Update 2 (June 18): The EA report on the Sheppard LRT came before the TTC and it was extremely warmly received by all present. A few updates worth noting:
- Property owners at Settlers’ Road (roughly at the ramps to the Atria development) asked that a stop be added at their location because the spacing from Consumers to Victoria Park is longer than the target average for the line. They have been working with TTC staff to come up with a suitable configuration.
- The Don Mills Station connection option includes examination of running both services on the same platform with the subway using the north track, and the LRT using the south track. This has operational issues, but the TTC is looking at this as an alternative to extending the platform far enough east so that there would be competely separate loading zones.
- There is a strong push for the Consumers Road subway extension option as a way to improve service to this business park and spur development of much vacant (read parking) land there. Also, it is hoped that this would reverse the area’s drop in employment of about 25% over past years.
- The projected cost has risen from the original $555-million in the Transit City announcement to $865-million largely due to the cost of the subway connection at Don Mills (originally this was costed as a surface station) and an increased estimate for vehicles.
The original post follows.
I spent an evening at the open house for the Sheppard LRT project at Agincourt Collegiate. This post contains comments on some aspects of the project.
[Update June 13] The display boards are now online at the project’s website.
Scope of the Project
The project now extends from Don Mills to Meadowvale. In conjunction with the EA, there will be an Official Plan Amendment to designate all of Sheppard as a “Higher Order Transit Corridor” so that the OP is in sync with this part of Transit City. Similar amendmends will come up as work on other TC lines requiring them comes up.
There has been discussion of an LRT link south from Sheppard to Scarborough Town Centre via McCowan or Brimley, but there are no details on this scheme beyond a brief indication on a map. This option is tied up with work on both the Scarborough RT extension and the Scarborough/Malvern LRT line.
Carhouse Options and Network Connections
The large-scale street map of the route shows a possible spur into Malvern Garage, but there is also talk of using the Hydro corridor lands near Meadowvale for a yard.
At the west end of the line, all options for connecting to Don Mills Station include non-revenue trackage (to be built in mixed traffic) to just east of Don Mills Road for a future connection to the Don Mills LRT line.
Agincourt GO Station
The LRT station will be located west of a new Sheppard Ave. underpass at this location, and pedestrian access will be via a new road north from Sheppard into the station property.
Sheppard Subway Connection
Two options of five that were studied remain under active consideration. Further design work, not to mention a policy decision, will be needed to resolve which of the two will actually be built.
“Option 5” involves a subway extension to Consumers Road where it would connect with the LRT line. The subway would be just under the surface at this point (rather than 18m down as it is at Don Mills Station), and there would be a direct vertical transfer from the surface LRT platform down to the subway. As I mentioned above, service tracks would extend west from Consumers to Don Mills.
“Option 3” takes the LRT into a tunnel at Consumers Road and brings it down to the same level as the subway. The existing station platform would be extended, and passengers would walk directly from the LRT half of the station into the subway half at platform level. Some separation between the two modes would be needed as a safety measure for platform overshoots.
The LRT tunnel would be built to subway clearances so that the line could be extended without major reconstruction. Equally, although the TTC doesn’t talk up this option, the LRT could be extended west via the existing subway tunnel. This option preserves both possibilities and keeps everyone happy.
As with Option 5, the service tracks extend from Consumers to Don Mills.
Options that were rejected include:
- A concourse level connection between the LRT and the subway at Don Mills Station. This was rejected because less of the LRT tunnel could be reused if the subway were ever extended east.
- An all-underground configuration at Consumers Road. This would require the LRT to drop into a tunnel somewhere west of Victoria Park so that an underground LRT terminal could be above a deeper subway terminal. This was rejected because it is very expensive with little benefit compared to Option 5.
The relative cost of the two favoured options are $235M for Option 3 (LRT to Don Mills Station) or $350-375M for Option 5 (Subway to Consumers). The difference is comparatively low because a tunnel built to subway specs is required for both options from Don Mills to Consumers. The big difference is the presence of a subway station at Consumers in Option 5. These costs do not include the service trackage to Don Mills Road which is estimated at $10-15M and is common to both options.
Transit City includes a standard design layout for its streets, and this has been applied to Sheppard Avenue with a few flavours taking into account the present and likely future land uses. Typically, the road includes two traffic lanes each way, a bike lane each way, the LRT right-of-way and the paired transit island / left turn lane configuration we have seen on other TTC projects.
On the inner part of the line, the “shadows” of some turn lanes and stations are used for in-street landscaping. On the outer part of the line, there is already a well developed green border of the street, and this will be retained.
At bridges such as Highland Creek, extra road width will be obtained by building new peestrian bridges outside of the existing structures. This will give room for bike lanes where the sidewalks are now.
Operating Speed and Stop Spacing
The TTC looked at two alternative designs for the line. One had an average stop spacing of 800m while the other used 400m. Traffic simulations showed that with the wider spacing, the line would operate at an average speed of 26-27kph. At the closer spacing, the speed would drop to 22-23kph. They had expected a larger impact, but what actually happens is that the saving from fewer stops is partly offset by longer loading times at the remaining stops, and by traffic interference at the major cross-streets that are not transit stops.
To put this in context, the distance from Meadowvale to Consumers is a bit under 14km. The trip time for the maximum length journey would be about 32 minutes on the wide spacing, or about 37 minutes on the narrow spacing. For most riders, the difference in the in-vehicle time would be more than offset by the longer walk to a station.
As a reference point, the TTC cited operating speeds of three existing routes:
- The Spadina streetcar has an average stop spacing of 280m and operates at 14kph.
- The Sheppard East bus has an average stop spacing of 290m and operates at 17kph.
- The Bloor-Danforth subway has an average stop spacing of 875m and operates at 32kph. (Note that stations are closer together and speeds are lower in the original part of the line from Woodbine to Keele. This is about 12km long and has an average spacing of about 630m.)
The cited speed for the bus is a bit on the low side because it is for the section of the route west of Don Mills. However, two important points about the Spadina car are that it is a shorter route and terminal dwell time has a proportionately larger effect on scheduled speed, and it is a route with strong, bi-directional demand at most stops.
For either the LRT with 800m stop spacing or for a subway scheme, a comparatively infrequent surface bus would operate. I have discussed how this arrangement works against the goals of the Official Plan by encouraging high density point development around widely spaced stations, and won’t belabour the point here.
The final EA report will go to the June TTC Commission Meeting, and to Council in July.
Assuming that funding is available from at least Queen’s Park and the City, construction would start late in 2008 or early in 2009 with utilities relocation.
The controlling factor for opening date is fleet availability, and we won’t have any idea where that sits until the TTC reports on its new streetcar/LRV order in fall 2008.