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!

22 thoughts on “Sheppard LRT Don Mills Connection Unveiled, Sort Of

  1. The Sheppard East Village BIA (or something like that) has been around with issues. I seriously hope they will not make SELRT another St. Clair.

    2013 is supposed to be the finish date, correct? let’s make it 2015 just in case things get delays…*cough*Sheppard stubway*cough*. You will ride it.

    One curious thing and maybe you can answer it…The stubway itself is on the north side of the actual Avenue, correct? does ANY part of the station area go under highway 404? Maybe that track extension (I have no idea what to call it), you know how at Downsview/Finch/Sheppard-Yonge/Kipling and Kennedy there is that extra track pass the station? Somewhere they are going to have to put an “S” since the SELRT is supposed to be in the middle of the actual avenue and the stubway line/don mills station, I don’t think sits right underneath the actual avenue. maybe most of it is underneath Fairview Mall parking lot (NE of the actual DM/Sheppard intersection).

    Steve: No, the tail tracks do not go as far east as the DVP.


  2. I know it is more expensive but I wish they would extend the Sheppard Subway to Consumers Rd. Then they could design the Consumers Rd Station with a platform that would be compatible for an LRT connection. The Sheppard LRT could go underground east of Victoria Park to avoid the traffic at that intersection. They will have to move the parking garage entrance that is east of Consumers Rd to accomodate this route though. That would free up Don Mills station so that it could link with the Don Mills LRT and the Finch LRT. This station could still accomodate a few city buses and some regional buses coming off the 404.


  3. I think linking the two east-west LRT lines is probably better than having them seperate, providing the combined line is called something other than “Etobicoke-Finch-Sheppard”. (Any suggestions?)

    Steve: The problem with the linked routes is that they only make sense to people who draw maps, not to people who actually operate and use transit services. As I mentioned earlier, a hookup will run into big problems (a) when the main Don Mills LRT service starts, and (b) if the Finch East LRT is extended. Metrolinx has a fetish for very long cross-416 travel and seems to want to gerrymander the system to support it. Never mind that the number of people who will want to make this particular journey is likely very small, it looks good on a map. Operationally, one long line is a recipe for erratic service, not to mention the problems of balancing service levels to suit the entire route.


  4. Forget the red rocket, with three lines connecting and sharing revenue-routes, we’ll need to colour-code the LRTs so people know which to get on to get where they’re going!

    * Don Mills northwards to Sheppard East (and reverse)
    * Don Mills northwards to Finch West (and reverse)
    * Don Mills northwards to Don Mills North (and reverse)
    * Sheppard East to Don Mills North to Finch West (and reverse)
    * Sheppard East to Don Mills North (and reverse)
    * Finch West to Don Mills North (possibly, though that interchange would be at Finch not Sheppard)
    …whew! Did I miss any routes?

    Steve: Although a rainbow-hued set of lines appeals, I must point out that people have been dealing with multiple routes at one location for years. At my home station, there are two streetcar routes and four bus routes. And, yes, I am being a spoil-sport!


  5. Correct me if any of this is wrong – but I believe that while Don Mills has a centre platform, the trains only ever use one side of the platform because of the relatively infrequent service. Would it make sense, then, to disconnect the other platform from the subway connections, and modify it (if possible, in a way that can be relatively easily undone) so that the transfer is a simple issue of walking across the platform?

    Are the LRT tunnels across the 404 of subway gauge so that if an extension ever happens, we won’t have to tunnel again?

    Steve: The TTC plans a staggered use of platforms while maintaining two of them for each mode. I hope to get more details on Thursday.

    The Transit City lines will be built to TTC gauge which is used by the subway network. The only standard gauge trackage on the system is the SRT. By the way, a gauge change does not require a new tunnel.


  6. I don’t know much about trains and rail service but do the train tracks between Midland and Kennedy cause any problems?

    Steve: No. The first work on Sheppard will likely be the grade separation at Agincourt Station. This work is necessary anyhow as an improvement for GO to permit more frequent service in the future. It is among the last of the major grade crossings in Toronto.


  7. Perhaps the Metrolinx boys should look at the problems that Queen is having with a very long line.

    Back when they were talking about the first C-Train in Calgary I was visiting my friend out there. His sister who was a high school phys ed teacher hauled out a map of Calgary, drew were she thought the line should go, told me how it should be constructed and why. Two years later after spending millions of dollars they came up with exactly the same route for exactly the same reasons. Common sense should win out over fancy planners.

    Steve: Some planners actually know what they are doing, but that’s a separate issue.

    I really hope that they are not going to have a single platform for each line. That would be disaster, at least for the LRT line. If they through route the two lines, have they considered what that would do to a future Don Mills line. It would make the subway line look simple.

    While it would be nice to have a cross platform connection it does limit the station design. Furthermore the Don Mills line has to be at a different level to cross over or under the Sheppard lines unless the have a long curving station.

    Steve: More to the point, the TTC has already rejected a proposed route for the SRT (converted to LRT) that would have shared trackage with the Sheppard LRT because of operational problems and traffic interference at the turns onto and off of the shared section. The same logic would apply to the Finch and Don Mills intersection once there is a Don Mills line running further north. If it wouldn’t work the the SRT/SELRT, then it won’t work for a Finch/Sheppard line either. However, we’re stuck with this route because the Premier announced it.

    Hmmm … didn’t he just kick all of the meddlesome politicians off of the Metrolinx Board?

    What they should do is temporarily modify the Sheppard cars to tun in three car trains on a slightly closer headway. While they are running remove the high platform from one end of each station, put in a low platform and overhead. Then one weekend start running two car LFLRVs in the low half of the station and send the subway cars back to the subway, Then lower the platform in the rest of the station. It would be over built for LRT but it would provide as through ride and could be extended west. I am not holding my breath for this outrageous proposal but it would be better than building more unneeded HRT and would eliminate a transfer.

    I hope they think this design through carefully so we do not end up with an LRT version of the Union Station Streetcar loop or the Taj Mahal of LRT stations.


  8. Looks like the TTC is already screwing this up …

    1 – A Finch-Don Mills-Sheppard routing makes no sense (very few would be “thru” passengers)

    2 – The connection at subway-level is a total joke

    It is still not too late for them to convert the subway to light-rail and have the Finch line veer down to connect in at Sheppard and Yonge.

    Why can’t these morons design anything properly?

    Steve: I beg your pardon. The moron in question is the Premier, aided and abetted by Metrolinx. The TTC never intended the Finch line to come east to Don Mills, down to Sheppard or be through-routed with the subway. That brainwave came from Metrolinx who are fixated on having one long cross-city route and foisted this on the TTC.


  9. I think the best conection would be if the LRT came in underground and then split to the left and right of the Don Mills subway. the crossover would be before the split. It would still easily allow for future connections.

    However, there would always be someone complaining that the LRT let them off on the side away from where the current train is. However, this design is used elsewhere in the world. Would the signal system and timing be sophisticated enough to put the LRT on the track closest to the train say 80% of the time?

    Steve: In theory, yes, but there would always be cases where passengers were stranded on the “wrong” platform.


  10. The subway trains arriving at Don Mills Station are already technically running under a permanent slow-order. Because there is really no tail track length present (since the intention was to just extend the line later) the blind trips are always operating to reduce the train speed. The platforms themselves are acting as the tailtracks. If anything is done to extend the subway it should be to at least create real tail tracks so that the trains can enter the terminal at the maximum design speed for the crossover.

    That weird composite photo suggests that the LRT would cut into the existing platform so as to preserve what little track space has to given to the subway trains. The two could never come into contact so there would be no need for safety margins between the two. The benefit is lost however by running the LRT directly up to the end of its track and also in having only a single track terminus. So the subway gets no better and the LRT is bad from day one. I’m going to assume the artist was given very little information and that the final design will be more functional. Then again this is the TTC…

    Steve: The original design shown in the EA included widening of the structure so that there would be subway tail tracks outside of the centre LRT platform and crossover. Passengers would walk a considerable distance, albeit without changing levels, to get from the LRT platform to the subway platform. The new design was intended to reduce this walking distance, but the illustration in the report isn’t ideal. I hope to learn more about this layout on Thursday at the TTC meeting.


  11. I was scratching my head wondering how they think the current setup may be convertible in future to through-operation.

    There’s only one option I have been able to come up with, but it still doesn’t make sense for the Sheppard East LRT to be at the same level as the subway with this option, and furthermore would eliminate non-revenue trackage. The trade-off is that it prevents an extension of the subway.

    If the SELRT roughly/loosely meandered south of Sheppard Ave. E. underground through Parkway Forest Drive, Forest Manor Road, and George Henry Boulevard, mostly under parking lots and greenspace rather than the road itself (allows for much smoother turns, less jerky ride), to come up Don Mills Road where a 4-track station could be made (allows for turn-backs from both Finch and Sheppard to take place as needed) under Don Mills Road at the west end of the existing mezzanine level of Don Mills Station. This would accommodate a rather large number of goals.

    1. It would allow the TTC to operate Sheppard East LRT to Don Mills Station and terminate there.
    2. It would allow the Finch LRT to be operated to Don Mills Station and terminate there.
    3. It would allow the TTC to short-turn Don Mills LRT runs at Don Mills Station.
    4. It would allow Metrolinx to run Finch LRT through on Sheppard East LRT via Don Mills LRT
    5. It would allow the TTC to move LRVs from Finch and Don Mills to the carhouse along Sheppard without constructing non-revenue trackage.
    6. It would allow Finch LRT to be extended east of Don Mills Rd to Seneca and Finch/Neison/Malvern TC without having to abandon infrastructure.

    I think this would be worth abandoning subway compatibility and the same platform configuration.


  12. Given the problems you described Steve, I think the link between EFW and Sheppard East should be built as though it’s part of the Don Mills line. When the rest of that gets built, EFW can terminate where it intersects the Don Mills LRT.

    Metrolinx… the phrase “supply without demand” springs to mind, which leads to the lines-on-a-map problem you dislike.


  13. Steve: No. The first work on Sheppard will likely be the grade separation at Agincourt Station. This work is necessary anyhow as an improvement for GO to permit more frequent service in the future. It is among the last of the major grade crossings in Toronto.

    One of the TTC reps at the Scarborough Malvern open house said that hydro line relocation will start in August or September for this so they can start moving the road and tracks to dig out the Bridge.


  14. I have problem believing the mental gymnastic that we have to do so that people do not to walk any type of distance levels up or down or sideways The Don Mills senario is one of the only example on the system where we are extremely hesitant of any type of distances. I do not really think at the end of the day the walking distance will be that much of a determining factor for people to take the system as long as the walk is not excessive.


  15. It is likely that the number of people transferring between the subway and the Sheppard East LRT will be greater than the number of people who wish to continue from Sheppard east via the Finch bypass and further along Finch West. If so, then the same-level connection between the subway and Sheppard East is preferable, even if it means impossibility of the continuous Sheppard – Finch service.

    Note that even a continuous Sheppard – Finch line will not be very convenient for long crosstown trips, because it is not fast enough. For example (assuming 22 kph average speed):
    Kennedy to Humber College: 28 km, 75 min
    McCowan to Finch / Keele (transfer point en route to York U): 20 km, 55 min

    By choosing LRT rather than extending the Sheppard subway, the planners favor short and medium-length transit trips. Perhaps this choice has its merits, but then they should be consistent, and optimize the Don Mills station to better serve that kind of trips.

    In addition, once the Finch East LRT bypass is built, there will be tremendous pressure to extend it further east and serve all of Finch East. Once that happens, Finch vehicles will no longer run to Sheppard / Don Mills. Then, any trade-offs made at Don Mills Stn to accommodate the through service will become useless.


  16. Obviously we cannot stop Metrolinx, however I am a bit confused about one item. If they are going to build a tunnel, would it not make sense to just tunnel close to Victoria Park and make it somewhat of a hub at Vic.Park; giving a better impression of a link to Scarborough? I assume that it does not have to be right at Victoria Park, but close enough to make the line look a bit more complete. We cannot undo what was done in the past, however we can at least make the Sheppard line a bit more, non-stubbish? Maybe is my nostalgia, but I cannot stand looking at a map of a subway that does not look at least 1/2 done. Do we really need the LRT between Don Mills and Victoria Park? It seems to make more sense for ALL connections (short trips, street level, density, etc…) after Victoria Park; however I stand to be corrected if anyone differs.

    In any case, I believe the biggest mistake is the possibility of a continuous link on Sheppard – Don Mills – Finch. The design makes no sense for an LRT. There are too many hands in the jar and they need to leave the design to people trained in Urban planning (at least some good ones), and not merely politicians. If things go though as they do we are going to remember this for years. And someone please do something to stop the design on the books from the report. If they are going to “push” this through at least do a design that makes some sense, for the future planning of Don Mills station.


  17. Andy MJ said: Do we really need the LRT between Don Mills and Victoria Park? It seems to make more sense for ALL connections (short trips, street level, density, etc…) after Victoria Park; however I stand to be corrected if anyone differs.

    I would just like to say this. Its simpler to have the LRT connect to the Sheppard line for transfer purposes. I mean if the there is no LRT OR Subway between Don Mills and Victoria Park then a shuttle between the two will need to be put in place for those who wish to go further east or west. This makes traveling along Sheppard a royal pain the a**. If you connect the two at Don Mills then if someone wants to go to to Yonge from Victoria Park they do not have to go through a major inconvenience when transferring. As well, if you ever want to convert the line to either LRT or Subway in its entirety in the future this is also possible because the tunnel would already have been dug. By ending the Sheppard East LRT at Victoria Park you are creating another white elephant that will never connect to anything useful.


  18. oh ok. I still say that Don Mills would be a better fit. I pass through there daily and I can say from experience its a massive station capable of handling terminal crowds like the size that would be created if the LRT ran in there. I do see your point though, if you have to tunnel out to VP why not just create subway tracks and extend the subway.

    Steve: As reported in a separate post, the LRT will come west to Don Mills, and the tunnel will start at Consumers Road, not Victoria Park. There is also a request from the owners of the Atria complex for an additional stop at Settlers’ Road, the main entrance to their complex, about half way between Consumers and Vic Park.


  19. I would suggest overlapping the LRT and the subway. Yes, I know its expensive. But it would remove a lot of transfers. They are doing exactly this in Ottawa where BRT and the future LRT will overlap between Tunney’s Pasture and Bayview. They face the same problem we do. Tunney’s Pasture is a significant destination for commuters and Bayview is a significant transfer point. If the LRT were to end at Bayview, commuters from the East would have had to transfer to the BRT for one stop. If the BRT were to end at Tunney’s then man commuters would have to transfer to the LRT for one stop. So the overlap works…until they decide to extend the LRT.


  20. Why don’t they do this like Spadina? Come on, is it really that hard? Walk up a flight of stairs and you see a streetcar waiting!

    Steve: Those who dream of extending the subway one day are really big on the LRT tunnel being at the same level as the existing subway so that an extension could use the prebuilt tunnel. The really visionary (or slightly mad) among us foresee the day the LRT will be extended through the subway tunnel, but that takes more belief than I can muster. They will be separate lines for a very long time.


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