This month’s TTC agenda includes a long update on the status of the Transit City plans. I will not attempt to précis this report, but will touch on points of particular interest.
Funding is in place to allow continued work on Environmental Assessments [sic] and other engineering work, but the real challenge comes later this year when construction is slated to begin on Sheppard. The fog may clear a bit once the provincial budget is announced and we know just how much money will flow to Metrolinx and to transit in general.
A related problem, of course, is the question of new LRVs for the existing and future streetcar/LRT networks. By the time the budget is out, the TTC should know what the bids for new cars look like, and Queen’s Park will have to decide whether they are serious about paying for them.
Design for Narrow Right of Way
The TTC clings to the idea that it would be possible to operate an LRT service carrying significant hourly demands over narrow streets that do not now have streetcar service. One variable in this is the definition of “narrow”. Pape Avenue, for example, is a classic 4-lane street with buildings to the sidewalk line on both sides. Finch from Yonge to Bathurst is not as tight and has more options for redesign.
Work on alternatives continues, but I hope that the TTC does not compromise the acceptability of the overall plan by excessive reliance on the surface options. An equally valid outcome of the exercise will be to establish that there are some places where LRT just won’t fit.
Centre Poles for Overhead Support
This debate still rankles from the St. Clair battles when TTC staff insisted that the centre pole design was the only acceptable alternative even though side poles had been used on St. Clair for decades. The current report offers this interesting rethink on the situation:
Centre-located poles are preferred from an urban design perspective (removal of some visual clutter from the street) and because they cost less to construct and are less prone to damage and maintenance requirements. Side-located poles are preferred from the perspective of emergency service providers – notably Toronto Fire – because this design leaves the transit right-of-way wide open and unobstructed, thus making travel on the right-of-way much easier for emergency vehicles.
I would believe the point about visual clutter if a visit to St. Clair did not reveal that where there were once two poles there are now three — two holding up street lights and one for the TTC. As for emergency services, we have been told many times that the fire department had no problems with the St. Clair design, and yet here we learn that they would prefer no poles in the right-of-way.
Sheppard East LRT
The EA was filed with the Ministry in January, but four requests that this be upgraded to a full review have been received. This statement is a bit odd considering that the new, streamlined EA process was supposed to sweep opposition, from NIMBYs to pesky transit advocates, aside in the face of transit’s manifest destiny.
In any event, construction is planned for this year for the Agincourt grade separation and for the line itself east of McCowan to Neilson.
Various options for the connection at Don Mills are still under study including provision of a Finch East LRT to Don Mills that would dodge down to Sheppard. Frankly if we want a through east-west LRT corridor, why not just stay on Finch which is already a heavily used bus route to avoid a massive transfer requirement where the LRT service ends and the remaining bus route begins.
Finch West LRT
Detailed design work continues especially on problem locations such as the Highway 400 crossing, the Yonge-to-Bathurst section mentioned above, and the terminal at Humber College. Extension of the line beyond Humber to the Woodbine Live development and Pearson Airport is the subject of a separate study.
A considerable amount of work is underway on alignments and construction schemes due to the large amount of underground operation. As with the Finch LRT, there is a study of connection into Pearson and this includes various agencies including Missisauga Transit.
I have already discussed the Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis for this project in a separate post. At this point, we have a BCA that clearly supports the line’s conversion to LRT, but thanks to the TTC’s earlier machinations on the RT’s renovation, this option has not been presented in detail to the public. One big problem is the perception, voiced here by some comments, that LRT isn’t good enough for Scarborough when others are getting full-blown subways. The challenge will be to present the LRT option as giving Scarborough more transit overall while maintaining the quality of service on the existing RT link.
Meanwhile, our friends at Metrolinx continue to lobby for a continues RT operation linking the Eglinton and extended SRT routes. The Eglinton BCA, not yet released, must consider the trade-offs between a completely grade-separated line (and the constraints this might have on its overall length), the demand projections and the benefit of a regional vs a local operation. This brings us back to the whole debate about “Avenues” and the Official Plan where surface LRT is intended to stimulate the growth of neighbourhoods.
The RT’s BCA report didn’t come out quite the way some had hoped and it showed clearly the advantages of lower-cost LRT. This will be a fierce debate, I am sure, given the Eglinton line’s central role in the future transit network.
With the planned extension of the SRT (likely as LRT) into Malvern, the “-Malvern” suffix is obsolete and this line will now end at a junction with the Sheppard LRT. In a way, this is useful as it changes the focus of the route to one that will serve UofT Scarborough campus.
Waterfront West LRT
Construction of Park Lawn Loop is planned to begin in June.
Other parts of this route are still going throuhg design refinements, notably the section fom Dufferin to Sunnyside which is integrated with the Western Beaches Master Plan.
Don Mills LRT
Because of the number of areas of special concern along this line — narrow right-of-ways at the south end, the interchanges at Eglinton and at Sheppard, and the potential connection with a Finch East LRT — this project is deep in redesign to address challenges and evaluate options.
Design work continues on this line especially with respect to the narrow right-of-way on parts of Jane Street and the alignment for the north end of the route into Steeles West Station.
With various projects running in parallel and in various stages of completion, public meeting schedules will keep transit advocates travelling across the city. Based on information in this report, the broad schedule looks like this:
- Sheppard: EA complete. No meetings planned.
- Finch West: Early spring
- Eglinton: Summer
- Scarborough RT: Spring
- Scarborough(-Malvern): No date given, but the report implies a final round of meetings fairly soon.
- Waterfront West (Parkdale): EA completion planned for June 2009. This implies that any new alignment details must get through public review in the spring.
- Waterfront West (Long Branch): EA completion planned for summer 2009.
- Don Mills: No meeting planned pending resolution of design issues.
- Jane: Design work to be completed late 2009. No meeting planned yet.