Scarborough-Malvern LRT Update

I have been remiss in not reporting on the open house for the Scarborough-Malvern LRT line.  The display from that open house is available on the project’s website.

This is probably the most straightforward of the projects although it has a few interesting design features.  Most notable is the section west and north of the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus where the line will run side-of-road.  About half-way between Kingston Road and Ellesmere, the line will move from centre-of-road to side-of-road and will cross Highland Creek on its own new bridge.  From that point north and east, the line runs alongside parkland and there is no need to provide access to the property as there would be in a commercial/residential neighbourhood.

The line makes a dogleg to serve UTSC, but this is a major destination.  After turning northwest on Military Trail, the line rejoins Morningside for the run up to Sheppard.  The track layout will be designed so that Sheppard LRT trains could run through to UTSC and provide direct service between the campus and Don Mills Station.

The section on Kingston Road is a fairly standard centre-of-road LRT design with the only special feature being the triangular junction at Eglinton.

Similarly, the Eglinton section uses the standard LRT street profile.  Kennedy Station, as noted elsewhere in this blog, is the subject of a future design to integrate the subway, a relocated RT station and the Eglinton and Scarborough/Malvern lines.

The following is a comment I received after the open house from Robert Wightman, but held onto until I got around to posting this item.

Some Thoughts on The Scarborough Malvern LRT line that only goes to Morningside and Sheppard.

I attended the meeting on Bellamy Road tonight with my son and we were impressed by the presentation. The presentation for each line seems to depend on the group responsible for that line and this was the best of any that I have been to. They had all the usual boards about culturally, scientifically or ecologically sensitive area and noted that there are many in my former borough.

The detail panels about the line itself were quite detailed and showed proposed pocket tracks, bridge design, platform location etc. The entrance to Kennedy station and one other area were not finalized so they left a circle around them and said final details to be determined. They even put in two pocket tracks to turn service back to the outer end of the line “in case they decide to run some of the Sheppard Service to UTSC.” It is a lot cheaper to put in now and it also lets you turn a bad car and send it back to the barns at Sheppard and Meadowvale.

They said that all of the storage facilities would have heavy maintenance capabilities with only a few items being shipped out. The line will probably be 750 V and have centre poles. They don’t seem to need to consult with Toronto Fire Services and Toronto EMS like the Waterfront designers do. They said that you needed a pocket track for short turns and storing dead trains every 4.5 to 5 km and could not believe that they were not doing this on Sheppard East. They also thought that the SRT would be more SRT and not LRT but they said that the final decision had not been made.

They thought that construction on Sheppard would start this Fall with preliminary work on the grade separation on the Uxbridge Sub. Since the storage facilities are almost at the end of the line it can be built in stages.

All in all a good meeting.

Yes, this line definitely needs a new name.

A Few Questions About the Scarborough RT Extension

Updated 11:25 am:  Information about maximum gradients added as well as a comment about costing of the underground alignment north of Sheppard.

Last week, the TTC and City conducted an open house for the Scarborough RT extension project.  As regular readers here know, I have long advocated that the RT technology be changed from ICTS to LRT, but there is little sign of a move in that direction in the materials on view at the open house.  A single panel (page 32 in the presentation) says that the technology is yet to be determined, but the design clearly is based on an RT implementation.

This is rather odd considering that a rethink of the RT/LRT debate has been floating around since last fall when Metrolinx produced its report comparing the benefits and costs of various alternatives for the RT extension.  If a real comparison were underway, we would see two designs that reflect the requirements specific to each technology and exploiting the advantages of each.  Moreover, the keep/replace decision would be part of the larger context of the future of the existing RT and its place in the context of Transit City.

Back in 2006, after a study of the RT’s future, the TTC adopted a policy of retaining the ICTS technology.  The context for that decision was very different from today:

  • Neither Transit City nor the Metrolinx Regional Plan had been formulated, much less announced, and a “Scarborough LRT” would have been a free-standing new LRT just as the RT is a self-contained implementation of ICTS.
  • “Rapid Transit” plans consisted of a network of higher-order bus routes plus modest subway expansion.
  • The decision was taken in the context of replacing the existing line, not of extending it to Malvern and, possibly, beyond.

In less than a decade, the RT will truly be a technology orphan, an ICTS line surrounded by a network of LRT lines.  However, the 2006 policy decision has yet to be revisited.

The TTC, echoing a tactic used decades earlier, has created a scenario that demands complete grade separation of the RT extension by claiming an 10,000 per peak hour demand for the line.  However, this only applies to the section between Scarborough Town Centre and Kennedy, not to the whole line.  Demand north of Sheppard is projected to be only 2,500 by 2031.  (During the original LRT scheme’s debates in the 1980s, TTC claimed that an elevated LRT would be needed through STC to avoid isolating property south of an LRT right-of-way.  The LRT proposal took the hit of what was then considered an intrusive elevated structure thus paving the way for ICTS.)

The design shown at the open house was clearly prepared for an ICTS implementation.  All of the illustrations show trains that look suspiciously like Mark II ICTS, and the route is integrated only with the existing RT, not with Transit City for vehicle maintenance.

Several questions remain unanswered:

  • If this were an LRT line, why does it need a separate maintenance yard?  At most, the line would need a storage yard, but heavy maintenance could be performed at the proposed carhouse for the Sheppard LRT.  What is the additional cost of supporting a technology for one line?  The FAQ talks about possible savings from a consolidated LRT maintenance facility, but the design shows a carhouse that would only be needed for ICTS.
  • The RT extension passes under Sheppard with no connection to the LRT line.  As an ICTS route, this is logical, but not as LRT.
  • Demand north of Sheppard, by comparison to other Transit City routes, is well within the capability of LRT, but there is no provision for a “short turn” service at the Sheppard Station, nor of a transition to at-grade operation in anticipation of extending service beyond Malvern.
  • Structures appear to be sized for ICTS, not LRT, both in the underground section and at stations.  What is the effect on cost for LRT?
  • Although it is impossible to know from the presentation, what is the maximum gradient on the line and is this appropriate for the Transit City LRT vehicle specification?  This question is answered in a comment below left by Karl Junkin.  The answer is “yes” the proposed alignment is within Transit City vehicle specs.
  • What would be the price of ICTS and LRT options?  We already know that vehicles for each technology cost roughly the same (about $5-million each), but the LRT cars are much larger.  What other differences would there be in an LRT implementation?
  • The evaluation of alignments north of Sheppard includes a footnote that cost comparisons are based on an at-grade alignment through the old rail corridor, not underground as the plans now show.  What is the extra cost of going underground, and would this be needed for an LRT line running with less frequent service?

Difficult though this may be, the TTC needs to address the technology issue for the entire RT line and do this in the larger Transit City context.  Many design issues hinge on the technology choice notably the reconfiguration of Kennedy Station.  If this will be a junction of three LRT lines (Eglinton, Scarborough-Malvern and “RT”), the layout will be very different from that with ICTS technology on the RT.

The short-sighted 2006 policy decision to retain ICTS must be reviewed.  Too often, I hear rumours and comments suggesting that support for ICTS is dwindling among transit professionals in Toronto, but none of this surfaces in public debate.  We need that debate now.

A Long Day At City Hall

Tuesday, June 2 was a long day for members of Toronto Council’s Executive Committee.  Many transportation issues were on the agenda including Union Station Revitalization, Western Waterfront Master Plan, Queen’s Quay redesign, and the Gardiner Expressway replacement EA.

As if that wasn’t enough, an open house for the Scarborough RT extension took me out for a ride on the Milner bus.

This transit blogging is harder than my pre-retirement work! Continue reading

Weston Corridor Update

Metrolinx has now released Part 2 of the Draft Environmental Report for the Georgetown South Service Expansion Project, and will hold a series of Open Houses over the next few weeks.

I will add more details to this post once I have a chance to digest several hundred pages of online information.

Updated 6:15 pm:

Mark Dowling sent along a note about a rather bizarre statement in the Metrolinx document:

Are Metrolinx trying to pull a fast one?  Section 5.1.7 Page 204 (page 216 of the PDF):

“At present there are no electric double-deck commuter cars that can legally operate on North America railway lines.”

What would they call these then? Or has this fleet been retired by METRA since 02?

In any case, nobody said they had to be EMUs, did they? (Although EMU would have its advantages, obviously).

It’s this sort of thing that makes one wonder about the accuracy of so much else Metrolinx produces, or of the (possibly unintentional) bias in their studies.