Metrolinx: The Big Move (3) Investment Strategy

The Metrolinx Investment Strategy (Draft) is a really odd collection of documents, and as I look at the presentations, I can’t help feeling there is a mountain of background somewhere that Metrolinx would prefer to keep out of sight.

On the agenda of September’s Board Meeting, we find a glossy brochure that is clearly intended for the coming public review.  For a “draft”, it has the look of something rather final to me.  With a section titled “Your voice matters”, this is not intended for the Board’s consumption, but for the process that Metrolinx calls public consultation.

Worth noting are Rob MacIsaac’s own remarks at last Tuesday’s briefings.  On at least two occasions, he said that there won’t be much pressure for change in the plans based on the extensive consultations to date.  He is prejudging the outcome, and that’s no way to ask for public input.

The separate presentation to the Board is not available online, but I have reformatted it on my own site.  (Note to the purists:  most of this was scanned as text and then cleaned up to avoid problems with blurry copy-of-copy scanning.)

Draft Investment Strategy Presentation September 26, 2008

The heart of this “strategy” is to do next to nothing about proper transit funding for many years (at least one if not two election cycles), and to live off of the previously announced $11.6-billion MoveOntario money.  A subset of the projects in the 15-year draft Regional Transportation Plan was selected to soak up this money, and if the Tooth Fairy is feeling generous, we might even get another $6-billion from Ottawa to stave off actually making a decision about transit funding for almost a decade.

One thing nobody has bothered to explain is the selection process for projects that made it onto the short-term list.  The draft RTP has only just been released, and we know that some of the regional politicians are not happy with what it contains and omits.  How can we already have a short list of projects, some of which are going through the “benefits case analysis”, a process whose parameters have not been defined or discussed?

If we accept that the MoveOntario nest egg will finance projects for several years, then much of the recent pressure to complete the RTP by November evaporates.  We already know which projects will require financing in the near term (in particular the next few Provincial budget cycles), and beyond that point all that is really needed is a placeholder of the appropriate magnitude.  The big decision is to determine how much we will invest in transit year by year, not which specific projects we will spend the money on in any specific year.

Almost nobody wants to talk about new taxes or tolls or any other way to get these projects rolling.  Paul Bedford, a Metrolinx Board rarity who is not a sitting politician, is the notable exception.  He argues that we must engage people now in the debate in how we will fund the growth of transit infrastructure.

Even all the talk of private financing doesn’t address how we will pay down the debt once a new network is actually built and operating.  When we combine this with the lack of ongoing funding for operation, maintenance, capital renewal and expansion of existing transit systems, there is a gaping hole in the transit funding policies.

In June 2008, the Metrolinx Board considered a presentation on the Investment Strategy.  This document included among its purposes the maintenance and renewal of existing and future regional transportation infrastructure.  “Existing” is a key word here, and this consideration seems to have fallen from view in discussions of transit funding.  It is not enough to dream of new lines, but we must maintain and strengthen what we already have.

Page 6 shows a graph based on the White Paper scenarios with combined annual renewal, growth and operating costs of:

  • $3-billion for “Business as usual”
  • Just under $6-billion for option “A”
  • $7.5-billion for option “B”
  • Over $9-billion for option “C”

The September report shows these costs reaching a plateau of about $3.2-billion (see chart on page 21).  For all the talk of a “bold”, approach to transit, the proposed spending does not rise much above that plateau until the mid 2020’s and drops back again by 2028.  The huge “investment gap” of June 2008 vanished over the summer.  Part of this is due to projects that were dropped from the plan (such as the regional express line in the 401 corridor), but I have a hard time reconciling the September project list with the large reduction in project costs. 

Only when, and if, we see detailed project estimates in the capital plan later this year will we have some idea of what is going on.  Did Metrolinx highball its earlier estimates?  Are current estimates unreasonably low?  We will probably never get to see the detail behind the June figures, and won’t have any way to know what magic brought the total project estimates down so dramatically.

The June report contains several examples of tolling schemes including the per-trip cost of various journeys at different levels of tolls (see page 15).  This table, were it published in, say, the Toronto Sun, would provoke considerable unrest, delicately speaking, and it’s no surprise that the issue of tolls is not high on anyone’s priority list.  Another table (see page 17) contains a wider range of options all expressed from the point of view of what is needed to generate $1-billion a year in new revenue.

Some of these are really not “new” revenue streams.  For example, increased capital or operating grants may make transit systems happier, but they still represent net new government spending.  Similarly, debt financing requires a matching revenue stream — the money doesn’t just fall out of the sky.

A one percent regional sales tax would yield $1-billion, and this is the option I favour.  It touches everyone who will benefit from a better transportation network, and it is a revenue stream that grows with the economy.  Although this may sound odd coming from a “transit advocate”, I believe that the cost of transit infrastructure is too often treated as something we can foist on the motorists through tolls, gas taxes and vehicle levies.

We already know from recent experience with gas prices that increases far higher than anything proposed for transit support would be absorbed by the motoring public with little effect on congestion.  Drivers trade down to their fuel-efficient car, they take fewer non-essential trips, but they still drive to work because there isn’t a reasonable, attractive alternative, and there won’t be on a regional scale for a decade or more.

The revenue is needed now both to finance Metrolinx plans and to sustain and expand our existing transit systems.

The June report shows a workplan leading to a fall release of the Investment Strategy.  Dates have slipped a bit since June, and we have heard nothing of the reports and consultations.  Instead, we have a “do nothing” strategy leaving MoveOntario more or less where it was the day it was announced in June 2007. 

“Business as Usual” has triumphed over “Dare to be Bold”, but an analysis stopping there would be simplistic.  We need to understand the differences in estimated cost for the “Bold” plan and the current strategy.  $6-billion a year is a lot of money to vanish from the table.

What might we have obtained for that spending?  Have the needs actually vanished, or simply been swept into someone else’s budget?

Metrolinx owes its own Board, Queen’s Park and the residents of the GTAH some straight answers.  Without them, we cannot begin to craft a transportation strategy and evaluate the ways we might finance it.

31 thoughts on “Metrolinx: The Big Move (3) Investment Strategy

  1. London, England is using road tolls to generate much of it’s needed revenue to expand and modernize it’s own system. Apparently these road tolls haven’t crippled London’s economy either. I read that the birthplace of the ‘Freeway’, Southern California is considering road tolls as well to help finance their massive spending on public transit. A lot of urban areas around the world are now using this road toll revenue to generate their needed funds to help expand their transit systems and most of them are leaving Toronto in the dust regarding public transit.

    I have a personal agenda for preferring road tolls. I think that any thing that will influence driver’s to leave their cars at home and start using public transit is a good thing. I imagine if Toronto had a great public transit system it would lower the number of smog days around the GTA which in turn would help our health care system save some money.


  2. Presumably, with the longer wish list and the limited funds, we actually may be interested in perhaps saving a couple hundred million after all with a re-think of the WWLRT and an exploration of a Front St. transitway, though we still need to spend quite a few hundred million providing a good link to Etobicoke, and we should do something for the old City too, other than using it as a cash cow.

    And we do have to somehow provide better transit ahead of any tolls. But it’s a good idea to tack on a bit onto the sales tax, and how about doing both the sales tax, and the tolls, though just make it modest as a start.


  3. Steve,

    While we agree on the need for more boldness and more transparency in a funding strategy, I will beg to differ on the means. I am a big fan of road tolls and parking taxes, and not a huge fan of a regional sales tax. It isn’t simply a means of penalizing the motorist.

    First, one has to consider the simple question of revenue raising. Can the desired money be obtained? The answer there is that either a combination of Tolls + parking taxes OR a PST hike OR income or other wealth taxes could all suffice.

    However, once you get past the initial irritation of drivers at paying a toll; raising one is much easier than raising a sales tax or income tax.

    Then there is the question of fairness. As a transit rider, I pay a fare. As a driver I don’t. Gas taxes are sometimes suggested as the equivalent; however this doesn’t work out.

    First off, the total dollars raised by gas taxes are well below the aggregate total cost to society of the driving choice. That is not merely the highways, but the car accidents, smog, pollution, sprawl etc. that are closely associated with large highways being provided on a toll-free basis.

    Gas taxes do pay a portion of that; but additional impost is necessary, and more importantly, it needs to associate per trip and per distance cost in bill-form, so that people more correctly see how they’re choice has a financial consequence.

    An increased sales tax will hit a transit rider every bit as hard as a driver. So there is no financial motivation to shift trip choice.


    Now its perfectly fair to point out that a real transit alternative has to be in place BEFORE one tries to incent people onto a transit system. However, this can be accommodated within the investment strategy by something like this schedule/phasing.

    (this is just an example and not intended to be definitive)

    First parking tax kicks in: 2011

    Tied to full-GO service on 2 additional lines, off-peak GO every 30min on Lakeshore

    First Toll kicks in 2013 (10c per km, min. charge $1)

    Tied to Full-day Service on 2 more GO lines, service to Bomanville and Hamilton; and improved capacity on the Yonge Subway and local transit in general.

    Parking tax doubles: ($2 per space) in 2015

    Tied to opening the Spadina Extension and to Regional Express GO Lakeshore Service

    Tolls Double 2017

    Tied to Yonge Subway extension, various LRT initiatives, 1 additonal GO Express line.

    By phasing in, you address the ‘reasonable alternative’ problem; and raise significant funds.

    Steve: This is a workable plan, and certainly better than a “big bang” implementation. However, we have to be careful of unintended consequences. Tolling express roads will push traffic onto local streets. This affects neighbourhoods (congestion, noise, pollution) and potentially delays transit services. Just charging someone for the “cost of their decision to drive” does not guarantee that the toll as penalty/incentive will be the only effect, and that only the motorists will bear the burden.

    Also, if peak oil arguments have any validity at all, revenue from tolls will be a finite and declining source.

    Yes sales taxes hit everyone. That’s the idea. Transit riders can help to pay for their infrastructure and their better service too, not to mention the business community for whom increased mobility in the city has a value.

    In a perfect world, governments would not have boxed themselves in with ridiculous tax cuts, bribing voters with their own money and hobbling our ability, as a society, to provide many public services. Alas, there is no perfect solution, and we have to make do with the mechanisms available.

    The motivation to shift trip choice will come not from the cost of fuel, as I have already discussed, but from the quality of transit service.


  4. I want to respond to a comment you made over at Metronauts about Metrolinx correcting a flaw (your words) in their demand models when the Eglinton line changes from RT to LRT. Why is this a flaw? This just means that RT is a more attractive service that would pull in more riders. Either model is equally valid.

    If you feel that Eglinton should be a local corridor, what is your solution to regional travel across the top of the GTA? — and please don’t say GO. One thing I’ve noticed is you tend to focus on local travel to the exclusion of regional needs.

    Steve: It was a flaw because they used an average speed of 40kmh which is not attainable for any local service, regardless of the technology. Their demand model is very sensitive to speed, because, I suspect, it derives from highway modelling. The result is that the modelled demand was very much higher on Eglinton than in the City’s model. Even 30kmh is a stretch. The existing RT averages about 35kmh with an average stop spacing of greater than 1 km.

    If we are going to talk about travel across the top of the 416 (and the bottom of the 905), we need a good set of origin-destination data, and we need to consider what the flows will look like in 10-20 years’ time. My gut feeling is that Eglinton is too far south for trips that cross the region, and moreover that the volume of long-haul cross-region trips is skewed by the presence of the 401. As populations and jobs shift over the coming decades, the proportion of trips that need high-speed, long-haul services may fall. I have nothing concrete to back this up, but an agency like Metrolinx with all of its resources should be able to look at these options and justify what they are building.

    A high-speed regional service won’t make the local demand on Eglinton go away, but it will serve it poorly. The 401 REX line that was in the White Paper had one big problem — it would have been impossible to integrate either with the existing local network or to be part of those wonderful “mobility hubs”. This is another example of Metrolinx doing car-oriented thinking for transit-oriented travel.

    All the same, it would be fascinating to see what the demand numbers on Eglinton would have been with that REX line still in the model. Metrolinx has been quite secretive about its modelling, and that works against a good understanding by all concerned of how various networks and segments might behave. Indeed their secrecy makes one wonder just what they are trying to hide.


  5. The feds, all they have to do is reduce the GST to 4% and introduce a city tax of 1%. We would not feel the difference in our shopping, and we can board the RT and gain a seat on the way to STC during the PM rush. Although I am using the Nugget bus becuase the RT sucks.

    Peak oil is a joke, and if people are naive to think that the “end of oil” is going to flock people to transit, and kill the car … you got another thing coming. You think for a second that these car companies are going to let the end of oil put them out of business? No, becuase it is business and the new “CHEVY VOLT” is going to allow your commute be gas free. So as Steve mentioned, and as I do agree good transit is vital.

    The issue is now about cheap, easy, reliable, fast, transit service. Steve I [have a] fast question, do you think trolley coaches should be considered in our bus network?

    Steve: They are worth looking at, although some of the best potential routes will be LRT, but there are always routes in between such as Bathurst 7 and Dufferin 29 with lots of hills. The question needs to be revisited along with a proper review of the role and performance of hybrid diesel-electric buses.


  6. Hi Steve:-

    I too have long thought that Dufferin is an ideal candidate for trolley coaches. The introduction of this mode on this line could see many economies and definitely a small percentage increase in ridership should ensue.

    Your comment about if Eglinton were a cross regional route and how that would then poorly serve the locals was well said. It’s also very true, that what is Transit City trying to achieve, improved transit for the dense portions of our city or a slick ride for suburbanites? My stand is for us city dwellers. I believe as you do that Eglinton is not the latitude to put that crosstown regional line as LRT anyhow, but even though it’s further south than Eglinton, the North Toronto Line of the CPR would make that a practical location for GO (Sorry M. Briganti, I really agree with Steve here) to invest in their Lakeshore relief line and since both ends of this rail route swoop north, voila, as Bob’s your Uncle, you’ve got your east west through route without going through Union.

    And guess what; GO would be doing what it does best and TTC would do what it should do best and both worlds get what they need. In the case of the GO, the right-of -way is already there and if the CPR is still as amenable as to want to do the kind of business they did out to Milton (ie:- you pay, we allow) we’ve got a new GO route that can give cityites an express route to the burbs and give the Suburbanites another access to our great city. And if them that don’t live in TO want to access Eglinton, well they’ll be better served too, for an easy transfer to the LRT and then to one of that lines local stops will likely drop them closer to where they want to go than would be the case if the stops were more widely spaced.

    Win, win. Metrolinx, take note!



  7. I realize this is off-topic and I agree with you that Eglinton is too far south, but you evaded the question.

    The question was … if we implement Eglinton as a local low-speed closely-spaced-stop LRT service, what do we do to address long-distance 416 (Etobicoke-Scarborough) and 905 (Mississauga-Pickering) travel patterns along the 401 corridor? Assuming *you* were a Metrolinx planner, what would your plan be?

    Steve: First off, I would want to know exactly how many people actually make such a trip as a proportion of the total, and the end points of these trips. I say this because a major problem with the GO network is that it is organized around getting people to Union Station, and at the outer end, people access the route primarily by driving to it. Therefore a planner doesn’t have to do much real work, just run the trains and the demand arrives automatically.

    Further north it’s not so simple. Indeed, I would argue that serving this market with a one-seat ride is next to impossible, and the important thing is to minimize the local access times at both ends. This may make for a three-link trip, always a bad thing in transit because those transfers kill ridership unless they are seamless.

    If the real desire is to handle this sort of cross-city trip, there’s a rail corridor that does it already, The problem becomes linking the local transit system with it. This corridor crosses:

    Kipling Station (this is the route of the Milton GO service)
    Spadina at Dupont Station
    Yonge at Summerhill Station
    Eglinton at Leslie
    Lawrence west of Victoria Park
    Ellesmere at Warden
    Sheppard east of Midland
    Markham Road north of Finch (if you take the north branch)
    Finch at Morningside (the south branch)
    Various points to the northeast depending on the route taken

    We needn’t use all of these stops, but at least the right-of-way intersects major streets at locations where a service could interface with local transit. The question then is whether this should be built as commuter rail, or as a Skytrain line sharing the corridor (that would make the stations trickier because of elevation issues, and bridges could not be shared). Some sort of transfer arrangement would be needed for airport-bound travellers, although I could be cynical and suggest that many would find other ways to get there.

    I should also mention that, as Dennis Rankin points out in another comment, this line is well north of Eglinton where it counts, to the northeast. To the west, it’s not as ideally located, but at least it’s north of the CN Oakville Sub and swings away from it to the west.

    The York Sub (running parallel to Highway 7) has a few drawbacks, notably the fact that it is the main access to the CN Maple Yard, but also that it only runs from Pickering to west of Malton. I don’t believe it as well suited as an east-west high-capacity corridor. Also, we don’t yet know what sort of east-west capacity will eventually exist in York Region and how the demand will be distributed.

    This is only a suggestion, and it may not in fact fit the demand pattern. The problem is, we don’t know what the demand pattern is.

    Metrolinx only uses this corridor for peak service, and we have no way of knowing how it might do as a through line for regional travel because (this will start to sound like a broken record) they have not released their demand modelling information.


  8. Hi Steve:-

    To add to your answer to M. Briganti re GO travelling along the North Toronto CPR line; don’t forget that there are three choices of route that could take one northwest by routing through West Toronto Junction, besides the due west one to Kipling Station that you mentioned. Yes I know it is a complex junction that may prove difficult to access a west to north swing if all three options are entertained, but, certainly not impossible.

    This could be the airport link some maintain is essential to the life of Toronto, if indeed that link is nothing more than the dream of those who would probably never ride it anyhow. It could add stations at Eglinton West, east of Weston; at Jane, I’m not sure where it crosses Jane though and at West Toronto Junction if that local stop would be deemed necessary. These are not just lines on a map but are real live rights-of -way that could be utilized for commuter rail routes. Guessing here, but I’d like to think that the cost to implement these routes might be substantially less than the building of LRT to the airport and give a level of service that the ridership will demand likely.

    The connections to the YUS subway at two locations is a boon too. We can dream, but it sure makes far more sense than to destroy the convenience the ridership that those along Eglinton have lived with until now. Even with local type service on the LRT, they’re still going to have to walk further to access a stop in many cases, but at least it won’t be blocks and blocks apart as a regional line would demand!



  9. “The question was … if we implement Eglinton as a local low-speed closely-spaced-stop LRT service, what do we do to address long-distance 416 (Etobicoke-Scarborough) and 905 (Mississauga-Pickering)”

    Well, I’m talking off the top of my head, here, but one thing that comes to mind is the Hydro right-of-way north of Finch Avenue, which has been proposed for such regional initiatives as GO-ALRT in the past. It has access from Mississauga, the Airport, and it runs across the top of Toronto, connecting with the YUS subway at two points, and then heading into northern Scarborough. It also provides connections to York University and Seneca College, and would be a rapid transit equivalent to GO’s 407 service. I can see us laying down two tracks and running regional LRT trains with stops every 2-4 km.

    I would say that I know a few people who commute between Meadowvale and northern Scarborough, and transit is not really an option for them. However, I don’t think that accommodating that traffic on Eglinton is good either for them, or the local traffic on Eglinton that I’d like to see served. Again, the regional express service would make more sense along the 407 Transitway, maybe, or a Finch Hydro right-of-way rail service.


  10. Steve said: First off, I would want to know exactly how many people actually make such a trip as a proportion of the total

    I can answer that … between Mississauga and Scarborough, approx. 1.1 MILLION non-local trips use the 401 on a typical weekday. Most origins and destinations (with the exception of interchange flows to and from the 427, 400 and 404/DVP) are within a +/- 6 km range (north or south) of the 401 corridor itself.

    Steve: Are the source data online somewhere?

    This is not a mickey mouse demand. Now do you see why we’re talking subway/RT and not streetcars? If you try to divert 15-20% of that volume to transit, we’re talking 200,000 passengers a day.

    Steve (updated reply): An expressway lane has a capacity of about 2000-2500 cars per hour, and this means an 8-lane road (one way) like the 401 can theoretically handle 16-20K cars per hour. Although some of these will have multiple occupants, there will also be a lot of road space taken up by trucks. Therefore, I believe that a one way peak demand for the 401 at any point will have trouble getting much above 15K.

    If we assumed peak level demand in both directions, this would give us 30K per hour or maybe 500K per day assuming that peak demand is sustained for 16 hours. This implies that a very large proportion of the trips you cite, assuming they exist, travel across the city other than on the 401.

    We really need access to definitive data to carry on this discussion meaningfully.


  11. The peak point, between Weston Road and Hwy 400 sees approx. 450,000 – 500,000 vehicles per weekday. I don’t have the exact numbers/report in front of me right now, but when you factor in all the other trips that enter and exit from the east and west which do not cross Hwy 400, it’s close to a million vehicles per weekday. Remember, we’re talking from Peel Region to the Scarborough/Pickering border.

    Compare YUS peak point (Bloor-Wellesley) to total daily ridership and you’ll see what I mean. It’s close to a million on the 401 — and those million cars are not all getting on at one end and getting off at the other. That’s what your calculation assumes, right?

    This is the traffic we have to take a bite out of, and light rail is not going to do it.

    Steve: Your claim was that 1.1M vehicles per day go between Peel and Scarborough/Pickering via the 401. This is difficult without crossing Highway 400.

    You are speaking of the section to Hwy 400 bidirectionally. As I mentioned in another comment, I don’t think it is physically possible to get the numbers you cite on one way traffic. Taking a generous 2,500 vehicles/lane/hour, this gives us 20,000 vehicles per hour one way for an 8-lane road. Some of that capacity will be lost to trucks, although there will be an offset in capacity from multiple-occupancy vehicles.

    If we get even 1/3 of the peak demand onto transit, that is only about 7K per hour at the peak point. To compare this with subway demand, Wellesley Station is around 30K per hour in the AM peak.


  12. Re: Finch Hydro corridor as a regional express route.

    Using Finch Hydro corridor in that role looks appealing. However, a contributor at suggested that placing many kilometers of rails and wires in close proximity of high-voltage AC Hydro wires will cause a loss of Hydro energy, and the amount lost won’t be negligible.

    If this is correct, then Finch Hydro corridor may be used for BRT only. Not for LRT, subway, or GO trains.

    Does any other city have rail transit in an electric transmission corridor?

    Steve: Dare I point out that the SRT and the subway (Vic Park to Warden) run in a Hydro corridor?


  13. I never said it was one way.

    Highest Volume AADT: 426,400 at Highway 400, Exit 359
    Highest Volume SAWDT: 498,700 at Highway 400, Exit 359

    AADT = Average Annual Daily Traffic
    SAWDT = Summer Average WeekDay Traffic

    … and …

    Highway 401 at Mavis Road 157,700
    Highway 401 at Dixie Road 328,200
    Highway 401 at Highway 11/Yonge Street 364,600

    Source: Ministry of Transportation: Ontario Provincial Highways Annual Average Daily Traffic, 2004.

    This doesn’t mean that only 500,000 cars used the entire highway between Peel and Pickering. I have those numbers somewhere else, and it’s 1M+. Take 20% of this, say, 200k … are you going to put 200k per day on a slow LRT line with close stops?

    Steve: Your logic is flawed by the assumption that the same cars that leave Pickering travel all the way to Mississauga. Looking at these stats, it is quite evident that the traffic volume at the Pickering and Mississauga ends of the trip is lower than the peak volume at Highway 400.

    That’s like looking at the peak load westbound at Sherbourne and saying that it all came from Kennedy. Not everyone on the 401 is making a trip all the way across the city, and if the numbers were as high as you claim, there wouldn’t be room for anyone else, let alone the through traffic.

    I stand by my analysis. 16 lanes at 2500 cars/hour/lane gives an hourly flow of 40,000 cars. It is easy, given the density of demand on an all day basis to get up to the total counts you cite, but they are not all making the full trip. Moreover, the peak one way demand (which is always the measure of built capacity for transit) is 20,000 per hour, and nothing near that is going to go via transit. In a pinch, the demand could be split between two express corridors which actually makes feeder services easier to provide at both ends.

    My answer to your question about what I would do if I were a Metrolinx planner is this: I would not build a subway. You may not agree with my position, but that’s what it is and I believe I am quite justified in holding it. And, if you have read my earlier comments, you know perfectly well I would not put these riders on a slow LRT. To say so blatantly misrepresents what I have already written and shows me that you really don’t care to engage in any sort of debate.


  14. Hi Steve and M. Briganti:-

    Steve I concur with your 2,000 per hour per lane if the highway is being run safely, for with 3,600 seconds in an hour and a safe distance between vehicles of 2 seconds per vehicle and assuming the length of the vehicle to be negligible then a safe load on this road would be 1,800 per hour per lane. Assuming a seamless 8 lanes everywhere, this equates to (At the unsafe level of 2,500 per hour) 20,000 vehicles per hour. Adopting your assumption of taking into account trucks, buses and multi passenger cars, one could extrapolate that there would be 20,000 potential transit riders in both directions per hour. All of these motorists would need to be extremely well behaved at ALL times to make this projection accident free!

    We all know that 20,000 per hour switching to transit ain’t a gonna happen, ‘no sirree yer not gonna get me outta my guzzler no matter what you offer as an alternative’; so M. Briganti’s guess of a high of 20% being diverted to transit may be on the high side of optomistic, but let’s for arguement sake adopt it. Then there are 20% of 20,000 or 4,000 people per hour in both directions wanting transit. This equates to 2,000 peple per hour each way as a potential high.

    Since these 4,000 will be north and south of the 401 and since Transit City is proposing East/West lines north and south of the 401, then it would seem likely that those 4,000 will divide themselves over the three routes, likely evenly, thus demanding a count of 1,333 per line both ways. Add in the expected demand without the added ex-401ers and whadda ya got? LRT capacity I think!

    If the 401 ran at full capacity all day long, passing any given 8 lane point in that 24 hour cycle will equate to 480,000 vehicles per day. That is the potential which will not be the reality though. Anything extra would be unsafe and once that occurs it should be shut down immediately!

    Add in a possible GO trans-regional route crossing this same geography then all of these potential 4,000 riders could be carried on two twelve car trains spaced at half hour intervals each way and still have room left over for those who are not 401 converts.

    All of these assumptions put everything on the high side, but the numbers seem to crunch correctly. I personnally don’t see a necessity for a subway level ridership forecast here. LRT yes, and then its a network, not one line.

    That’s the important thing as a noted difference between putting in one subway line versus a network to serve a wider area. The network will satisfy a much greater x-section of Toronto. As I have said before and will continue to say again, improve the overall level of ‘quality’ transit in all of Toronto and those that live outside our fair city can get the spinoff benefits too. Build one subway line and then with the golden goose exhausted some are well served, but the rest are still neglected.

    Once LRT line ridership levels start to approach a saturation point (as the B/D streetcar line did first) then consider a so called upgrade to subway. In my mind though, living right on the B/D line and still needing to ride a bus to get to the nearest station, I say put parelleling LRT relief lines in instead. This would improve the network and give better coverage to poorly served (read bus routes) parts of the TTC.

    Just adding my two cents worth and arithmetic skills into the foray!


    [The following additional comment was left separately.]

    PS: I missed he boat on my just sent comment. There are 16 lanes in the discussion both ways, thus all of my numbers need to be doubled. But are ther really 16 lanes or more like 12? If so multiply by 1.5.


  15. Before we talk too much about putting rails in the Finch hydro corridor, perhaps we should first look at expanding capacity in the CN York sub, through which we could run trains:

    Hamilton->Burlington->Tansley->Milton West->Georgetown->Brampton->Bramalea->Humber Summit->York U->Yonge->Thornlea->Unionville->Pickering->Bowmanville.

    While not identical, it has a fair number of similarities to, arguably even advantages over, the 407 corridor (except the closest it ever gets to Mississauga is Bramalea), providing a viable option for suburb-suburb travel by rail. The big problem is that there is high freight use along this entire stretch, so this can’t be implemented on the cheap, new tracks along the corridor would have to be added, but there’s generally space available for such to happen, except between Warden and Keele.


  16. Hi Steve:-

    After making my blunder and then reviewing my numbers in my last note, I realize that if one took every passenger vehicle (buses not included) off of the 401, transit could handle them all. 40,000 per hour in one direction at a peak period could be accomodated on 3 paralleling LRT lines (8,000 per hour per line, another 7,000 on paralleling GO x-town and the balance of 9,000 on paralleling bus routes at 2,000 per hour each).

    Of course this doesn’t take into account those riders that are already committed to riding these lines, but it puts a new reality in my perspective of how wasteful and self serving our society has become to take all that combined pollution that the 401 generates and non chalantly treat it as a necessity.

    If it was possible to divert all of the 401’s riders to transit users, then maybe on at least one of those LRT lines, there could be justification to consider it for Subway instead and some of the bus routes for LRT. Pipe dreaming I know, but just throwing out some thoughts for consideration.



  17. Steve, this really shows how you can critique Metrolinx, but not come up with any good solid ideas of your own. It also shows how you don’t understand modeling.

    If 498,000 cars cross Exit 359 on Hwy 401 on a summer weekday — let’s suppose an ideal scenario where they all got on at Allen Rd. and Keele and exited at say, Islington and vice-versa — so, are you saying then that the rest of the highway couldn’t handle more cars? … that it’s max’d out? That’s clearly wrong.

    Steve: Someday you will learn to read. Just because there are half a million vehicles (not cars) crossing a screenline does not mean that they are all trips between the endpoints of your scenario, namely Mississauga and Pickering. They could just as easily be going from East York to northern Etobicoke. The vehicle counts at other screenlines in the MTO data clearly show that the numbers at the east Toronto boundary are much lower than the numbers you cite. At the west boundary, it’s a bit more complex because the traffic divides among several alternate routes. In any event, the total traffic crossing the screenline (both ways, all day) does not all represent people who want to make an express trip across the city.

    As for maxing out the capacity of the highway, we already know that it is completely plugged in at least one direction at certain times of the day, notably at the peak point near the 400. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have reserve capacity for, say, trips from Oshawa to Scarborough, but your thesis involves trips across the 416 that must pass through the peak point. If all of the trips at the peak point are cross-city trips, then (a) the counts would be the same from the Rouge River to Etobicoke Creek and (b) there would be no capacity for any other travel. We know this is not the case, and therefore the premise that all traffic measured at the peak point represents cross-416 trips is faulty.

    Moreover, in a transit network, access time is an important component, and people overall may be better served by multiple parallel routes of modest capacity rather than a single, high capacity express line.

    I have already gone through the basic capacity calculations before, and this need not be repeated here.

    As for not providing solid ideas of my own, I already mentioned the CPR line, and others have discussed the Finch Corridor and the York Subdivision. I didn’t mention them only because I wanted to point out that one corridor already existed and has better connections to the road and transit network than anything in the 401 corridor (e.g. “REX”) ever will.

    You have consistently misrepresented the positions I put forward here for whatever might be your reason, and I am tired of it. I can only hope that it does not represent the position of an agency like Metrolinx, MTO or any of the army of consultants feeding off of them.

    This conversation is at an end. I am sure that this will confirm to you that I am an arrogant, interfering, left wing, wild-eyed, empty headed fool. You are welcome to your opinion, but others will disagree.


  18. I’m pleased to see some discussion of the possibility of running GO on the CPR line for a cross-town express link. I’d suggest adding in a station around Dundas West/St Clair (or possibly at The Junction or Keele) to even out the spacing in the west end a bit. I’d always assumed that the CPR would oppose anything of the sort, but if they’re amenable it should definitely be considered.


  19. Perhaps for funding we need an American style plan, where the people of the Toronto area, vote for an increase in sales tax, to fund the projects. Road tolls are self defeating, the better your project, the more people use it, and the less money you have to keep building. Same goes for parking taxes, and anything else that penalizes driving.

    One of the issues with such projects is that your trying to fit it in, where it’s most convenient to build, rather then where it’s most convenient to use when completed. Any cross town line would need to be placed so that it connects to the existing subway. If the idea is to service mostly people who are crossing over or bypassing Toronto proper, then it might be possible to go with 5km or even 10km station spacing. I’m thinking 4 stations across Toronto proper, one in Scarborough say around Kennedy Road, one at Yonge Street (Subway connection), one at Allen Road (subway connection), and one maybe near Weston Road in the west end. I wonder if the best place to put such a line, would be to take out 2 lanes of the 401 and run it down the middle, similar to the subway and Allen Road.

    Such a line would run from Ajax (GO Station), to the Airport in the West end, then down the 427 to the Gardiner, into a Tunnel under Browns Line, ending at the Lakeshore CN tracks, with a new GO station. This would allow people to cut across the top of the city, a new mega-terminal at the Airport would allow for local bus service to connect up there for Mississauga and Brampton.


  20. re: CPR opposing potential use of line

    I don’t think it’s a question of amenability, it’s a question of money. Of course, if the city wont consider proper rapid transit in subway form, the CPR will be in the conductor’s seat in the negotiations.

    re: 401

    Using the 401 peak throughput as the base for considering the the potential demand for parallel FAST transit lines is an invalid approach. Morning rush hour is about 2.5 to 3 hours long and evening (yikes, it’s painful to even think about 401 in the early afternoon and evening) is from about 3:30 to 7:30 – or about 4 hours.

    This means that there is a huge chunk of demand on the 401 who are not travelling when they really want to be travelling. In real terms, this means people coming in late and leaving early, coming in really early and leaving early. As a project manager, I have to deal with this – and it’s a real loss in productivity. However, people don’t have options – so I can’t blame them.

    I have a project team member coming on who doesn’t have a car right now. With a short subway ride and the Eglinton bus, it’s a an hour and twenty/twenty-five minutes all told out to our client. Most people can’t do that everyday. Make it a 50 minute transit ride for trips like this and there are legions of folks who’ll switch. No-one enjoys driving on the 401.

    I’d say the latent hourly demand onthe 401 in one direction is easily 60,000 or more so cars (i.e. if there were capacity, people would be arranging their trips so that they are actually at work during working hours.) Take 10% of this gives 6,000 trips (not even including car pooling.)

    A rough cut calculation for peak hour passenger load:

    Current peak ridership: 3 000 approximately
    Divert cars from 401 6 000
    Divert car from other routes 500
    Rush hour contraction on Eglinton transit itself 500

    Which gives 10,000. Add in 3% growth over 10 years and peak ridership is at about 13,500 already – well into the ALRT and subway capacity range.

    Of course, if the service is not fast, it wont happen. Which begs the question, is it worth it to spend $2.2 billion on a non-fast line to increase ridership by say 60-70% – or does it make sense to up that and triple and quadruple ridership? (And longer rides on average I might add.)

    re: Subway speed

    If you look at this link:

    Click to access a-notrefierte.pdf

    You’ll see that there are heavy subway lines with sub 1 km stop spacing that are achieving speeds of 36-37 km / hour.


  21. Hi Steve and Dave R.:-

    What’s non fast about LRT? If you believe that then you’ve never been on a PCC car in the Philly subway, or a PCC train in Boston on the Green line to Riverside. Not to mention the Shaker Heights in Cleveland. Each are lines with reasonable distance stop spacing and the cars would fly from station to station. The darned antiques were high floor beasts to boot. Nothing slow speed about LRT. And again, who’s the service for? Those that live and work along the line or those just sliding through from one green pasture to another?

    Those who live on a subway line with 1 km spacing are being served? Those near the stations maybe, but the rest in between stops, I think not! Dave R., Transit City is to be a network. Serve well the local rider and ultimately so will the non local get better service. Transit planners don’t care about the local rider when subway is considered, but as both a rider and a local resident in the city, I want to be served by the old TTC who lauded the fact that a great percentage of their riders lived and worked within steps of a car stop. That to me is providing real and valuable transit service. GO should be the agency supplying the long distance ride, not the TTC subway.

    Another example that quickly comes to mind of non slow speed LRT is the Pittsburgh Railways Urban/Suburban services. Downtown, for the convenience of the riders, they were taken on surface streetcar track to get them to their destination and then pick them up again at night at their locally located stop. Once across the river the cars would zip through the countryside to points about 20 miles out. All of this on a streetcar. There are so many more examples of this kind of simple, fast, efficient technology that once was prevalent in North American cities and is only now being rediscovered.

    From verything I’ve read recently, Torontonians don’t realize the half of what LRT will be giving them once installed. They will be truly amazed and jaw drop flabberghasted when LRT finally shows up on our neighbourhoods’ doorsteps. They may still never realize that other cities have had it for years, as well as the many others who lost LRT when abandoned for lack of government support. Torontonians may think that we’ll be the only ones so lucky to have LRT once it whisks folks around, around here, but it will be merely a re-invented, evolved wheel adopted here.


    Steve: To be fair, the network in Pittsburgh was a mixture of cross-country LRT lines on private rights-of-way and a lot of street running very much like the traditional Toronto system. Transit City is somewhere in between.

    Surface running TC lines will never speed across the region. That’s not their purpose, and TC advocates undermine the credibility of that network by overselling its capabilities. People are not going to travel from Pickering to Mississauga on an LRT network, not unless we plan a truly limited stop service. Such a route (or routes) will not run down the middle of any street, and even rights-of-way (such as the Finch Hydro corridor) need to deal with many intersecting streets.


  22. Hi Dennis,

    I’ve been on the Philly subway-surface many times. My twin lives in West Philly and takes the trolley to work in Centre City (or walks.) This is actually a pretty good service – much better than what we get from the streetcars here. The combined part of the route (under U Penn, Schuykill River and into Center City) is underground.

    The critical points are that the lines:

    – get people somewhere they often need to go reasonably quickly for the distance – without transfers
    – are underground for a good stretch
    – are not too long
    – are in no way a catalyst for re-development (get West past the U Penn area and it’s not a pretty site)

    To Steve:

    I’m not expecting an LRT line or subway for that matter to serve riders getting from Whitby to Oakville – that’s a complete red herring. The issue is urban transit in Toronto itself – and at this stage we have to look at Mississauga, Markham and Richmond Hill too as these are increasingly integrated in terms of where people live/work. Despite what many downtowners would like, Etobicoke and Scarborough and North York are now Toronto.

    There are large areas of the city where people are 90-100 minutes from the center of the city by transit. They have long surface trips and multiple transfers to get to the downtown. With the Transit City proposal, a few minutes are shaved from these trips. For local trips, some residents will have longer walks to there stops and a longer waits for the transit vehicle to show up. Others will have extra transfers as there branches (eg. 32B) are not through service anymore.

    This is hardly going to make residents ‘jaw drop flabberghasted’ over the improvement – probably more like – “huh – we lived through the dust and disruption for this?”.

    Now the Eglinton line proposed will give riders a noticeable improvement in speed. The question is do we do half the job now or do we cast a project that can make a dent in the 401 traffic – and get some of those trucks moving – and actually make a tangible difference in the quality of people’s lives.

    (Last year, my route to the project took me under the 401 on HWY 27. Every morning and evening, I would see a stream of tractor trailers either completely stopped or moving slowly.)

    If someone has a serious heart problem, they go to a doctor who will help alleviate the blockage first – before worrying about going to the plastic surgeon for the nose job.

    Steve: Without retracing all of the previous thread, the nub of the question is whether a high-speed, high capacity line on Eglinton is the appropriate way to handle the cross-city travel. I don’t agree that it is, and moreover feel that multiple corridors are needed. You speak of suburb-to-suburb travel, but so far the most I have seen proposed north of Toronto is VIVA BRT. We can’t serve travel between the outer suburbs with a line deep inside the 416.

    Making a big dent in traffic on the 401 will require a number of alternative services and routes. At best we can hope to hold steady on 401 demand while the regional population grows 50% over the next 25 years. One big complaint I have about Metrolinx is that they have not produced any detailed demand information indicating the makeup and volume of future origin-destination patterns. How are we supposed to plan transit to improve travel when we don’t know where people are trying to go?

    Their own plans, even the “boldest” of the lot as shown in White Paper 2, barely dented travel in the 905. The modal split went up a lot in relative terms, but still remained way below a level at which transit would be used by a politically significant part of the population. This suggests that if we are serious about changing travel (and congestion) in the 905, we need to concentrate a lot more on services that handle those trips on an attractive basis. A lot of this depends on local services, something Metrolinx completely ignores as a “regional” agency. This would be like a TTC that only cared about subway services.

    Transit City is not just about speed, but about capacity and reliability. In some corridors, the future demand is well above what we can handle with buses, and we need a way to carry all those riders without sticking them in a gigantic bus traffic jam.


  23. It is the automobile that slows down streetcar service. Before the 1950’s love of automobile appeared on the streets, the streetcar was fast. Compare the times on the transfers at with a current transfer. The transfers today have a longer time appearing on them.

    As a kid, I lived near Dundas Street West. We would take the Dundas streetcar to Eaton’s and pay city property bills at City Hall, and it was fast. Without lines of automobiles blocking the road, the streetcar was able to accept passengers, the drivers would sell tickets, and move along the street quickly.

    Today, the streetcars have to wait as some solitary driver in a automobile makes a left turn (looking for a parking space). That is why streetcar (and buses) must take a longer time to complete their trip.


  24. You have used the “Pickering to Mississauga” line several times to argue against turning TC into rapid transit, but that’s a straw man. There are all kinds of people who would want to go half that distance: to downtown.

    Steve: This wasn’t my choice. Mimmo was arguing for a cross-416 high-speed line for this type of travel. If someone wants to go downtown, there are several ways either existing or potential to do that. The subway system is obvious, but between increased service in the Lakeshore GO corridor not to mention new services on existing rail lines (not all of which have GO on them today), there are lots of ways to get downtown reasonably quickly. Transit City is not intended to serve downtown.

    This isn’t a straw man, but a debate about whether a local transit service should be bastardized to support long-haul trips between far-flung suburbs.


  25. Well – I agree that several rapid, high capacity lines E-W lines are needed. The 416 is an area code. The area’s main highway runs deep inside it.

    Noone is saying that the Eglinton route is a perfect route for E-W travel – but it’s a viable option. We have a proposal in Transit City to build a tunnelled transit line along a good portion of its length. On another large portion, there is a wide band of land that is reserved for transportation. The Eglinton corridor goes near:

    – the airport
    – the major employment district south of the airport
    – the employment center at Y&E

    There are certainly alternatives. Instead of ruling out alternatives at this stage, we should:

    – identify criteria
    – brainstorm alternatives
    – grade the alternatives
    – make a decision

    The main obstacle is that the major alternatives being considered – i.e. the conversion of main rail lines into transit lines – is not a known to be feasible, and we don’t know what the costs would be. We can come up with reasonable estimate of how much an Eglington subway line would cost – and we know it can be done. We even have an approved EA to build half the line.

    I’m not ready to prejudge alternatives. If the alternatives are not feasible, the conclusion is obvious.

    I don’t expect 401 traffic to wither away. However, it’s a reasonable objective to be able to narrow the length of peak hours. Improved flow on the 401 will reduce the amount of traffic on parallel arteries – some traffic will come back from the 407.

    Metrolinx has a big job. Their website is confusing and without printing everything, it’s hard to assess. The design of the arteries will influence how local services evolve. For example, Laval transit (STL) largely reconfigured their local bus network:

    – number of routes increased from 34 to 40 (and at least one more since)
    – overall service increased 16% and 24% on weekends

    all in conjunction with the extension of the Metro. Local feeders and arterials work together. I don’t think the new riders on the STL and Metro are worried that the Metro has ‘bastardized’ their local service. (I really think that your last comment is beneath you.)

    Steve: I agree that we should look at several alternatives, but Metrolinx already had some of them in its early plans and dropped them without explanation.

    The express rail corridor along the 401 was an intriguing idea, even though I think it’s the wrong place, but it vanished. The original proposal for commuter rail service on the CPR line has been reduced to peak only service, some of it in the distant future.

    Bluntly, I don’t think Metrolinx has done a good job of explaining how their plans evolved and why they have made the proposals they did. The draft RTP is supposed to be a “conceptual document” subject to change, and yet we had a prolonged debate this summer about a unilateral decision to run an Eglinton Skytrain line. It’s rather odd, given the flak Transit City took for pre-empting the technology debate, to have draft plans that specify a technology when the whole purpose of a study is to identify needs and fit the proposed network to them.

    One might have thought the fix was in for a proprietary solution. That may not be true, but Metrolinx has done nothing to quell that impression. Rob MacIsaac’s statements that “we are not going to build a subway on Eglinton” evade the basic point that Metrolinx never proposed this, but did propose a “Metro”, a technology defined as Skytrain or its equivalent.


  26. Long haul riders would be better benefited with LRT Commuter lines on the 401-407 corridors with local-limited-express bus feeder routes. Eglinton will be better suited to the local LRT period. If you live at Markham rd./Eglinton you have a GO train station right there. We have the major suburb to suburb infrastructure in exsisting Go Train stations. Kennedy GO is another example. Just make the GO service fantastic and the need for a suburb to suburb long haul service is not needed on Eglinton.


  27. Hamish Buchanan wrote, “I’d always assumed that the CPR would oppose anything of the sort, but if they’re amenable it should definitely be considered.”

    The CPR has never been opposed to the idea whenever it has come up in the past, but they know this is a major freight line and would require triple and quadruple tracking along much of its length for GO service. Despite the cost of this, the opposition has always come from residents along the line due to what is really much ado about nothing.

    Their argument goes: extra tracks needed for GO are not used by GO 24 hours per day, so when GO is not using them, CP can use them for more freight traffic. This means more noise and potential accidents and spills.

    This argument falls apart when one considers the reality of operating a freight railway: it is not so cost effective when the trains travel between points of rather short distance like the extents of GO’s operation. That extra capacity is only available over the length of where the extra capacity exists. Most freight traffic originates or heads for points much farther afield, so the extra tracks when GO is not operating provide little more than a place to hold a train if entrance to Agincourt Yard is backed up.


  28. Just looking at the Google view of the CPR route. I see this is their main route – well really only route – into their huge main marshalling yard in the NE of the city. (You can see the hump is at the SW end of the yard.) This would seem to rule out acquiring the route outright.

    I can see that this is double-tracked only. To run a ‘Rapid Express’ type service will need two tracks reserved for the transit service – retaining two for freight. There are a number of bridges that would need to be twinned and underpasses also need to be considered. In some places, the right-of-way is broad – in other less so. It looks pretty cramped right at Yonge – and also north of Leslie.

    Room for adequate stations also needs to be considered above the allowave for the two new tracks.

    The line goes through a lot of green spaces and industrial areas – few connection points at existing trip generators.

    Steve: As I mentioned earlier in this thread, the line also makes good connections with the transit system at a number of places, something that will be essential for feeder/distributor services on the route. The GO trains don’t have a lot of immediately adjacent development on their current routes either, and they depend on transit and on parking for their success.

    Without question, some work is necessary, but we are, after all, talking about alternatives to several billion worth of needless subway construction, the premise that started this conversation in the first place.


  29. Saying something is needless is prejudging the matter. You should keep an open mind.

    Steve: I have taken the position that an Eglinton subway (or “metro” for that matter) is not needed especially if we look at alternatives. If I thought that subway was a good idea, this entire discussion wouldn’t have started.

    I’ve done a Q&D cost estimate from looking at the line and what would be needed (not including motive power and rolling stock)

    Minor bridge widenings (15 x 20 million) = $300 million
    Major bridge twinning (2 x 100 million) = $200 million
    Underpass widening (10 x 20 million) = $200 million
    Stations – Land and construction (7 x 70 million) = $490 million
    Grade crossing elimination (3 x $25 million) = $75 million
    Realign existing track and lay two high speed new tracks = $300 million
    Electrical substations, systems and wires = $250 million
    Storage and maintenance facility = $100 million
    Miscellaneous land aquisition for right of way = $50 million
    Capitalized rent to CPR ($30 million p.a. @ 1 / 5%) = $600 million
    Overall project design, planning, legal = $100 million

    Which gives about $2.6 billion.


  30. While I agree that we shouldn’t spend billions on needless subway construction, let’s not mislead ourselves to think that the improvements needed to the GO network won’t be in the billions itself – it will be billions in new GO track, we just get more km per billion. GO expansion is cheaper… but it isn’t exactly “cheap,” either.

    Steve: To be clear, I never said that GO would be a nickel and dime affair. However, this entire thread started from the premise of looking at alternatives for long-haul trips across the region rather than piling everyone onto the Eglinton line.


  31. To Dave R: first of all, thanks a lot for doing that Q&D cost estimate.

    Now based on you data, one can notice that Regional Express on so upgraded CPR North rail line ($2.6 B) plus Eglinton LRT (current estimate $3.5 B) will cost somewhat less than Eglinton subway alone (at least $ 6.5 – 7 B based on the distance).

    I reckon that the LRT plus REX pair is of greater customer value than the single subway line. REX will be faster than subway and hence more convenient for long-haul trips, whereas LRT, being mostly relieved from long-haul customers, will work pretty well for short and medium-range trips.


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