Eglinton LRT Open House Presentation

[I decided to start a new thread now that the presentation materials are available online as there were already 50 comments on the post announcing the open house sessions.]

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.

24 thoughts on “Eglinton LRT Open House Presentation

  1. What, if anything, does it say about work already done, and then undone, on the part of the route that was to have been the Eglinton West subway? Does any of the infastructure still exist?

    Steve: The presentation is silent on these subjects and shows the connection with Eglinton West Station as an item for detailed study.


  2. I’ll be honest. I am really worried about Metrolinx and their plans for Eglinton. I like Transit City, because it encourages local travel, and does not force people to travel far to a station. I fear that if a subway is built, then we’ll have the Sheppard Subway all over again. Overbuilt, and underused transit line.

    What are the chances of Metrolinx “hi-jacking” Transit City for their purposes?

    Steve: The real issue is what the Metrolinx board does. It contains four representatives from the City of Toronto and it’s not unreasonable to expect them to make common cause with at least some of the 905ers if Metrolinx (staff and chair) get too heavy-handed. There are issues about local control, particularly as it affects “transit supportive development”, where the 905 municipalities may be less than pleased with what Metrolinx might try to force on them.

    The big question in all of this is who will pay for any infrastructure. Metrolinx is only able to enforce its will to the extent that someone underwrites their schemes. No money, no control.


  3. I’m less than ecstatic for Transit City, but I do think the Eglinton Crosstown line actually has a lot of potential and could be a great way to prove to Torontonians that “LRT” will be different from the Spadina car. The presentation slides still leave me with a few questions though.

    1.) Why will the Western segment not use the old Richview expressway ROW? The argument of “local transit” does not hold water here as it is literally parallel to Eglinton. The ROW could be built nearly totally grade separated, with underpasses and such, to allow RT grade service at no additional cost.

    Steve: If we build underpasses at major streets, this also means that the stations are below grade. This would substantially increase the cost of the line. Also, from a recent ride along that area, I am suspicious that some new developments may be very close to the right-of-way.

    2.) This could just be representative, but the graphics suggested tunneled segments would be comprised of two tunnels. Why? Isn’t LRT supposed to be cheaper due to single tunneling? Are there technical reasons why this isn’t possible?

    Steve: There would be two tunnels only in the deep bore sections. Yes, a single tunnel would be possible, but since we are preserving the fiction of eventual conversion to full subway, we would need a much larger single tunnel to make room for this. (If you have seen photos from Madrid with single tunnel subways, their cars are narrower than ours.)

    3.) Realistically, will the TTC operate the underground portion as a “subway”, with multi car trains short turning at either end to maintain frequent service?

    Steve: The panels suggest a headway of two-car trains every 3 minutes or so would be adequate for the projected demand. One reason for my complaint about the absence of detailed demand projections is that it’s hard to know where, logically, a “short turn” might operate.

    Other options include merging services from Jane and/or Don Mills into the underground sections.


  4. “Steve: If we build underpasses at major streets, this also means that the stations are below grade. This would substantially increase the cost of the line. Also, from a recent ride along that area, I am suspicious that some new developments may be very close to the right-of-way.”

    If we built moderate stations (i.e. just a platform with a few benches and maybe a shelter) the costs couldn’t possibly be extensive. If we built stations off grade, we wouldn’t need to build two stops (one on each side of a signal) as well, saving some money. There would also be cost savings in not having to shut down a large chunks of Eglinton during construction and using an exposed rail bed. Even if it was marginally more expensive, I think it would be worth it to improve service along the line. At the very leat, I am disappointed the slides didn’t even mention this as a possibility.

    (Not me, but by avoiding on street running it could also save the TTC alot of CAA motivated grief. We all know this is going to come up at some point)

    “Steve: There would be two tunnels only in the deep bore sections. Yes, a single tunnel would be possible, but since we are preserving the fiction of eventual conversion to full subway, we would need a much larger single tunnel to make room for this. (If you have seen photos from Madrid with single tunnel subways, their cars are narrower than ours.)”

    Is subway conversion the actual goal behind this? Sometimes the TTC just seems to opt for the more expensive option for no real reason (cough, Spadina extensino, cough).

    Steve: The TTC would build an LRT-only infrastructure given the chance, but various folks around town are trying to undermine an LRT proposal by saying an upgrade may be needed in the future. The only way to counter them is to overbuild the LRT. I don’t agree with this, but that is what’s happening.


  5. The idea of a trench-ROW along the Richview lands is interesting, and sort of reminded me of Cleveland’s Blue Line on Shaker Boulevard (see for some photos).

    This could be a very viable option, without a great deal of added cost. I recently was in Oslo Norway and had to use commuter rail services and a number of their stations make use of fairly long ramps instead of elevators, and this option could help keep costs of stations/stops down for this. A single (but wider) centre platform would further keep costs down.

    I strongly suspect that any extra cost in this can be made up for by not having to have concrete-encased track work for this sort of ROW. Ballasted tie construction can cost between $15M and $20M per km less for a double track line than encasing the tracks in concrete.

    That said, I recently heard (from an inside source) that the track maintenance department at the TTC has an aversion to ballasted tie construction. While most of Transit City lines require medians that can have emergency vehicles operate on them, I don’t expect the cost savings of building alternative ROWs where possible with lower cost methods to be taken advantage of.


  6. Correct me if Im wrong, but I believe that there is some grading already done in the Richview corridor, such that at Royal York Rd. (possibly Islington too), the two crossroads meet at a depressed intersection such that Eglinton slopes down on both approaches. This would allow for a simple overpass/station there.

    Steve: One other thing that is evident looking at the whole of the Richview corridor on Google Maps is that the extra space is not consistently available on the same side of the road for the entire distance. West of Islington, it’s nice and wide to the north, but life gets complicated at Martin Grove. East of Islington, the existing road lies more centrally in the open space and there could be issues about running an LRT close to people’s back yards on one side or the other.

    From a design point of view, a station with a centre platform in an underpass will require access from both sides of the street, and arguments could be made about accessibility features for both entrances.

    Assuming that the line runs on the north side of Eglinton, this would place the northbound bus connection at a farside location. It would have to be far enough clear of the intersection to allow for a few buses to queue, and I’m sure we will hear lots about the problems of intersection geometry.

    One other issue will be security, the placement of stations out of sight in a trench, although I realize that if they were completely underground, the same issue would apply.

    Yes, I agree that it would be worthwhile to see what this design would look like if only to answer questions about its feasibility.


  7. The Islington and Eglinton intersection is in a depression. I can see the LRT bridging over that intersection so as to not having to use transit priority traffic lights.

    I do have a preference for the LRT to run along the north side Eglinton in Etobicoke, especially if they could use the forest on that side. Parts of the forests would have to be mowed down even if they have to widen Eglinton to put in a right-of-way in the middle of the roadway.

    Steve: The woodlot at Kipling would be a big fight and the smaller ones further east wouldn’t be taken easily.


  8. The Richview corridor is a golden chance to build high density housing and to feed the LRT. All of that tax revenue can help the city big time. A Go crosstown corridor can help with long haul riders and the LRT with the short to medium commutes. We can build a true transit freindly enviroment with what’s left of that freeway!


  9. Hopefully there is talk of an option to split this route in two. Eglinton East LRT following the #34 bus route and an Eglinton West LRT following basically the #32 bus route. Both LRT routes going underground as it nears Yonge, one of its termini. I am glad they are talking of keeping the eastern portion of the LRT underground until just west of the DVP because I thought that Laird pt. earlier mentioned would have conflicted with surface traffic and left turning auto traffic along Eglinton.

    Steve: The LRT will be underground but will do so far from Yonge, not “near” as you state. The west portal will be somewhere between Jane and Keele. The east portal is shown on the drawings as being west of Leslie, not at Don Mills. Going underground all the way to Don Mills would require a deep and expensive tunnel under the Don River in an area where there is plenty of room for a surface line. East of Leslie requires study because of the Celestica interchange which gets in the way of an underground route. If Don Mills Station is underground, it would make more sense to do this with a portal west of Don Mills on the grade up from the valley.


  10. Steve wrote, “there could be issues about running an LRT close to people’s back yards”

    No problem – they could just take those wonderful drawings that show what the SRT would look like out the back window of homes and replace the ICTC vehicle with an LRV and presto – you have your design options! 😉


  11. Does the Eglinton project perhaps provide an excuse as to why there has been no progress on the old Eglinton bus terminal site?

    I imagine this space could be used to stage construction… but so could the “temporary” bus bays, no?

    Steve: I believe that there was an RFP on the street to find out what sort of interest in developing this property there might be. At some point, the TTC may have had an “aha!” moment when they discovered the impact the new line would have on the need for bus connections.


  12. Correct if I’m wrong here but if we are going to talk about building subway grade tunnels under 10 km of Eglinton (at massive cost) does it not bear mentioning that we already have part of an east-west subway built? Shouldn’t we consider connecting the Sheppard subway to the Spadina line and to Scarboro TC before starting from scratch?

    I don’t want to neglect Eglinton but shouldn’t we lever the billion dollars already spent further north? The density at Yonge and Sheppard is pretty crazy and Sheppard represent a closer halfway point between Bloor and the north end of the urbanized area of the GTA. Just my two cents.

    Steve: I think that you will see some sort of proposal in the Metrolinx Regional Plan to do something about hooking up parts of Sheppard. Various schemes have been on the table including one to convert the subway to LRT operation and provide through-routing with the Finch LRT. (This was proposed over a year ago by Richard Soberman who seems to have some influence with Metrolinx thinking.) We shall see what the actual proposal looks like in a few weeks when the plab comes out.


  13. I was just thinking about it more and I guess this is kinda like the debate in the 1960s about building the Queen subway and the Bloor subway – I guess we know how that went – do we have any regrets?

    Steve: I don’t think the Queen line made sense even in the 60s. The geography of Toronto is such that the demand was going to migrate further north and into the suburbs. A Queen line could not have provided this sort of service. That’s not to say that a downtown relief line (Don Mills to downtown) might not have been useful, but that’s not what the Queen line was primarily about.

    The real problem is that for political reasons we pushed development out to the suburbs, but didn’t build transit to serve it (let alone demand transit supportive development) leaving us with the mes we have today. A Queen subway would have done nothing to reduce transit problems in the burbs and would not have enabled as strong a growth of the bus network in what is now the “inner suburbs” of the GTA.


  14. I don’t think a Queen subway, if done right, would be that horrible of an idea. Let’s face it, and this is true anywhere, driving downtown is a pain. That’s one of the reasons that transit does better in downtown areas. Right now anyone coming in from the north can catch a ride on the YUS line, but for those living south of Bloor, you don’t really save time taking transit because all of the routes are stuck in the same traffic you would be. Having Queen be a full-fledged “subway” might not work, but putting it underground in the central-most sections of the city might have merits.

    Steve: But the problem is that you still have to get to the subway(s) wherever they are. Without strong surface routes on a closely spaced network, the subway is of little use for many trips. The time it would save is more than offset by the time needed to get to and from a subway station.


  15. I find the Eglinton technology/station spacing debate to be very interesting, as it is so indicative of the way transit in Toronto is viewed by those who plan it and by the public. Personally, I would like to see a strong and reliable local LRT service on Eglinton, with stations 500-800 metres apart, before we start talking about express crosstown subways and the like. While it is true that we are sorely lacking in fast connections across the city, no network will live up to its full potential if we don’t make transit attractive for local and medium-distance trips as well.
    People love to point to Paris and their web of lines and ask why Toronto can’t build so many subways, but they forget that metro stations in Paris are, on average, only 560m apart, with the RER acting as the real express network. Any subway built nowadays in Toronto would more resemble RER-type spacing – but the RER would be nothing without the Metro. LRT must be our metro, let subways and GO be our RER.


  16. Steve said … “But the problem is that you still have to get to the subway(s) wherever they are. Without strong surface routes on a closely spaced network, the subway is of little use for many trips. The time it would save is more than offset by the time needed to get to and from a subway station.”

    That’s right — when my family lived on Harbord St. they never used the Bloor subway. Despite being very close to Christie and Bathurst Stations, the 94 bus was faster.


  17. Unless the lrt would be grade seperated through the Richview corridor, is there really an advantage to the tracks being at the side of the road instead of the middle. At Leslie there’s a clear advantage to have the tracks emerge from the tunnel onto the south side of the roadway as it can bypass the Leslie/Eglinton traffic lights and proceed to what will hopefully be an underground station at Don Mills. Hopefully the TTC realises this advantage and designs the line accordingly.

    More important than stop spacing on the surface sections is transit priority> Now while I would not expect a railway type crossings with bells and arms the simple ability to hold greens and move before turning traffic at major intersections and perhaps a guaranteed green at midblock intersections could make a world of difference. Unfortunatly it seems transit city will end up with Spadina style “priority”.

    I really don’t understand why people are calling for seperate east and west branches, with the large underground stretch and wide intersection spacing on the suburban stretches of Eglinton it could be able to provide an alternative to Bloor Danforth for many riders.


  18. I quite honestly don’t see what people are worrying about concerning the modal choice along Eglinton. The mode is going to be LRT hands down, case closed. Any chance of full subway or ICTS under Eglinton simply does not exist. LRT WILL be what gets built there and we can all look forward to it. 100 per cent guaranteed.


  19. Steve, Ed Drass mentions something about the possibility of the Eglinton LRT project affecting the situation of the old Eglinton bus bay terminal. Well, from what I’ve gathered and heard from some people in the area, that’s not quite it.

    There has been so much development, condo wise (see 900 Mt. Pleasant, the Minto towers on Yonge south of Eglinton, 88 Broadway Ave., the North Toronto Collegiate lands currently under construction, the north side of Helendale, south side of Roselawn Ave, and Montgomery Avenues between eastern side of Duplex and just west of Yonge — signs are posted — currently just past the planning stage and others. That’s a heck of a kot for one area!!) that those in the know have found that there is not enough green space for the area.

    Apparently, the old terminal is being talked about for just such a site. Hope this makes sense.

    Steve: I grew up near Mt. Pleasant & Eglinton and know the area well. Yes, any respite from years of boring high-rises would be lovely, but I worry that the site isn’t ideal given surrounding buildings and shade for much of the day.


  20. I agree with Steve. Development is the only logical course for that site. If people want green at Yonge and Eglinton then decking over the subway tunnel from Berwick to Glebe should be considered.

    My fear is that after Minto and the TDSB have realised their highrise gains at Yonge and Eg that the TTC will be left holding the bag of a worthless bus terminal which Michael Walker and Karen Stintz will be demanding made a park.


  21. Steve, what are the chances of comparative cost-per-kilometre construction figures for metro tunnels and for shallow-cut trenches coming out of the meeting today? I have firm enough figures for at-grade and metro construction, but all I have for shallow-cut trenching is a not-for-attribution back of the envelope figure of $60-mil a kilometre.

    Note to Mark: My hunch is that Calgary will start with diesel-multiple units once commuter rail becomes viable a few years down the road before moving to locomotive-and-bilevel consists. Siemens and Colorado Railcar both offer a range of DMU consists that to start would serve the somewhat smaller bedroom communities out here (Airdrie may be growing like Topsy, but it sure iddn’t Mississauga *yet*) and could be retained for off-peak use once the passenger demand justifies GO Train-grade rolling stock.

    Steve: There was nothing at today’s meeting about construction costs, although there is some info in the capital budget presentation about RT costs that I will write about when I summarize that report.


  22. Sorry, this may not be the right place for this – but I couldn’t find a place to email Steve. I was wondering about the “bus is here” lights at the old Eglinton bus terminal — how they worked, how did the lights light up, did the drivers have a switch or a station operator or a wire on the ground triggered it? Thanks.

    Steve: Really low tech — there was an electric eye beam that ran diagonally from one end of the platform to the other. If the bus was there, the beam was blocked and the sign down in the concourse flashed.


  23. Steve: This comment just screams out for me to intervene with remarks of my own.

    David Aldinger your wrong wrong wrong. Just to correct you metrolinx is a CROWN COROPORATION.

    Steve: Actually, Metrolinx is an agency of the Ministry of Transportation, not a Crown Corporation.

    and u know what that means that they have more power over the silly planner that was incharge of making up Transit City. Lrt are great for short distance travelling and feeder route but a 31 kimoloter route does not need a 22 km/hr lrt. I guess i should take my lunch with me if i plan on taking the eglinton line to the airport.

    Steve: How many time do I have to repeat the fact that the Eglinton line will be underground and will run at subway speeds between somewere around Don Mills to roughly Jane Street? The slower surface operation due to grade crossings with streets will not affect most of the route and, therefore, much of the airport-bound trip.

    Toronto talks about being a world class city yet the make these modest transit plan. as a student No wounder why no one want to work in toronto. When u see cities like Madrid and New York have well planned systems why would anyone want to live here.

    Steve: May I suggest that you move if you don’t like it here.

    We cannot afford to build subways everywhere, and that’s what Transit City is all about. New York’s subway systems dates back for the most part to an era when it was much cheaper to build new lines. If they were starting from scratch today they wouldn’t be able to duplicate it.

    Madrid has built a lot of subways, but is now turning to LRT for the same reason we are — the subways are too expensive and the demand isn’t there to justify them.

    Even in the GTA, the new subways to Vaughan and Richmond Hill primarily exist to get people into downtown Toronto. Those who travel between the regions will be stuck with surface transit, probably buses, or stuck in traffic in their cars.


  24. Oh no worries I do plan on leaving Toronto. How can they consider themselves a world class city when they dont even have a world class transit system. Steve can you please show me the report that semi-graded seperation will have no effect on time at the outter sections of the route, because i find that very hard to believe considering these LRT lines will not even have signal priority. In addition of course any Torontonian would be skeptical about LRT’s in Toronto considering the TTC’s has done a poor job in the past. Hmmmmmm does the Spadina Street car ring a bell. Or how bout the Queen Quay or the St Clair……… Ps whether its a grown corporation or an agency……that is beside the still holds more power over the city of Toronto. Remember cities are creatures of the province ” a little politics 101″. I really hope Rob stays by his orginal word and leaves it as an rt or subway, not an lrt which will only have a marginal difference from the buses that already run on this route.

    Steve: It’s not “Rob’s” choice for technology. It’s not “Rob’s”
    agency. There is a Board of Directors, and if “Rob” wants to waste billions on an ICTS Eglinton line, he will have some explaining to do.


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