On September 2, the TTC held an open house to present designs for the section of the proposed Eglinton LRT west of Martin Grove. The display panels and an updated FAQ are available on the project’s website.
The display starts with introductory materials for the project and shows the current schedule for the overall study. By November 2009 when the next round of public meetings occurs, the design options should be settled in preparation for the formal Transit Project Assessment. However, the length and complexity of the line may interfere with this schedule depending on how the project team reacts to comments at the neighbourhood and political levels.
The TTC needs to “get it right” before the TPA starts because that process runs to a fixed timetable and does not offer much opportunity for significant change. Any “alternatives analysis” is presumed to be completed before the TPA itself.
The Pearson segment varies from the rest of the line in using centre platforms (see panel 9). This changes the intersection geometry and pedestrian access. Notably, provision for high pedestrian volumes is needed only on one rather than both sides of an intersection, and passengers waiting for the LRT are separated from traffic by the transit lanes.
Two major routes into the airport were studied:
- West via Eglinton to Renforth Drive or Commerce Blvd., then north into the airport.
- North via Highway 27, then west via Dixon Road into the airport.
The first of these has four variants which are permutations on the route:
- From Eglinton to Convair via Renforth or via Commerce.
- From Convair to the Airport via Silver Dart or via Carlingview including a station at Dixon Road.
The five options are shown on panels 11 through 15, and you can easily see the differences by stepping back and forth between them.
The Silver Dart alignment is intriguing because it takes the LRT, complete with its overhead power distribution system, right across the end of a runway. Many years ago, a proposed electrification of the Dufferin bus was rejected because, among other things, stringing overhead along Wilson south of Downsview Airport would not be allowed. What is different today that allows Silver Dart to hold an LRT route?
The preferred route (Option 1) takes the westernmost of the various alignments running via Commerce and Sliver Dart. This choice gives a gerrymandered feeling to the route which is pulled southwest to connect with the Mississauga Transitway at Commerce Blvd. The ranking scheme on panel 16 shows how various factors affected the choice.
- Route 1 is the simplest to implement because it spend most of its time following existing streets and requires only one new bridge across Highway 401.
- Travel time is shortest for the Highway 27 (east) route because this is the most direct. I understand that the difference is about 4 minutes, one way
- Capital costs are lowest for the routes that use Silver Dart between Convair and the Airport as this is the shortest path and does not involve crossing Highway 427 to reach Carlingview.
- Development opportunities are best for the Carlingview routes because this serves more land that is not immediately beside the airport. The preferred route (1) and the east route (5) rank equally on this factor.
- Ridership projections are equal for all options and therefore do not affect the route selection. This implies that whatever development might occur, its effect on ridership will be minimal.
- Interregional connectivity is ranked highest for the Commerce Blvd. options (1 and 2) because of the link to the Mississauga Transitway. Whether this is the appropriate location for the interchange is not addressed, and the Transitway design is taken as a given.
The detailed alignment and station locations begin on panel 18. The thin black lines show the extend of widening required to accommodate the LRT lanes on various streets.
The most bizarre proposal is for the Commerce Blvd. stop and interchange with the Transitway. The LRT will be operating through an area that is now largely vacant land, beside a grade separated transitway, and yet the LRT is designed essentially as an upgraded streetcar.
Passengers from many services on the Transitway will have to make their way up to street level and walk out into the middle of the road to reach the LRT at what should be a major transfer point. This is a nonsensical design guaranteed to minimize the value of the very interchange that is cited as such a benefit of the alignment.
There is no discussion of swinging the LRT north of Eglinton so that it can share the Transitway’s alignment west of Renforth and have a consolidated station structure at Commerce. This would simplify the turn from Eglinton to Commerce by making it below grade at the level of the Transitway, and then ramping up into the middle of Commerce north of Eglinton. (I am awaiting feedback from the Eglinton LRT project team on this issue.)
Panel 22 shows the planned route structure for Transitway operations, and clearly the majority of the routes are headed for Kipling Station and its new regional terminal. However, transfer traffic for airport employees and customers, as well as for riders bound across Eglinton will be considerable and the hub should be designed to make such transfers as easy as possible.
The LRT presentation itself would benefit greatly from having the Transitway design as well as planned future development sites superimposed on the alignment drawings. This would allow for much better understanding of tradeoffs and benefits, and would simplify discussion of alternatives.
When the line reaches the airport (panel 29), it disappears into a planning haze because the exact location of the LRT station is not yet decided. Although I have heard of one schene that puts the station some distance from the existing people mover and planned Blue 22, this does not make sense for distribution of traffic within the airport. The people mover has limited capacity, and it is possible that an extended LRT will take over its function.
The design does not address future integration of an airport branch from the Finch LRT which would probably travel southwest via the Hydro corridor from Finch & Weston to Dixon & Martin Grove.
When the study comes back for another round of public meetings in the fall, we may learn if they have resolved problems with the airport alignment as well as many other issues along the Eglinton route. My greatest concern, based on experience with some other studies, is that we would see nothing more than a warmed-over-lightly rehash of the existing designs, and offhand dismissal of concerns that have been raised. The Eglinton line is the heart of Transit City, and it deserves good design and a genuine attempt to respond to communities along the route.