and express components, so transit needs local and regional services.” Ditto that. We need more GO service! GO has a farebox recovery of around 90%, higher then the TTC, and higher then any public transit in North America. It’s about time that Dalton and pals pay the Ontario governments fair share to transit. Imagine what kind of service we could have if that ratio was 50%

    Overall, I have to say that after reading your entire post, I agree with you 100%. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d say that!!

    Steve: Miracles happen from time to time.


  3. Great Analysis.

    You pointed out that with the median, many turning movements will be restricted and I think it would actually improve road traffic as well.

    If no new traffic lights are added, road traffic would flow faster and transit would flow faster as well. It’s basically a win-win isn’t it?

    While you point out that none of these lines are long haul, what Toronto is dying for is fast “expressways” which in transit terms is some kind of hydro-corridor express train of some sort. But I don’t think sufficient demand is there yet….

    So after transit city is built, the next priority has to be making “transit expressways” so that getting across town is as easy as the 401 during non-rush hour (which is mighty fast … maximum 30 minutes).


  4. My lost post was along the lines of …

    Why would Don Mills south of Eglinton be buried? Don Mills Road from Eglinton to Overlea, and all of Overlea has a 33 metre width, compared to 30 metres on St. Clair, and 30 metres on Don Mills Road from Wynfield most of the way to York Mills. I’d think you’d only tunnel south of the Don River.

    And I’d be concerned of using LRT technology on a Downtown Relief Line south of Danforth. What would the passenger loading on that route from Pape to downtown? What would it be in 20 years? I’d be concerned that you’ll exceed the capacity of LRT to handle the load. Depending on these loadings, perhaps best to have passengers change at Pape to a subway into downtown.

    But, I was pointing out, I was nitpicking. It’s a great article.


  5. hmm.. I just thought about something this morning. We have something resembling a downtown relief line already. If you think about it the 505 and 504 streetcars terminate at Broadview and go downtown only to resurface at Dundas and Bloor thus relieving the Yonge line.

    Steve: Yes, they do after a fashion. However, the travel time deltas, not to mention questions of service reliability (especially in the PM peak), work against people taking the 504 as an alternate route to downtown from Broadview Station.


  6. “A network of local routes that become express services (the Ottawa model) for a line-haul journey to a common destination”.

    Actually, we’re trying to get away from this model by building an LRT service (if City Council will ever get over bickering about it) that would elminate the need for long-haul express service to the downtown core. This would effectively turn the Transitway into a proper hub-and-spokes system and also drastically reduce the amount of buses in the core. The achilles heel of the current BRT in Ottawa is on-street operation through the downtown core. You need to buy a huge jar of vaseline if you want to squeeze any more buses in during peak periods.


  7. If anyone desperately wants me to I can check out the numbers this week, but the study from the 80s put the ridership of the DRL well in the capacity of light rail. ALRT was chosen so elevated routes were more acceptable, and a subway was the final decision for the same reason stated on Eglinton: we need to tunnel anyway, tunnelling costs are the same for all technology and the trains are cheaper to run. In the DRL case, it’s true that a subway would probably cost about the same to build and then slightly less to operate, but a break at Pape serves no purpose whatsoever, and eliminates any ability to through route streetcars, or use existing yard space.


  8. I was also happy to see that reference to capacity improvements coming by adding new parallel routes. Improve the network, not the specific route, in other words. This is an obvious strength of LRT, and it gives us the ability to build a more robust network in which problems on one route do not bring the network to its knees. This isn’t mentioned much out there, sadly.

    Having said that, I share Nicholas’s concerns about downtown DRL loading down the road. The costs of going underground downtown are high, so if we’re going to do it, there may be a case for building to higher capacity so that we don’t need to go underground again for more capacity in 20 or 30 years. It’s different than, say, talking about York Mills supplementing Sheppard East.


  9. I was surprised to see the suggestion that the Don Mills line south of Eglinton might best be implemented underground – I pictured it in a median until just south of Overlea where it would move to a side or separate ROW, then over a viaduct and into the south side of the valley where it would be underground to Pape.

    Thinking about it further, an underground section all the way up to Eglinton will increase capacity by allowing closer spacing without other traffic interference, and this in turn provides an attractive alternative to the Yonge subway. Longer stations for the underground portion, and LRT trains of up to 4 or 5 cars going as far north as Eglinton could operate interlaced with shorter (2 or 3 car?) trains that continue further north.

    On the points about limiting left turns for other traffic, perhaps some other provisions should be given consideration, such as the “Michigan Left” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Left) among other possibilities where possible (the Michigan Left requires median space on the cross street to permit a right turn followed by a U-turn as an alternative to a left turn).

    Steve: The route south of Eglinton has various options depending on whether it goes through the middle of Thorncliffe Park and how much capacity is wanted on the line. I know that the TTC is looking to see if there is capacity to route this over the Leaside Bridge, but much extra structural capacity was taken years ago to allow widening from the original four lanes. (The extra strength was there from the bridge’s construction to support a Leaside streetcar.)

    Going across this bridge doesn’t make sense when you hit the Donlands/Pape junction at the south end because the line must immediately go underground and fitting in the portal plus traffic operations at that intersection will be tricky. I suspect that a better route could be found by turning south before coming out at Overlea and Millwood, crossing the valley on a lower level bridge and going into the south valley wall at the appropriate elevation for the tunnel down Pape (or Donlands as an alternative).


  10. Steve, great analysis.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) Fully agree that there is no need to incur additional expenses and make the Eglinton LRT tunnel convertible to HRT. If that line ever reaches capacity, another LRT can fit on Lawrence nicely.

    Not so sure about Downtown Relief Line, as there may be no good corridor for yet another line downtown.

    2) On LRT stop spacing: “no more than 1 km” as you wrote above, is actually a long distance from “400 – 500 m” mentioned by Admiral Adam. Take the Sheppard E line (13.6 km) for example. At 800 m average spacing, that means 17 stops from Makrham Rd to Don Mills. That’s quite reasonable, and is pretty similar to the trip from STC to Yonge / Bloor on RT / subway.

    At 450 m average spacing, there would be 30 stops between Makrham Rd and Don Mills Stn. A journey not for the faint of heart, especially if one has to transfer at Don Mills and travel further.


  11. Given how long the Leaside bridge has had lane reductions over the last three years for refurb, and how quiet it has been every time I’ve driven it lately, maybe it’s possible to say we can live with fewer car lanes. The triangle junction and portal location at the far end is for me a bigger problem.


  12. Steve wrote: “If we wait for people and demand to appear before building, we will guarantee an established population of car-drivers for whom transit, as usual, fails to offer a real option.”

    Too true… once someone has sunk substantial financial resources into a personal vehicle purchase, it becomes difficult to justify letting the car sit in the driveway (or condo parking garage) while you take transit to work. Insurance, too, feels like money thrown away if you ‘mothball’ your car. Unfortunately we’ve missed the window of opportunity with many existing neighbourhood re-developments.

    I wonder if it would be possible to design an auto insurance policy that counters the psychological barrier of car ownership’s sunk costs by rewarding non-driving through reduced premiums. This could be done either through partial transit pass rebates (e.g. buy a GO pass or Metropass and premiums are reduced by some % of the pass value) or some technological solution that monitors the odometer (a set monthly base rate plus cents-per-km, or perhaps a max monthly rate that’s reduced in steps based on kms).

    If the math is right, one imagines insurers could pull increased profits even while reducing premiums because drivers would spend less time on the road at risk of insurance claim incidents (i.e. collisions). On the other hand, would infrequent driving lead to more claims through loss of driving skill?

    Discounting premiums far enough to really alter behaviour might not be profitable, however, so this scheme would have to wait (and wait and wait!) for public auto insurance. Maybe this could be packaged as a ‘green’ reason for public auto insurance to get that idea back on the agenda. Would this kind of thing fall under Metrolinx’s purview, at least insofar as it’s meant to get people out of their cars and onto transit?


  13. In response to Greg’s comment, I once posed that question to my insurance company. They advised me that they would not reduce the rates because your car still needs to be insured (even if it’s just sitting in your driveway or condo garage) against things such as theft or vandalism/damage. I don’t ever see them changing their position.

    It will be almost impossible to get people out of their cars. Even if gasoline prices climb to $1.50/litre this summer as projected, I doubt it will make any discernable difference at all. The key, in my opinion, is to find a way to hold on to existing riders, the biggest and most captive of them being students. Ask any student (especially if they live and go to school in places like Scarborough) and they’ll tell you the TTC sucks and they can’t wait to get a car. Ask a student who lives and studies downtown and you will, at the very least, get a more tempered response if not a favourable one (especially if they live close to a subway line). Our goal should be to improve transit outside of the core to the point where it’s not viewed as such a lesser form of transportation, so that we have a chance of keeping some of these existing riders in the coming decades.

    As for the 30-60 year olds, there is no hope of achieving any real change in behaviour. Anytime I try to discuss the virtues of public transit with my dad or my father-in-law, it’s like trying to get through a brick wall. That’s how thick their opposition to public transit is, and it’s a view held by many people who have long-since abandoned the TTC for their private automobiles.


  14. Greg: what you describe is sort of available through car-sharing networks like AutoShare (they handle the insurance, so if you drive very little you pay very little).

    Steve: this is a very useful summary. My only concern is the question of local vs. long-distance trips. I see the benefits of better service for shorter trips; it would be nice if living in the outer 416 didn’t mean hopping in the car for everything from shopping to visiting friends. But the burbs are big places — almost by definition the average trips are longer. Longer trips put greater strain on the road system. And it seems, anecdotally, that cross-suburb travel is growing in importance. Jobs may be less concentrated in the core, but that doesn’t mean it’s practical or affordable for everyone to live in the same area in which they work. (I’d find the origin/destination commute data for places like Scarborough very interesting.)

    The approach almost seems to be to plan a local network and a long-distance network separately — an improvement over planning one route at a time, but still too disconnected for best results. Speedy crosstown GO lines will be wasted if the stations are as car-oriented as their existing network. It seems essential to me to have one of the goals of Transit City be to feed long-distance services — including parallel services. Maybe that means the LRT on Finch makes a couple of detours down to the Hydro corridor to connect to GO stations there. And on Eglinton, it might mean investigating the regional potential of the corridor — it’s arguably the east/west version of Yonge Street — beyond having Mississauga and Toronto local services meeting at the border. You’ve made a compelling case for local service, but the suburbs also need long-distance transit that’s better integrated than something running down a highway median. That may not be possible if it isn’t taken into account when planning Transit City.

    Steve: I agree that both are needed, but worry that the local side always gets the short straw when it comes to resources.

    It’s intriguing that in all the talk about “downtown relief” over on the long thread on spacing, nobody has mentioned the CPR line through Agincourt that could take thousands of people downtown without placing any load on any subway line, and probably offloading some existing demand. We’re still thinking of GO and TTC as if they were two completely independent operations rather than looking at how the regional and local services can work together to handle a variety of trips.


  15. I would LOVE to see trams running in the Weston Corridor. It would serve a large population, and provide an transit alternative to the King, and Queen cars, if the Queen Triangle Development goes ahead.


  16. Steve wrote: “It’s intriguing that in all the talk about ‘downtown relief’ over on the long thread on spacing, nobody has mentioned the CPR line through Agincourt that could take thousands of people downtown…”

    Very true… but most of the DRL comments over at Spacing are actually focused on boosting short-distance service (e.g. to Liberty Village, the Distillery District, and waterfront neighbourhoods) or relieving pressure on the King/Queen streetcars. Few seem to be asking what form a DRL would have to take to be a good route for people who’d otherwise transfer at Yonge to a southbound train.

    It’s interesting how plans geared to long-distance trips (e.g. DRL) get people talking about local transit needs, while plans geared to local trips (parts of Transit City) get people talking about long-distance commutes. Perhaps closer integration at the planning stage would have one more benefit: there’d be less tolerance for the local stuff getting the short straw if it’s seen as part of the long-distance solution, and vice versa.


  17. It’s intriguing that in all the talk about “downtown relief” over on the long thread on spacing, nobody has mentioned the CPR line through Agincourt that could take thousands of people downtown without placing any load on any subway line, and probably offloading some existing demand. We’re still thinking of GO and TTC as if they were two completely independent operations rather than looking at how the regional and local services can work together to handle a variety of trips.

    Don’t worry. I’m also trying to push real regional rail. One post at a time!

    The funny thing is, we’re going to build an awkward transfer for Sheppard East at Don Mills or Consumers Road, and then another jog in the rail transit network at Yonge from Sheppard to Finch, but a change of vehicles, say from heavy-rail to light-rail at Pape is a huge problem? The DRL, like the Bloor-Danforth subway, as I envision it (and what planners in an earlier era envisioned it) would serve both medium-distance trips, transfers from the B-D and Don Mills lines, as well as intermediate destinations, like Queen East and the Distillery area. Just as an urban transit line should. The lower Yonge line is crazy, and Bloor-Yonge is a mess once again. It’s an option whose time has come.

    I guess this is one area where we’ll have to disagree on, though I will say I am intrigued by the LRT through-run concept. My mind is certainly not closed to other ideas!

    And I’ll get right on a discussion on regional rail. I promise!

    Steve: I agree that the Sheppard, Don Mills, Yonge, etc., transfer situation is a mess, but we should not start duplicating it where it can be avoided. Sheppard would have made a nice LRT line, or pair of lines with another up on Finch, but that was not in Mel’s dreams. “Real cities don’t use streetcars” quoth his Melship.

    I rather like the idea of converting the subway to an LRT line, but that’s a huge and bitter pill for many to swallow, and long term we may be better off looking for a second LRT line further north.


  18. Regarding auto insurance rates for commuters who use transit to get to work, Leo Gonzalez wrote, “In response to Greg’s comment, I once posed that question to my insurance company. They advised me that they would not reduce the rates because your car still needs to be insured…”

    Then why did my insurance company want to know if I regularly drove to work when I updated/changed my policy the last few times? I don’t have my policy in front of me, but I do believe that there is a comment on it that states this as well. Sure the car still needs to be insured, but the risk associated with that vehicle is dependant on how it is used and rates are set accordingly. If you never drive it at all and have removed plates from the vehicle, you can get the minimal amount of insurance that does not cover situations where it is actually driven.

    I suppose that not every insurance company offers a rate for transit users, but it is not unheard of. Perhaps, it is a matter of shopping around. The more people demand this, AND take their business to companies that offer it, the more likely it will become a standard in the industry.


  19. Edmund Carlson said, “tunnelling costs are the same for all technology…”

    That simply is not true. Building a tunnel to place an LRT line underground costs less than building a tunnel to place an HRT (subway) line underground.

    The sheer size difference makes for obvious costs, such as additional material, additional excavation, and greater likelihood that other service infrastructure may have to be relocated. The design of LRVs that allows them to make sharper turns when necessary can also drastically lower the cost of tunnelling in some situations.

    On average, the cost of tunnelling an LRT line is equal or less than the cost of placing an HRT line on the surface. See my cost comparison at http://lrt.daxack.ca and click on “Cost to build?”.


  20. Can anyone explain to me why extending the ICTS costs so much? Does it include the cost of rebulding a new vehicle yard? When I spoke to the Bombardier rep, they insisted that ICTS infrustructure cost at least 25% cheaper than a full blown metro. The tunneling diameter is the smallest in the industry and the guideways are smaller in size.

    Steve: A yard expansion is required to hold the larger fleet and this is a valid part of the total project cost, just as a new northeast LRT yard will be needed for Transit City. When a yard and maintenance facility are built for a small, captive fleet, the cost per capacity of that fleet goes up relative to larger shared yards.

    I really hope that the Transit City system has wide station spacing. On most modern lines, spacing of 800m to 1200m is considered ideal. A moving block signal system needs wider spacing to keep proper headways. For example, a slower train needs some space to catch up. It also needs wider spacing so that trains can creep up to each other as opposed to stopping. In addition, there is no better way to market Transit City than having a tram blow by Sheppard East at 80km/h while cars are stuck in a traffic jam.

    Steve: The problem is that in Scarborough, major streets are 1 km apart, and minor arterials tend to fall at the halfway points in between them. The likelihood of getting wider station spacing is low.

    A tram system can function by driving by sight. However, this will introduce bunching. Even in Hong Kong’s tram system, it is subject to the same problem as on the Queen trams. Somtimes 5 trams will play follow the leader while other times 5 minutes goes by without one passing by. With a moving block signal system, this type of situation do not happen.

    Steve: If only the Queen cars were a mere 5 minutes apart — the scheduled headway. The problems on Queen arise from poor headway management inbound from terminals and from points where services merge. Yes there is congestion, but it is not the primary source of bunching. On a private right-of-way situation where a car holding for spacing is not blocking other traffic, there is no reason that low-tech “wait a few minutes” line management needs to be replaced by moving block signals.


  21. Just a quick comment on insurance. First the disclaimer, I work for an insurance company but have no clue how the costs for insured risks are determined.

    What I can say is that a car that is not normally driven to work can be insured as “For Pleasure”. Usually this applies to a second vehicle like your expensive sports car for those so inclined. I did this when I insured 2 cars and one was not used every day for commuting as my partner and I car pooled.

    Auto insurance is a regulated business in Ontario for the liability portion of the policy. Rates for optional coverage(s) are competitive amongst the various insurers. By regulated I do not mean the same, they are also different.

    To make a short story long, insurers price risks to maximize profits. If insuring folks that don’t drive to work proves to be a means to that end, then they will try to attract that business.

    Now for transit. It’s too bad when the Leaside bridge was built that it didn’t include provision for “streetcars” under the roadway like some other foresighted engineer did.

    Steve: Actually both the Leaside Bridge and the Bathurst Street Bridge (north of St. Clair) were built to similar designs with extra support for streetcars. The reason the Viaduct has a second level was that Hydro wanted to build a streetcar subway. The Leaside and Bathurst bridges were intended for extensions of the streetcar system that were never built.


  22. A CPR based “Downtown Relief” line would, of course be based on the line between Peterborough and Union Station. Following the recent anouncement directed at a reinstatement of this service there was some question about how it could be done. It almost appeared as if the critical CPR line from Leaside down though the Don did not exist! I checked it out and it is still there although unused and in poor condition. The critical bridge just north of Bloor Street appears to be in reasonable condition. Perhaps the work they did bringing the train to Barrie can be repeated here to reinstate the service.

    Steve: The CP line down the Don Valley from Leaside goes right past my apartment and has the advantage of being on the “high” side of the river where floods don’t affect it (unlike the CNR on the west side).


  23. Kudos for the very informative series of posts Steve. I’ll add my two cents and a link re: the “local” focus of Transit City. Providing frequent, attractive service for local trips – even at the cost of speed – is a good bet for the future.

    The Economist just published a report on the emerging mobility patterns for the 3.5 billion people who now have a mobile phone, and, more importantly, are beginning to use it and other devices to eliminate the office or at least the traditional rush-hour commutes.

    The relevant article is here, but the gist of it is that more people are taking shorter, ‘daisy-chain’-shaped trips throughout the day in complex patterns rather than home-office-home at 8:30am and 5pm.

    Canada actually has stone-age rates of mobile phone subscription, the upshot of which is is that we can plan our urban space and transit now for what’s coming.


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