Richmond Hill or Bust? The Yonge Subway Extension (Part 3)

Posts in this thread have examined the general design proposed for the Richmond Hill subway and the many demand estimates for this line.  Now I will turn to the impact of this line on the larger network.

As many have pointed out in comments to the previous items, the Spadina/VCC extension was supposed to offload the Yonge subway.  We now know, according to the TTC’s estimates, that the effect will be a reduction of less than 10% of the existing demand southbound at the peak point, Wellesley Station.  Meanwhile, the availability of a competing subway line in the established Yonge Street corridor will attract many more riders.

The TTC manages a rabbit-in-the-hat trick by claiming that demand relative to capacity on the subway in 2017 will be the same as it is today thanks to Spadina diversion and more commodious trains.  That’s a very big, very fat rabbit, and I suspect it’s more of a canard.

Development will continue in York Region, and if anything the availability of frequent transit service, both on GO and on the TTC, will offset any effect that long-term increases in energy costs and commuting might have on travel demand and the decision to live far out of the core area.  Demand will grow on the subway both from the 905 and from within the 416.

Notwithstanding the 2017 claim, the TTC has many options to increase capacity including:

  • Addition of a 7th 50-foot long car to expand train capacity by about 10%
  • Operation of a headway as low as 105 seconds using automatic train control
  • Reconstruction of Bloor-Yonge Station to separate boarding and alighting traffic streams
  • Diversion of traffic from the lower Yonge line to a Downtown Relief line

7-car Trains

The addition of a short 7th car to the TR trainsets brings added capacity, but there is a problem with timing if this were included in the base car order now at Bombardier.  The longer trains will require more precise stopping at the platforms, and the TTC feels that it is impractical to expect this of their operators who are now used to having a  cushion because trains are shorter than platforms.  Only after ATC is running on the full YUS in 2015 could 7-car trains be operated.  The TR cars will be here long before 2015.

Another issue is that the TR fleet now on order is not large enough to displace all of the T-1 trains, and a supplementary order will be needed to fully convert the YUS.  The TTC may be unwilling to operate trains of varying lengths on the same line as passengers will either wait where no train will stop, or they will avoid the ends of the platforms in anticipation of a short consist.

Any scheme to add platform doors to the YUS also requires trains of uniform door arrangement.  Mixing trains of different layouts will require a lot of extra doors that would eventually be obsolete.  As I have already written, I believe that platform doors are much more a make-work project than a vital addition to the subway system.  Nice-to-haves, not must-haves.

Automatic Train Control

The current schedule for ATC implementation is:

  • 2013 Eglinton to Union (replacing the oldest signalling equipment on the line)
  • 2014 Finch to Eglinton
  • 2015 Union to Downsview

The TTC claimed that ATC was an absolute pre-requisite for any expansion of subway service, but this runs headlong into the claim that the same headway will do nicely, thank you, for 2017 as for today.  This is not to say that upgrading the signalling system was a waste of money, but the way the project was presented created an artificial crisis to encourage funding.

An important side-effect of ATC is the ability to run in either direction on either track.  This permits bidirectional operation at widened headways between points where trains can switch from one track to the other.  The TTC plans to reinstall the crossovers formerly at King, College and St. Clair to add flexibility in operation on the line during service disruptions.

There have been statements (although inconsistent) about the ability to run 24-hour service because trains can be diverted around work sites.  This is not quite as simple as it seems because the power feeds are not, as I understand things, set up to allow selective shutdown of one direction’s power.

A 105-second headway can be operated provided that trains are allowed to approach more closely to each other than the current system permits.  The two clear block rule on today’s system prevents trains from creeping right up behind their leaders at busy stations, and potential dwell time is lost getting a following train to the platform.  ATC allows this close spacing without the safety exposures of doing the same thing manually (as is technically possible with the existing signals at many locations).

Short headways also demand that some trains short turn because the geometry of existing terminals makes it physically impossible to cycle trains in and out that quickly.  Leaving aside the less than split-second timing of crew changes, the length of crossovers imposes lower bounds on the cycle.

In this context, the TTC’s plan to send all PM peak service to Richmond Hill is dubious unless they are going to radically change the track layout compared with current designs.  An “opening day” headway equal to current operations will fit in a standard terminal, but a reduction to 105 seconds will not.

Bloor-Yonge Station

The Bloor-Yonge Station changes do not increase capacity per se, but reduce dwell times by separating the passenger streams.  This is a pre-requisite for shorter headways because the sum of the dwell time and the time to cycle the next train onto the platform must be no more than the headway, preferably less for flexibility.

The TTC has resurrected a 20-year old scheme to restructure the station with a new centre platform on the upper (Yonge line) level, and a possible pair of side platforms on the lower (Bloor line) level.  See diagrams at pages 33-34 of the online version of the staff presentation.

I have already published the report on which this design is based (browse “Part 1 of an 8-part review on my site).  That report claimed that the construction would require an extended closing of Bloor Station, but I am told by TTC staff that a subsequent design changed this.  Essentially, the plan would be to cut away the existing platforms in short sections replacing them with temporary structures to maintain access to the trains.  New tracks would be laid under the temporary platforms, and operations would switch over to the relocated tracks and narrowed side platforms once an entire side of the station was completed.

What has not yet been addressed is the issue of construction at the north end of the station where it is physically inside the structure of the Bay, and in the approach area north of the platform where the tracks must be moved further apart.  Foundations of adjacent buildings are close behind the existing tunnel walls including the Asquith Bell Canada switching centre.

Connection to the Bloor line’s existing platform requires excavating a new passageway under the existing station, and side platforms on the Bloor line itself bring their own challenges.  Some of the structures required to serve new side platforms on the Bloor level would probably best be built as part of an initial construction for the new third Yonge platform, and this will add to the cost and complexity of such a project.

The TTC will undertake a feasibility study to update the 1988 report, and staff (at least some of the staff who are also gung-ho on the Richmond Hill subway itself) seem really enthusiastic about this project.  The implications for service quality during a multi-year construction project are daunting, and the cost will be substantial.  Both of these must be offset against alternative ways to maintain traffic through this critical junction at or below current levels.

The Downtown Relief Line (East)

Metrolinx includes a DRL running from Dundas West to Pape Station via the Weston Corridor, an indeterminate east-west alignment, possibly Queen Street, and the Danforth subway in its 25-year plan.  I believe that this is too far in the future even assuming that this phase of the plan could begin in “year 16” after the 15-year plan is completed.

For its part, TTC staff are less than enthusiastic about this option, an odd situation considering that it could add another subway project comparable to the Richmond Hill line to their future workload.  The problem, of course, is that if we make the DRL a co-requisite for the RH extension, this will trigger a funding crisis (as if we don’t already have one) in the overall scheme of transit projects.

[Note to my many commentators:  Please don’t set off a discussion of which alignment at DRL might take in response to this post.  The issue is whether we have a DRL at all.  Technology and alignment will affect the total cost, but in the context of the RH subway I would like to keep that discussion for another thread.]

The staff presentation includes a sketch map at page 36 of  possible DRL alignments.  All of them proceed south from Pape to at least Queen, and the three options shown enter downtown via (1) Queen, (2) Eastern, Front and Wellington, or (3) Eastern, Rail Corridor, Front.

These trace their origins to the DRL plan that was based on ICTS/RT technology and which went down to Eastern Avenue to access a possible carhouse site.  An alternative alignment via the Rail Corridor from Pape (or further east) is not included, and this is a considerable oversight.

At its north end, the DRL plans go to Pape because it is a major bus terminal (25 Don Mills, 81 Thorncliffe Park), and because with an ICTS yard on Eastern, no connection to the existing subway network is required.

However, the larger context for a DRL today is the Don Mills LRT study.  The south end of this Transit City line suffers from a hangover of the Don Valley Transportation study which included BRT operations to Pape, Broadview or Castle Frank Stations.  None of these makes sense at the capacities expected on a Don Mills line, but this is an example of “the tyranny of old studies” I have written about before.

The original scheme to run the Don Mills LRT across the Leaside Bridge has encountered problems both of bridge capacity (possible, but difficult) and curve radius (turns both end of the bridge are difficult).  Moreover, designs for on-street operation on Broadview or Pape belong in a fantasy world where we can convert busy four-lane streets into transit malls.   This sort of “design” gives LRT a very bad name, and if I were cynical, I might think it was a deliberate plot to demolish support for the proposal.  [Cynical?  Me?  You jest!]

A complete rethink of this section is long overdue including a recognition that the line will have to be underground at least to the point where it reaches the Don Valley.  The problem then becomes crossing that valley, entering Thorncliffe Park and continuing north.

My own view [I can hear the wild laughter now] is that the line should pass under Thorncliffe Park and continue up Don Mills to a major junction at Eglinton.  This would provide a continuous rapid transit link from Eglinton to Downtown in the Don Mills corridor and eliminate much transfer activity at the Danforth Subway.  A Don Mills LRT, operationally separate from the DRL itself, would run north from Eglinton.  [Yes, there are design alternatives here including the question of a link to the CPR corridor and GO service to Agincourt and beyond.]

Nobody wants to talk about this sort of scheme because it is very expensive.  However, it must be remembered that whatever will be done with the Don Mills LRT, the south end of the line is going to cost a lot and probably be at least partly underground.  The question is one of the marginal cost of integrating this part of the line with the DRL.

Moreover, a DRL will divert much demand from the Yonge line and Bloor-Yonge station thereby avoiding the cost of additional station capacity not to mention the greatly increased fleet needed to handle all the traffic on the Yonge line.

At this point, readers may think I am just about as certifiable as the TTC engineers who want to dismember Bloor-Yonge station.  My point is that we have to look at the alternatives both to understand what might be done and how the network would benefit (if at all) from various alternative schemes.  The greatest challenge, politically more than technically, is that the pressure to build new lines has the construction sequence all wrong, and the possibility of at least temporarily overloading the existing system too high.

The Downtown Relief Line (West)

While we are on the subject, I may as well add comments about the west branch of the DRL.  I believe that it is not as critically required because demand from the west is, or will be, served by a richer collection of services on GO Transit, and the University Subway (to the degree that it has reserve capacity).

A related project is the Weston/Airport corridor which, if it were detached from the stupidity of Blue 22, could be regarded not just as a regional GO project, but also as a new local service connecting northern Etobicoke and Weston to downtown.  I am not convinced that this should be through-routed with the DRL east, and doing so could create technology issues by forcing both lines to be either LRT or full subway.

The Sheppard West Subway and Wilson Yard

The TTC has included the Sheppard West subway in its grab-bag because it is one of the options for the Sheppard/Finch corridor issues.  They have concocted a story that goes roughly like this:

  • If trains must enter service from Richmond Hill southbound, they will have to leave the carhouse earlier.
  • This will cut down on the time available for line maintenance and increase the cost of dead mileage.
  • Therefore we need a Sheppard connection, possibly with a station at Bathurst, to grant access from Wilson Yard to the NorthYonge subway.

This is a badly skewed argument.  First off, the really early morning trains should originate at Davisville, not at Wilson.  Second, a link across Sheppard West would cost at least $600-million at current construction costs.  The interest alone on that could pay for a lot of extra dead-heading.

If storage is provided somewhere on the extended Yonge line, it does not have to be in an open air “yard” like Wilson or Davisville, but could be in underground tracks adjacent to the running structure.  We’re not talking about housing a dozen or more trains, only enough to prime the start of day service.

(An operational point:  carhouse moves from Wilson Yard to Richmond Hill could only occur at the beginning and ending of service because there is no east-to-north or south-to-west connection from the Sheppard Line to the Yonge line.  The moves would require trains to reverse through the existing links which face south, not north.)

 The TTC talks of the ability to enlarge Wilson Yard, but they need to put this in context.  How many trains can it hold?  What is the effect on fleet size (and space needs) of dropping the headway to 105 seconds?  What is the realistic limit on the number of cars Wilson Carhouse can service?


The purpose of these three posts has been to ask many questions, not to answer them definitively.  I have some ideas, and so do many others.  The vital point is that we do not fixate on a single “solution” before we really understand the problem and the options for dealing with it.

As I said in Part 2, the first thing we need is a detailed model of origin-destination patterns for 2017, the year the RH subway would open.  Where does everyone want to go?  Which services serve which demand?  What is the growth potential for both ridership and service in various corridors?  What are the comparative costs of alternative ways to produce capacity in the Yonge corridor?  What are the costs and risks of concentrating all riding in a single corridor?

If the riding estimates that have been published are correct, there will be a large and growing demand for capacity into Toronto and within Toronto for service.  We have to accommodate this.  The real problem may be that the demand verges on outstripping the amount of service various governments are willing to pay for.  Building a single subway extension may keep the folks in Richmond Hill happy, but at the expense of the greater network.

Metrolinx produced an integrated Regional Plan, but did very little to examine the relationship between its components.  This is happening, belatedly, now that the Board has recognized the importance of looking at bundles of lines, at collections of alternatives.  Projects like the Richmond Hill subway threaten to end-run the integrated planning Metrolinx claims is so important.

In the current economic climate, there maybe pressure to approve and fund this route without critically looking at alternatives.  The fact that nobody could actually start building it until well beyond the end of the current recession will be lost in the political hoopla.  Vital money that could have been spent sooner on works we really need (not necessarily transit) will be sequestered in a future subway line’s trust account.

I am not unalterably opposed to subway construction if the need can be demonstrated, and the need is not the result of a gerrymandered demand model.  However, I also want more transit in more places, more options for people to travel around the region.  Burning up every dollar we have on a few lines won’t accomplish that.

25 thoughts on “Richmond Hill or Bust? The Yonge Subway Extension (Part 3)

  1. The DRL needs to be built before we can even consider the richmond hill subway. It’s nothing to do with favouring the 416 over the 905, it has to do with the fact that we cannot fit any more passengers on the yonge line, or at yonge and bloor. I’ve been told that my idea is a “load of croc”, I recommend trying to tell that to the sardines crushed into the cans we call “Subways” at yonge and bloor and see what they think about it all.


  2. I like the idea of Downtown Relief subway going up to Eglinton / Don Mills. That would relief both Yonge and the central section of Danforth subway, simplify the Pape / Danforth interchange, and improve the operation of Eglinton LRT by diverting the downtown-bound riders from the middle of its eastern part. Lawrence East and Leslie buses, and perhaps the future Lawrence East LRT, could be routed to that subway terminus.

    DRL West is not that urgent. But at some point, I would look at the Etobicoke South (aka Waterfront West) LRT route and DRL West in a common context. Since the cost projections for the Union loop LRT connection appear to be growing well beyond the original estimates, I would consider the following alternative:
    – DRL gets extended west to Queen / Dufferin (later, it can be extended further to meet Bloor line at Dundas West);
    – Etobicoke South LRT operates off the Queen / Dufferin subway station, using a short (about 2.5 km) LRT tunnel built under Queen between Roncesvalles and the subway;
    – Union loop is no longer needed for Etobicoke South LRT, and hence can be dedicated to serving near Waterfront, both west and east. In particular, the Exhibition streetcar can be extended to Ontario Place.

    One potential objection to the above scheme is that it introduces an extra transfer en route from Etobicoke South to downtown. But it should be noted that a brand-new subway / LRT station can be built for a very convenient transfer (one platform shared between the eastbound subway and LRT trains, another platform shared between the westbound subway and LRT), and then the subway can take the passengers to multiple downtown locations. In contrast, people alighting at Union loop have to walk through a long tunnel before they can either exit or board the subway.


  3. As usual, a well thought-out argument, and no, I don’t think you’re crazy for considering an LRT under Thorncliffe. That’s future-thinking, not convenience-thinking.
    The problem is: will anyone listen….

    At any rate: Merry Christmas, and here’s to 60 MORE years of your advocacy!:)


  4. Hi Steve:-

    I was just looking at the NYC Subway web site and some recently posted pics showed rebuilt ‘C’ trains on the Brooklyn elevated. This rebuild took place in the 30’s or 40’s, I don’t recall which, but they employed turn of the century open ended wooden cars spliced into a 3 section articulated train set on 4 trucks. Probably the ugliest rapid transit cars ever (re) built, but they sure saved platform (crew) and maintenance costs as well as enclosed more car space and with sliding side doors.

    The whole reason for this comment is to suggest that the talented TTC shop crews in concert with Bombardier, could rebuild two out of every six T-1 cars with gangways and splice in a newly built centre car for a three unit articulated set to splice anywhere into a T-1 set, either lead, middle or trail position. This would give an inexpensive rebuild (versus buying new) to bring T-1 cars into the new standard for the YUS, full platform length trains. This would avoid the problem which you correctly pointed out of confusing passengers. I too remember the B/D’s 4 car off peak trains and the sometimes frustrated left behind passengers. Budgetting for TR’s should then mean that we don’t need a complete YUS equipped with the newest of the new, but as all other aquisitions have been in years past, leaving us with some old for rush periods and the new for all other times.

    Not impossible and certainly a reasonable way to go, even with the gangway only partially there in each T-1 trainset, it’s not the end of the world and passengers will quickly adapt.

    Dennis Rankin


  5. Here’s a christmas present that all of Toronto that will love! Steve Munro as chairman of the TTC! But I think there is a political grinch that is spoiling everything.

    Steve: Let’s see. I could be chair of the TTC and listen to half of the city complain that I am just an NDP operative out to socialize transit, give away the store to the unions, and waste billions on a bunch of streetcar lines. What has changed?

    Ho! Ho! Ho!


  6. A couple of points that I find interesting are:

    1) Single ended LRV’s make for an inflexible service that requires loops while double ended HRT trains create terminal problems because the don’t have loops. I know that several of the lines in Philadelphia and Chicago have loops at their terminals but their cars are shorter and can turn in a narrower space. Also the land was cheaper when these lines were built.

    Steve: LRT trains are shorter and tend to have tighter crossovers not built for medium speed operation through the turnouts. This makes the turnaround time at an LRT terminal much faster than at a subway terminal. If we built really short subway trains and had tight crossovers (like Eglinton and Union as it originally existed), we could operate shorter headways (and did) on the subway.

    2) York region appears to be trying to drive Toronto’s future transit priorities by clamouring for unnecessary extensions to the Yonge and Spadina lines so they can say that they have a subway connection from Vaughan to the city below. I can see why people might want to escape the weird escapades of Vaughan Council but they do not need HRT.

    3) York University is almost as bad as York region. Their loading demand does not warrant HRT but they are too good for LRT. They deserve something better, just ask them. I live in Brampton and I would not want an HRT line to Union, god could you imagine the pain from riding a T1 train for an hour? I would rather spend 35 minutes on a GO train that ran every hour, that is all I ask, and I would pay a premium fare to do it.

    4) I still believe, although I seem to be talking to myself only, that there is a need for another class of vehicle in the GTA. It is an electric service with GO type equipment that would have a stop spacing of 2 to 4 km. It would provide a faster service than HRT or LRT and a more frequent service to the downtown than GO can. I would run it mainly on the existing rail lines to minimise costs and construction disruptions. It is not designed to replace or displace LRT or HRT but to serve a different niche. It would create another class of vehicle but how many incompatible types of subway cars will the TTC have when they get the red rockets, besides the body shells would have a lot in common with the GO coaches.

    If you have been to Sydney then you may have seen the type of service that I am talking about. The one place that I would deviate from the existing rail lines is to go North from near Greenwood yard in a new tunnel to get to Thorncliffe park then up the Don valley to Richmond hill.

    I would seriously look and running 1500 to 3000 VDC to eliminate the need for onboard transformers and to reduce the need for substations. The electric traction is necessary to get faster acceleration and deceleration though they probably can’t match those of the fabled Linear Induction Motors they would still be fast enough for mere mortals. I would also look at making it high platform with the doors above the trucks. This would speed up loading and unloading because the people from the top and intermediate sections tend to use the outer half of the door while the inner half of the door is only used by those from the lower level. Besides if you have a heavy inner core running at 3 or 4 minute headways in the rush hour splitting into 2 or 3 branches at each end then you would not have the terminal problems that the TTC is worried about.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


  7. If we are serious about reducing the load on the Yonge line, then we will indeed need to extend the Sheppard subway west to meet up with the University-Spadina line.

    Steve: All this will do is offer Sheppard East riders a way to get to the Spadina Line, but by the time they get there, they could already be southbound at least at Lawrence, and would have a faster trip to the core than via Spadina.


  8. The only way to make a Sheppard line extension to downsview work in terms of reliving congestion on yonge, is to connect the two so that a train could run from don mills right into downtown via Spadina. Sheppard, however, would work better as LRT.


  9. At the south-east corner of Yonge & Bloor, a huge 60+ story condo is about to go up. It’s foundations must also have an impact on the TTC’s redesign for this interchange. Do you think they’ve thought about it?

    I travel every workday through Bloor-Yonge station, and it’s extremely crowded and slow moving. I’ve been in packed, much busier London Tube stations that have much better passenger flow…

    Steve: The portion of the station adjacent to the new condo has already been widened. The subway is under the next building to the east, and the widening was done when that building went up. The real problem lies on the north side of Bloor.


  10. Not fixing a bottleneck in order to throttle usage may seem like a good idea, but it is likely to be as effective as not building subway lines to Downtown in order to discourage development Downtown. Yonge-Bloor needs to be fixed.

    TTC needs to be able to handle a much higher modal share for transit in Toronto. That means fixing the bottlenecks on existing lines while working on parallel ones.

    Steve: The problem is that we may break the bottle while fixing the problem. Twenty years ago, the Yonge-Bloor project was estimated at $120-million, and I would be quite surprised to see it below $400-million today allowing for inflation in construction costs. To this we must add the interference with ongoing operations and the loss of station capacity while construction is underway. Don’t forget that before we can build the new centre platform we must first demolish half of the existing platform structures and lose their capacity.

    People complain about the high cost of a DRL, but when I look at the combined value of the Bloor-Yonge scheme, the proposed Sheppard West connection and the larger fleet required on Yonge to provide more frequent service, the net additional cost of the DRL is rather small. Moreover, provision of another line into downtown gives more flexibility for travellers when part of the system isn’t working.


  11. Steve, if we offer Sheppard East riders a way to go southbound on the Spadina Line rather than on the Yonge Line, they will be getting the opportunity to ride a less-crowded line, on a more direct route to their destination, be it St. Patrick, St. George, wherever. This will reduce the load on the Yonge line and substantially enhance overall network connectivity. Your assumption that all riders southbound want to terminate on the Yonge line is incorrect. If we are serious about reducing the load on the Yonge line, extending Sheppard to the Spadina line is badly needed.

    Steve: Sorry, but I do not agree. First, the number of people on the Sheppard line is compratively small relative to the total demand on Yonge, although it will grow somewhat over the decades. Second, the dispersion of riders coming from that line to downtown is if anything more strongly Yonge-oriented than University-oriented.

    Riders are notorious for not going out of their way. When we had integrated subway service in 1966, the people coming from Woodbine to downtown took, in some cases, the long way around, but this traffic petered out by Queen Station northbound. Once the services were split, this “around the horn” traffic dropped off even more and trailed off by King Station.

    The context for this discussion must include construction of the DRL, a much more useful way to spend the money that would be needed for the Sheppard West connection (and, yes, more). With the DRL, the issue of severe congestion on the Yonge line would not be as big an issue, and Sheppard riders would likely choose Yonge. Either way they have a transfer.

    If they go south via Yonge from Sheppard Station, they will get to Union in roughly the time it would take them to reach St. George, or possibly further north, on the Spadina line. That’s a powerful incentive to go via the shortest route.


  12. Where is the money coming from to ‘MAINTAIN’ this subway extension and Transit City?

    Steve: At this point nobody knows, but it is a major issue on the minds of the Metrolinx Board members. It is acute in the 905 where they have small transit maintenance and operating budgets today, and the increase in scale of operations with TC is quite substantial. This is all part of the debate about tolls, regional sales tax and other “revenue tools”.


  13. Steve said …

    “Riders are notorious for not going out of their way. When we had integrated subway service in 1966, the people coming from Woodbine to downtown took, in some cases, the long way around, but this traffic petered out by Queen Station northbound. Once the services were split, this “around the horn” traffic dropped off even more and trailed off by King Station”.

    True, but in 1966, the passenger volume at Bloor-Yonge was maybe 1/3 what it is today, and almost nobody was left behind on the southbound platform because they couldn’t board.

    I still don’t think a DRL will be as effective because it will force two transfers instead of one for the majority of passengers. If it is routed with connections at Queen as Osgoode OK, but if its only connection is at Union, then forget it. A short parallel route under Church St. with all the same Yonge stops would be far more effective.

    Steve: The problem with a Church Street route is in making a connection to the subway. The east end of Yonge station is at Park Road (the east end of the Bay building), and the next chance is at Sherbourne.

    One of the reasons I have proposed that the DRL continue north to Eglinton is so that it can attract more traffic from bus and LRT feeders that would otherwise be on the Danforth subway.


  14. Why plan to segregate the DRL and Don Mills lines technologically at Eglinton/Don Mills? What reasons would there be not to build a single integrated LRT with an extended exclusive ROW section?

    If the line were constructed as a single LRT (both wings) then WW could function as an integrated branch of the the DRL west from Queen/Dufferin (a la Rainforest’s comment from the beginning ofthis thread).

    Steve: The question is the projected DRL demand south of Danforth. Even if this is within LRT capability (which it might be in the moderate term), the train lengths would not fit into street operation north of Eglinton. Transfers have to happen somewhere in the network, or we build massive extra capacity just to avoid them, and Don Mills & Eglinton is, I believe, a good place for a major interchange.

    All of this is subject to getting a much better handle on the details of future demand, a task that Metrolinx has been singularly unwilling to conduct in public. They would rather that we take on faith their own proposed network and not ask how well it serves the demand patterns.


  15. Steve said …

    One of the reasons I have proposed that the DRL continue north to Eglinton is so that it can attract more traffic from bus and LRT feeders that would otherwise be on the Danforth subway.

    This is a good idea, but in 20-30 years, won’t we be back to Square 1? As ridership from the north on the DRL grows, won’t its effectiveness as a BD alleviator will be reduced as trains arrive from the north already overcrowded? Think of the situation at St. George in 1978 vs. now.

    Steve: If ridership from the north on the DRL builds, this may very well ve traffic that might otherwise have gone west to Yonge. Trying to crystal ball gaze that far in the future requires many, many assumptions about how traffic will redistribute itself as more routes are added and frequencies increased. If the DRL manages to fill up as a full subway, then there will be bigger problems elsewhere in the network to worry about.


  16. Re: Matt G
    The idea of running multiple LRT routes through a common downtown tunnel is appealing, since that option minimizes transfers and optimizes vehicle loads. But unfortunately, its practical implementation might be difficult when high volumes of passengers are expected.

    First problem is what Steve mentioned already: for high capacity, long (4, 5, 6 car) LRT trains are preferable, but such trains won’t fit the branches running in the street median ROW. Vice versa, accommodating trains from the branches (likely 2-car each) will limit the capacity of central section.

    The second problem is this: if the central section is to operate on tight headways (under 2 min) during the peak hours, trains coming from the branches must adhere to the schedule very accurately. But, this is difficult to guarantee when the branches operate in the street median rather than fully grade-separate, and hence are affected by the traffic conditions. If a train misses its slot by just 2 or 3 minutes, it means that a chunk of capacity is lost (the delayed train will still make its trip, but delay the next train etc).

    The multi-branch LRT scheme is used in many cities around the globe, and I think it can work well in Toronto, for example on the Eglinton route. Metrolinx has projected the top demand of 7,800 pphpd for that line; even if it actually gets to 10,000, it can be handled by 30 2-car trains per hour (350 passengers per train). So, we can have 2 branches on 4-min headways, or 3 branches on 6-min headways, sharing the central underground section.

    But for DRL with its projected demand of up to 16,000 pphpd (and what if it grows to 20,000?), this might be problematic.

    Therefore, my suggestion was, actually, to run LRT from South Etobicoke (using Queensway ROW up to Roncesvalles, and then a short tunnel) to Queen / Dufferin, with a transfer to HRT Downtown Core subway at that point. I realize that such solution is less effective in terms of transfers (one extra) and of vehicle usage (a portion of HRT capacity is needed only east of Dufferin for people transferring from LRT, but the whole HRT train still has to travel west of Dufferin to the terminus). But, it will be a lot easier to operate.


  17. On the DRL and LRT VS Subway.

    Steve. Can/should we not build the DRL as LRT, but, add a second track south of Bloor (or Eglinton) so that you have one track from Union to Steeles (or Markham) up Don Mills, but a second, “express” track from Bloor to Union that would double capacity. So long as you keep the LRT tracks in a single tunnel (like the Montreal Metro) it should save on costs, and the ability to save a transfer should come in important here as well. We could then even continue the DRL to the west, and have the “local” line head up Jane street. Thereby we have local trains from Don Mills going to Union, from Jane going to Union, and “express” trains from Pape going to Dundas West via Union.


  18. I think that any scheme to boost LRT capacity and demand while maintaing surface compatibility would probably run up costs higher than HRT would. We shouldn’t try to make LRT do something it isn’t designed to handle, just like the TTC shouldn’t try to have Yonge carry more people than it can handle (at a cost that could exceed that of a DRL East).


  19. The Don Mills LRT is a BIG waste of money if you ask me! All you need is an express branch on the 25 Don Mills route and presto, you have solved a lot of problems. Why waste almost $700 million to take a lane of traffic away on Don Mills to satisfy, ummmm, a stupid streetcar, when the reason for doing that is to solve crush loads on the 25 during “peak” periods?

    There are 168 hours in a week. There are 5 “business days” and the peak period on Don Mills (as stated by the “Diamond Lane” signs 7-10AM, 3-7PM) combines for 7 hours per day or 35 hours per week. 35/168 = 21% … not enough to justify “planning for future ridership” using an electrical vehicle hogging up a lane of traffic when you ALL know that the car will never be abolished. Just run an express branch like the 39 does and semi-frequently (approximately 6-8 minute headways).

    Steve, what do you think about this???

    Steve: This line will not cost anywhere near $700-million especially if it starts at Eglinton and goes north from there. The biggest cost for any Don Mills line (regardless of technology) is getting across the Don River and through East York to the Danforth subway.

    Demand on the route north from Eglinton will likely go up if it connects with a direct route into downtown.

    As for hogging a lane of traffic, well, more of that is needed, not less. That may sound like a simplistic answer, but if we’re not prepared to do this, we might was well stop complaining about transit being an infrequent, second-class service.

    Also, if you are going to build a LRT line for the sake of building it, don’t stop it at Steeles, build it to Beaver Creek and let it somewhat follow the routing of the 25D. That’s a major industrial/commercial area up there with many jobs, and I assume even more jobs in the future as the lands just behind Vogell (north of 16th Avenue) are very much vacant at this point in time.

    Steve: There are already plans to continue the Don Mills line north of Steeles. They were not included in the Transit City announcement (beyond having an arrow and a dotted line pointing north) because TC did not presume to tell neighbouring municipalities what they should build.

    As for the DRL, build it up to Main Station to have a connection with GO, then plan for an extension up to Sheppard along Victoria Park or Kennedy. Forget this “wish wash” stuff about connecting it to a waste-of-money Don Mills LRT. Just because Don Mills is wide, doesn’t justify LRT-status. Victoria Park has just as much commercial and residential use around it as Don Mills does, same for Warden. Don Mills and Eglinton is not a mini-downtown, you don’t need a major hub right next to the Superstore (c/o G. Weston).

    Steve: In case you have not noticed, there is already a rapid transit line parallel to Kennedy called the RT.

    Taking the DRL east to connect with GO at Danforth Station ignores the fact that people on the GO train will get to Union Station without doing anything simply by staying on board for one stop. This scheme would also create a long, relatively unproductive chunk of DRL paralleling the Danforth subway.

    Turning north on Victoria Park strikes me as comparable (from a traffic point of view) to Don Mills, and with all the same potential for complaints about competing road users. Off peak services on the 24 and 25 routes is in the same ballpark, and if you want to argue for “peak only” transit lanes, then the same attitude applies in both places.

    The point about Don Mills and Eglinton is not that the intersection is a destination in its own right (how many times can you go to the Science Centre?), but that it is close to major concentrations of high-rise buildings whose occupants would love to have faster connections to other parts of the city. Bus routes like 100 Flemingdon Park and 81 Thorncliffe Park would become local shuttles feeding into the transit node.

    Don Mills and Eglinton itself has vacant space on the northeast corner, and I understand that the Celestica property on the northwest corner may also become available for development. This is not a trivial location.


  20. I did some number crunching that I think may be of interest to some people here.

    The two planned subway extensions bring the Y-U-S route-km length to 45.6km from the current 30.2km – an over-50% increase in subway line length, very significant.

    Currently, 39 TR consists are on order (234 cars), and an addition 6 consists (36 cars) are included in TYSSE, plus 12 consists (72 cars) in the Yonge extension estimate. That brings us to 57 TR consists. Y-U-S currently has 44 trains running, 19 of which only go between St.Clair West and Finch, plus 4 gap trains, bringing the total up to 48 on the line. In the PM peak, it is 49, with only 2 gap trains instead of 4, and no short-turn service (wider headways).

    Assuming the average speed remains unchanged (30.9km/h, 30.3km/h for short-turn service), it would take about 3 hours to do a round trip from VCC to RHC and back; a 91.2km trek.

    I calculated the vehicles required to be at least 73 trains (including 5 gap trains, and allowances for trains idling at terminal stations), calculating Glencairn-RHC at the current 141 seconds and Glencairn-VCC at the current 300 second headways (which is actually the Downsview to St.Clair West stretch today), which would be the lowest service levels the TTC can, by their own policies and promises, provide.

    As an aside, the new TTC website makes no mention of the differences in headways north and south of St.Clair West in the AM rush in the website’s schedules section (it says trains at Wilson, Yorkdale, Glencairn etc. are every 2-3 minutes at peak periods, but check it out in person and it’s a different story).

    This calculation leaves the TTC with a shortfall of at least 16 TR consists, that’s 290 million 2006-dollars worth of additional TR fleet investment. If the TTC goes ahead with the 7th car, assuming that they would cost 2 million a piece for argument’s sake, and that at least 73 of those would be needed, you have 146 million dollars more dropped on them. That’s a fleet investment of 436 million (mostly 2006-)dollars.

    Assuming that the Bloor-Yonge reno at the last TTC meeting quoted at $500 million minimum according to Charles Wheeler would have been for just the 4-platform layout (since he said “minimum”), and that the 4-platform layout is, when you think about it, unacceptable from a user’s perspective, ultimately requiring a 6-platform layout at the end of the day, that cost of the reno would be closer to $750 million.

    Then there’s the Sheppard extension to the Allen. That’s around 4km, presumably with a station at Bathurst. Say $1 billion as a ballpark figure.

    Do you know what that totals up to? It totals up to just shy of 2.2 billion dollars in capacity enhancements. And that excludes any new yards and additional exits at existing stations.

    Ladies and gentlement, an almost 5 billion dollar project is being advertised to governments at about half the actual cost.

    Steve: This is the point that was made by members of the Commission at the last meeting both Karl and I attended. The project is being “advertised” as much by members of the TTC’s own staff who seem bent on supporting the RH subway project without going into the gory details of its side effects.

    For a thorough analysis of fleet requirements, please see the detailed paper on the subject I wrote in November.


  21. Steve, We’re now well into the new year and it appears you may have to start a new strand (or two) from this area of comment.

    I heard earlier today on the news that the Yonge North line will consist of six stations, take approxiametly five years to complete, cost about two and a half billion, and hopefully(the announcer’s words not mine) start in 2010 (can’t remember if was 2010 or 2012.

    I was just surprised to hear something on the radio!!!).

    Now, we are hearing this and I live just a few blocks away from everything that they are planning. I was always for LRT from the city north to say Major MacKenzie Drive. Believe me, the need is there. However, ask the people of Hendon, Talbot, and the other streets around Finch Station when it is the afternoon rush. Not a nice neighbourhood to live in when this happens.

    Well, the situation up here is a little different. Apparently, a parking lot will be set up south of the 407 in the large hydro field. There are several roads that lead away from the Finch lots. Up here, there a few roads going to the east (Highway 7, High Tech Rd., Bantry Rd.), the north (Yonge,which will aready be crowded at this point, Red Maple Rd., and a little further east Bayview), and going west … here is a big problem, ONLY Highway#7 AND 407.

    There is a huge residential area here that is already having big problems with traffic flow in the morning and afternoon with volume. This political problem for local politicians has yet to surface. When it does and the people realize this, there may be several confrontations. These are large homes with very lofty tax assessments and payments.

    Steve, this line does make sense. It is needed. There has been much redevelopment on Yonge. The VCC line however is a joke and obviously a political payout to someone! The Yonge line does have the volumes but it appears that no one has thought periphally about many things to do with it (relief line, traffic flows, NIMBY will be there ,etc.).

    These were political lines and in hard economic times to come, I still find it hard to comprehend the idea of such spending like drunken sailors when three or four LRT lines could be done for a similar price. I still think back to about a year ago when a Markham politician said to me that “we” did not want LRT because it is a streetcar (his words not mine), do not want anything on the surface and as such is “unacceptable”, and that subway is the only way to go because “we must do it right the first time!”. Arguing with him was futile and this was someone high up in the Markham city chain.

    Anyway, thank you very much Steve for maintaining this site for discussion and to you and yours, a happy new year.


  22. If you use the projected ridership figures in the papers prepared and submitted by the consultants/interested parties in other calculations for mid-point projections in 2017 (not necessarily provided by them since that would hurt their case), coupling it with the assumption proposed by the consultants that ridership would be 50% of the 2031 values in 2017, the 2017 ridership for south of Steeles is over 9,100ppdph, but north of Steeles, would be around 7,100ppdph, well below the 10,000ppdph that the TTC says is required for considering subway technology.

    South of Steeles has a fairly strong case, as it would be quite close to paying for itself from opening day in 2017. Significant to note that all stations north of Steeles don’t have high ridership, except for Richmond Hill Centre (which has a projected ridership equal to that of St.George, suspiciously enough), which has a potentially-high-capacity GO Train service right there that could provide twice the capacity provided by Yonge today.

    The projections strongly seem to suggest that everything between RHC and Steeles falls into LRT range, not subway, even including the ~25,000 peak period (not peak hour) ridership from RHC, but the figures are presented in such a manner that this becomes less than obvious.

    Steve: Yes, I am getting rather tired of selective use of all day, all peak period, and peak hour projections to obscure what is actually rather low ridership. As I’ve said before, I want to see O-D information, a scattergram of where those RH riders are going, and the degree to which their trips would be served by frequent GO service.


  23. Steve,

    Do you happen to recall when the Commission received the report regarding reinstalling crossover tracks at King, College, and St. Clair stations?

    Steve: It is buried in the Capital Budget briefing books, and has been there for a few years. This is part of the resignalling project.

    I am quite sure that most Commissioners have not read those books from cover to cover.


  24. “the 2017 ridership for south of Steeles is over 9,100 ppdph, but north of Steeles, would be around 7,100 ppdph, well below the 10,000 ppdph that the TTC says is required for considering subway technology.”

    Would it be fair to say that the value of a ppdph number is somewhat different for a subway extension as opposed to a standalone line? The raw numbers also don’t necessarily give other information like incremental ridership. We need to find ways of assigning monetary value to modal shift so that it is noticeable when absent.

    Steve: There are two issues here. First, 7,100 is well above what is possible with buses in a single corridor, although it is conceivable that this is actually the combined effect of many routes that could otherwise flow into Steeles Station. This begs the question of what would happen with an LRT spine on Yonge, and other east-west routes feeding into the subway at Steeles. Conversely, if riding is expected to rise substantially in coming years, then even the extension will reach the “official” subway threshold.

    The marginal increase in riding is important for future planning and capacity issues on the existing part of the line. Riders report today that they cannot board at Eglinton, and only with a considerable increase in capacity will we see anything more than temporary respite for this. Again, as with so many of the TTC’s demand projections, I must ask what would happen if there were a parallel, frequent GO service to Richmond Hill bleeding off the long-haul traffic.


  25. Extending the Sheppard subway westward to Downsview Station isn’t just about getting people downtown quickly. It’s also about enabling people from Scarborough to get to York University more conveniently. Remember, the Sheppard Subway as it was originally envisioned 40 years ago was to go from Scarborough TC to York U. Obviously that isn’t going to happen, but this fills in the gap for Scarborough and east end North York residents.


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