Jane/Eglinton LRT Open House

Lately I have been distracted by other events, and neglected to post information about the Jane LRT Environmental Assessment.  The display panels from the open houses can be found on the project website.  Note that three linked “display drawings” showing the detailed route layout on an aerial view of the line are quite large with the fine details visible only if they are viewed at 100% size.

There will be a joint presentation of the Jane and Eglinton LRT:

Monday September 22
6:30pm to 9:00pm
Centennial Recreation Centre West, gymnasium
2694 Eglinton Ave West
(just east of the York Civic Centre and adjacent to York Memorial Collegiate Institute)

The Jane LRT design is, putting it mildly, challenging because of the narrow right-of-way available for the south end of the route.  Alternatives including underground construction or reduction in the number of road lanes are being considered.  These will be a harder sell in the Jane corridor than on other Transit City routes because of the lower projected demand relative to the community impact and the cost of an underground option.  This would place the line underground south of Wilson Avenue, but would result in much wider average station spacing (1km if underground, 500m if on the surface).

Oddly, the same language about running LRV trains because of the difficulty of managing close headways is carried over from other EA materials.  This gives us the absurb claim that it is difficult to manage a headway of 3’30” of single cars, and a 7’00” headway of trains would be operated for reliability.  Contrast this with the Eglinton LRT EA where the proposed headways are 3-4 minutes.

At York University, there are three proposed routes to link the Jane LRT with Steeles West Station.  One stays completely on Jane and Steeles, one skirts the campus on the west side via Murray Ross Parkway, and one goes through the campus.

Two Metrolinx proposals (shown on the map published by the Star) include a northern extension of the Jane line to meet up with east-west service in York Region, and truncation of the south end at Eglinton where it would connect to whatever is built in the Eglinton corridor.  Also omitted, thanks to the ever-present Blue 22 line, is any mention of a service via the Weston rail corridor to Union Station.  Both of these schemes for the south end of the line would leave the Jane LRT serving only the portion of the route north of Eglinton with bus service remaining south to Bloor.  These options should be examined if only to determine their impact on peak service demand and the origin-destination pattern of riders in the Jane corridor.

The refined proposals for the Jane route will come back to a second series of open house meetings later in 2008.

Some Day My Train Will Come (Updated)

Over the past week, I have spent a lot of time in Dundas Station what with the AMC theatre being a major venue for the Film Festival and the location of the principal box office.

On opening night, September 4, the “Next Train” information was up and running on the One Stop video monitors.  Alas, by closing night, September 13, all we got was a black band with “No Information Available”.

As those who’ve been reading here for a while know, I am not impressed by technological tricks, especially when they are of dubious value and don’t work reliably.  There’s probably some very good reason for the system’s failure, and this is part of the 90-day pilot, but I can’t help wondering whether the TTC will be any better at keeping information systems running than escalators.

The full rollout of One Stop monitors is supposed to be completed, along with the in-station “Next Bus” info screens, by the end of 2009.  This brings me to one huge problem with One Stop:  It’s an advertising medium, and it is located to be seen by the most people, up to a point.  Many stations (including the one right under TTC head office) still have Metrons, some with working displays advertising for that same kennel near the Airport.  Donlands may even have a full set of working displays, and the ones at Museum were carefully preserved until days before the station redecorations were unveilled.

At Yonge Station, the monitors are far enough apart that the “Next Train” info, were it present, would be illegible to half the waiting passengers, and Yonge has more than one monitor per direction.  The problem, of course, is that if signs are intended to offer information, there have to be lots of them and this runs headlong into the design issue of overwhelming stations with video screens.

Speaking of Museum, the white columns are starting to look dirty, and there has been at least one naked lady (at least a classical reference) sketched on a column.  This sort of thing is endemic on the TTC.  Projects start but never finish.  Things are built but not maintained.

During the whole 9 days the displays at Dundas actually worked, I didn’t experience a delay to see whether they gave accurate info, or resolutely showed the same estimated time for 10 minutes running while the next train sat somewhere down the line.  I didn’t get to see a display with any value higher than 3 minutes, and have no idea of how reliably the system will deal with service holds and gaps.  We shall see, once they get it working again.  Any other observations of the displays’ behaviour would be appreciated.

Updated Sept 14:  I have been advised that different versions of the “next train” software will be tested and that the display will be out of service from time to time.  All the same, it bears watching to see how reliably available and accurate the information will be.

The Winter Garden’s Moon Shines Again

With the Film Festival making good use of the Winter Garden theatre, I’ve been in that house a few times recently.  One vital piece of decor was not in working order: the moon in the sky over the stage, house left.

Theatre lights are important, and the Winter Garden’s moon is a key part of the decor.  I wrote to the Ontario Heritage Foundation about this, and here’s their reply:

Hi. Thank you for your enquiry about the moon in the Winter Garden’s “sky”. The bulb that lights up the moon had burned out late last week. Because we’ve had both daytime and evening screenings all week unfortunately there was no time to change the bulb. Today, things are somewhat less hectic upstairs, with only one screening in the W.G. at 8 pm. The light bulb will be changed today and the moon will shine once again! Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Arnie Lappin
Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre

Long may it shine!

Film Festival 2008 — Early Reviews

Starting next week, I will begin to post reviews of the films I’ve seen at this year’s Film Festival.  Meanwhile, a brief overview.  The films are listed in the order I saw them.

  • Plus tard, tu comprendras ***
  • Passchendaele **½
  • 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould **** (1993)
  • 33 Scenes From Life **½
  • The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World **
  • Every Little Step *****
  • Dean Spanley ***
  • Is There Anybody There? ****
  • Witch Hunt **½
  • Séraphine ****
  • Hunger ***
  • Religulous *
  • Katia’s Sister ***
  • The Hurt Locker **
  • The Wrestler ***
  • Birdsong 0
  • Happy-Go-Lucky ***
  • Adoration ***½
  • Four Nights With Anna **½
  • Good ****
  • Fifty Dead Men Walking **
  • Synecdoche, New York **
  • Toronto Stories ***
  • Me and Orson Welles ***½
  • Who Do You Love ****
  • $5 A Day ***
  • Blood Trail ***
  • Lovely, Still **½
  • Adam Resurrected ****
  • Of Time and the City **½

Full descriptions of the films, albeit with the festival programmers’ usual rosy glow, can be found on the festival website.

Sixty

On Sunday, I celebrated my sixtieth birthday by spending a great deal of time at the Film Festival.  You will all have to put up with a series of reviews later in September as is my wont at this time of year.  Yes, there was a party, but on Saturday and the hard core who stayed up late enough got to hear the City Hall clock chime in the day itself.

To my many friends and allies in the transit wars, thanks for helping to make this site a vital part of Toronto’s transit discussions.  It’s not just my opinions that make the site work, but the interplay among the comments left by many readers.

To those who regard my views as hopelessly misguided, you’re welcome to your opinion, but I don’t have to publish it.  Certain newspapers in this town don’t exectly line up with my political views.  I may read them now and then, but I don’t waste my time on letters to the editor, and if I did, they certainly wouldn’t get printed.

Yes, I can be feisty at times and give ground rarely in debate.  Over the decades, I have learned that feisty works with consistent, well thought-out positions.  Being ever so concilliatory in the “please, Sir, will you read my humble submission” manner is a fast way to be ignored.

Underlying all of my activism on transit and other fronts is a strong desire to see a better Toronto.  We have been waiting far too long for far too much.  Toronto basks in a reputation earned when I was young, and we are still nowhere near building a 21st-century Toronto that comes up to the city’s mythology.

Retirement from my “real” job will come next April, but there’s much to do on the transit scene and retirement there is a long way off.

Transit City, Paris, Reviewed

Last night, I had the immense pleasure of attenting the RATP’s presentation about the use of LRT rather than subways.  I’m not going to attempt to reproduce the information here, but am hopeful that the illustrations will show up on the TTC’s website fairly soon.

Toronto has needed this sort of presentation for a long time, and if only scheduling problems had allowed it other than on a Friday evening, there might even have been media coverage and more representation from senior staff and politicians outside of the City.

The Mayor of Paris decided that he wanted to reduce car use and green the city, and that transit was a key to regeneration of the inner suburbs.  ‘Tramways” (LRT in our terms) were the solution both for their lower cost (why build “five times the capacity at five to eight times the price”) and for their ability to stimulate the neighbourhoods through which they passed because of the pedestrian activity along the route.

Major street redesign was integral to their plans.  They knew perfectly well that the tramway would reduce road capacity, and the lower traffic volume combined with the lowered road speed converted semi-arterials into calmer, walkable neighbourhoods.

The bus service to be replaced had reached the maximum it could handle, and substantial additional riding came with the conversion to LRT.  They are now running peak headways of 4 minutes (15 trains/hour) of cars with a capacity of 300.  This is on a street with short blocks and much local demand.  Indeed, stop service time is a considerable part of the trip time even with all-door loading.  This makes the trip slightly slower, but avoids the need for passengers to access stations.

The construction projects were co-ordinated between all utilities and agencies, and a liaison committee met monthly with people and businesses in the affected areas.  A standard method of compensation for business interruption handled the vast majority of complaints in that department.  Construction co-ordination was vital to avoid the sort of cock-ups we have seen on St. Clair where each city agency rearranges its priorities without regard for the impact on overall project plans.

I could not help noticing the absence of centre poles to hold up the overhead even though the streets were a good six lanes wide.  Poles are considered visual polution in Paris and their use is minimized.  Where one pole can do the work of two or three, it does.  Transit City urban design team please take note.

This is not to say that the Paris Tramways and street geometries are a model for everything we do in Toronto, but it is so refreshing to have a city say “this is what we can do” rather than endless reasons for delay.

As and when the presentation is available online, I will update this post with descriptive comments.

Ed Drass Wants to Organize Meetings

The following comment was left by Ed Drass in the Metrolinx thread, and I have moved it to its own post so that replies are kept together for easy review.

Steve, if I may, I am wondering whether there is any interest among readers of your site in attending a series of meetings to discuss the RTP over then next few months.

The meetings can be informal or I could attempt to promote them as an unofficial complement to the Metrolinx/Metronauts consultation process.

Either way, the plan would be to discuss in depth the research and planning that has gone into the RTP, as well as the possible impact of the recommendations.

It would important, for me at least, to hear comments not only from knowledgeable people who are following the process ‘from the outside’ but also to invite the professional planners and consultants who have actually helped develop the plan.

We could work out how to deal with any attribution issues since I (and possibly other media) would attend.

If anyone wishes to assist or advise, you can contact me via transit (at) eddrass.com or 416-922-0077. Thanks for the space, Steve.

Steve: Don’t forget that the time is very constrained and a final version of the RTP has to go to the Premier by late November. Effectively, this limits everyone to the month of October for feedback if it will have any hope of making it into the plan.

Where Should Metrolinx Be Going? (Part 3)

Events of the past 24 hours have overtaken me with the leak of a draft of the Draft Regional Transportation Plan to the Globe and Mail.  I had intended to hold off talking about that for a few days on the assumption it would leak out of this weekend’s retreat by the Metrolinx Board, but there it was, at least a few tastes, on the front page no less.

All the same, I want to pursue my original plan which was to trace the evolution of plans to what is likely going to show up in the Draft RTP.

In the previous post, I talked about the IBI studies done for the GTTA/Metrolinx startup in January 2007.  The Green and White Papers, and now the draft plan are direct descendents of those original studies, but with important differences along the way.

All of the reports I am discussing (except the draft plan which is not yet published) are available on the Metrolinx website.

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Where Should Metrolinx Be Going? (Part 2)

In the first part of this article, I wrote about many of the ancilliary aspects of the transit system and ways to move people around the GTAH.  Active Transportation.  Mobility Hubs.  Transportation Demand Management.  Now it’s time to look at the transportation networks.

When we review the various proposals, it is important to remember that right up to and including the White Paper, the networks were only samples intended as fodder for the demand assignment model.  “Let’s see what happens if we put a line here” is the basis for these exercises, although some knowledge of the overall behaviour of the GTA informs where one draws lines on the trial maps in the first place.

The test cases originated with a group of reports written by IBI as part of the startup of the GTTA, later Metrolinx, called Transportation Trends and Outlook for the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton, and the Strategic Transit Directions report within this.

Next came the Metrolinx Green Paper #7 on Transit, followed by White Paper #2.

All of these reports are available on the Metrolinx website.

Strategic Transit Directions

Going back to this report (dated January 29, 2007), I was fascinated by some of the material it contains and how this has, or has not, been reflected in Metrolinx work over the past 18 months.  At the risk of being accused of “cherry picking”, there are important findings in this document.

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