The Eglinton line is a long and complex project, no matter what technology will be used, and tonight’s meeting at Leaside Arena had a good turnout right from the start. I didn’t hang around, but do know that there’s a lot of interest along the central part of the line in many design and service issues. Some of these cannot really be addressed until we see a detailed design at the next round of meetings, but the general shape of the line is evident.
This commentary highlights items in the presentation that I found interesting.
On Page 3, we learn that the corridor stretches from the Airport to Kennedy Station even though, as we will see later, the exact route from Martin Grove to the Airport requires more detailed study. Surface operation is definite west of Jane and east of Leaside, but there are many details to work out. Later panels show options for a portal between Jane and Weston Road, or west of Keele Street. To the east, the portal location on the diagram is actually west of Leslie on the west side of the Don Valley.
On Page 10, the land use plan shows the great variety of areas this route will serve. The pink areas, “Mixed Use” are particularly interesting because they show where some intensification might occur along the “Avenues” of the Official Plan. How well this will sit with those neighbourhoods remains to be seen and depends a great deal on the sensitivity and skill of the Avenue studies.
Page 12 gives the ridership on all routes operating on Eglinton itself and crossing the corridor. While this is useful to get a sense of scale, it needs to be read intelligently. For example, the Eglinton West corridor has only a bit more than 50% of the riding of Eglinton East, but the latter includes routes 54 Lawrence East and 100 Flemingdon Park that have considerable riding on route segments nowhere near Eglinton. Similarly the many intersecting north-south routes carry lots of passengers, but many are not potential customers for the LRT or even on their respective routes when they cross Eglinton. I hope that the TTC can come up with something more meaningful for the next round of their presentations.
Pages 13 and 14 bring us to the inevitable technology debate. The TTC’s projected peak demand in 2031 on Eglinton is 5,400 per direction, and this lands squarely in LRT territory. What is missing from this presentation is a review of demand by route section and how this would affect service design, intersection operations and pedestrian flows for the on-street portion of the route. I was hoping we would have more information at this point to allow intelligent discussion about route design and was disappointed by this oversight.
Also to be fair to ICTS and subway advocates, there is the question of the demand that might be induced by a move to an alternative technology and/or more widely spaced stops. It is important that we know the characteristics of demand in the corridor to properly evaluate alternatives, and the TTC has given us nothing to work with on that account.
As a generic criticism of their capacity chart, they really need to stop showing such high potential capacities for both BRT and LRT running in centre medians “Toronto style”. Every one of the Transit City presentations says “yes, BRT in theory, but there isn’t room for the infrastructure”. This distinction will be even more important as Metrolinx turns its attention to corridors where “BRT” is touted as the solution.
Page 17 gives comparative stop spacings, and once again this can be misread by those unfamiliar with the route. Both Eglinton East and West have sections of relatively fast, uncongested running with widely spaced stops. When we discuss stops, we need to look at segments of routes, not overall averages, and we need to understand what those stops do. How many people do they serve? What will be the impact on walking distances versus saved travel time? This sort of material should be fairly easy to produce, but again we have a once-over-lightly presentation that leaves the detail, the important questions about line characteristics, to a point in the study where it is more difficult to influence the outcome.
Pages 19-21 show sample station and tunnel configurations. Some of the line will be built as a deep bore, and some by cut-and-cover. The exact locations for each technique have not been plotted on the maps, although it’s not difficult to guess where they may be. For example, the hill between Bathurst and Chaplin Crescent must be deep bore even though it is faily short, and it may be simpler to stay with that mode for the hill up to Avenue Road and back down to the east. Similarly, the steep hill west of Bayview more or less demands a deep tunnel to make the climb up to Mount Pleasant Station a reasonable one.
Nowhere is there a mention of groundwater problems which will be severe at Bayview. An old stream, Walmsley Brook, has been the undoing of many construction projects at that corner which was a swamp until the early 1950s. (Sunnybrook Plaza was the first strip mall in what is now Toronto, but then Leaside.) This will be a challenging station to design and build. Other locations can be seen on the main Lost Rivers map, but Bayview is one of the worst spots.
Pages 22-29 show the route alignment, complete with potential station and portal locations, as well as locations of the existing bus stops. Many who comment here will criticize transit operations with such close stops, but they are a fact of life on the TTC. East of Weston, the line enters old municipalities that have had surface transit for much of the past century and grown up around easily accessed bus service (streetcars operated on Eglinton only between Oakwood and Gilbert Loop at the old City boundary west of Caledonia). Some of the most widely-spaced stations are also in the old, dense areas.
The panels imply that there will be no supplementary surface bus. However, I feel the TTC would be wise to retain this with a reasonable headway (12-15 minutes, maximum) as a question of accessibility for the underground portion of the route.
The next round of open houses is planned for early 2009 at which point we will see more details of the route’s layout. Who knows how much mischief Metrolinx will create in the interim with its draft Regional Plan — RTP advocates are already on record saying that Eglinton should be a “Metro” all the way across the city, possibly as an extension of the Scarborough RT. We shall see, especially when it comes to the question of funding, ownership and operation of such a major piece of transit infrastructure.