How Many People Will Ride the Eglinton Line? (Updated)

[Update:  As promised, I have received the updated ridership projections TTC is using for Transit City.  They have been added in the body of this post.]

Recently, there has been a lot of ink about the technology choice for an Eglinton rapid transit line, whatever it may turn out to be.  Earlier this weekend, after a nagging period when I thought the ridership projections looked a bit off, I went back to the source material to check.

In the Globe article on July 24, Adam Giambrone says that the route’s projected 9,000 riders in the peak hour of the morning rush in 2021 don’t justify a subway.   Hmmm.  9,000 you say?

[This section has been updated.]

Let’s have a look at the original Transit City projections and the revised values now in use as part of the EAs in progress.  Original values are in parentheses.  Current values are for 2031 and reflect anticipated population and employment growth, although further refinements are possible as the EAs progress.

  • Eglinton:  5,000-5400 (4,700) (see below)
  • Scarborough-Malvern:  4,600-5000 (3,900)
  • Don Mills:  2,600-3000 (2,900)
  • Sheppard East:  3,000 (2,700)
  • Jane:  1,700-2,200 (2,700)
  • Finch West:  2,300-2,800 (2,300)
  • Waterfront West:  2,000-2,400 in 2021 (Taken from EA document) (2,200)

The revised values are current while the originals date from March 2007.

The Eglinton projections do not include Airport ridership.  However, traffic to Pearson will generally not co-incide with the peak time, location and direction and is unlikely to make much if any impact on the required level of service.

In the Sheppard EA, there is a note that peak ridership on a full Sheppard Subway to STC is projected to be about 5,000/hour versus 3,000 projected for the LRT east of Don Mills.  This appears to support arguments that a subway network will attract more riders, but the TTC also notes that the majority of the additional riders are merely diverted from other transit services.  What is unclear is the impact of less accessible transit service for local trips and the effect on transit usage and pedestrian amenities in the areas between subway stations.

If we look at the Eglinton projection of 5,400, we can expect that a full subway would attract more riders, but still well below the level needed to justify that level of capital investment, and still leaving the question of what other routes these riders might have used.

Even with revisions, none of the lines was expected to come anywhere near subway-level demand.  I am particular struck by the drop in the estimated demand on Jane which begs the question of whether it is an appropriate corridor for this technology.

[End of Update]

Eglinton is a particularly important case because it is at least two separate routes west and east of Yonge, and the demand accumulating at any point will be affected by what routes and services intersect it.  For example, as on the bus service, riding east of Eglinton West Station will be lower than to the west because many trips will transfer to the Spadina subway.  East of Yonge, the provision of an alternate, fast route to Danforth or further south via a Don Mills or Downtown Relief line will drain much load that would otherwise continue west to the Yonge Subway.

Many months ago, I asked Metrolinx to release the detailed ridership projections for each component and segment of their various “test case” networks.  I was assured that this information would be published concurrently with the draft Regional Transportation Plan.  Alas, that plan sits in limbo and will not appear until, at best, late September.  The modelling is for the test cases was done long ago, and there is no reason Metrolinx should keep the results secret. 

Of course, the numbers may not back up some of the plans people have for various rapid transit schemes, and the data could set off a debate about just what sort of network is really needed.

The last thing we need is a huge rush this fall to ram through a draft plan just so that Queen’s Park can announce something in time for the next election.  Given both the economic situation and the frosty reception from Ottawa to fund MoveOntario, let alone Metrolinx, the pressure to approve something, anything may have waned a tad.

Without question we need to spend more on transit, but let’s do so where and how it’s demonstrably needed rather than pre-announcing routes and technologies. 

Scarborough-Malvern and Finch West LRT EAs (Update 1)

The first round of public meetings for the Scarborough-Malvern line will be held on July 23rd and 24th.  Meetings for the Finch West line will follow on July 29th, August 6th and 7th.

Scarborough-Malvern Project Site

Finch West Project Site

Updated July 30:  The Scarborough-Malvern display panels are now available online.  Note that on Page 13 the peak ridership forecast is now 4,600 to 5,000 per hour.  This change from earlier estimates (3,900) I reported is due to the incorporation of updated population and employment projections, and the change to 2031 as the reference year to match the estimates in Metrolinx studies.

Various routes from Kingston Road north to Malvern via UofT Scarborough Campus are shown in the display.  The preferred route travels north on Morningside as far as Sheppard, then west (via shared trackage with the Sheppard East LRT), the north via Neilson to Malvern Town Centre.  The alignment would be generally in the middle of roads except possibly near UTSC depending on what design would best serve that campus.

The Finch West site now was a FAQ which gives a projected peak ridership for the line of 2,300 to 2,800 per hour.  The lower figure matches the earlier published 2021 estimate.  I am not sure if the two studies are drawing on the same source of ridership estimates, and I will follow this up with the planners.

Analysis of Route 512 St. Clair — Part 3: When Things Go Wrong

In this, the final installment of the St. Clair analysis, I will look at the problem of short turning, as well as the details of operations on some days when service was disrupted. 

Previous installments included full-month charts of headway and link time behaviour.  To start off here, the chart linked below shows the destinations and spacings of cars westbound from Yonge Street.  As in previous route analyses, the spacing between the vertical bars allows quick identification of headway irregularities, and the length of the bars shows how far the cars actually went on the line.

Westbound Destinations from Yonge

A few caveats in reading the charts:

  • Only cars (and buses) leaving Yonge Street westbound are shown.  If a westbound trip originated at St. Clair West Station, it is not included.
  • When I did the analysis, there were reference points at Bathurst and at Dufferin.  The short turn charts cannot distinguish between cars going only to Vaughan (and thence to Roncesvalles Carhouse) and those going to Oakwood because both points are in between the same pair of reference locations.  Reasonable assumptions about which destination applies can be based on the time of day when a westbound carhouse trip is likely, or not.  (This is a problem of my own creation by the choice of reference points and has nothing to do with the TTC’s data.)
  • Starting at about 11am on Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 22, streetcar service operated between Yonge and St. Clair West Station with buses going further west.  A few trips show up on the “short turn charts” which were operated by buses that came through to Yonge Street and therefore were picked up in the westbound analysis.

Continue reading

Stratford Reviewed (3): The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew isn’t a piece of Shakespeare I rush out to see at every opportunity, but with Peter Hinton directing, I couldn’t resist.  His Swanne Trilogy, Into the Woods, and Fanny Kemble established him for me as a director worth watching.  He is currently the artistic director of the National Arts Centre English Theatre in Ottawa.

For this production of Shrew, Hinton has retained the Induction, a framing device that makes the main story of Kate and Petruchio a play-within-a-play.  This device is jetisoned in some performances, but here it is not only retained but modified in a way that changes the character balance in what will follow.

Christopher Sly, a drunkard, staggers about a tavern and falls asleep on the floor.  In the original, a visiting nobleman decides to play a trick by dressing up Sly as a Lord and, once he awakes, feigning that he has lost his memory.  The tavern inmates, a group of actors and the real nobleman’s party will put on a play for his entertainment, and this inner play is The Taming of the Shrew.

In Hinton’s version, the nobleman is none other than Queen Elizabeth who is out on the town (echoes here of Elizabeth Rex, not to mention A Midsummer Night’s Dream).  When Sly awakes, he is attended by his long-lost “wife”, actually the Queen’s page Bartholemew.

In a nice touch for the regulars, the bell traditionally announcing the start of Stratford performances does not ring until the inner play begins. Continue reading

Stratford Reviewed (2): There Reigns Love

My second day at Stratford was devoted to Shakespeare, although not “classic” versions of plays.

Simon Callow’s one-man reading of the Sonnets, There Reigns Love, is a short run closing on August 3.  Rarely do we hear this poetry performed as a connected work, yet here we can wallow in both the text and in the thrill of watching a master actor at work.

Peter Hinton’s version of The Taming of the Shrew attempts to blunt some of this difficult play’s  misogyny.  Hinton is moderately successful, but the sweet context he wraps around the plot cannot hide the bitter sexual politics at its core.  (This review will appear in part 3.) Continue reading

Metrolinx vs Toronto: What To Build on Eglinton

Jeff Gray and Matthew Campbell report in today’s Globe on the potential for conflict between Metrolinx and the TTC over the future of Transit City and, in particular, the choice of technology for the Eglinton line.

I have written at length about this before and won’t rehash the arguments here, but a few remarks in the article deserve comment.  Rob MacIsaac parrots subway boosters with this gem:

“If you’re going to travel from one end of that line to the other, we think you’d probably better pack a picnic lunch,” Mr. MacIsaac said.

“We would like to find a way to speed it up for people who are travelling longer distances.”

And why, he asked, build something that could end up overcrowded?

“There’s little point in spending a lot of money on an LRT line that will end up with passengers whose faces are pressed up against the windows.”

Why indeed would someone ride from Scarborough to Pearson Airport or Mississauga when MacIsaac’s own plans call for an express route across the 401 corridor?  The whole point of a network is that it must serve a variety of demands — some long haul, some local.  Just as we now have GO Transit for commuters from the 905 to downtown, we would also have high-speed services for trips across the 416/905 region.

A trip from Scarborough to Pearson is longer than a trip from Pickering to downtown Toronto, and comparable to a trip from Richmond Hill.  Misguided planners and politicians insist on treating it as a local trip that should be stuffed into the TTC network.  Having created this straw man, they claim this justifies a full-blown rapid transit line on Eglinton.

As for demand, the TTC’s projection for Eglinton is 9,000 per hour, and this would be on the busy central part of the route that will be underground.  Outer parts of the route will easily be within the capacity of surface LRT which has the added advantage of lower cost and more attractive station spacing for local demands.

Despite its protests that its work is only “test cases”, not formal plans, Metrolinx is showing its true colours by making technology choices long before they have demonstrated the need for their network schemes.  Public consultation is a sham designed to give people a warm fuzzy feeling about Metrolinx rather than engaging them in a real debate.

MacIsaac’s comments about Eglinton show that the real agenda is to push through a major rapid transit project, likely a western extension of the Scarborough RT.

The Metrolinx Board has not met publicly since June 13, and the regional plans were last on the agenda on April 25.  Their next meeting is scheduled for late September.

It’s time for the Board to tell the chair to stop musing about network options that are not yet even a draft plan.

Škoda to Propose Streetcars for Toronto

News comes to me that Škoda, one of the streetcar manufacturers who declined to bid on the recent TTC request for proposals, plans to re-enter discussions with the TTC.

At this point, I have no information on what vehicle(s) they might suggest, but a look at their website shows an interesting mix of possibilities.

Tramcar product page

This page shows a range of Škoda’s streetcar products, but does not include their latest 100% low floor model.

Model T15 low floor car

An order for these cars was recently placed for Riga, Latvia according to a press release.  Although the T15 is officially standard gauge (1435mm), the Riga cars will be a wider gauge (1524mm, or 5 feet) leaving Toronto in the middle of the range.

More news on this as and when it develops.

Stratford Reviewed (1): The Music Man / Cabaret

My recent holiday in Stratford began with two musicals, productions on the same stage that were miles apart in style and impact.

The Music Man was all white and pretty and has o such nice songs, but it left me wanting much more.

Cabaret is a triumph without a weak part in the cast or in the music which was rescored for this production.  This is what Stratford can achieve when it works very, very well. Continue reading

Transit: Too Important For The Politicians? (Updated)

In today’s Star, Christopher Hume advances the argument that the only way we are going to get some decent decisions about transit hereabouts is to have a regional board with real teeth — taxing and expropriation powers.  Moreover, this board should not be composed of politicians, but of “experts”, whatever that may mean.

As regular readers here will know, I have my doubts about “experts” for many reasons, but principally because they inevitably serve some political master.  Somehow they get appointed, and that usually results directly from kissing the hand that blessed them for their supposedly apolitical role.

Just because someone is unelected and has a degree in a professional field does not make them ideal to handle the complex job of not only planning and operating a regional transportation system, but of convincing people (and those pesky politicians) that the money raised and spent actually goes for a good cause.

The TTC used to be an un-elected body, then a mix of Councillors and appointees.  That dysfunctional arrangement eventually led to a complete takeover by Council to ensure that the TTC actually operated for the public good.

To date, Metrolinx, an organization largely run by “experts” even though the public face is that of politicians, has done poor job of explaining itself and its proposals even to those, like me, who take the trouble to read all of their material.  Already, we see an immense web of transit lines with no data to justify individual components.  “Test cases” constructed as straw plans to see how they behaved in a traffic model threaten to become unchangeable blueprints for our future transit network without benefit of proper analysis.

I contrast this with the outcry from many “expert” quarters when Transit City was announced that the presumption of LRT foreclosed debate on alternatives.  Some of those same experts would now foist a regional plan on us for unquestioned acceptance.

Politicians will always be in charge of large-scale infrastructure decisions whether they are officially on boards or not.  They control the funding.  There is no way an agency with a published appetite for almost $8-billion a year will be allowed to operate without political oversight.

The challenge is for both the board and staff to have the public’s trust, to bring forward plans and projects that demonstrably improve our transportation network.  Self-perpetuating cliques, be they friends of government of the day or an old boy’s club of experts, are throwbacks to past failures, not models for our future.

Updated July 22

A comment yesterday evening from “POS” triggered a lengthy response from me, and the argument is important enough to move it here into the main part of the post.

“Steve, do I sense a hint of sour grape bitterness in your post? Who would be better suited to plan and operate this complex job?”

My point is that that any organization performing this function needs to be open and accountable, and that inevitably brings us to politicians of some flavour. Many agencies, not just those in the transit business, yearn for the simplicity of just getting a potload of money out of thin air and going forth with their allegedly good works unburdened by public oversight. A benign rule of experts.

There are three big problems. First, there is rarely enough money available for the taking without debate. The right wing spent the better part of three decades convincing everyone they are overtaxed, and the word “toll” is guaranteed to get you tarred and feathered in many quarters.

Second, the experts are not necessarily in sync with the larger public about what should or should not be done. For example, we would have a lovely highway network and no downtown if the “experts” in charge of transportation planning through the 50s and 60s had not run headlong into public opposition and, yes, another set of “experts” whose view of the world consisted of neighbourhoods and urban civility.

Third, some experts have agendas of their own born out of personal prejudice (I may like streetcars, you may like subways) or blatant conflicts of interest (property development, technology vendors).

The idea that the correct set of experts will be in power at any time is no more credible than the concept that any one political party has an ideal program and the divine right to govern without benefit of public review. The premise that we can escape the sins of decades of bad planning simply by handing our cities over to a technocracy is laughable.

“Making the trains run on time” sounds like a laudable goal until you are forced to leave your car at home by an environmental dictatorship, or my house is demolished by a road czar to make room for a wider thoroughfare. Both would protest that they’re just doing their “expert” job, but at what cost?

TTC Cancels Streetcar Request for Proposals (Update 4)

Updated July 20, 10:00 pm:

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone now admits that his statements about information in Bombardier’s bid referred to TTC staff remarks, not Bombardier’s submission itself. 

See coverage in the Globe and Star.

I can’t help finding this situation very embarrassing for the bid process, and distressing because of the potentail for delay in procurement of cars for both the “city” streetcar system and for Transit City.

Updated July 18, 4:10 pm:

Additional media reports in the Globe Report on Business and in the Sun.

Updated July 18, 6:30 am:

Media reports on this issue appear in the Star, Globe and National Post.

Updated July 17, 10:10 pm:

When a story this big lands at 4:30 in the afternoon via a press release, there is usually a flurry of interest and followup information, but so far things have been fairly quiet.  In the absence of specific comments, here are a bunch of questions for everyone involved:

  • Why did Bombardier tell us throughout the RFP process that they had a car for Toronto, and happily let the CAW shill for them to keep jobs in Thunder Bay, only to turn around and bid a non-compliant car.  Did they think that the TTC would automatically turn to them for an alternate design without widening the field?
  • The TTC press release states that they can sort out the problems with some manufacturer over the next four weeks.  How is this possible unless Bombardier already has a “plan B” ready to go? 
  • Why was the TTC so confident, when they changed their spec midway through the process to require 100% low floor vehicles, that this would not compromise bidders’ ability to propose a compatible vehicle?
  • What parts of the spec, beyond the tight curves on our street railway system, are impediments to other vendors, or are they just tired of all orders going to Bombardier and not bothering to waste their time on a bid?
  • Has the TTC considered whether other operators of “legacy” street railway systems in North America might also have a need for cars that fit on older systems where PCCs had no problem operating for decades?
  • What is the future of our streetcar system with an aging fleet of CLRVs and ALRVs rumoured to be less than 100% available?  Will the TTC at least commit the resources needed to get all of its current fleet back on the road?
  • How will a delay in acquiring new “city” cars affect plans for Transit City?

Inevitably, opponents of the TTC and of LRT in general will seize on this foul-up to show how the TTC can’t plan properly (as if we had any sterling examples elsewhere in these parts), and how an all subway, BRT and maybe even RT network is just the ticket.  They would be wrong, and any agency or politician who attempts such an attack will get no quarter from me.

Yes, this is a bad situation.  Toronto dithered for years about new versus rebuilt streetcars, finally opted for all new, then changed their spec to all low-floor, and now faces a delay for which there really wasn’t any room in the schedule.  Moreover, they still don’t know who will pay for the new fleet.

Metrolinx for its part is still pulling together a regional transportation plan, but seems to be pricing themselves out of the market.  Their plan has a huge capital and operating cost, and does nothing to improve local transit service, an essential part of any regional scheme.  Any move by Metrolinx to slip into a perceived vacuum at the TTC would be complete folly.

Indeed, Metrolinx was specifically set up not to be a local transit operator for fear of alienating the 905 municipalities forming the heart of its Board.  The last thing Metrolinx needs is having to explain what passes for service on the Queen Car.

The TTC needs to be upfront about the problems, about why so few bids were received and about what can be done to get real competition.  They need to re-establish Toronto as a credible city in which any vendor other than Bombardier actually has a chance of winning business. Continue reading