Union Station Revitalization Update

Disclaimer:  Although I am the Vice-Chair of Toronto’s Union Station Revitalization Public Advisory Group, this article represents my own opinions, not necessarily those of USRPAG who have not had a chance to discuss this matter since the release of the report linked below.

On June 2, Toronto’s Executive Committee will consider a staff report recommending that the Union Station Revitalization project proceed at a total cost of $640-million.  This project is dependent on funding approvals from Queen’s Park and Ottawa which are expected to materialize over the coming months. Continue reading

TTC Ridership, Budgets and Those Pesky Metropass Users

This week, the TTC announced that it has record ridership for the past twelve months of 470.8-million.  This continues an upward trend from last year, and indicates that TTC demand may be insulated from the effects of the economic downturn.  Possibly a shift from auto to transit riding is offsetting any reduction in employment or recreational traffic.

The Chief General Manager’s Report for the first quarter of 2009 notes that although ridership continues to grow, revenue is below budget.  Why?  More Metropasses were sold than expected in January-March, and this trend is continuing into the second quarter.  The TTC had budgeted on a higher average fare-per-ride, and the more who travel with passes, the lower this average falls.

Rumours of budget related service cuts started to surface a few weeks ago, and one change effective June 21 is explicitly listed as being due to budget.  (I will report on that in a separate post on June service changes.)  This is an odd state of affairs considering that there is a buffer for service growth on the TTC”s budget, and there has been no report to the Commission of pending service cuts (or of deferred service improvements).

Moreover, in a separate report, the TTC plans to launch an ad campaign seeking organizations to be part of a Metropass Affinity Program where pass holders would receive discounts to products or events.  The intention is, wait for it, to sell more Metropasses by making them even more attractive.

The TTC has a long-standing love-hate relationship with the Metropass going right back to its origins 29 years ago.  Each pass is seen, by some, as a loss of revenue, a loss of individual fares that might otherwise be collected.  Of course, a pass is also an incentive for users to ride the system and get all those “free” extra trips, exactly the sort of mindset an auto driver operates in every day.

Those 260,000 monthly pass holders are now responsible for over half of the adult trips on the TTC.  Budgets and fare policies must recognize that there is a demand for flat rate purchase of transit services, and that this market will grow both through pricing incentives and improved service.  Cutbacks because too many people buy passes are a laughable, but unfortunately predictable response to what should be a transit success story.

Port Lands Carhouse and Maintenance Facility

The TTC has been examining several possible sites for a new carhouse and shops to store and maintain the fleet of new streetcars.  A status report appeared on the May 28 supplementary agenda, but this does not include the presentation materials.

Map of sites considered

Of the fourteen sites considered, only six, all in the Port Lands, were large enough to hold both the maintenance shops and storage space for cars.

Short list of sites

Of these sites, the more northerly ones are most likely to be of greatest interest as they require the shortest connection to the existing system.  Site number 1 immediately north of the Ashbridges Bay water treatment plant brings some local controversy because the space, although not formally parkland, is green space in the community.

Future plans call for retention of Russell and Roncesvalles carhouses.  In the short term, these will be needed for the remaining ALRV and CLRV fleets.  Longer term, they would require major changes or rebuilding to house cars from the new fleet.

Eglinton LRT Update

Planning for the Eglinton LRT continues as described in a report at the May 28 Commission meeting.  Major points in this report include:

  • Surface operation west from Keele and east from Brentcliffe with a tunnel between these two points.  The exact location of the tunnel entrance, particularly at the west end, is still under study.
  • Centre of the road alignment for the surface sections.  This arrangement is substantially cheaper than an alternative trench arrangement (similar to that used on the Yonge Subway north of Rosedale) along the north side of Eglinton in the land reserved for the Richview Expressway.
  • The carhouse will be somewhere near Black Creek.  Although not explicitly named in the report, the Kodak lands in Weston have been rumoured as a site.
  • The airport alignment and stations are the subject of an area study to deal with special considerations including two highway crossings and a future link with other regional services.
  • Future work in this project will also include connections with existing and future TTC subway and LRT services.

The next round of public consultation including updated designs will occur in June.  There will be six open houses between June 15 and 25 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm:

  • June 15: William Lea Room, 1073 Millwood Rd
  • June 17: Eglinton Public School, 223 Eglinton Avenue East
  • June 18: Richview Collegiate, 1738 Islington Avenue
  • June 23: York Memorial Collegiate, 2690 Eglinton Avenue West (at Keele Street)
  • June 24: Beth Sholom Synagogue, 1445 Eglinton Avenue West (at Allen Road)
  • June 25: Don Montgomery Community Recreation Centre (formerly Mid Scarb. CC), 2467 Eglinton Ave East

Sheppard East / Don Mills Station Design

The TTC has confirmed that the Sheppard East LRT will come west into Don Mills Station rather than terminating at Consumers Road, but the design at Don Mills is still under review.

Just to recap from the previous article on this topic, the preferred design at Don Mills would have seen the LRT at the same level as the subway.  The track layout would have given a staggered layout with the LRT pulling into a stub track that was cut into a lengthened subway platform (see illustration in the TTC report).  The actual track and platform layout (not shown) would have had a second platform further back for use when the stub track was occupied.

This was an alternative to both of the layout options in the EA document (see pages 6 and 7 of part 2 of the EA Report).  The first version shows a connection on the south side of the concourse level at Don Mills Station, while the second is at the same level as the subway.

For the concourse connection, it is important to note the relative position of the existing subway station and structures at its western end.  From TTC staff, I have learned that there is a potential conflict between a fan shaft and a  future north-south Don Mills LRT tunnel, but that the TTC believes this tunnel can be fitted in.  Any junction between the Sheppard and Don Mills LRTs at concourse level must deal with this constraint.

For the subway level connection, the original scheme placed the LRT platform well east of the subway station, and created a long walking transfer for passengers.  The revised design with the stub track cut into the subway platform shortens the distance by offsetting the LRT and subway tracks and reducing clearance requirements for buffer zones.

When Queen’s Park announced that the Sheppard East line would be through-routed via Don Mills to Finch, this completely changed the parameters for Don Mills Station.  TTC staff are reviewing design options for this scheme, and it will likely place the LRT station at concourse level.

The discussion by Commissioners also included a desire that any designs for this first wave of LRT lines take into account integration with the second set of Transit City lines.  At Don Mills, there is the obvious problem of how the station will operate once there is a Don Mills LRT providing through north-south service, and how combined Finch/Sheppard and Don Mills services will fit on the surface between Sheppard and Finch.

Second Exits, Second Entrances

In response to modern fire safety codes, the TTC has an ongoing program to add secondary exits at many subway stations.  Note that these must be completely separate paths out of the station.  Two stairways leading to a common mezzanine count as one exit because a fire in the common area could block access to the surface from platform level.

As an example, the new exits at Broadview take a path up to the bus and streetcar loop that is not connected to the original path up to the main entrance.

Planning for most of the new exits had assumed that they would be “exit only” facilities as this makes them cheaper to build.  However, access to stations is improved if these exits can also be entrances.  To that end, changes are proposed for five stations.

  • College Station’s original proposed second exit was at Granby Street, one south of Carlton, east of Yonge.  The primary entrance for the station is constrained by existing buildings and cannot be made accessible with elevators.  Therefore, the second exit will be converted to a full entrance including elevators.  An alternative scheme involving connection to College Park is also under study.
  • Museum Station’s original proposal would have surfaced in Queen’s Park, but there is now a proposal for a connection to a new UofT Faculty of Law campus on the northwest corner of Queen’s Park.
  • Dundas Station will have an automatic entrance connection to the new Ryerson University development.
  • Dundas West Station has a rather odd history.  There has been a design for a full connection to GO Transit at this location for years, but for some reason, the TTC had scaled this back to an exit only arrangement.  Given the service GO (and the Air Rail Link) will run in this corridor, it deserves a proper subway connection.  The project is now in Metrolinx’ hands.
  • Wellesley Station will get a new entrance at Dundonald Street (one north of Wellesley).  The population density here is high enough to support two entrances, and this configuration will avoid passengers having to walk through a laneway to reach Wellesley’s main entrance from Dundonald Street and areas to the north.

Frankly, I can’t see why the TTC wouldn’t design second entrances (not just exits) right from the outset, and I hope that this will be the standard from now on.

Electrifying News for GO Transit

According to today’s Star, Metrolinx will today announce the commencement of a study of electrification.  Although this had been planned sometime in the future, the dates were vague depending on which report one read.  Indeed, GO seemed to be leaning more to continued diesel operation with a mix of local and express trains rather than using inherently faster electric trains for all services.

This is a great victory for the Clean Train Coalition who will release “The Better Move”, a response to Metrolinx’ Regional Plan, “The Big Move”, at a press conference on Wednesday (May 27).

The West Toronto Chapter of the Professional Engineers of Ontario plans to set up a subcommittee to study the electrification issue, and will hold a meeting on the evening of May 27.  Mike Sullivan from the Weston Community Coalition will be speaking.  The meeting is open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  For information, please see the PEO Chapter’s flyer.

Who Pays for Transit?

Every so often, the question of subsidies shows up in comment threads here.  My usual explanation is “well, it depends, and it’s complicated”.

For those of you who want to see just how complicated, you can look at the TTC’s draft financial statements for 2008.  Scroll down to Notes 12 and 13 which detail where the operating subsidies come from and go to, and in much more excruciating detail, how the capital subsidies work.

This is a testimonial to the madness of project-based, partisan announcements.  Every government has to come up with its own program.  Even if an old one worked, we need a new one clothed in new party colours.  All of this takes a lot of accounting just to keep track that monies received are spent on only those projects for which they were announced.  Perish the thought that a Tory Blue dollar might accidently wind up paying for a Liberal Red bus, or that money intended for “Green” programs simply pays for keeping the transit system going.

We hear a lot from governments about getting out of the way of private business, of simplifying regulations and reporting because this is a huge burden on the private sector.  Canada’s competitiveness depends on the simplest and shortest rules possible.  The concept has not yet reached public sector regulation where the intent seems to be to strangle any ability to use funding productively and quickly.

Sheppard LRT Don Mills Connection Unveiled, Sort Of

The TTC will consider a report this week regarding the link from the Sheppard East LRT to Don Mills Station.  The report includes (at the last page) an illustration of the design for the same-level direct transfer between the LRT and the subway.

It’s not a very good drawing and in particular it doesn’t show whether the intent is for both the subway and the LRT to use both platforms.  This has been discussed in a previous thread here.  I have asked for clarification from the TTC and will update this post when I receive further info.

The design is troublesome because of the way the car is shown ending against at a location with no overrun protection (i.e. a buffer stop and some additional track).  This will almost certainly result in a permanant slow order for cars entering the station.  Just the sort of thing we need for our new “fast” service.  Some adjustments are required.

The report brings out additional information about the predicted use of the LRT and subway lines at this interchange, of unexpected costs, and of yet another Metrolinx boondoggle:

  • About 8,500 passengers will travel between the Sheppard Subway and the Consumers Road area and they will have to transfer between the two routes.  Conversely, if the interchange were at Consumers, more people, 9,500, would have to transfer for through trips from points east to reach Don Mills Station.
  • The cost of bringing the LRT into Don Mills Station is about $120-million less than extending the subway further east.  However, …
  • The Sheppard East project budget (remember that this is the one for which funding was just announced) must be increased by $110-million to pay for the underground connection because this was not originally planned(!!!).  This is yet another example of how the TTC simply cannot publish reliable budget figures even at a time when much political capital was expended just to get project funding, and when accurate projections are important to the credibility of the Transit City plan as a whole.  How can they publish an EA in which the only connections between the subway and LRT involve tunneling, but not update the project cost estimate?
  • Metrolinx, always ready to throw a monkey-wrench into the works, would like to see continuous operation of the Sheppard East, Don Mills and Finch LRT services.  This would require a physical connection through to the Don Mills line for revenue service, not just whatever would be needed for carhouse moves between the lines.  It is self-evident that a through service will be more complex and expensive than a stub operation as now planned.  Metrolinx does not seem to have thought through the future implications of a separate Don Mills LRT nor of the possibility the Finch East line might run east of Don Mills, and they seem bent on creating immensely long routes in the name of “regional” travel.

Somehow, I hope to ride the Sheppard East LRT in my lifetime and, moreover, that this project won’t turn into another “St. Clair” with all manner of screw-ups and construction co-ordination problems along the way.

Updated 6:40 am, May 26:  David Cavlovic left the following comments, but in the wrong thread:

6:09 am:  That photo is so…so…unconvincing! Looks like someone had no idea what to do but photoshop a picture of an LRT in a chopped-off area of the Eastbound train platform.

6:10 am:  EEK. that comment should be with the next article. Need. Coffee!

When Is A Park Not A Park?

Those of you who know Broadview Station will remember the years of construction we who live nearby suffered through as the station gained new streetcar platforms, elevators, an enlarged lobby, a lot of fixes to leaky ceilings, and now roof repairs.  Through much of this the triangle of land between the streetcar loop and sidewalk was transformed from a park to a construction staging area and then, miraculously, our park came back, somewhat gentrified, last year.

That property had been held by the TTC for years in anticipation of, yes, redevelopment, although everyone nearby thought it was a park.  It wasn’t.

Until now.  This week, the TTC will officially declare the land surplus to its needs, and set in motion a transfer to the City Parks Department.  I’m not sure that there will be dancing in the streets, but at last our park is safe from being turned into a rather oddly shaped condo.