St. Clair Follies Fall 2009 Update

Word reached me this morning that plans for the St. Clair car continue to fall short of announcements, and that design screwups are still with us.

Opening to Keele

Although service will be extended to Earlscourt Loop at Lansdowne on December 20, service to Gunn’s loop is not expected to resume until August 2010.  The reason for this is that construction delays and design changes have pushed work well into the winter, when it is impractical and/or very expensive, and the west end of the line won’t be finished until good weather returns in the spring.

Oakwood Loop

This loop will not be available for streetcars because the overhead fittings are not available.  The TTC has been building the overhead on St. Clair to be fully pantograph compliant.  Why?  Because at some distant future time, they actually think St. Clair will become part of the Transit City network operating with Transit City cars from Black Creek Carhouse.

There is no connection between St. Clair and Eglinton, but this would be included in the Jane LRT.  There are two small problems:

  • The Jane LRT is not yet funded, and is unlikely to open before 2020.  Current plans show 2016, but that date assumed a more generous ongoing source of transit capital than we now have.  Moreover, it is unclear whether the southern part of the Jane route will be underground, and this would affect an interchange with an extended St. Clair route.  Indeed, the Jane route may never extend south of Eglinton and could operate as a branch off of the Eglinton LRT. 
  • There is a strong possibility that the Transit City network will be built to standard gauge.  If so, its cars will not be able to operate over the TTC gauge St. Clair route.

It is unclear whether the TTC is attempting to sever the St. Clair route from the rest of the “legacy” system to avoid operations on the Bathurst Street hill.

Dufferin & St. Clair

This intersection was the source of much debate during design.  At one point, the eastbound stop was going to be nearside due to constraints on the sidewalk a farside stop would entail.  However, the desire for a left turn lane east-to-north prevailed, and the stop was built farside.

There is a small problem.  The platform is wide enough (it was built extra-wide in anticipation of heavy use at this stop) and the roadway narrow enough that large vehicles cannot easily make the north-to-east turn.  The brand new stop will be rebuilt and narrowed so that the intersection can work properly.

A similar problem lurks in the design for St. Clair and Old Weston Road where the farside westbound island will constrain the ability of Keele buses to make the south-to-west turn.  Why the 41 Keele is not permanently rerouted via Rogers and Weston Road is a mystery (the express branch uses this route already, and there have been construction diversions of the local service).  The 168 Symington would continue to provide frequent service on Old Weston Road.

28 thoughts on “St. Clair Follies Fall 2009 Update

  1. There is a strong possibility that the Transit City network will be built to standard gauge.

    That would be foolish.

    There may not be connections between the networks as Transit City stands now, or even for the next phase. Eventually routes like Dufferin will be added and the two system will form a seamless mesh.

    Toronto has used it’s gauge for almost 150 years, since the days of horse cars. I expect it will be using it 150 years from now.

    I read somewhere someone had the idea of extending streetcar service along Lake Shore all the way to Hamilton. If can be be justified to Long Branch to provide local service, even with parallel GO and subway service, why not Hamilton? That would be more then half way to Cambridge and a connection to the Waterloo Region streetcar network.

    Just 80 years ago TTC gauge track extended to Lake Simcoe.

    Steve: The only streetcar service I know of planned west of Long Branch is a supposed connection to the Hurontario LRT line in Mississauga. Going all the way to Hamilton really is beyond credibility.

    As for service to Lake Simcoe, that was originally built to standard gauge as the Metropolitan Division, as were other suburban routes. It was regauged by the TTC in 1927 after they took over operation of the radials from Hydro. The two systems were connected on August 13, 1927, but service north of Richmond Hill only operated until early 1930. The Richmond Hill line lasted until 1948.

    I don’t believe that the gauge on the “city” system should dictate what is done for the Transit City routes or new systems in the 905.

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  2. While I understand the desire to build Transit City to specifications that require less expensive vehicles (e.g., no sharp turns) and meet a different technical standard (e.g., pantographs), I don’t see the rationale for having one system with two different gauges, especially when the gauges differ by only a few inches. Steve, can you enlighten me?

    Also, do you think it is feasible to gradually convert the entire system to pantograph use, line by line? If so, then we would evenutally be able to run city cars on Transit City lines, giving additional flexibility.

    Steve: The city cars will be single ended and therefore won’t be able to run on Transit City routes which will have crossovers for turnbacks, not loops.

    The TTC appears to be heading toward all-pantograph operation, but that’s a challenging conversion on the existing system. It has a big cost, but little obvious payback in the short term. Gradual conversion is complicated by the degree to which cars wander from route to route. For example, “Queen” cars can now be found on both the King and Dundas lines, Dundas cars are on College and Spadina, there are short turns and diversions everywhere, and cars need to get to carhouses and shops. Also, some of the tricks used by other systems for co-existence of both modes become quite difficult at complex intersections.

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  3. The EA for the Scarborough-Malvern line states that TTC gauge will be used. “Light rail vehicles (LRVs) will be operating on standard TTC gauge embedded track.”

    If they are going to use TTC gauge in Scarborough, why would they use standard gauge on Jane?

    Steve: At the point the EA was written, Metrolinx had not stuck its oar into the discussion. The decision is not yet final, but I understand that the intent is to remove the oddball gauge as a factor in any future orders for LRVs including an advantage this might give to an incumbent vendor.

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  4. What are the new Flexity vehicles using for power supply? I’d assumed they would be pantograph as well.

    Steve: The cars for the existing system will use longer trolley shoes than the current vehicles in order to have enough contact surface to draw the power needed for a double-length vehicle through one shoe. This is going to be very interesting, especially at special work and at hangers where there are now sharp turns as the contact wire passes through. Some system modifications are likely.

    The TTC has started to use hangars that will be compatible with pantographs presuming a system conversion at some future date, but there’s a lot of old stuff on the streets that will only work with trolley shoes.

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  5. And just when it looked like everything was coming together, and construction was almost finished (it appeared the tracks at Gunns Loop and under the rail bridge between Keele and Old Weston were the only ones untouched), everything is falling apart again.

    Is December 20, 2009 still a sure thing for the 512L? Is it possible to tear the E/B farside stop down, dig out the concrete, and build a new E/B stop on the nearside in time? Why on earth has no one popped the planned designs into a computer (or even used their mind) and figured out what are the possible flaws with the design? If a truck has only a certain turning radius, it should be factored into the design of an intersection to allow trucks to turn there, or failing that, a diversion sign for trucks should be posted (similar to how some bridges can only handle 5 tonnes, and heavier vehicles are diverted to other bridges).

    In addition, why has the TTC even bothered rebuilding Oakwood Loop if the only thing it can accept is 512 shuttle buses, and the 63A? Is it not possible to just hang the wires the same way that they are hung everywhere else in the city, and do a quick replacement once the particular type of overhead becomes available?

    Thank you Steve for keeping us informed of this, as both the City’s and the TTC’s websites leave us with little information of what is progressing (or not) on St. Clair.

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  6. The connecting track between St. Clair and Eglinton wouldn’t have to be in ROW, would it? As for TC being standard gauge – don’t tease me! That said, depending on the yard design and location it wouldn’t be completely impossible to co-exist side by side sharing a facility but with parallel track… or perhaps interlaced?

    What worries me is that this is yet another sign of TTC’s inability to manage a glorified rebuild while proposing to embark on Sheppard West.

    “A similar problem lurks in the design for St. Clair and Old Weston Road where the farside westbound island will constrain the ability of Keele buses to make the south-to-west turn. Why the 41 Keele is not permanently rerouted via Rogers and Weston Road is a mystery”

    Maybe this is TTC’s way of saying “oops, look what we did, silly us” to avoid the inevitable complaints that accompany the slightest re-routing.

    Steve: The standard gauge question is seriously under consideration by Metrolinx. Stay tuned.

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  7. A couple of questions, for the TTC not you Steve, as I believe that we both know the answers already:

    1. Will the Transit City Cars operate through the loops at St. Clair and St. Clair West Stations anf around the curves at Oakwood, Lansdowne and Gunn loops?

    2. Will the Transit City cars operate through single blade points?

    3. If the answer to the above is “NO”, then is the TTC going to rebuild the switches at loops to put in turn back tracks and stub end interchanges with the subway.

    4. Have they thought this out?

    I have no problem with pantograph compatible overhead as the entire network should be converted. I realize that this may hurt the image of a “legacy” system but Melbourne survived doing it.

    Steve: I assume that “4” above is a rhetorical question.

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  8. “The only streetcar service I know of planned west of Long Branch is a supposed connection to the Hurontario LRT line in Mississauga. Going all the way to Hamilton really is beyond credibility.”

    Well, it was thought of. Kinda. The great Mackenzie-Mann venture of the early 20th Century envisoned inter-urbans running all over Southern Ontario. So, in theory, it would have been possible to travel from, say Sutton, to Hamilton, by radial streetcar. But not on one system! In fact, trackage would not necessarily have been connected, or even the same gauge. At that time, it was already possible to travel great portions of the United States using Interurban lines. But, as the Grand Trunk went bust, so, too did the Mackenzie-Mann dream.

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  9. “The connecting track between St. Clair and Eglinton wouldn’t have to be in ROW, would it?”

    Nope, so long as it’s just a connection for the purpose of moving vehicles, it need not be in a RoW (think Bathurst north of Bloor)

    The simple answer is to run a non RoW track up Weston Road. It would connect St.Clair with the part of Eglinton that is designed to be above ground.

    Steve: That’s an expensive piece of track just for carhouse moves. By the way, Weston Road Station is underground.

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  10. It seems insane to me this great folly that is occurring on St. Clair. As a local resident I am outraged. I was at Keele and St. Clair earlier today and I was happy to see them on the second pour of concrete for the portion of track in between Keele and Gunns Loop. Honestly, I can’t understand what would take them the rest of this construction season (a few weeks, I know), all of spring, and almost all of summer.

    Everything except the overhead wires is complete east of Old Weston in phase 4, from Old Weston to Gunns is about 600 meters and the track is almost finished being constructed for the portion between Keele and Gunns.

    This leaves the track in between Old Weston and Keele, and Gunns Loop to be completed. The roadway from Old Weston to Gunns. The sidewalk under the bridge on the south side only (currently under construction), and the side walk on the north side from Keele to Gunns.

    The same work in between Oakwood and Dufferin (a comparable distance) took only a few weeks, it makes no logical sense whatsoever that this work would take this long.

    Steve: This info comes from a communuity liaison meeting held only yesterday.

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  11. Steve, what specifically is different about Oakwood Loop versus Lansdowne Loop in terms of overhead fittings? It seems weird that one works and the other doesn’t.

    Steve: Apparently they have not ordered them yet for Oakwood. Why they can’t just put up standard overhead temporarily is completely beyond me.

    I have noticed 512 buses having a real problem getting through Dufferin & St. Clair due to cars illegally parking too close to the intersection, it’s quite a tight squeeze.

    Speaking of Old Weston Road, do you know if Keele buses will use the ROW during the portion of that will be 1 driving lane each direction, under the railroad bridge between Keele & Old Weston? If not I imagine the 41 will have serious delays as that stretch is going to be a mess forever with the amount of traffic lanes cut in half.

    It could be similar to how the 33 Forest Hill uses St. Clair’s ROW for a short bit coming out of St. Clair West to Spadina Rd.

    Of course re-routing the 41 would make much more sense and solve the problem outright, but it’s the TTC we’re talking about.

    Steve: The streetcar right-of-way is quite tight there with the bridge pillars, and I’m not sure the bus drivers would feel comfortable trying to navigate there. Running via Weston Road would be simpler and faster.

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  12. Using standard gauge is a non-starter. With all the talk about subway compatibility with Eglinton’s tunnel, the gauge debate for Transit City is decided, it must be TTC gauge. If Metrolinx wanted to show leadership and impress a lot of people, they would advise the Ontario Gov’t make TTC gauge the LRT GTHA standard. Let Hamilton and Kitchener conform to TTC gauge if broader manufacturing harmonization is the objective (not sure why that would be such a high priority given the negligible cost). Toronto is the only jurisdiction in Canada that didn’t abandon its street railway network, Toronto has thereby earned the right to set the gauge for the new LRT generation.

    Steve: I suspect a vendor other than Bombardier is claiming that the oddball gauge is an unfair advantage should they bid on future work. Amazing the places lobbyists find to whisper in people’s ears.

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  13. Just to throw a wrench into the gears, consider this. If the growing trend for tram-trains were ever to come to Ontario, TTC gauge would eliminate any possibilities of that occurring. Karlsruhe, Germany started this off and it is spreading rapidly now – Kassel, Paris, some other minor ones, now even we-love-only-buses-England (gasp!!) is getting into it. Tram-trains run right along the same lines as main line passenger and freight trains. With TTC gauge in Ontario, that option would be permanently excluded. Who knows what Go/Metrolinx wants for future expansions elsewhere in southern Ontario – maybe that’s why they wanted the new lines as standard (but see penultimate paragraph below for my thoughts on that).

    Personally, I think TTC gauge needs to be (and will be) used, if only because if EGLINTON is ever converted to subway down the road, standard gauge would really screw that up.

    Planners here probably wouldn’t know what a tram-train is if someone shoved it under their noses.

    Nothing’s just absolutely perfect, is it.

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  14. I have recommended numerous times to the TTC about removing 41 Keele from Old Weston Road since the 168 was introduced.

    The rational from the TTC was it would affect the rider ship along Old Weston Road. currently service is scheduled every 2-3 minutes between 41 and 168 along Old Weston Road from St Clair to Rogers Road.

    In rush-hour, the Keele 41-B via Old Weston Road is currently a mess while the 41E via Weston Road is more reliable and is almost always on-time.

    There are simple solutions for this area that would help, but since planning staff don’t ride the system and understand the complexity of this area, they will never know.

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  15. In a previous discussion, we determined that the broad TTC gauge provides a distinct advantage in providing extra room to get around in low-floor cars. Particularly for wheelchair users.

    Other places also use broad gauge for exactly the same reason. One example is California’s BART system with its 5′ 6″ gauge. This non-standard gauge was deliberately selected for this commuter line.

    Quite simply, TTC gauge is better. It is bizarre to think of someone deliberately selecting an inferior gauge that is incompatible with the existing system.

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  16. John Bromley said: “Planners here probably wouldn’t know what a tram-train is if someone shoved it under their noses.”

    Exactly! THAT’S what the O-Train is here in Ottawa. Problem is, they’re designed for runs with longer distances between stations, unlike what we have here. As a result, components are wearing out at a much faster rate.

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  17. “Using standard gauge is a non-starter. With all the talk about subway compatibility with Eglinton’s tunnel, the gauge debate for Transit City is decided, it must be TTC gauge.”

    Er, no – or at least not in respect of track gauge. Since re-laying the track would be only a minor issue in respect of subway conversion cost (compared to platform height), it really doesn’t. The LRT being built to subway *loading gauge* (or dynamic envelope, pick your nomenclature) is the critical issue, especially if the solution to subway conversion was to drop the track floor previously “padded” to low-floor/platform distance.

    As for Kevin Love’s assertion that TTC gauge provides more room to get around, we’ll have to see how much the Flexity model for Toronto actually makes use of the extra width – or if it merely redesigns the underpinnings for the wider trucks. We’re not talking about a purpose designed car but a fork of an existing one.

    “Toronto has thereby earned the right to set the gauge for the new LRT generation.” This is a nonsense argument, basically invoking sentiment in deciding future tens of billions in spending, since we’re talking about an ultimate network that will be multiple times the size of the legacy network (a network of tight curves, screeching loops, single blade switches and trolley poles – do we keep them too?) and as for Steve’s comment re lobbyists I doubt they would have to whisper so much as drop a link to this website under local politician noses – riding this next February will be so much easier for me to grasp what we will get in Toronto than climbing up onto a low-loader to an unpowered static display.

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  18. Mark Dowling says:
    November 5, 2009 at 8:58 am

    “Using standard gauge is a non-starter. With all the talk about subway compatibility with Eglinton’s tunnel, the gauge debate for Transit City is decided, it must be TTC gauge.”

    “Er, no – or at least not in respect of track gauge. Since re-laying the track would be only a minor issue in respect of subway conversion cost (compared to platform height), it really doesn’t. The LRT being built to subway *loading gauge* (or dynamic envelope, pick your nomenclature) is the critical issue, especially if the solution to subway conversion was to drop the track floor previously “padded” to low-floor/platform distance”

    Since the track is bolted to the substructure it would probably be a very big deal. Since the mounting plates would need to be moved about 2 3/8” farther apart, this would not be easy; however, if the stations were built with 500 foot platforms to start with it would be possible, especially if there had to be exits at both ends of the station for fire code, to build a high platform fo half the platform and switch to subway with 3 car trains, then raise the rest of the platform before switching to full length high platform trains. But if you already have 5oo foot platforms why not just run 5 car trains? I really believe that the TTC should look at using cars that are at least 9 feet wide.

    Running longer wider trains on a headway of 3 minutes or less would give you a capacity the same as most of Chicago’s El, except for the 4 track sections. It would certainly be far greater than Cleveland’s rapid, oh the Finch bus is greater. I don’t know why everyone is fixated on the idea that “Subway” has to be high floor. The important thing is to have no or minimal step when boarding.

    As for Kevin Love’s assertion that TTC gauge provides more room to get around, we’ll have to see how much the Flexity model for Toronto actually makes use of the extra width. The extra truck width is 2 3/8″. This is not going to do much. But there are I believe narrow gauge low floor cars operating in the world. All that the truck gauge does is define the space between the seats over the truck. Since no one has to pass the truck to get of or on the car then it should make minimal difference.

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  19. “I really believe that the TTC should look at using cars that are at least 9 feet wide.”

    I assume this is for the Transit City LRVs? This may make the total ROW width required infeasible in many places, and moves over the legacy system pretty much impossible.

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  20. Ed says:
    November 6, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    “I really believe that the TTC should look at using cars that are at least 9 feet wide.”

    I assume this is for the Transit City LRVs? This may make the total ROW width required infeasible in many places, and moves over the legacy system pretty much impossible.

    Yes it is for Transit City Lines as the original comment was about the Eglinton Line. If you are starting fresh then why not make the most, instead of what has always been done.

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  21. Under the heading Opening to Keele you say August 2010. Today they are laying new track through the Keele Street intersection closing it north/south. Other road work seems well along between Gunns and east of Old Weston Road. What could possibly take another 10 months to finish?

    Steve: There is a problem with the new Gunn’s Loop.

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  22. The whole St.Clair line is a problem! Eliminate the loop and use a on street looping (private right of way) within the new development on the old Swift property on the north aide of St.Clair between Keele/Weston Road and Gunn’s Road. That will truely serve riders to/from the 13 big box stores.

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  23. Just a couple of quick thoughts about the Keele bus.

    I’m not sure if the new express branch is actually more reliable than the 41b; it can take a long long time to crawl from the station to Roger’s using Weston in the P.M. rush with the heavy Black Creek-bound traffic from downtown (I can’t comment on the morning rush.) Also, the queue to turn North on Keele from Roger’s can extend well past Bicknell. I wonder if the 41E could make better time expressing along Old Weston instead? In the P.M., at least, it can really make good time heading back to the station along Weston.

    As for the southbound turn from Old Weston onto St.Clair, I think the new intersection configuration is not advantageous. The buses now have to leave a two lane road and enter a single lane road. All of the Westbound St.Clair traffic, as well as the left turning Northbound Old Weston road (Davenport, Junction road) traffic will be fighting to squeeze into that single lane before the light changes, meaning the bus drivers will have to really nose in a little too quickly for a bus. They will miss more lights as they get cut-off and gridlocked waiting to turn (especially if the 41 stop is placed near the corner, impatient cars will go around the bus while it is servicing the stop and cut it off.)

    Steve: Your description of problems at Rogers and Keele begs the question of whether the traffic signals are set up to aid this flow. I certainly agree about future problems at Old Weston and St. Clair southbound.

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  24. What is it about Gunns that’s causing such a problem? I’m a bit baffled how an off-street loop could cause such a long delay.

    Steve: Apparently the loop is being redesigned and they can’t build the new one until the spring. Hence a summer opening date. Maybe we should send the same project team to run the Pan-Am Games project so that we can have everything ready two or three years after the event.

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  25. What the hell? There are a number of images in the post posted today showing that some of the new sections of the St. Clair right-of-way aren’t even remotely close to straight. How utterly ridiculous.

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  26. Steve, can streetcars handle this phase 3 track on St. Clair?

    Steve: I have no doubt the streetcars can handle it, the question is at what speed. The meander is exaggerated in the shots through the use of a telephoto lens. (Look at the road lanes for comparison.)

    I will have to go out on the route and take shots deliberately at the same focal length in various locations on the existing line from Yonge to Bathurst for comparison with the new sections to the west. At first look, I am not impressed. Several of the minor “wiggles” would not have been needed if the TTC had used side poles rather than centre poles.

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  27. Any idea why the TTC website still does not have any info on the Keele bus diversion? Over 2 weeks now and they still don’t mention it. Getting tired of telling Delta Bingo customers that the Keele bus will not show up. Not even a notice on the stop at Old Weston Rd. and St. Clair.

    Steve: It’s probably an “unofficial” diversion reacting to the situation at that corner. The inability of the TTC to deal with this sort of notice is getting worse, not better, despite all their talk about the importance of “communication”.

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