Transit City — The Movie

Today’s TTC meeting brought us an update on the various parts of the Transit City plan.  You can read the full report yourself, and there is a quick review of the status of various lines and studies below.

Meanwhile, the TTC is starting a media campaign to tell people about Transit City and about LRT.  You can watch the video on the TTC’s website.  Although it is a breath of fresh air to see the TTC promoting LRT after all these years, there are a few oddities in this piece (the timings where they occur are included below).

  • (0:39) “Work on Transiy City is already well underway.”  Hmmm … a few traffic barriers does not make a construction project.  I wonder why they don’t show the upheaval on St. Clair?  Shortly later we see a new car mockup superimposed on the westbound stop at Yonge Street.
  • (0:55)  “What is Light Rail Transit?”  We learn that LRT is used around the world including, wait for it, in Vancouver!  Er, ah, there’s a heritage streetcar line running with a former BC Electric interurban car, but no LRT.  This is a howling error.  Other cities shown on the world map are many fewer than the actual inventory.
  • (1:15)  “LRT can operate in a street, but has the flexibility to operate underground like a subway.”  LRT advocates will be amused to hear that their chosen mode has the “flexibility” to be just like a subway, when the real issue is the inflexibility and cost of 100% grade separated modes.
  • (1:50) Light rail is bigger than standard streetcars, and allows level boarding from platforms.  It’s nice to hear how LRT is a streetcar, but not a streetcar.
  • (2:10) LRT cars don’t need loops!  Amazing what you can do with modern technology.  See also Kennedy Station Loop.
  • (2:20) All door loading … but wait .. it’s a subway car!
  • (2:38) LRT will be separated from the effects of traffic congestion, not to mention pesky “transit priority” signals if the animation can be believed.
  • (3:32) Streetscaping.  Aside from the gigantic, fast-growing trees (maybe they’re from Vancouver too), note the typical suburban layout with wide setbacks of buildings from the street.  Contrast this with later illustrations of dense suburban redevelopment.
  • (4:05) Transit will be an even better travel alternative.  With a new subway train?  What’s that doing here?

The map of projects reflects the original Transit City announcement because many possible changes are still under study by both TTC and Metrolinx.

Transit City project updates follow the break.

Transit City project status:

  • Sheppard East:  EA completed and awaiting final provincial approval.  Design underway, and construction expected to start for the Agincourt GO grade separation plus the section of the line from McCowan to Neilson in 2009.  A design report on Don Mills Station connection options will be available in December.  Completion date 2012.
  • Finch West:  EA in progress.  Study of Woodbine Live and Pearson Airport connections underway.  Preliminary design will begin soon with construction starting in 2010.  Completion date 2013.
  • Eglinton:  EA in progress.  Study of Martin Grove to Airport connection required.  Preliminary design will begin in 2009 with early construction in 2010.  Detailed study of connections with other lines (subway, LRT, GO) is required, and the extent of the underground section is not yet finalized.  Completion of first stage (undefined) in 2016.
  • Scarborough RT:  EA in progress.  Conceptual design underway including McCowan to Sheppard extension.  Optional conversion to LRT under study.
  • Scarborough-Malvern:  EA in progress, expected to complete in 2009.  Construction planned for 2014 with completion in 2018.
  • Maintenance and Storage:  The design contract for new storage carhouses and yards was awarded at today’s meeting.  At least three yards are needed for the northeast, northwest and downtown parts of the network.  Property acquisition will being in 2009.
  • Waterfront West:  EA for Dufferin to Roncesvalles underway, but delayed for co-ordination with the Western Beaches Master Plan.  EA completion is expected in 2009 with construction start in 2010 and completion in 2014.  Park Lawn Loop will be rebuilt as a new western terminus for the 501 Humber service in 2009.
  • Waterfront West (Park Lawn to Long Branch):  EA in progress.  Construction planned for 2014 with completion in 2015.
  • Don Mills:  EA in progress.  Construction planned for 2012 with completion in 2016.  There are major issues for the junction at Don Mills and Eglinton, as well as for the alignment and design south to Danforth Avenue.  York Region has requested a study of a northerly extension to Major Mackenzie Drive.  [Note:  As I have written elsewhere, the line south of Eglinton needs careful consideration as part of the proposed Downtown Relief line, but that is not part of the EA because the DRL only recently surfaced as part of the Metrolinx draft regional plan.]
  • Jane:  EA in progress.  Construction planned to begin in 2013 for completion in 2017.  There are right-of-way problems south of Wilson to the Bloor Subway. 

14 thoughts on “Transit City — The Movie

  1. In the TTC’s “movie” I particularly enjoyed the comment that (possiby a slight paraphrasing here ‘the TTC is known around the world for the uniqueness of its system.”

    I had first hand experience of this when visiting the factory near Schaffhausen Switzerland when CLRVs 4000-4005 were under construction. The chief engineer showed my wife and myself various elements of the new cars (all six were on the erecting floor) and when he came to the roof access flip-outs gave one a few disdainful flips and said “we offered them a neat aluminum ladder but they said ‘no’ and sent us a supply of these because their employees were used to them.”


  2. Steve, I want my $12 back. LOL Serious I noticed some of the flaws you above mentioned, but I noticed yet another flaw. The station spacing seemed wide in the above view shot, is this subway style station spacing or a way to force feed LRT into the people? Don’t get me wrong I support this but this seems a bit of a lie.

    Steve: I think that the video was a victim of budget cuts. Actually having stops and moving passengers and all that sort of thing costs money. Just think of how fast we could run the service without the pesky passengers. The text refers to wider station spacing and this is in keeping with the values shown in the EA materials for various lines.


  3. I’m surprised you didn’t complain they called Transit City rapid transit several times.

    Steve: I think this is an example of Metrolinx newspeak sneaking into a TTC presentation. Metrolinx calls anything that vaguely looks faster than a bicycle “rapid transit” so that they can claim most of the GTA population will be close to it.


  4. I love how hilariously fast moving the LRT vehicles are in the video. The automobiles on the streets all seem to be doing 10 km/h while the LRT vehicles are doing warp speed down their rights-of-way.

    It’s certainly a bit optimistic.


  5. Yeah it’s made on the cheap, but it is aimed at folks who don’t know what LRT is, and is quite educational all things considered.


  6. @luke – that’s exectly it. The point of the video is to educate and inform the public about Transit City and LRT.

    I appreciate the feedback from Steve et al. and it is well-noted. This is the first video in a series that will highlight each line, and provide greater detail about how LRVs will work and what they will truly look like – once we have a vehicle.

    Brad Ross
    Director – Corporate Communications
    Toronto Transit Commission

    Steve: And just to be clear, I couldn’t resist having fun with that video. Once there’s one gaffe to point out, well, it sets the stage for more.

    Apparently, the script was written and the voice-over recorded before they got to drop the Vancouver reference, but at least the picture of the Skytrain didn’t make it into the final cut!

    Maybe next time someone who actually knows something about the transit system and the individual lines will check things before the shoot?


  7. I notice that on existing prw’s the only time the streetcars go faster than the automobiles is when the latter are caught in heavy traffic. Otherwise, especially on St. Clair, the streetcars tend to dawdle along as if they are running on a padded schedule. They NEVER speed along like we see in the video.

    If, as seems to be the case, the new cars are double ended, they will require twice the number of doors. This takes up seating space. Being, as the voiceover says, almost twice as long as the normal CLRV doesn’t make the cars that much longer than an ALRV and they will certainly require the extra space to accommodate all the passengers that will be attracted if they actually run at as much as a quarter of the speed portrayed in the video.

    Steve: These are low floor cars, and the vestibules at sets of doorways also double as standee space. I assume you have ridden the subway to see the same effect.


  8. Note to Steve and David: According to my own research *modest cough*, the Siemens Transportation Systems S70 Avanto is a 70-percent low-floor light rail vehicle* in multiple-unit service in San Diego and in Charlotte, North Carolina; each Avanto vehicle accommodates 68 seated passengers, with a maximum passenger load of 236, and is 2.65 metres wide, 3.68 high, and 28.53 metres long, in contrast to the 15.42-metre CLRV (46 seats, 132 max pax) and to the 23.16-metre ALRV (61 seats, 155 max pax).

    * Yes, the TTC spec still calls for 100-percent low-floor LRVs; near as I can tell, the Alstom Citadis 302 is 30 metres long (54 seats, 198 max pax).


  9. In the old days streetcar speeds were quicker than today. Mr. ROSS I think you are making propaganda by showing the LRT moving fast because in reality, they will be sputtering along at bycicle speeds for our 10 billion dollar transit city. We are presently in a recession so I seriously doubt any of these lines will be built.

    Mr. ROSS first you should fix the switching problems on your existing fleet and remove these restrictions that permit our present fleet to operate slowly. I used to use the King car until one driver decided to sit at a traffic light on bay/king for three cycles. I approached him to ask why and he got lippy. I then noticed the cyclist that was riding by the streetcar. I had earlier seen this cyclist at King and Dovercourt whizz by me when i was boarding. It then hit me…. Take the bike…

    Steve: The reference to switching above is the stop-and-proceed rule that was implemented some years ago at all facing point switches. When the TTC moved from overhead contactors to in-pavement antennas for the automatic switches, the new system was not reliable. This has been an ongoing problem, and the “fix” was to impose serious restrictions on movements through all switches, even the manual ones.

    There is a project in the capital budget to fix this, but it never seems to get started.


  10. Traffic signals are going to give priority, are they? My advice to the TTC on this issue would be not to make me laugh. They either can’t or won’t do anything to get the city to give streetcars priority on Spadina so at this point I’m really quite dubious about TC lines getting any kind of priority at all. I’ll believe it when I see it. Now if you can forgive me for bringing up a blast from the distant past I understand that there was some kind of experiment way back in 1962 with some sort of traffic signal preemption on, I believe, the Carlton line. It would sure be interesting to know why it never went anywhere.


  11. In regards to the idea that the drivers will be instructed to drive slowly along the dedicated lanes just to keep a schedule, I have a way to ensure that this isn’t the case.

    I’m not 100% sure what kind of scheduling system the LRT lines are going to operate on, so I might be reiterating what has already been established, but anyways.

    All one has to do is look north to the Viva bus system. The Viva does not operate on any set schedule. The only schedule they follow is the first and last departure and arrival times to their end stations. Sure, you won’t be able to leave the house thinking “the LRT is going to show up at my stop at 1:43pm”, but coupled with both an online method of accessing “next bus” type information, as well as that same information being displayed at the stops themselves, it would go a long way to eliminating the whole “keeping a schedule” conflict.

    A bus driver who now drives faster for a portion of their route so that they can make a stop over at a Tim Horton’s would no longer be acceptable, as they cannot use the excuse that they are “ahead of schedule”.

    So my point is, run the LRT system on a “rapid transit” service schedule, where the only thing that you would know about the schedule is that a train is expected roughly every x minutes, but not at any specific time interval of the day.

    I have never seen a Viva bus stop over on the side of the street to waste time. They always keep moving, and the drivers drive fairly aggressively to maintain a fast moving system. This is what the TTC needs.

    Steve: There is a far simpler explanation here. The TTC has a bad habit of reacting to any line management problems by extending the running time. This is counterproductive in many cases because it (a) encourages dawdling, (b) creates a situation where lots of time is available for terminal layovers that are taken whether the car is early or not, (c) rewards the operators who most flagrantly screw up the service by giving them even longer breaks, and (d) avoids management’s basic responsibility to understand how the line actually works and manage it properly.

    My all-time favourite, seen on the St. Clair shuttle, was a point where every single car on the line was laying over in St. Clair Station. A car would leave now and then, as it felt like it, while most of the “service” took a long break. This was caused by a combination of excessive running time and the number of cars scheduled.

    On a simpler note, just this morning, I watched at Queen & Broadview as two 504’s came south, the second enroute to a Roncesvalles short-turn and almost empty. This car could have been spaced back to give a decent headway, but that would require someone to actually keep track of service. This approach should not require an army of route supervisors and relief operators.


  12. Raffi wrote, “The Viva does not operate on any set schedule.”

    This was originally the way it operated, which I found strange because of how the traffic signal priority works. The system only kicks in when a bus is running “behind schedule”. When that is the case, it extends a green phase or shortens a red phase by up to 30 seconds for the bus.

    Up to about six months ago, one could not get a schedule listing on YRT’s website for Viva buses. That has now changed, and you can get actual schedules, though I have found that typically the buses are actually running between a couple of minutes early and up to 5-8 minutes late. This is not such a great issue, as the worst frequency for the Viva system is about 15 minutes. Compared to the rest of the YRT services, this seems bad because the majority of time YRT buses are much closer to hitting their scheduled times, but when you run a bus once every 30-60 minutes, you kind of have to be more accurate if you want anyone to keep using the service.

    Raffi also wrote, “I have never seen a Viva bus stop over on the side of the street to waste time. They always keep moving, and the drivers drive fairly aggressively to maintain a fast moving system.”

    Viva drivers will usually wait for a passenger to cancel their ticket, often after the passenger didn’t know and only found out when they boarded and asked the driver. Just last week, I was on a Viva bus when the driver got out to help such a passenger.


  13. I do realize that the YRT site does now display a schedule on their site, but I believe (and you seem to have confirmed this belief for me) that it is just a placeholder that they had to put due to the new website design. Using the Schedule Finder feature of the site, if one enters a Viva route then they expect some sort of schedule to show. I never believed that they would actually follow this schedule, and as it turns out, they don’t. There is no true schedule to follow for the Viva, whether one is posted online or not. It’s not the nature of rapid transit.

    As for the waiting for a passenger to cancel a ticket, I don’t count that as stopping over. By stopping over, I mean pulling out a paper or going to get a coffee (something we see every day on most TTC routes). Waiting for a passenger to validate a ticket is part of their job as drivers, because they have to promote the idea of validation instead of just letting people get a free ride.


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