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.