A Grand Plan Revisited

Sean Marshall pointed out that I started a thread here just over two years ago under the title of A Grand Plan. The first post in that series included a long paper detailing what a regional transit plan for Toronto might look like as well as a technical discussion of transit modes.

In the process of writing my series on Transit City as an LRT network, many of the ideas from that paper were recycled, tempered by a few years of debate on this blog and other venues.  It’s worthwhile for serious readers (and especially those who haven’t been regulars here long enough to have seen posts two years ago) to go back to that original, and to follow the discussion thread that follows.

As a quick refresher, here’s what was in it.  Note that some of these proposals were mined from work by others and I claim no special right to them other than putting them all in one place.  Queen’s Park did roughly the same thing with MoveOntario2020, and Metrolinx stirred the pot with its three scenarios in the Transit Green Paper.

GO Transit

  • Several updates to services, but particularly all-day service so that GO is a real alternative regardless of when one makes a trip.
  • Various grade separations (some now in progress)
  • Service to Barrie (well, they got as far as a parking lot and may go further)
  • Service through Agincourt to Peterborough (I swear I am not a shill for the Finance Minister)

TTC Surface Transit

  • More vehicles and garages
  • Improved policy headways (this might show up in the fall, or in 2009, depending on budget)
  • Improved service standards and deliberate overservicing of routes relative to demand to encourage ridership growth (some work has begun in this area by TTC, but more is needed)
  • A new low-floor streetcar fleet
  • Retention of a mixed fleet of new cars and CLRVs/ALRVs to ensure that the fleet is big enough to absorb ridership growth until we can fully provision a low-floor fleet


  • Eglinton with an underground section from Leaside to somewhere around Keele including access to Pearson Airport
  • Don Mills to downtown via Waterfront east
  • An LRT replacement for the SRT extended north into Malvern
  • Sheppard east from Don Mills
  • Waterfront West connecting into The Queensway
  • Weston corridor from Union north connecting with Eglinton and turning into a Jane line (replacing Blue 22)
  • Kipling Station west into Mississauga
  • Downsview Station to York U and beyond into the 905
  • Finch West
  • Yonge north from an extended subway at Steeles

I hate to say “I told you so” as this doesn’t fit with the modest (yes, me, modest) way I publicize my own activities and opinions.  However, I think it’s worth reiterating than a lot of these ideas have been around one way or another for some time, but interagency rivalry, intergovernmental sloth, and the inability to let go of old, worn-out plans prevented a lot of this from being discussed.

Metrolinx is now trying to build a regional plan, and I worry that this will be held hostage to many of the same preconceptions about what is acceptable.  I hope to be proven wrong.

The Downtown Relief Line Gets On The Map

In what has to be record time for a transit proposal to get from a blog discussion to publicly debated policy, the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) is now barely a decade away.

Yesterday, Sean Marshall’s post at spacing generated a blizzard of comments, and today, the National Post reports comments by Adam Giambrone and Rob MacIsaac.  Giambrone will start looking at the line in 2018.  That is far too late, and the TTC needs to start looking at it today if it’s going to be open, as he suggests, by 2020.

A few comments raised my eyebrows, however:

As the city core becomes more dense, passengers are choking the Bloor-Yonge and St. George transfer points, as well as the King and Queen streetcars. The Bloor-Danforth line will soon be congested, too, Mr. Giambrone said.

Rob MacIsaac said:

“There’s so much demand that you’re exceeding what a streetcar line can carry. I had a discussion with [former TTC general manager] David Gunn once and he said, ‘Don’t build a subway until you can jump from the top of one streetcar to the next,’ which is probably a circumstance that you’re getting close to on Queen Street.”

I don’t know who has the idea that streetcar service on King and Queen are anywhere near capacity, and the only streetcars someone can jump roofs on are in Russell and Roncesvalles Carhouses.  Service on both streets has operated at twice the current capacity, and there’s lots of room for more streetcars if only the TTC had a large enough fleet.

What’s fascinating to me is that, finally, it is acceptable to talk about adding transit capacity into the core of the city.  For years the focus has been on the suburbs going  back to the deal-with-the-devil struck by then Councillor Jack Layton and Mayor Lastman.  Layton supported suburban subway expansion as a means of diverting intensification from downtown.  The DRL fell off the map because it did not fit with the goal of strangling core area development to benefit the suburbs. 

We all know how successful this was.  A good chunk of the office and commercial space in North York Centre is empty, while downtown fills up with condos and resurgent office development.

As for the DRL, the original proposal was simply for a line from Flemingdon/Thorncliffe to downtown.  Subway fitted with existing technology in the area, and nobody was taking LRT seriously as a “light subway”.  We have more options today including a through connection to a line in the Weston Subdivision (as described in the Post article) up to at least Dundas West Station.  It doesn’t take a genius to see how this fits into Transit City and a service to the airport.

Very frequent service can operate on the southerly parts of the Don Mills and Weston lines where they are completely on their own right-of-way, with less frequent trains continuing up Don Mills in the street median, up Jane and out Eglinton West.

When we look at the possibilities of both an Eglinton and a “DRL” built with LRT, but spanning almost the complete range of LRT implementations from street median up to near-subway, we see the real possibilities of this mode for our growing transit network.

(And yes, Hamish, the Waterfront West service can hop onto the same corridor at Queen and Dufferin.)

While we’re at it, as I mentioned in a previous comment, we must keep sight of the role for regional services on existing and future GO lines.  One source of subway overloading is long-haul riders for whom GO service (if any) is too infrequent.  Better GO service with a fare structure integrated with the TTC will give riders a fast, alternative way into downtown, at a much lower cost than expanding subways everywhere.

Why Transit City is an LRT Plan (Part 3)

This post will be a lot shorter than the previous one, but it’s a necessary technical prelude to what will follow.

We hear a lot about the relative capacity of various transit modes, and the appropriateness of any mode depends both on its capacity and on the constraints of the alignment where it will operate.

I will start off with a familiar TTC chart (in the format presented at tonight’s public meeting) showing both the theoretical capacity ranges of various modes, and the projected demand on the extended SRT. Continue reading