Yonge Subway Yard Study (Revised)

At its meeting on November 17, the TTC will consider a report on the yard needs for the Yonge-University-Spadina subway. 

Updated November 15 at 6:10 pm:

A reference to the replacement dates for the BD signal system and the T1 fleet has been corrected.  This triggers a discussion of whether the TTC will concoct an excuse to retire the T1’s early on the grounds that it is not worth installing ATO on them.

Updated November 15 at 4:30 pm:

The Subway Rail Yard Needs Study (aka SRYNS) proposes that future operations of the Yonge-University-Spadina line through 2030 be provided through a combination of various facilities:

  • Expansion of Wilson Yard
  • Storage of 6-8 trains at Davisville Yard
  • Consolidation of all non-revenue equipment (work trains) at Davisville Yard
  • Provision of online storage for additional trains at Richmond Hill
  • Sheppard Subway equipment (four 4-car T1 sets plus a spare) would be serviced at Greenwood

However, looking beyond 2030, staff foresee a need for additional storage and are asking the Commission for perimission to protect for a new yard on the Yonge line with purchase of property, should it become available.  This is a rather oddly worded request to which I will return.

The SRYNS was funded by York Region in recognition of the storage and servicing issues that a Richmond Hill subway extension would create for the YUS line.  The study explicitly does not look at requirements for the Bloor-Danforth line, but the report recognizes that this too must be examined.  The restructuring of the fleet and storage requirements for YUS trigger a move of all T1 subway cars to Greenwood, but that yard is not large enough to hold all of them.  In the short term, the TTC owns more T1s than would be required to operate both the BD and Sheppard subways, but this fleet will reach 30 years in 2026 and replacement with newer cars will occur within the timeframe of any projected yard requirements.

How Many Cars Do We Need?

The study states that the YUS fleet now consists of 62 trains of which 48 are required for service and the remainder are spares.  However, the Subway Fleet Plan only shows spares at 13% for a total requirement of 55 trains.  The current schedule calls for 44 trains in scheduled service plus 4 gap trains in the AM peak, for for 47 trains in scheduled service plus 2 gap trains in the PM peak.  The peak requirement is, therefore, actually 49 trains on the current schedule.  The YUS is operated with a mixture of T1 and H5 cars from Wilson and Davisville.

Peak service on the BD line now requires 42 trains in the AM and 39 in the PM.  The Sheppard line requires 4 4-car trains in service at all times.  BD operates with a mixture of T1, H6 and H4 cars, while Sheppard runs all T1 cars.

The fleet requirement based on current schedules is:

  • YUS:  49 trainsets = 294 cars
  • BD:  42 trainsets = 252 cars
  • Sheppard:  4 trainsets = 16 cars
  • Total:  562 cars
  • Actual Fleet:  372 T1 cars plus 306 H-series cars

The TTC now has 39 TR trainsets on order, with an option for an additional 21, for a total fleet of 60 (360 cars).  An additional 9 trainsets are included in the budget for the Spadina extension bringing the fleet to 69 trains (414 cars) by 2015.

In its fleet plan, as I have discussed elsewhere, the TTC double-counts the benefit of the larger capacity of the TR trains.  It presumes it can provide 10% more capacity with the new trains, but also deducts 10% from its fleet requirements based on that same capacity saving.  Correcting for this requires 9 more trains in the 2020 timeframe that the TTC was projecting, although I believe that they are now adjusting their plans.  Nothing of this is mentioned in the SRYNS.

The study does project a requirement for 80 revenue trains by 2030, plus 8 spares, for a total of 88.  This is a spare factor well below anything the TTC has achieved in recent memory.

The T1 fleet is considerably larger than today’s actual requirement for the BD and Sheppard lines which need 268 cars plus 40 spares (at 15%) or 308 vehicles.  The TTC plans to add 6 trains to BD service by 2016 (7 including a spare), and this will soak up most of the surplus T1 stock. 

Where Will We Put These Trains?

Assuming that the target fleet for 2030 is 88 trains (528 cars), Wilson and Davisville are quite short of space with a current capacity of 358-370 cars (about 60 trains) between them.  Both carhouses have additional problems, especially at Davisville.

Wilson is organized to feed trains south onto Spadina from effectively the north end of the line, but this will not be the case once the Vaughan extension opens.  The track layout at Wilson will be rearranged as part of that extension project.  Wilson can be expanded with vacant land already owned by the TTC north of the existing yard.

Davisville was designed for the original G trains and, more generally, for car sets that could be broken up into pairs.  The TR trains are semipermanently coupled 6-car sets, and these will not fit easily in all parts of Davisville Yard.  Davisville cannot be expanded as it is bounded on all sides by roads, residential areas and a park.

The TTC considered 6 different schemes for accommodating the YUS fleet:

  • Option 1 involves a small expansion at Wilson Yard and continued use of Davisville.  This arrangement cannot handle an 88-train fleet, and it was discarded from further consideration.
  • Option 2 includes full expansion of Wilson Yard, provision of online storage for 14 trains on the Richmond Hill Extension, and removing all revenue train operations from Davisville.  Work trains now serviced at various locations would be consolidated at Davisville to release space in Greenwood and Wilson Yards.
  • Option 2A is essentially the same as Option 2, but includes storage of 6-8 revenue trains at Davisville.  This has a benefit in that the service buildup for both legs of the line would be better balanced, and dead-head time would be saved.
  • Option 3 includes the construction of a new storage and maintenance facility in the Yonge corridor, probably somewhere along the Richmond Hill extension.  However, the report describes such an option as “an environmental, political and risk challenge given the built up nature of the existing Yonge Subway corridor and along the proposed extension”.
  • Option 4 includes a new storage and cleaning, but not maintenance, facility in the Yonge corridor.  Many of the same issues apply as in Option 3.
  • Option 5 includes a connection between the Sheppard-Yonge Station and Wilson Yard so that trains could be fed into the Yonge line from Wilson.  The savings in operating cost from such a scheme is trivial compared to the cost of building the connection.  Moreover, this arrangement would not add to yard space, only provide a way to get trains from Wilson to Richmond Hill comparatively quickly.

Option 2A is the recommended choice because it maximizes use of existing properties where subway operations are already approved.  No new property would be required, and the configuration provides the best balance of storage and operations between the two legs of the YUS.

Finding a New Yard for YUS

A full maintenance and storage yard would require 10 hectares (25 acres) of land, while a storage-only yard would need 4 hectares (10 acres).  Property of this size is not available in the Yonge corridor.

The TTC foresees the need to acquire an existing industrial property where a new subway yard would not disrupt surrounding businesses or residents.

The proposed 14 train storage and cleaning facility at Richmond Hill is expected to be underground and mainly on lands now in the public sector.  The report shows a diagram of a track layout for this scheme, but not a site plan.

Longer term, assuming that the number of trains in service on YUS grows about 88, the TTC will require additional storage.  This could be triggered by:

  • A move to 7-car trains
  • Reduction of the YUS headway below 105 seconds (1’45”)
  • Extension of the Spadina Subway short-turn beyond of Glencairn

These stated constraints have interesting implications.

  • Although the TTC has often talked about 90 second headways (1’30”) or 7-car trains, they do not plan to attempt such operation in the near future.
  • The planned Spadina service to York University and beyond will be at best every other train at a 210 second (3’30”) peak headway.

The staff recommend that they have an open authority by way of a “budget envelope” in the 2015-2019 timeframe to purchase property to protect for yard expansion.  This is the same capital budget from which the TTC recently cut a large number of projects due to funding limitations.

I cannot help thinking, given the wording of the report, that the TTC has its eye on a property already and wants to be able to move when it comes available.  On one hand, they are quite frank that a new yard would be very difficult to obtain for the 2030 timeframe (options 3 and 4), but on the other, they want to protect for acquisition of a property late in the coming decade.  These positions conflict with each other.

Either there is a property that will likely be available before 2020, or there isn’t, and if not, why make provision to buy one?  Whether such a purpose is worthwhile depends on one’s view of the long-term structure of the subway network and demand.

For example, if the growth in peak demand on the YUS is capped by a combination of a Downtown Relief Line and frequent service on GO’s Richmond Hill route, a move below 105 second headways may not be required.  Meanwhile, the BD line requires additional yard space and this might better fit with serving a DRL than a new property in York Region.  I believe it is premature for the TTC to explicitly budget for another Yonge yard before they know how the regional network will actually evolve.  These plans should be sorted out well before the timeframe of a 2015-19 property acquisition, and there is no need to give staff authority to acquire property today.

Capacity for Bloor-Danforth Trains

For the next decade, as noted above, the BD line’s growth in demand will be absorbed by the surplus T1 trains and there will be no need for additional storage.  However, the TTC is considering two scenarios for growth:

  • Headways reduced to 130 seconds (2’10”).  This is the shortest that can be physically handled at the existing Kennedy and Kipling terminals given their track geometry.  This would require about 4 more trains than the current service level.  This is less than the growth shown in the Subway Fleet Plan, and can be handled by the available T1 fleet.
  • Headways reduced to 105 seconds (1’45”).  This operation would require ATO and would likely only be attempted following a BD resignalling.  The existing plant will reach 50 years’ age 10 years before the T1 fleet is due for replacement.  This would require about 64 trains including spares, plus a small allowance for the Sheppard line.  Will the TTC use the cost of retrofitting ATO to the T1 fleet as an excuse to retire those cars ten years early?

Additional storage is available at Vincent Yard (8 trains), and some storage might be possible near Kipling (there is already a plan to add one storage track north of the existing station where provision was left for it in the structure).

The Rail Amalgamation Study

This study, which first appears as part of the SRYNS report, is supposed to review the function and requirements at various properties serving rail vehicles.  The study is so new it does not even appear in the TTC’s Capital Budget.

Among the issues is should address (there is little detail in the staff report) are:

  • How many trains will actually fit within existing facilities on the BD line?  How soon will additional storage be needed?
  • With the move to separate YUS and BD fleets, what modifications will be needed at Wilson so that it can assume its role as a full maintenance facility for TR trainsets while Greenwood handles the T1s?
  • How would a DRL fit into these plans?
  • What will Hillcrest’s role be once the CLRV/ALRV fleet has retired?  Is it capable of handling the new Flexity cars in its work bays, or will all heavy maintenance of that fleet shift to the new Portlands Carhouse?
  • What is the future role for the Russell and Roncesvalles properties?
  • How will the various yards of the Transit City network serve their fleets especially before the network is fully interconnected? 
  • Is Black Creek Carhouse intended to be the heavy maintenance facility for Transit City?
  • How does all of this affect capital budget planning?

The TTC appears to be coming to grips with the need to plan on a system-wide basis rather than one line at a time, although the SRYNS currently before the Commission only hints at this.  While everyone has been busy drawing lines on maps, the TTC is now turning to the question of where to store and maintain the fleets these lines will need.

49 thoughts on “Yonge Subway Yard Study (Revised)

  1. I agree with the comments of others who say York Region should provide a yard, along the Yonge line, that can hold all the extra trains needed, or that may be needed for the operation of the extensions into York. Wilson has enough capacity to store trains for the Vaughan extension but there is a need for more capacity along North Yonge for trains that enter and leave service on the Yonge St. side to reduce dead head mileage. If York were required to pay for the extension, the equipment, the storage facilities and to cover the operating costs then they might not be so anxious for (an) unneeded Subway line(s).

    Steve: York Region pay? Those coddled folks with their expensive buses who want a subway rather than an LRT network, who have co-opted TTC staff into shilling for their folly, pay for what they want? Are you insane?


  2. Moaz Yusul Ahmad has it right, IMO. This land seems ideally situated for a yard to accommodate 10? 20? trains. Maybe not a full maintenance facility, but certainly suitable for off-peak storage and cleaning, etc., and maybe even for “spare” trains to press into service in case of disruptions?

    I have not heard any serious talk for a long time about a City Centre style development there. It was a pet project in Etobicoke, pre-amalgamation, but I think has dropped off the table more recently. There is a proposal for a new provincial courthouse, but one would think it could be integrated into this scenario, along with the very badly needed Six Points reconfiguration. Or alternatively, the courthouse could be elsewhere entirely (maybe Islington parking lot?).


  3. Steve: “York Region pay? Those coddled folks with their expensive buses who want a subway rather than an LRT network, who have co-opted TTC staff into shilling for their folly, pay for what they want? Are you insane? ”

    Forgive me, I must have had a moment of weakness.


  4. I took a 504 last night departing King around 1810 to avoid Yonge/Bloor en route east. However I noticed 505 and 506 short turns taking place at Broadview thus forcing people to wait for streetcars like mine to reach the Danforth line. This is not the way to encourage people to take alternate routings – short turns should have been banned last night.

    The events of yesterday evening highlighted why we simply cannot push all available demand through the Yonge line, whether through 7 car trains, ATO, the many demands for 4-tracking and so on. We need grade separation of the Richmond Hill line and the CN York, and we need it sooner than 2020 or whatever insane date the subway boosters have imposed on it.

    For starters, let’s run the deadheaders running south from Richmond Hill to Willowbrook in service. At the moment, if you want to go to a Raptors game from Richmond Hill, you have to leave at 1415 (but the reverse trip has buses at 2240/2340/0040). If stops would mess with the routing times, run it express to Union but let’s start using our available trains to push GO as an alternative to the subway.


  5. Robert Lubinski said …

    “Yes, but the TTC made a point of telling the American Transit Association convention attendees in June of 1966 that it was working satisfactorily and that all was well in the universe with the integrated service. I guess there was one story for their transit peers and another for everyone else.”

    I remember riding it. Mornings were good, but most afternoons were a disaster. The problem was that the TTC tried to do TOO much with it … evenly spaced headways over the whole system and a strict alternating service pattern led to the delays. From a technology standpoint, the “GRS Train Identification System” and the “Automatic Train Dispatchers” they used were laughable, even then.

    Steve: It is so ironic that the TTC tried to do a strict merge of trains at the wye rather than letting each of the services run independently. On the surface network there appears to be little attempt to properly blend services where they merge.


  6. It’s funny how everyone says that Richmond Hill wants a subway but won’t pay for it … considering the costs for constructing the line will be split appropriately between Toronto and York Region I find this to be false, not to mention that all the revenue created by the subway will go towards the TTC, including parking fees at park n rides.

    Steve: Actually, there is no agreement in place yet regarding the Richmond Hill line. The Vaughan extension will operate with TTC fares, and the TTC will have a net LOSS of $14-million annually because the net new fare revenue will not cover the cost of operating the line. It is my understanding that the surface operations including parking will be run by York Region. If someone can point me to a document that says otherwise, please do.

    As well must I remind everyone that the majority of people using Finch station today are people from north of Steeles, fairly paying for the TTC’s service. They would still be paying the same even if the subway were to be extended north of Steeles. As well let’s not kid ourselves, people in Toronto would benefit from using the subway to get north as well, not absolutely everyone goes south to Toronto in the morning on the subway.

    Steve: In other words, we are going to transport people via subway essentially for free from Finch to Richmond Hill, a ride for which they must now pay a separete fare.


  7. Dear SM:

    What is the current status on the new subway yard?

    What is the current status on the Yonge extension?

    Steve: Jeffrey, the email address you supplied does not work, and so I am replying here with the same message.

    There is no funding announced by any government for the Richmond Hill extension. The TTC will undertake a study of downtown area capacity issues this year in response to concerns about Bloor-Yonge Station, the DRL, etc.

    As for a new carhouse, there was a report on this at the December Commission meeting (the subject of this post). Reading between the lines, it appears that the TTC is hoping a piece of property will become available over the next decade somewhere on the north end of the line for a new carhouse.

    Money for such a yard is not included in the proposed budget for the extension, nor are the funds required to increase the fleet to handle much closer headways proposed for the ATO operation once that project is completed.

    The TTC is very good, sadly, at not showing the full cost of the options.


  8. Replying to kevin: Solution to problem with York Region not paying for new subway extension.

    1. elimniate York Region Transit service from Markham, Vaughan and Richmond Hill and replace with TTC services

    2. Merge southern part of York Region with Toronto, sort those winey residents out about not paying for it


  9. Re: M
    Annexing some of York might not actually be a terrible idea. If we are, as we seem to be, stuck with the megacity, the 407 would make a much more natural border than Steeles (as would the 427 to the west). In terms of funding this is not going to accomplish much of anything though, the reality of both York extensions being that they are not catering to local traffic. Any expansion of the City of Toronto to the north, short of annexing Vaughan and Richmond Hill in their entirety is not going to result in even a significant part of the extensions’ ridership being relocated into the city – they will still be lines serving non Toronto residents.

    Ultimately I think that the only way we could get the kind of long term funding we really need (short of outright leaving the province, or significant constitutional changes) would be to create a “Mega Metro” for most of southern Ontario (I’m thinking that taking the borders of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe would be ideal) and giving it control of Metrolinx alongside some form of real taxation authority.


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