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.

12 thoughts on “A Grand Plan Revisited

  1. One of the reasons I enjoy reading your proposals, Steve, is that they are not like these pie-in-the-sky proposals that I see, ones with subway lines under every major street in the city for example. You take the time to research your ideas.

    I’ve mentioned before that I came up with an idea to put any LRT line across Eglinton underground from about Weston to about Laird and you fired back that others had come up with the idea as well – Frankly anyone who bothers to travel the length of Eglinton would come up with the same conclusion, the street clearly gets narrow there.

    When you propose something you look at things like that while others would just assume the street is wide enough.

    All of us daydream, and one of my fav’s is to imagine what I’d do as the “Supreme Emperor of Ontario”. I’d tinker a bit with taxes, and reform the democratic and justice systems, but my best work would be saved for transit and transportation. If I ever did attain such a position, I would come for you, Steve, before anyone else to run by ideas past because you think reasonably and logically. So long as you continue to do so, your ideas will continue to be dead on.


  2. Steve re: Peterborough.

    I noticed a piece in the Star about Peterborough which assumed that fares would be $15 each way. That seemed a bit low, and got me looking at the VIA Rail commuter pass fare structure. It’s curious that to commute from Toronto to London is more expensive than to commute to Kingston which is about 70km further.

    The fare guide also offers Toronto-Kitchener, which is hardly a commuting friendly route since no train arrives in Kitchener before 12.55! It seems to me that GO is the only logical choice to run the service since VIA are still figuring out what a commuter is.


  3. Drawing lines on a map is relatively easy. The hard part is finding an audience for that map, especially among the people who make the actual decisions. You’ve had considerable success on that front.

    Are you planning a more detailed review of the Sheppard East plans from this week’s meetings? As the first Transit City line, it will (for good or bad) set a strong precedent.

    I do worry a bit that transit planning in Toronto is going down a similar path to Waterfront Toronto (formerly TWRC). An upswing in better-thought-out plans has optimists like me happy, but it won’t be long before a lack of “shovels in the ground” will be noticed by the cynics (and those who haven’t been paying close attention).


  4. “Service through Agincourt to Peterborough”

    I think someone spiked your coffee. The thought of service to Peterborough sounds even more ridiculous when you consider that it is a whole lot easier and cheaper to create a connection to Guelph via the Georgetown line than it is to go to Peterborough. Even more so is the fact that the best way to optimize any connection to Peterborough would either mean double tracking the Stoufville Line south of Agincourt (nigh impossible to do) or use the CN rail tracks to Summerhill (don’t think the CNR would allow it).

    On the other hand, Guelph (I believe) was served by a GO line at some point, so it isn’t farfetched. I’d rather believe that a connection to Guelph has more value than Peterborough.

    Steve: It doesn’t have to go to Peterborough, and the line is the CPR Belleville Subdivision. The route to Union would be via the CPR connection at Leaside Station and down the east side of the Don Valley. The important point is that there is a big demand from northeastern Toronto (Agincourt and Malvern) to downtown, and good GO service could handle this much better than any TTC extensions regardless of the technology.


  5. Steve wrote, “It doesn’t have to go to Peterborough, and the line is the CPR Belleville Subdivision.”

    The line in question uses the CPR Belleville Subdivision to Agincourt, then it branches off on what used to be the CPR Havelock Subdivision. This branch is now under control of the Kawartha Lakes Railway (a CPR internal short line). CPR, and later VIA, ran a sort-of commuter service from Havelock (just the other side of Peterborough) until the cutbacks that created GO lines out of former CNR routes (Stouffville and Bradford for example).

    Any service to Malvern would have to continue along the Belleville Subdivision (passing through the Agincourt Yard, instead of on its north side) as the Havelock Sub curves northward just east of Markham road.


  6. Hi Steve

    One interesting thing to consider about using the part of the Belleville sub that runs from Union to Leaside is that there is no regular rail service on it at this time. (If memory serves, I believe that CP has listed that line for abandonment.) Hopefully the chance to either gain revenue through either the line’s use for commuter service, or an out and out sale to GO would help ease any concern that the CP may have to add yet more trains to a very busy piece of railway. There is a lot of freight on the Belleville sub.

    Steve: There may be a lot of freight on that sub, but I’m not the only one who has proposed using it for GO service including a connection to the Yonge or Spadina subways. More tracks will be needed to fit in the commuter trains.


  7. Hi Steve:-

    I seem to recall a conversation with a man, a railfan and profesional railroader, who is now retired from GO who stated, when I brooched the subject of difficulties in getting co-operation from the CPR just at the time of the Milton line opening, how easy it was to get the CPR to go along with GO; merely pay what they want and do what they want (third track, crossovers, signals) and you’ve got your train line. The observation being, they’re in the business of making money, you help their bottom line, they help you!
    How different it has proven to be from CN, which is only now getting a tich better.

    Mr. D


  8. Hi Steve, your hard work is brillant as always. The new loading standards still have the flavor of Sardines after ten years in a tin can. Here’s a grand plan for loading standards that I think will work great for the TTC, or any transit system.

    All service should run every 20 mins. bare minimal as long as the subway is open, including weekends. Every final regular bus and first blue night bus leaves 5 mins after the last train departs the station it serves. (If the TTC wanted to get drunks out of their cars or away from taxies this must be done at least.) Thats the starting point for maximum ridership.

    Next up loading standards; More service before bigger buses is the ultimate solution that draws ridership. If memory serves me correct it’s 45 passengers avg. that warrents service improvements. Lets make it 30, for the sake for better service. What I don’t like is that they add one bus to a route like the Sheppard East bus and call it a service improvement, WOO HOO 10 SECONDS LESS OF A WAIT!

    In terms of headways and ridership I like the following formula…
    Headways should go to the following pattern…… 20-15-10-7.5-5-2.5 this is for local services. Express services should start when headways hit every ten minutes on the local services and begin their own 10-7.5-5-2.5.

    When headways hit every ten minutes on the local routes the loading standards should be higher then thirty passengers. The TTC’s 45 passenger number becomes logical because we have established a route that runs every ten minutes with a new express service. Express buses would run hand in hand with the local route regardless of ridership on the express route. If an express branch cannot be used for whatever reason then we freeze the 30 factor on the original route.

    When headways hit every five minutes and the loading standards are being met, we must bring in 60 foot articulated buses. The loading standards here wont be liked, but to prevent bus parades, the loading standards must be increased to 75 to introduce the 2.5 min headways.

    If the 2.5 min headways are seeing 75+ passengers, then Bi-Articulated buses must be put into service. The loading standards would increase with the bus type. 125 would be the standard and we can convert the bus route to streetcar with it’s own ROW and express bus by pass when needed.

    Iam unsure of streetcar capacity and I know you have mentioned it before, but I figured if the route continued to grow and if three car streetcar trains running every 2.5 mins are trundling down the street, serious consideration must be made into complete grade seperated underground LRT or subway.

    Getting back into the express bus factor, regardless of ridership on the express branch it should run at the same headway as the local branch(s) If ridership exceeds 45 at anytime articulaed buses will be used, and if 75 is the magic number bi-articulated. If the local bus is using bi articulated buses, but the express branch only has 30 passengers, regular 40 footers will be used.

    And in terms of a route being turned into an underground LRT or subway. The route above ground should have a 40 foot bus starting off with the 45 passenger loading standard for improvement. The ROW would be destroyed and given to the private auto, but that can be debateable.

    That seems logical to me in terms of regular bus service. Sorry for the length but this seems to be the right thing to do.

    All day GO serivce using LRT! Double decker LRT style cars running every 10 mins would fill the void. You can start off with five car sets and when passengers start filling the cars increase the headways to five minutes and if more people continue to use it, add cars to the set!

    Cost recovery shouldn’t be important, hard numbers should!

    Sorry I got carried away. Cheers!


  9. “merely pay what they want and do what they want (third track, crossovers, signals) and you’ve got your train line. The observation being, they’re in the business of making money, you help their bottom line, they help you!”

    Which is why they responded so positively to Flaherty’s $150m offer for Peterborough – the vast majority of it would have paid for money-making track improvements with only a minimum investment in track, stations and engineers.

    I have no problem with corporate welfare for train companies per se given the deep need for investment in heavy rail, but it should come at a price – a predetermined valuation for a first-refusal to the Province on any part of the line subsequently abandoned or offered for sale.


  10. Mr. D wrote about CPR, “The observation being, they’re in the business of making money, you help their bottom line, they help you!”

    This is true – there has never been a significant bee in the CPR’s bonnet about putting GO services on the Belleville Sub. It is a question of needing to pay for a third track, and possibly a fourth in some locations. Even the cost of this has not been the brick wall that some might think it would be. It’s been more of a wooden fence, as twinning the tressles over the branches of the Don Valley (one just east of the DVP between Lawrence and Wynford, and one just south of Eglinton near Leslie).

    The last time this came up, I recall that the brick wall was some citizens’ groups. Their ill-informed logic was as follows: add one or two extra tracks for GO service during the day, and those tracks will be used for increased freight traffic at night. The implication being that there will be an increase of hazardous materials moving. The fallacy in this reasoning is that freight traffic does not come from 50-100 km away like GO traffic does. The only benefit to freight traffic at night that extra tracks for GO will provide is a possible extra place for freights to sit or move slowly on arrival to the Agincourt yard. If anything, this would increase safety for this traffic. It sure is not going to increase the movement of through freights as these still have to return to single- or double-track lines east and west of the GO zone.


Comments are closed.