What Shall We Do With Don Mills?

Recent planning and political activity focussed on the Weston rail corridor studies and the potential effect of substantially increased train service there.  Meanwhile, work is about to start on reviewing one aspect of an eastern corridor, a the so-called “Downtown Relief Line”.

The eastern leg of the DRL has a long history, but in the modern (post WW2) era this began as a Queen Subway proposal.  Before the Bloor-Danforth subway, Queen was regarded as the next logical part of a subway network after the Yonge line, but this status was quickly overtaken by the northward shift of population in the growing suburbs.

One early version of the Queen line would have gone north to Don Mills and Eglinton.  When the Network 2011 Plan was published in 1985, its priority list was

  • the Sheppard Subway from Yonge to Victoria Park (to be completed by 1994)
  • the Downtown Rapid Transit line (using ICTS) from Pape to Spadina (to be completed by 1999)
  • the Eglinton West line from Scarlett Road to Eglinton West Station (to be completed by 2004)

Although the Netwok 2011 background studies showed a DRL would have substantial effects on peak point demands on the existing subway network, this wasn’t enough to save the scheme from a strong political bias against building more subways into downtown.  We all know that the actual priorities became Sheppard and Eglinton West.

In December 2002, the Don Valley Corridor Transportation Master Plan was launched to consider ways of improving travel in the entire corridor from Steeles to the lake, and roughly from Leslie to Victoria Park (swinging further west in the southern section to follow the river’s alignment).  That study arose from a scheme to increase capacity on the Don Valley Parkway, but the study was to consider transit as well as road options.

The study reported in 2005 with a recommendation for BRT on the DVP and various ways to route such a service either to downtown or to the BD subway at Pape, Broadview or Castle Frank.  (The scheme for BRT to Castle Frank prompted an alternative proposal using Swan Boats early in the life of this blog.) 

By 2007, the Transit City scheme had shifted planning focus to Don Mills Road itself and to LRT away from BRT.  However, old studies die hard, and the LRT study persisted in reviewing that same trio of southern destinations for the LRT line.  Major problems include how to thread an “LRT” service through an established neighbourhood on a four-lane street.  We have seen one possible approach with the redesign of Roncesvalles Avenue, but the Don Mills route is quite another matter.

Projected peak demand on the Don Mills LRT is 3,000 per hour, about 35% higher than the current design capacity of the King Streetcar.  Moreover, the 504’s peak point is not on Roncesvalles, and future increases in capacity through Liberty Village will likely be achieved with service entering the line at Sunnyside and possibly by diversion of demand to a Waterfront West line (depending on the path it takes east of Dufferin Street).  There will never be a requirement to operate more frequent service than today on Roncesvalles Avenue.

The total of all bus services to Broadview and Pape Stations from the north is 62 vehicles/hour or a combined design capacity of 3,100 passengers.  Many, but not all, of these would use a Don Mills LRT especially if they had no choice to transfer because of new route structures.  (Broadview — 2, Flemingdon Park — 15, Mortimer — 4, Cosburn — 11, Don Mills — 17, Thorncliffe Park — 13).  However, any existing demand diverted to the LRT plus any new riding would now be placed on one rather than two subway interchanges.  Neither Broadview nor Pape has room for substantially increased traffic and a proper junction would almost certainly have to be underground.  (The 1985 DRL design included an underground interchange at Pape Station.)

All of this is a perfect example of a project with a narrow scope, one that considers only a single problem, not the larger context of the transit network.

The past few years brought a number of new and resuscitated projects into view including:

  • The Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan including substantially increased service on the Richmond Hill GO line, a Richmond Hill extension of the Yonge Subway, and a Downtown Relief Line from roughly Pape to Dundas West Station.
  • Resignalling of the Yonge-University Subway to allow headways as short as 105 seconds (compared to the current 140) and automated train operation (ATO).
  • Expansion of the subway fleet and carhouse capacity to accommodate more frequent service on YUS.
  • Reconstruction of Bloor-Yonge Station to increase transfer capacity between the BD and YUS lines.
  • Electrification of GO Transit routes including the Richmond Hill service.

No discussion of the Don Valley corridor can occur without credible demand projections for whatever routes might or might not be built there.  Metrolinx produced a background study, but it considers only the end-state network with all lines built out rather than interim configurations.  This shows what might be if we build everything, but gives little guidance for interim stages or for a “Plan B” with fewer components.  Projected peak hour demands on various routes affecting the corridor were:

  • Richmond Hill Express Rail: 18,100
  • Don Mills LRT:  5,000
  • Yonge Subway north of Finch:  8,000
  • Spadina Subway north of Downsview:  7,200
  • Yonge-University Subway:  25,400
  • Bloor-Danforth Subway:  16,400
  • Downtown Subway (DRL):  17,500
  • VIVA Yonge north of Richmond Hill:  5,800

[See Appendix C at pages 26ff in the background study linked above.  These projections are for the 25-year network in 2031.]

These numbers have to be taken with some skepticism.  “Express Rail” is defined as a 5-minute headway, considerably better than anything GO plans to operate.  The projected demand is more than double the combined riding on both of the subway extensions into York Region, and is roughly the full capacity of 9 10-car trains requiring a headway of 5-6 minutes.  This would also consume a substantial proportion of the planned capacity of the reconfigured Union Station just for one line.

The Don Mills LRT is projected at a level much higher than the TTC’s expectations of 3,000 per hour.  Although the TTC has not recently published estimates for a DRL east leg, I understand that they oppose its construction claiming it will attract little in new demand to the system.  This ignores past studies, including Network 2011, that predicted a major diversion of trips to the DRL from the Bloor-Danforth Subway and a concurrent elimination of pressure on the YUS and the Bloor-Yonge interchange.

Metrolinx predicts that the core of the subway system, the YUS and BD lines, would actually see their peak demands fall from current levels as riders are diverted to the GO and DRL services.  The design capacity of a subway train for scheduling purposes is 1,000 with trains on the Yonge line expected to move up to about 1,100 thanks to the extra interior space of the new “TR” trains.  Current service on YUS and BD could easily handle the projected demands.  The planned fleet expansion, much more frequent service and station reconstruction to handle increased traffic would all be unnecessary.

These numbers beg several questions:

  • What happens to the network if the GO service to Richmond Hill runs every 10 rather than every 5 minutes?
  • What happens to the network if the DRL is omitted?
  • Why is the projected demand on the Don Mills LRT so much higher than in the TTC’s plans?  What is the demand profile over the length of the route?
  • What combination of system changes — ignoring the colour of the logo on the vehicles — is really needed to address growing demand?

Although Metrolinx may have proposed a network, their planning is still very much based on individual projects.  Their “Business Case Analysis” (a process now shrouded in mystery thanks to the disappearance of much Metrolinx business into a board of “experts” rather than “politicians”) looks at each route in isolation rather than a basket of projects and alternative network configurations.

The Richmond Hill subway extension’s BCA is complete, but not yet public.  What does it say?  What alternatives does it examine?

The project has yet to receive funding from any government, but studies proceed and, given the momentum typical of such proposals, we can expect someone to pay for it.  Elections do wonderful things to focus spending priorities.  Given the projected demand for this line and for its sister service on GO, one can’t help asking why there has not been a “value for money” comparison of the two projects, even if GO is scaled back to less-frequent service (say 6 trains/hour)?  Indeed, both services may be justified, but which should be built first?

When the Richmond Hill subway came before Toronto Council, there was great concern about the effect such a line would have on demand on the existing subway system.  At this point, information from the TTC was less than helpful.

On one hand, the TTC had already obtained government support for the YUS resignalling project with the claim that the extra service needed to handle a Richmond Hill extension would be impossible without it.  Meanwhile, the number of cars in the fleet plan was nowhere near sufficient to actually operate the service frequency proposed by the signalling project.  A further problem, given the length of the YUS, is that even though very frequent service may only be required for a short section of the route, trains must be provided to operate this service between whatever turnback points are implemented.  (At present, these are expected to be Finch and Downsview Stations.)  That’s a lot of extra trains, crews, yard space and maintenance.

Next, the TTC resurrected a scheme for massive reconstruction of Bloor-Yonge Station to handle the much heavier flow of pedestrian traffic the new service would bring.  I have written about this elsewhere and mention the scheme only as an example of scope creep caused by looking only at one item — signalling — without the related issues of capacity and passenger handling.

Even assuming that all of this were feasible, a major concern is for the inevitable delays and service problems that beset the subway system.  Is it wise to place so much emphasis on one route out of downtown?  Some at TTC have argued that we should get as much as possible out of existing infrastructure, but they miss the importance of the word “existing”.  Equally they miss the simple fact that much growth in capacity into downtown for the past two decades came not from the TTC but from the GO network.  Existing infrastructure can just as easily be a rail corridor as a subway line.

Now we come to the DRL itself.  Without question, such a project will be expensive.  The TTC’s position has always been that such a route can never be justified based on projected demand.  However, both Network 2011 and Metrolinx show a high demand (Metrolinx foresees roughly double the peak demand of either York Region extensions) on a Downtown line.  Some of this is traffic diverted directly from the Yonge corridor, and some from BD riders who would otherwise travel to Yonge Station to reach the core area.  Whose figures are correct?  How can we make informed choices about transit projects with such widely varying demand estimates?

I have written here before about the problem of any Don Mills line between Eglinton and the Danforth Subway.  The TTC persists on studying surface alignments although these would be very difficult to implement.  If such an alignment finally proves impractical, from an engineering or political viewpoint, if not both, then the question becomes what sort of structure will be needed to bridge these locations?  If this infrastructure is grade separated (new tunnels and a bridge over the Don Valley), should it be the south end of an LRT line or the north end of the DRL?

Running the DRL through to Eglinton affords many opportunities including a direct service (no transfer at, say, Pape Station) from the Don Mills corridor to downtown, a connection with the Eglinton LRT, and a possible connection to GO service on the CPR north of Eglinton.  Moreover, if the DRL serves not just as a bypass route to Pape Station from downtown, but as a link through Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks to a major transit node at Eglinton and Don Mills, it could be a meaningful all-day part of the network.

In all of this, you have probably noticed that I didn’t talk at all about the downtown end of the “Downtown Relief Line”.  A major problem here is the demand projection.  Until we know how many people would actually use the line and where they are going, a decision on a route through downtown, indeed even the technology, is a difficult one.

Network 2011 and its predecessor studies settled on a rail corridor alignment swinging north to Front Street, with a route via Front and Wellington as an alternative.  Front Street is no longer an option either above grade given the importance of Union Station as an historic building or below given the expansion of the subway station now in progress.  A route through the southern part of the business district was preferred over Queen Street because the jobs are concentrated to the south and this would minimize the distance between a new transit route and riders’ destinations.

Some have suggested placing the DRL under King or Queen Streets, but I believe that others such as Wellington, Adelaide or Richmond are more appropriate.  Recycling Queen Street’s lower level has a siren call, but Queen may not be the best place for an EW line and the alignment should not be dictated by this one small chunk of pre-built infrastructure.

For those who feel LRT is the solution to all problems, there is always the option of creating a transit mall through the core area.  This would only be practical if the demand south of the Danforth Subway is in a range that can be handled by LRT trains operating through streets with closely spaced intersections, many unavoidable traffic signals and well-known congestion on north-south streets that could block the LRT crossings.  A downtown transit mall may have its place, but not as the inner part of a subway relief line.

The Don River crossing will require a bridge regardless of the route through downtown, but the DRL alignment has not been studied in the context of the West Don Lands plan that completely changes the land use west of the river.  East of the Don, any route north to the Danforth Subway will almost certainly have to be underground following the street grid and possibly the rail corridor.  (Earlier studies rejected an elevated option along the rail corridor because there is not sufficient room both for then-planned increases in rail trackage and for the el’s support structure.)

There are many network configurations and implementation sequences for all or some of these proposals.  Alas, Metrolinx looked at almost none of them, and what information they did provide gives little guidance on alternatives.  In all of this discussion, full GO fare integration is assumed.  That’s a big challenge for Metrolinx both in the implications for provision of capacity and for operating subsidies.

All of these issues show major shortcomings in the Metrolinx Regional Plan which some treat as a finished, inviolable work of transit planning rather than merely as a guideline, an indication of what might be done.

Now the TTC will turn its attention to the Don Mills corridor, and I hope that their work will be comprehensive.  They must establish credible demand projections and evaluate how various network configurations would behave.  The time for studying one line at a time is long over, and we need to understand how growing demand in the Yonge and Don Mills corridors should be handled.

None of this will be as easy as dropping an LRT line into the middle of a wide suburban street, but it is essential that we understand the tradeoffs between various alternatives, and that we examine the network as a whole regardless of which agency’s vehicles provide the service.

22 thoughts on “What Shall We Do With Don Mills?

  1. While reading your article, I couldn’t help but think that if a fair bit of the legacy system that was in operation before the Bloor-Danforth subway opened in 1968, particularly in the east end, were left in place, a lot of the problems of accessing the downtown via a conversion to LRT would have been more feasible.

    The best example I can think of has to do with Pape Ave. Firstly, Pape north of Danforth was already wide enough for streetcars because it was considered at one time before the depression to convert the LEASIDE route to streetcar operation (Laird Dr and Eglinton East also have the same width requirements and for years utility poles were properly placed opposite each other for eventual wire stringing, and of course, Eglinton had trackage between Mt. Pleasant and Yonge for emergency diversions).

    The other possible evidence that the TTC was thinking of retaining streetcars on Pape was the design of the double-bus loop at Pape Stn. (and I don’t mean the northern loop, which was partially built on the entrance to the old Lipton Loop and actually saw streetcar operation until the BD opened in 1966). The southern smaller loop, used by 72 PAPE serivce, always looked to me as if it had been originally considered for streetcar operation.

    If Streetcar service had been maintained on Pape/Riverdale/Carlaw to Queen, and possibly further south, it would have been easy, or easier, to extend the line downtown following the rail corridor (as so many ideas floated since 1968 have suggested), even possibly going underground to connect to Union Stn. We would have had an immediate relief-line as early as the 1960’s. Too bad they hated streetcars back then.

    Steve: Until both the Leaside and Bathurst Street bridges were widened, they sported TTC traction poles in anticipation of streetcar extensions that were never built.


  2. I think the most important thing for this project will be to be clear on its goals.

    Some possible goals are:

    – Divert passengers from the Yonge line to relieve overcrowding.
    – Improve transit connections in the Don Mills area.
    – Improve transit connections in the Pape/Donlands corridor.
    – Improve transit connections in the neighbourhoods south of the Danforth and east of downtown.

    I’d argue the first goal is the one that matters for the DRL, because it’s the only one that justifies a billion-dollar project. And that goal does a lot to establish the passenger loads the new line needs to carry. A 3,000/hour peak wouldn’t offload much from Yonge; presumably you want to be above 5,000/hour, with room to grow substantially from there.

    Perhaps that sounds backwards, but it seems necessary to ensure the line meets its goal to relieve Yonge line congestion. It’s not about building a Don Mills corridor; it’s building an alternate route into downtown, with Don Mills being the leading candidate for its location. If that corridor won’t attract that level of ridership, then a different corridor needs to be found; if no corridor will transfer enough ridership, then it’s back to the drawing board on how to fix the Yonge line.

    To me, all the other goals seem secondary. On its own, improving transit through Don Mills is probably worth the expense of a Transit City line, but not a full-blown subway. I wouldn’t say that’s the case south of the Danforth, where the line would pass through established, low-density neighbourhoods. I’m sure they’d love rapid transit at their doorstep, but it’s not much easier to justify than a subway deep into the suburbs.


  3. Wouldn’t the alignment/existence of the DRL greatly affect the streetcars serving the new waterfront east developments?

    Steve: Yes, although this depends on where the DRL had stations and what its alignment was. It would certainly make more sense for the Port Lands to be served by a connection north to a DRL rather than by the Queen’s Quay East line. However, people living on Queen’s Quay would likely be separated from the DRL both by its station spacing and by the rail corridor, especially if the DRL went along Front/Wellington.


  4. Steve, technical question. How difficult would it be to build a tunnel under say Wellington to handle GO trains?

    Steve: Aside from the obvious pre-requisite of electrification (which I assume you have included), there is the question of the exact route between the rail corridor (I assume you want to run trains through, not to a stub terminal) and the lack of space for more than a few tracks and platforms. I would rather keep the space under Wellington for a “rapid transit” technology and leave GO in the existing rail corridor.

    Also, commentary.
    I fully agree we need a DRL. My preference for an east-west tunnel under the core is Richmond street, as it is closer to Queen that Adelaide is to King, and is a further from Union than Wellington is. In other words, it would get a larger catchment area from places not currently served by the subway or GO. How far in the west do you think a DRL should go?


  5. The big problem with extending the DLR to Eglinton is the poor local service it would provide to the high-density apartment and office buildings along the route, especially in Flemingdon Park. With typical 1km stop spacing, stops would probably only be located at Mortimer, O’Connor, East York Town Centre, Overlea/Don Mills and Don Mills/Eglinton. This leaves large chunks of Flemingdon Park a good 15-20 minute walk from the subway, and thus dependent on the 100 Flemingdon Park feeder bus service. Perhaps the subway should run further east – e.g. have the subway run along the DVP from Overlea/Don Mills to a station just north of Eglinton, and have the Don Mills LRT start at Overlea/Don Mills.

    Steve: It doesn’t matter where we run a subway or an LRT, many of those high rises won’t be in walking distance of it. The same situation applies to many parts of the system where the bus feeders provide an integral part of the subway network.


  6. It is cases where i hear these things that i’m actually happy that metrolinx is here. The TTC doesnt like to implement anything that is goood for the system but yet they implement every sub-par service for Torontonians. They’re honestly starting to infuriate me. I bet you they would be more supportive of a subway to……i dont know to the toronto islands than the downtown core itself. Seriously I would rather have a 10 year old kid running the TTC than these boneheads. If the TTC was responsible for the final aapproval of projects, rather than the provincial gouvernment we would see subways that went to major parks around the city (ex: Ashbridge Bay). Trust me I would rather have a subway that went to Vaughan (even though i dont like it) to Ashbridge Bay.

    Steve: Metrolinx is one of the problems. They study lines in isolation from each other and they treat their plan as something that cannot be questioned or changed (even though the Premier did so in his LRT funding announcement). They are an organization that infuriates me, but then I think the feeling is mutual, at least for some in that agency.


  7. I have to agree that then southern end of a DRL should not be at Union, where all people on this line have to funnel off of that in one point in a location where they would be joined by a large number of people arriving on GO trains (and even more in the future) and either going north on Yonge or University, with a smaller group walking from that point.

    Richmond is not a bad idea, being close enough to Queen street to make useful transfer connections at Queen and Osgoode stations. This probably comes as close as possible to splitting the users of this line into some who exit at Yonge and some who exit at University, with each of these groups being further split between transfers to the north, transfers to the south, and a small group that walks from that point. This makes for a more balanced use of the existing infrastructure taking into account users coming from the north parts of the YUS line, the BD line and GO service to Union.

    Having a northern terminus at Don Mills and Eglinton draws more load off of Yonge not only for existing travel patterns, but also for where the capacity may become needed if GO service to Summerhill is to be implemented. Obviously, users on the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT coming from the east would likely find the transfer at Don Mills quicker and less crowded (or, at least with an improved chance of getting a seat!) than going over to Yonge, and those from the north would naturally choose this, there would be a small number west of Don Mills, perhaps over to Laird who would find getting downtown by heading east to Don Mills a preferable route for the same reasons.


  8. Re: Matt L.

    The 5,000 / hour peak projection for Don Mills corridor comes from the model which has Don Mills LRT terminating at Bloor and a transfer to DRL subway happening there. It is conceivable that the peak ridership north of Bloor will be higher than 5,000 / hour if DRL continues north of Bloor, providing a direct link downtown.


  9. If the DRL was done as LRT would there be capacity problems by doing the following:

    Extend Don Mills LRT line south, past BD, then turn west to cross the river and split in two. One branch goes as a tunnel under Queen far enough west to avoid the choke points on Queen West. On branch stays as a surface route along Wellington or Adelaide. At the west end, these routes could rejoin and go north to meet the BD or Eglinton line along the Weston corridor or perhaps have different terminus. (I realize that I’ve joined a TTC gauge route with a Transit City route).

    I assume most of the expected capacity issues from a DRL are south of Bloor. Having two LRT routes share this load should help provide sufficient capacity


  10. @AL: Splitting the route at the Don River doesn’t help. The heaviest spike in demand will happen at Danforth Avenue, not Queen Street. If an LRT were to tunnel south of Bloor, it would require, as a minimum, quad-tracked stations with a double-tracked tunnel between stations. This would make stations very expensive though, and subway becomes easier and cheaper to build.



    What shall we do with Don Mills? That depends. If the goal here is to alleviate the Yonge Line (and the Bloor-Danforth Line) while providing commuters from all areas of the east end (i.e. Markham, East York, Scarborough and the Beaches/Leslieville) with real adequate and sustainable rapid transit options, the best course of action would be to be to implement any or ALL of the following:

    1. DRL subway between Queen East and Eglinton/Don Mills via Coxwell Avenue (Phase One). Right-of-way between Parkdale and Riverdale could be via Wellington and Front or the Esplanade/Mill. Via Queen St thereafter.

    A V-shaped Pape-Overlea Line would net a smaller catchment of riders overall than a fully expanded out U-shaped Coxwell-Don Mills metro would (as commuters heading inbound from Beaches/Kingston Rd/O’Connor would feed into this line rather than routes which feed into the Bloor-Danforth. There’s also a bored-tunnel already in place running beneath Coxwell for its entire length, which could be retrofitted or expanded upon, to route trains, whichever’s more technically feasible.

    Steve: A bored tunnel under Coxwell? If this really exists, it will be part of the water/sewer system, not a tunnel suitable for use for a rapid transit line.

    2. Eventually, extend this DRL subway eastbound along Eglinton and north along Danforth/McCowan Roads to Scarborough Town Centre (Phase 2)

    This terminus guarantees commuters coming from multiple points of origins throughout the eastern 416 get a one-seat ride into the downtown core; and puts metro along a commercialized TOD stretch of Eglinton that could sustain it (only 6 stops are necessary in-between Don Mills and Danforth Rd). This could even be elevated part of the way (til at least Victoria Park).

    Steve: This is starting to get far beyond the scope of a DRL. It’s important that we don’t try to completely duplicate the existing system, and remember that GO has a role to play in offloading the subway too. This whole discussion began because the Richmond Hill subway is expected to overload YUS, but this could be mitigated with good service on GO. You mention this yourself below, and I noted it in the Metrolinx projections for ridership on a frequent GO Richmond Hill operation that would carry double the projected peak demand on the subway.

    3. Incorporate the “Don Mills” LRT Line onto the “Eglinton Crosstown” Line, effectively creating two new U-shaped lines (DRL and the Don Mills-Eglinton-Jane Crosstown LRT). Have the western leg of the DRL therefore route into the airport via Eglinton and Dixon through Etobicoke.

    The LRT line could continue up Don Mills Rd via elevated guideway til north of the 401 (Parkway Forest). This is very achievable because the streetscape’s primarily commercial and low- to mid-rise apartments not residential housing blocks, reducing likelihood of NIMBY complaints. This allows for fewer stops saving $$ and exclusive right-of-way to maintain the high speed advantages enjoyed within the central Eglinton tunnel.

    Steve: There have been proposals to operate Jane and Don Mills as branches of the Eglinton line, but I don’t think an elevated on Don Mills is a good idea. This has both the effect of making stations far more complex and of sterilizing surrounding land for some forms of redevelopment. There is also some doubt that the demand in this part of the line would justify such expensive infrastructure.

    4. Nix the LRT plans for Don Mills and Sheppard beyond Fairview.

    Take of advantage of the new excavation to have the E-D LRTs service a stop at Yorkland Rd/Sheppard (underground station); then swing the line north surfacing in the swath of land parallel to the 404. Near Finch the line crosses the 404 below-grade and emerges in a Seneca College station parallel to the NW corner off-ramps. Other stations could be at McNicoll/Gordon Baker, Woodbine/Steeles, and the Shops on Steeles & 404 shopping mall; all intersections with decent trip generation and transfer connectivity.

    o Maintain the 25 Don Mills bus north of Sheppard, as local stop spacing is more necessary through this more residential stretch, and trip generators en route here are fewer in contrast to the DVP/404.

    Steve: There is a good argument for taking the Finch East LRT further than Don Mills, but not via a loop down to Sheppard and back up again. In time there would be a north-south Don Mills LRT as well as an east-west Finch LRT.

    Sheppard tangent- If the Consumers business area is catered to via Yorklands Stn, Agincourt would remain the only trip generator in-between Victoria Park and Markham Road lacking higher-order (although service frequency to their GO stn will likely improve). However BRT would be sufficient enough to handle this lower-density region (in essence a beefed up 190 Scarborough Ctr Rocket). East of Neilson, Sheppard is in no way, shape or form ready for one higher-order let alone several. I’d hope 85 bus service from Malvern Town Centre to Rouge Hill via Metro Zoo is the best local residents would want or really need.

    This concept of routing buses; high-speed grade-separated LRT and metro subways along Don Mills, while dividing the corridors up by different modes, ensures that the customer at any given point is being ensured the fastest ride possible to their end-destination. The Fairview and OSC Stations could functionally incorporate a track configuration model utilized in Montreal’s metro system. A Lionel-Groulx styled interchange whereby the two inbound tracks and the two outbound tracks of different metros meet eachother via cross-platform interchange. Only in our case, one track-bed would be accommodating low-floor vehicles and on the side of the platform high-floor T1s would greet passengers. So basically, outbound trains meet upstairs, inbounds downstairs. Though challenging, this set-up could even work at Don Mills (Fairview) Stn provided platform level is enlarged to accomodate new walkways and stairwells.

    So for all transit users, hypothetically, if their inbound end-point was the downtown core or points right off Yonge St, the level of difficulty transferring modes could be as simple as merely stepping off one vehicle and boarding another 15 ft away. Depending on availability, a pocket turnback track for subway cars could be installed at Fairview Stn as well to dissuade long pauses from active subway service.

    Best of all though, a fully grade separated “Don Mills” LRT line from Steeles to Eglinton where it connects cross-platform to the DRL, makes a compelling case for expansion further into York Region running parallel to Leslie up to Beaver Creek then along an elevated guideway veers east routing past downtown Markham, historic Unionville and Markville Mall, terminating at the Centennial GO Stn. Such a line diminishes the need for the Yonge Subway extension past Steeles in the near future, especially should GO Transit electrify the Bala Subdivision to finally enable 5 minute headways. Richmond Hill residents will prefer a rapid transit service that only stops 5 times en route to Union Stn/ the CBD (John/Bayview, Old Cummer, Oriole, Wynford Heights and West Don Lands~ both transfer stations to the DRL). And anyone desiring NYCC or Yonge-Eglinton would need only transfer off to board another rapid transit line, no less for wear.

    To wit, someone from Malvern going to Humber College isn’t really interested in planning new urban communities or sitting through an hour, likely longer on some meandering crosstown LRT line. Those should be afterthoughts on everyone’s mind behind providing fast yet affordable mass transit, IMO. If we already have the means possible to finance better (at least $13 billion to date in federal funding, enough to cover all of the above and more if we don’t go overboard on spending), it is only a matter of setting the right transit priorities for our city. And if those in positions of authority aren’t going about it right, we need to find somebody who can.

    Steve: The Feds have nowhere near $13-billion on the table, and I don’t expect to see that level of federal spending on transit, ever. You are confusing them with Queen’s Park who simply don’t have any spare change right now.

    As for urban planning exercises (the Official Plan, the Avenues, etc), I am sorry that someone who wants to go from Malvern to Humber College won’t have a speedy trip with only a handful of stops on the Finch LRT. That’s not what it is designed to do. There are two fundamentally different types of demand in the GTA — one is for long haul trips and is, if anything, overserved by plans for rapid transit and commuter rail because these trips tend to be the primary market for auto-dominated travel. The other, just as important, are the many shorter trips between various parts of the city that don’t lend themselves to a coarse grid of high-speed services. It is these types of trips, as well as the development potential they have for redvelopment of many corridors, that are addressed by the Transit City network.


  12. There nothing wrong with Transit City … but I think we’ve had this debate before regarding long haul and short haul trips in previous post. My only concern is that I think Go is going in the wrong direction regarding their future expansion. I think they hit the nail right the first time back in the 80’s with their previous proposal for the “GO ALRT”. That proposal was more comprehensive in the sense that it covered a larger portion of the GTA. Anyways not to go off topic …

    The Don Mills LRT need more study on it. I don’t see why a guided right of way wouldn’t work on the Don Mills LRT other cities have done the same thing with their LRT … why is Toronto so fixated on having their LRT in the middle of the road … must I go back to the disaster that is unfolding on the ECLRT. It would be logical to put the line on the vacant lands to the north yet they still persist in putting the line in the middle of the road.

    If the TTC wants to keep advertising that LRT are flexible and that they can operate in various environment they need to showcase that. I strongly believe that we can enforce a mixture on fully exclusive and semi exclusive ROW on the Don Mill LRT from Steeles to Eglinton, at Eglinton the line should change to the DRL subway.


  13. I, like you Steve, think that one of the main problems is the fact that Metrolinx does not do any network analysis and planning. They look at a map, see a rail line without GO service and say “Let’s put a GO train on it.” I do not think that they have given any thought to what running the Milton and the two proposed eastern lines would do to the loads on the Yonge subway. They see an unused rail station and a double track main line and colour it green for GO. I know that Union Station is going to be grossly over used, especially in the a.m. peak; they have more flexibility in track assignments as most trains leave it out of service. I will get to the DRL but I think we need to look at what will add to the pressures on the YUS line.

    1 Extending the line to Richmond Hill.

    2 Using North Toronto Station for GO trains.

    3 The transit City network which will make transit more attractive by decreasing travel times and providing for more reliable service.

    4 Possibly extending the Bloor Subway into Mississauga.

    The two choke points on the line will probably be Bloor Yonge and Union Stations. If we can get people to the downtown without passing through these stations, then it would reduce congestion. As I see it the big demand will be from the north and east therefore the DRL must be built. I am not sure where the downtown route would go but I am leaning towards the suggestion of tunnelling under Adelaide or Richmond so that there could be a connection to Yonge and University at either King or Queen. It would probably be easier to use Adelaide and connect at King but I do not know what is buried under either street. I also do not have any idea how far west to take it but for the immediate future it could stop at University.

    After it leaves the downtown it would have been nice to follow the Kingston sub as far as Greenwood but with GO’s plans for 5 and 6 tracks through there that is not going to happen. The alternative is to tunnel along a diagonal near the line, if possible and then up the west side of Greenwood (you need a car house), and then up Jones and across the Don Valley through Thorncliffe to Don Mills. I would have only a few stops at least two km apart to make the line higher speed to attract riders from the suburbs by giving them a quicker trip time. Stations say at Queen, Pape and Gerrard, Danforth, O’Connor, Thorncliffe, Flemington Park and Eglinton.

    The next question is now where do we go? There is a good argument to continue it up Don Mills but I have another proposal. Send it out the CP right of way to Agincourt where it would meet the GO trains from Agincourt, Locust Hill and what ever that other line on CP would be. I would run all of those GO trains down the Uxbridge Sub and along the Lakeshore. This puts all the GO trains into a common downtown terminal; thus hopelessly overloading it but more on that later. I would put stops at Victoria Park and Lawrence, Warden and Ellesmere, Kennedy Road then Agincourt. This limited stop diagonal line would intercept a lot of riders from both the BD line and the Yonge line by providing a more attractive service. It cannot have stops every 500 to 800 m and provide a fast service. The right of way goes through or close to, major intersection thus allowing one stop to serve routes on two streets. The thing is GO cannot be allowed on the North Toronto Sub.

    What to do with Union Station?

    Since the City owns it and I believe the City or GO owns the tracks, they should lay all the tracks through the station on concrete like they do in the subway to keep the track from shifting. Next they should raise the platform height to that of the doors and build it out like in the subway. This would make it safer and faster for loading and unloading. Since CN and CP will not operate freights through the station tracks they cannot demand that the platforms be 69” from the centre line of the track. This would give GO eight tracks for their service which on a five minute headway would give them 96 trains an hour with up to 2000 passenger each for a possible total of 192 000 passengers per hour, I hope that they really improve the passenger flow through that station and widen and expand the PATH system.

    GO and the TTC are going to have a major capacity problem at the Union Station interchange with all the GO trains and the LRT lines coming into it. They will have to give a serious look to extending the LRT lines north of Front or doing something to increase the capacity north from Union Station. I know that with all the building of PATH, Subways, water and sewer lines that is is almost impossible so maybe they should look at something els, like a surface [line] on York to help distribute the load through the downtown.

    Whatever they do it will not be a simple fix as every change causes more change. Like Steve said, Metrolinx needs to look at the network interactions and not at at one line at a time. I know that there are problems with my suggestions but I am hoping to generate some creative thinking.

    No matter what happens, GO is going to have a capacity problem at Union Station but they cannot solve it by overloading the Bloor Yonge interchange or the Yonge subway.


  14. I think it would be a lot cheaper to bring Seaton and Locust Hill trains, ideally also Richmond Hill trains (requires a little new infrastructure), to a station at Don Mills Rd on the North Toronto sub (and let them scoot to Union from there), and terminate the DRL somewhere in this general area (not sure exactly where it would run, there’s a few options to study), rather than take the DRL to Agincourt. I can agree, as a longer-term vision, with the Victoria Park and Lawrence extension idea, as Lawrence East and Victoria Park are high in traffic, potential LRT candidates in future. I’d wait for said LRTs to appear as official proposals first before extending a DRL out that way, and would be very reluctant about extending it further along the CP line from there, as this is the kind of duplication that should be avoided.

    Ultimately, I see GO as requiring the North Toronto sub. No matter what solution is ultimately adopted, this will be an extraordinarily expensive undertaking given the inevitable conditions that will have to met to satisfy CP. GO is, however, boxed in, and doesn’t have much choice.


  15. Karl,

    You wouldn’t necessarily need quad tracked stations since good signage for “Next Train” would let people know whether to board or wait. This is frequently done in other countries where different branches serve a common trunk section. You might want 4 tracks with 2 island platforms (N/B and S/B) at the main transfer points to reduce congestion. Using Transit City-sized LRT cars and 3 minute comined headway (6 minute each branch) would give you roughly 5000 people per hour per direection peak. Headways could be reduced. Double length trains could be used on the fully tunneled branch to up the capacity. You might even consider a 3rd run-through track for express over some sections but I don’t think this is needed. A portal could also allow some trains to go to surface North-Easterly routing (Kingston Rd?) to connect to BD farther east.

    I had seen Steve’s estimate of 3,000 for Don Mills LRT and this system would be able to easily handle this. I had overlooked the 17,500 number for DRL. My suggestion would definitely NOT handle this volume. However, the models need to be updated to reflect actual routes, etc., especially since Metrolinx numbers don’t match those from TTC.

    Steve: For clarity, the 3,000 estimate is the TTC’s taken from the project website for the Don Mills LRT, not mine. The much higher numbers come from the Metrolinx projections including a full DRL. Comparable figures showed up in the early 1980s projections which included a “DRL” heading up all the way to Finch.

    My concern is that the TTC is low-balling the demand estimate for the southern end of the line especially if it provides a direct route to downtown, and may be basing their infrastructure designs on that low estimate.


  16. I say that the DRL should be extended all the way to Sheppard and that the Don Mills LRT should be scrapped. With the proposed Finch-Sheppard crosstown LRT providing LRT service north of Sheppard, why not just get rid of the LRT and make Don Mills station a major hub. The added benefit is that Don Mills still has lots of room for intensification/densification.


  17. Yes to the DRL to Eglington-Don Mills intersection IMO because:

    – accomplishes goal of relieving congestion by also giving Eglington LRT and Malvern LRT users another subway option to downtown

    – mitigates a problem which the Eglington LRT is going to have. Eglington will have a very fast underground middle section with widely spaced stations with slower above surface ends affected by traffic lights etc. The middle section will not be able to be fed trains fast enough to utilize its infrastructure. However, if a Don Mills LRT ended at Eglington it could turn west into the Eglington tunnel with perhaps a turn-back at Spadina.

    – since Eglington will be built in stages, the eastern above ground section could be built first ending at Don Mills and be very useful. Perhaps it could turn north at Don Mills to reach its car-house.

    – While we’re looking at the big picture in the east end, consider Kennedy station. With a DRL stop on Eglington this will be less of a focal point. The Eglington-Malvern LRTs should be thought of as one line and stay in the middle of the street. Eglinton is big wide street east of Kennedy, so while we’re digging it up for the ROW. lets put in the subway tunnel to Danforth. I’d continue it up McCowan too but maybe that picture is too big, though its a lot easier to do now while the SRT is still running on its last legs.

    And finally downtown. I’ve responded to Steve’s posts previously by suggesting integrating the DRL into Union. I’ve seen the light though. It’s about the big picture, not connecting lines on the map. My choice for the downtown street though is King. Why? In the west it curves up to join Roncesvalles. In the centre there are transfers to YUS. In the east, King slopes up to join Queen. From there it could deep-tunnel under the Don is already pointing towards Pape north of Gerrard.

    There, I’ve fixed everything!! 🙂

    Steve: Bravo! Bravo!


  18. Steve, I’m still a bit divided on weather the DRL should be a full subway or LRT. I agree that whatever it is should go to Eglinton however. I’m wondering however where you think a DRL should end in the west. Spadina? Bathurst? If we build it under Wellington or Richmond or Adelaide, we could end it at Bathurst if we wanted and should we ever have the need for an eastern DRL, run that under another street (IE if one goes under Richmond, run the other under Adelaide) going to Church or Jarvis – while they would not connect they would have an overlap area. The other option is to run Don Mills – DRL – Jane LRT as a single line, forming a larger, “outer” ‘U’ to the YUS line.

    Steve: I am not convinced that the western branch is needed anywhere near as soon as the eastern one, or that thetwo should be joined downtown. The issue of running the DRL as LRT fails on the simple basis that the projected demand is far higher than LRT can reasonably handle if there will be through running with on street surface operation. Also, so much of the line has to be grade separated that it might as well be a subway anyhow.


  19. Is it a certainty that a southern crossing at the Don Valley would require an elevated structure? I assume this would be so to avoid having steep grades and very deep tunnels (and stations) along that portion of the line (and maybe water issues?) Maybe they could re-use the King Street bridge while they’re at it!

    Steve: The bridge you are thinking of is the old Eastern Avenue bridge that was abandoned when that street became a flyover as part of the DVP construction and the “Duke and Duchess” interchange (Richmond, Adelaide and Eastern, using their original names). That bridge is at the same elevation, more or less, as the DVP and I don’t think a level crossing between the DRL and the expressway is practical.


  20. Two questions:

    1) I’m confused about your claim that Metrolinx tends to forecast demand on each line alone, rather than considering the entire network. However, as you also point out, they did consider the scenario of all lines being implemented (even if it is one of many possible scenarios of future networks). Is that not their attempt to forecast demand based on networks instead of individual lines?

    Steve: My complaint is that we don’t know what network was used to model the Eglinton line. Was it the existing network plus Eglinton, or were other components present too? To what extent does the model force-feed the line they’re wanting to build by virtue of the absence of alternatives? What sort of catchment area (zone size in the model) was used? This sort of problem plagued models of the transit network decades ago when the Sheppard subway was “justified” with a network that assumed no change in GO Transit’s service and therefore had no place else to put demand travelling from the suburbs to downtown. I am still waiting for answers on these issues from Metrolinx.

    2) How do you feel about the TTC’s methodology for Travel Demand Forecasting, and how would their methodology be different than that of Metrolinx?

    Steve: The TTC model is a bit more fine-grained (it has to be given the granularity of their network). The real issue, as in my first response, is what network, what services were presumed to exist to drive the model.


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