Part 1 of this article reviewed recent approvals and designs for the Eglinton LRT. In part 2, I will turn to the remaining Transit City routes.
The main article follows the break below.
Construction for the Sheppard East LRT began in October 2009 with utility relocation, and the next major work is the grade separation at Agincourt Station. A diversion road is now under construction, and the new overpass will follow in spring 2010.
Two sections of the LRT right-of-way and associated road changes will be built starting in 2010 (East Highland Creek to Progress in the spring, West Highland Creek to Birchmount in the summer).
There has not yet been a formal “ribbon cutting” due to co-ordination problems between the three levels of government. Fortunately, work does not stop while we wait for the polticians.
Most of the Sheppard East line is at grade except for a tunnel from Consumers Road west under Highway 404 (DVP) to Don Mills Station. The line should be completed in late 2013.
This project just finished a second round of open houses, and the Executive Summary of the EA is on the TTC’s agenda for this month’s meeting.
After feedback from the first round, six stops were added to this line (see the Display Panels at page 17).
The line will run on the surface except at Yonge and at Keele Street. At Finch Station, there will be a shallow underground station (see Display Panels at page 27). Because Finch Station actually lies north of Finch Avenue, there will be a tunnel connection north from Yonge Station on the Finch line. This connection involves three changes of level to get from the LRT platform to the subway platform compared with two from the present bus loop.
I can’t help wondering why the LRT station is centred on Yonge Street when this produces such a convoluted link to the subway. If it were east of Yonge, then at least the westbound LRT platform could link directly into the mezzanine level of Finch Station, and only the eastbound platform would require an underpass. This station requires a major rethink.
Although the Yonge Station will initially be the eastern terminus of the Finch LRT, Metrolinx has proposed a Finch East extension to Don Mills and then south to Don Mills Station. This extension will be studied separately, although the eventual connection at Don Mills has been taken into account by the Sheppard LRT planning. This would also be used, eventually, by the Don Mills LRT. Work on the EA for this section will begin after the EA for the western part of the line is completed.
An underground link to Finch West Station (Keele Street) is proposed, subject to detailed study. If this is unworkable, then an LRT surface station with direct connection into the subway mezzanine will be built.
When the Jane LRT is built, its connection with the Finch line will be on the surface.
The narrow section of Finch from Bathurst to Yonge will be widened from 30m to 36m to accommodate the right-of-way.
Left turns on Finch will be handled in the same manner as on Spadina with left/U turns permitted at major intersections, and no other crossings of the LRT right-of-way. Some left turn lanes will be extended to provide more queueing space at busy intersections.
The western terminal will be at Humber College. Proposed extensions to Woodbine Live! and thence to Pearson Airport will be part of a separate study.
Construction will begin in 2011 with a planned opening in 2015.
The maintenance facility for the Finch West line will be on the north side of Finch between Norfinch and Yorkgate. Acquisition of this property by purchase or expropriation was recently approved by City Council.
Although the entire process of reviewing the revitalization and extension of the SRT has been very focussed on ICTS technology with only minimal acknowledgement of an LRT option, it is quite clear now from statements by the TTC and by Metrolinx that this route will become part of a Scarborough LRT network. The next round of public meetings is planned for January 2010, and it will be interesting to see whether the TTC has finally created an LRT-based design.
Waiting for the obvious and long-rumoured technology change has been tedious, and people visiting the open houses have come away assuming that the ICTS technology would be retained. Moreover, Queen’s Park through Metrolinx is only funding the new line as far as Sheppard Avenue. The SRT link to Malvern is not funded, but the scope of the Scarborough-Malvern line was cut back on the assumption that the SRT would go there first. This needs to be sorted out so that residents north of Sheppard know what to expect and when it might be built.
The S(L)RT will not require its own maintenance facility, but will share the carhouse planned for the Sheppard East line at Conlins Road (east of Morningside). Clearly this will be an LRT facility as it is quite remote from the path of any possible ICTS-based extension. The property is already owned by the Ministry of Transportation.
The construction schedule for the SRT is currently scheduled from 2012 to 2016, but there is a desire to have this work done in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015. This does not really make much sense unless one assumes that trains would be interlined between the SRT and Sheppard East trackage to provide direct service closer to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC). However, it would make even more sense if the northern section from Sheppard down to UTSC (at Ellesmere) were also built to make UTSC part of the initial Transit City network. (That section of Scarborough-Malvern has only two stops and is comparatively easy to build.)
The Environmental Project Report for this route has been completed, but there is no funding for this project. The City of Toronto would like this to be bumped up based on the Pan Am Games, but I am not convinced that this is the simplest way to provide service to UTSC on a timely basis (see above re access from Sheppard).
Provision for this line will be included in the Kennedy Station study.
There has been no update on the Don Mills route since summer 2009. As proposed, the route would run from Steeles to the Danforth Subway, likely connecting at Pape or Broadview Station. A scheme to connect at Castle Frank is a leftover from the earlier days of this study when the proposal was for BRT on the Don Valley Parkway rather than an LRT on Don Mills. Northern extension of this route has been proposed by York Region.
The route is affected by several other studies either in progress or about to begin including:
- Eglinton LRT Don Mills Station and Bus Terminal
- Sheppard East LRT Don Mills Station connection
- Finch East LRT
- Downtown Relief Line
The TTC continues to study on-street operation of LRT in narrow rights-of-way which, to quote the TTC
… present more challenges in accommodating the elements of transit operations, pedestrian realm, and urban planning.
It is no secret to anyone that I favour bringing the Downtown Relief Line north to Eglinton as in the original proposal now at least four decades old. My rationale is that a surface option for the Don Mills LRT through East York to the Danforth Subway is extremely unlikely. If the line must go underground, then a tunnel is a tunnel, and it makes more sense to bring the subway north than to take the LRT south.
This would make Don Mills and Eglinton a major transfer point, and would reduce transfer traffic at the Danforth Subway crossing by eliminating movements between the Don Mills LRT and DRL at that location.
The project is not funded. Preliminary planning is expected to finish in spring 2010 at which point we will see what the TTC has produced and whether they need to go back to the drawing boards.
Like the Don Mills route, Jane suffers problems with narrow rights-of-way. However, the portion of the line affected by this is much longer than the Don Mills line and this brings into question the viability of building the southern section of the route. The constrained area is generally south of Highway 401, although the worst portions are just north of Bloor.
The TTC has not discussed whether the Jane line might operate as a separate service over the Eglinton LRT into Eglinton West Station. There will be some joint operation, if only for carhouse moves, as the Jane route will be based at the carhouse on the Kodak lands.
Like Don Mills, this project is not funded, although preliminary planning is expected to complete in spring 2010.
The Waterfront West line study suffers from no end of problems, many of which arise from the ad hoc nature of the entire proposal. What began life as a streetcar serving the western waterfront via Ontario Place has morphed over time into a mish-mash of routes.
- The original route south to Ontario Place was changed to use the new Exhibition Loop under the Gardiner Expressway.
- The original route from Strachan to Bathurst via Fleet has been changed to run via Fort York Boulevard and connect into the proposed Bremner streetcar to Union Station.
- The route through Parkdale has been the subject of detailed studies by the TTC and City, and at this point there is disagreement about the best way to link southern Parkdale to the area south of High Park. The TTC’s proposed connection at Queen & Roncesvalles violates many of their own design guidelines because it would interfere with the operation of the existing intersection, not to mention the planned changes that will be built in 2010 as part of the Roncesvalles and Queensway renewal projects.
- The original proposed loop at Legion Road (that would have connected with a relocated GO Mimico station) has been replaced by a proposed loop at Park Lawn. The design for Park Lawn Loop is complete, but construction is on hold pending funding.
- Transit City extended the western end of the WWLRT from Park Lawn to Long Branch. However, there are right-of-way problems on the eastern part of this extension. Residents are unhappy with the possibility of losing property for the LRT line. Today’s TTC service today is infrequent and unreliable, and this does little to advance the acceptability of further incursions.
- Funding for this project is so far in the future that an opening date of 2029 (I am not kidding) is now on the TTC’s books.
Because the Transit City routes will be owned by Ontario but operated by the TTC, Metrolinx is part of the procurement process for vehicles. Although Bombardier has an option in its TTC streetcar contract to bid for the Transit City fleet, this is subject to conclusion of an acceptable agreement with Metrolinx.
I understand that if this does not happen by the end of January 2010, then the contract will be opened to other bidders. Such a change would almost certainly delay opening of the Sheppard East LRT if it required a complete retendering process.
Metrolinx has also dictated that their cars will be standard gauge, and hence the Transit City network (except for WWLRT) would be built to that gauge. This scotches the TTC’s long-range scheme for operating the 512 St. Clair route out of the new Eglinton carhouse in Weston because the route operates with TTC-gauge cars.
On the flip side, the SRT is already standard gauge, and so at least the track mounts won’t have to change to accommodate an LRT conversion.
Provincial Funding and Ownership
All of the new projects will be owned by the Government of Ontario through Metrolinx who will be responsible for:
- approval of “project scope, budget and delivery schedule”;
- responsibility for “overseeing project planning, procurement and implementation including approving the issuing of Requests for Proposals to procure construction services and equipment including vehicles”; and
- entering into “construction and operating agreements with municipal governments, transit agencies and third-party service operators”.
Infrastructure Ontario will act as Metrolinx’ agent for the Finch West and SRT projects using “Alternative Financing and Procurement”. Exactly what form that will take, and whether it will be cost-competitive with having the TTC delivery the projects directly remains to be seen.
Metrolinx has agreed to fund costs on the Transit City projects incurred before March 31, 2009 by the City and the TTC. Funding from April 1 forward is the subject of separate agreements. (For those who follow the details of the City’s Capital Budget, only those works for which funding agreements are in place are recognized in the City’s budget. This prevents a situation where there is a large projected expenditure with no guaranteed offsetting subsidy to pay for it.)
A report on overall Transit City project governance is to come to the TTC in early 2010. The TTC will operate and maintain the LRT lines.