Updated January 9: The 2009 Subway Fleet Plan has been scanned and linked from this post.
Toronto’s Executive Committee voted on Monday to approve submission of the EA for the Richmond Hill extension to Queen’s Park, but added a number of riders on their support for the line. This parallels actions taken at the last TTC meeting to strengthen the pre-requisites for City participation in this project. The conditions include:
- Full funding for construction and operation of the extension beyond Steeles Avenue at no cost to Toronto.
- Full funding for any cost of an additional subway yard.
- Completion of the Automatic Train Control system on the YUS line, including the Vaughan extension.
- Any measures to relieve capacity problems at Bloor-Yonge would be funded as part of this project.
City and TTC staff have been requested to report directly to the January 27 Council meeting on various potential ancilliary costs including:
- Bloor-Yonge station expansion
- Fleet expansion and subway yard costs
- Second entrances to other downtown stations
- Need for an eastern Downtown Relief Line
- Need for extending the Sheppard line west to Downsview
- Sequencing of these options relative to the Richmond Hill line’s construction
Notable by its absence from this list is any reference to GO Transit’s Richmond Hill service. This must be included because the level of GO service has a big impact on the modelled ridership for any future TTC network.
Karl Junkin, who comments here regularly, presented a deputation on this item which is supposed to be linked from the City’s site. However, that link is currently not working.
Karl covers a lot of the ground that was in my own report on TTC fleet planning and other posts about the Richmond Hill extension. Staff have been directed to meet with Karl and provide comments on his concerns in a report to Council.
Much of this turns on hte question of how many people will actually be riding the subway in 2017 when the Richmond Hill extension is planned to open. TTC staff have, to their considerable discredit, played fast and loose with teh relevant data depending on the argument of the moment.
When it suits their purpose to conjure up a need for vastly more trains on the line and increased capacity at Bloor-Yonge, then the estimates can be stratospheric. When the goal is to pretend that the Richmond Hill extension can be accommodated with no increase in service, then — Presto! Chango! — more riders but no more service. The word “bamboozle” comes to mind here, although somewhat less Parliamentary language might be more appropriate.
Let’s review the estimates we have seen recently.
Report to the Commission, December 17, 2008
The forecast AM peak hour demands for year 2031 are:
- Southbound at Richmond Hill — 10,600
- Southbound to Steeles — 14,000
- Southbound to Finch — 17,900
- Southbound to Wellesley — 36-39,000
This compares with the existing demand:
- Southbound to Wellesley — 27-28,000
However, if we look at the Subway Fleet Plan 2009 which forms part of the briefing material for the 2009-2013 Capital Program, we learn that ridership growth of 1.35% per year will drive a requirement for additional service. This works out to 11-12% compounded over eight years taking us to the opening date of the Richmond Hill extension, and therefore raises the future demand at Wellesley to 30-31,000 in the peak hour.
From this, we can deduct the 2,300 per hour that the TTC claims will be diverted from the Yonge line to the Spadina/VCC extension for a net demand at Wellesley of slightly more than we have today before we take into account the new riders from the Richmond Hill extension. The diversionary effect is more than made up for by anticipated riding growth over the next eight years, but the TTC does not take this into account.
Finally, the 2009 fleet plan also mentions that the subway is currently running at about 10% over the design capacity. The current service is 25.7 trains/hour or a design capacity of 25,700. The current demand of 28,000 is about 9% higher than the design capacity. The Richmond Hill report uses a per train capacity of 1,150, but this is the crush capacity, not the design capacity and cannot be reliably operated for extended periods. This fiddle neatly masks the need for additional service simply to deal with existing demand let alone any growth.
Metrolinx produced a background paper listing projected 2031 demands for their Draft Regional Plan. This plan included:
- The Richmond Hill and VCC subway extensions
- Frequent, electrified GO Transit service to Richmond Hill and beyond
- The Finch, Sheppard and Eglinton LRT lines
- The Don Mills LRT line to Danforth and Pape
- The Downtown Relief line from Pape Station to downtown
The projected peak hour demands were:
- Richmond Hill extension — 8,800
- VCC extension — 7,000
- Richmond Hill GO — 18,100
- Downtown Relief — 17,500
- Yonge Subway — 25,100
- Bloor Subway — 16,000
Remember that these are year 2031 projections, not 2017 opening day.
The TTC presentation cited the Metrolinx figures for the DRL and for Yonge, but did not include the other figures. Quite obviously, the Richmond Hill GO and DRL lines together play major roles in diverting traffic from the Yonge subway, but the TTC neglected to mention this. Reducing the demand on both the Yonge and Bloor lines is vital to limiting the need for fleet growth.
The TTC cites a Metrolinx estimate for the Yonge line of 42,000 assuming no DRL, but they don’t mention whether there is any improvement in GO service in that modelled network.
The Toronto Rocket Trains
The new TR trains will eventually replace the remaining H-4, H-5 and H-6 fleets on the subway network. The new trains are expected to have a capacity about 10% greater than the existing fleet because they are unit trains with a continuous car interior. No space is lost to cabs or to inter-car gaps. However, the number of TR trains now on order is insufficient to operate the current service on the Yonge line, let alone the extensions to VCC and Richmond Hill or an improved headway.
The new trains are expected to be about “10 times more reliable” than the fleet they will replace, and this will allow the spare factor to be dropped from the current 19% to 10% according to the fleet plan published as part of the Subway Service Improvement Plan in April 2008, and reiterated in the 2009 plan. However, when planning fleet requirements, we have to be careful to count this saving only against the oldest cars. The T-1 fleet is already supposed to be much superior to the H-series cars and saving in spares only applies to the replaced H fleet.
Fitting the Issues Together
Several add-on projects have been cited as possible side effects of the Richmond Hill subway project. These are:
- Substantial increase in the capacity of Bloor-Yonge station
- Increased fleet to handle demand on the Yonge line
- Increased station capacity on Yonge south of Bloor
- Extension of the Sheppard Subway west to Downsview to simplify train storage
- Creation of a new storage yard somewhere on the Richmond Hill line
- Addition of a seventh car to the TR trainsets
- Completion of the ATC system to permit closer headway operations with Toronto Rocket cars
The seventh car option would yield about 10% more capacity, but the TTC claims that such trains cannot be operated without platform doors and ATC. Leaving aside questions of door reliability, this gives us the conundrum of how to operate the system as the Yonge line gradually switches from six to seven car trains.
From a fleet planning point-of-view, headways on the entire YUS must be reduced (with a concurrent increase in fleet size) even if the additional capacity is only needed between Bloor and Union southbound in the AM peak. The number of trainsets needed to operate a much shorter DRL is considerably lower. This affects both vehicle costs and carhouse needs when comparing the options.
I have written extensively elsewhere about Bloor-Yonge station. Even without the question of constructability, the basic question is the loss of flexibility as considerable growth in riding is funnelled through one transfer point. If the demand is spread over three routes (Yonge, DRL and GO Richmond Hill), the system as a whole is not as vulnerable to the loss of any one component.
The proposed Sheppard extension is intended to save on dead-head mileage. No storage yard in York Region can possibly cost as much as this extension, and I regard its presence in the TTC’s proposal as a veiled attempt to revive the Sheppard subway’s fortunes in the guise of supporting the Richmond Hill line. There is an unparliamentary word for that sort of tactic.
One way or another, there will be a growth in demand for transit service between York Region and downtown Toronto. The question must be how we should serve this demand and whether there are combinations of projects that produce a better, more robust network of services at comparable cost.
Metrolinx is supposed to make such network-based analyses, but it fast tracked the Richmond Hill line without considering the side-effects it would have on the existing system.
I will be generous to the TTC and suggest that they are suffering from an overload of work and an inability to produce the same unified analyses that I and others put together in our spare time. This is not a question of amateurs getting it wrong, but of professionals doing a half-baked job.
Toronto and the GTA face very large expenditures for transit improvements, and we deserve well informed, credible advice. Later in January, we will see what actually appears on Council’s agenda.