In the first part of this article, I looked at the origins of Transit City. Here, I will turn to that plan’s various components and to other transit schemes that have some or all of their funding in place.
Sheppard East LRT
Original proposal: Don Mills Station (connection geometry to be determined) to Morningside, $555m (2007) including vehicles, but excluding maintenance facilities, inflation and the cost of an underground station at Don Mills.
Current status: Don Mills Station (underground connection at subway level, portal at Consumer’s Road) to Meadowvale. Estimated cost $1,189m including connection at Don Mills ($110m), the maintenance facility at Conlins Road ($244m) and inflation. Federal and provincial funding in place for $950m.
Preliminary construction is underway with opening scheduled for 2013. It is unclear whether the LRT project is paying the full cost of the grade separation at Agincourt which is a needed GO Transit and roadway improvement given the planned GO service expansion.
The rise in projected cost of this project is a good example of a general problem with transit capital cost estimates. Because some components are missing and inflation is not included, the advertised cost does not cover the entire project. In time that undermines the TTC’s credibility as a proponent for new systems and wastes the political capital of those who advocated for these projects in the first place.
The Sheppard East design is quite straightforward with a surface right-of-way, the now familiar farside stops and left turn bays. West of Consumer’s Road, the line will drop into a tunnel under Highway 404 and will meet the Sheppard Subway at platform level providing a direct transfer connection. Originally, there was to be a surface link to Don Mills for the future LRT line, but the Don Mills route itself may come in below grade and require a different approach to connecting the two routes.
The original Transit City announcement foresaw through-routing of Sheppard East trains onto the Scarborough Malvern line. This would allow direct service to University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus (UTSC) from Don Mills Station as and when the 2km section of the Scarborough Malvern line from Sheppard south to Ellesmere is built.
Finch West (and Don Mills Extension)
Original proposal: Finch Station to Highway 27, $835m (2007) including vehicles but excluding maintenance facilities, any underground subway connections and inflation.
Current status: Eastern extension via Finch and Don Mills to Don Mills station proposed by Queen’s Park. Western extension to Woodbine Live and/or Pearson Airport under study as a separate project. Funding confirmed from Queen’s Park for $1.2b including the Don Mills extension, a maintenance facility near Finch and Jane, and inflation.
The final cost estimate requires refinement of the connection plans at all three subway interchanges, and it is unclear whether the project can be completed within the announced funding. Moreover, the eastern leg of the route has not yet been through the Transit Project Assessment (TPA) process, and that is likely to stir up considerable objections because of the surface alignment through a low-rise residential neighbourhood.
If you listen to the TTC and City of Toronto, construction will start in 2010 with work on some bridge widening at river crossings. If you listen to Metrolinx, construction will start in 2011, although they are trying to determine whether cash flows within their budget can be adjusted. More about Metrolinx budget problems later in this article.
Original proposal: Kennedy Station to Pearson Airport, $2.24bn (2007) including vehicles but excluding maintenance facility and inflation. Underground operation from Laird Drive to Keele Street.
Current status: Underground section extended west to the valley at Black Creek, and east from Laird to the west bank of the Don Valley east of Brentcliffe. Don Mills/Eglinton station moved underground with an associated tunnel. Geometry of Kennedy Station connection still under study. Maintenance facility site selected at the Kodak lands west of Black Creek.
Funding confirmed from Queen’s Park for $4.6bn including maintenance facility and inflation. Construction to start in 2010 with completion in stages from 2016 through 2020.
Of particular concern on the Eglinton line’s design is the approach taken for left turns at major intersections. These will now be handled in a roundabout manner where cars will drive well beyond the intersection to a designated U-turn location, and then return to access the desired cross-street via a right turn. This arrangement does not eliminate conflicts between left turns and transit, only moves it away from the intersection to decouple the left turns from the regular cycling of the traffic signals.
I have heard of a proposal to prebuild at least one intersection with the new layout in 2010 to see how it will work, but have no specifics on this. Definitely, a trial is needed to determine the viability of this scheme before we build many kilometres of line to this design only to discover it does not work as expected.
The Eglinton West right-of-way through Etobicoke includes the Richview Expressway corridor (that big empty space parallel to the road on the north side). Although this would be separate from the LRT project itself, a sadly missed opportunity is an urban design exercise for this large amount of vacant land. What could Eglinton West look like? How will it be developed? Could the LRT be shifted to side-of-the-road operation? None of these questions will be answered, and there is strong resistance from the TTC to anything other than a standard centre-lane treatment.
The renovation, extension and conversion of the RT from ICTS to LRT technology was not part of the Transit City plan. Funding is in place from Queen’s Park for $1.4bn including inflation.
The line, as an LRT route, will share the carhouse planned for Sheppard East. All of the public presentations to date for this project were ICTS-based, but the decision to shift to LRT has gradually gained acceptance as part of an integrated Scarborough network. Because of the ICTS focus, no plans were shown for a connection to the Sheppard East line (essential for carhouse sharing), and the alignment is resolutely not along main streets.
Although Queen’s Park has earmarked money for this project, we have never seen a detailed proposal based on the LRT option with the line running through to Sheppard. I understand that another round of public meetings with updated designs will take place in the next few months.
Construction was planned to start in 2012 with 2016 completion, but this will likely change now that the SRT is seen as potential route for passengers bound for UTSC and the Pan Am Games aquatic facility in 2015. More about that later.
Extension of the city streetcar/LRT system into the eastern waterfront is not part of Transit City, but will take place in the same timeframe. This project is funded by Waterfront Toronto which, in turn, gets its money from all three levels of government plus revenue from property developments.
The funded portions of the work are (I believe) the connection east from Queen’s Quay Station to Parliament Street, and the connection south from King and Sumach to Cherry Street at the rail corridor.
The unfunded portions of the work are the reconfiguration of the Cherry, Queen’s Quay, Lake Shore intersection as part of the Don river mouth project, as well as the future lines south and east through the Port Lands. Without the reconfiguration, it will not be possible to operate a through service between Queen’s Quay and Cherry, or by extension from the Waterfront to Broadview Station or other locations east of downtown.
Metrolinx Budget Woes
Announcements are one thing, but actual money in hand is quite another. Metrolinx, who will actually own the completed LRT lines, must apply for its budget every year just like any other provincial agency. It does not have a big pot of money from which it can finance projects as it sees fit. This arrangement ensures that the entire $50bn-plus for the Big Move isn’t all spent building two subway lines.
We don’t know the details of the Metrolinx year-to-year budget, but we do know already that they are concerned about cash flows. For that reason, they are leery of moving up any projects from the announced schedule. Conversely, they (and Queen’s Park generally) have to deal with the funding commitments for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Like many special events, the Games will cause budgets to be gerrymandered for years to come. When times are good, this sort of thing vanishes in the routine ebbs and flows of budgets. When times are hard, moving work between budget years is much more challenging.
Metrolinx is already looking for ways to trim the Transit City projects to keep their spending within the announced funding, and some changes are already more or less common knowledge.
- The SRT (or is it SLRT now?) will terminate at Sheppard with the Malvern extension left for another day. Also, we need an updated cost estimate based on LRT technology.
- The airport link from Renforth may be severed from the Eglinton project itself. Given that this is the last piece of the Eglinton route to be completed, and that its design could be affected by the proposed Finch West extension, it would make sense to make the airport access from both LRT lines a separate project.
- The Finch East to Don Mills link simply does not make sense given the area it passes through, and speaks more to a connect-the-dots approach than to good transit planning. If Finch East does eventually get an LRT line, it should not end at Don Mills given the heavy demand originating further east.
- The initial size of the Transit City fleet needs to be reviewed. Demand will not build up to 2030 loading projections overnight, and overprovisioning of cars will simply waste capital and drive up maintenance costs. (It would also allow the TTC to slip into poor maintenance habits born of a too-large fleet.) There will be plenty of time to buy another batch of LRVs for system expansion in the 2020s.
The Pan Am Games
At the TTC, there has been much hand-wringing about the status of the SRT replacement project. The service designs for access to UTSC clearly see frequent service from the SRT (probably at Scarborough Town Centre) running out to the campus. However, that campus will host only one type of event, and many attendees will likely arrive from points not well served by the SRT. We first need to know what the demand projections for transit service from the west and south (the only two directions addressed by TTC services) will be.
The City of Toronto speaks of accelerating the Scarborough Malvern line’s construction to provide service from Kennedy Station. I do not agree with this approach, and fear it is born of two considerations:
- The original ICTS plan for the RT extension made it physically separate from the network with no ability to provide through service to UTSC.
- If Eglinton Malvern isn’t built now, it may slip down the priority list among all transit projects.
With the conversion of the SRT to LRT technology and the provision of an interchange at Sheppard for carhouse moves, it would be possible to run SRT trains out to Sheppard East. Moreover, if the 2km stretch of the Scarborough Malvern line were “prebuilt”, service could be provided from Kennedy, STC and Don Mills stations directly to UTSC.
Indeed, an eastern branch to UTSC would give the Sheppard East line an outer anchor and would bring service to that campus much sooner than is likely with the Scarborough Malvern route.
This option has never been discussed at the TTC, although I know that some at Metrolinx have given it consideration. With the Games preparations now underway, and with Metrolinx looking to maximize the benefits gained from its investments, this option deserves detailed study.
The Athletes’ Village for the Games will be built in the West Don Lands, an area served by the Cherry Street extension. However, as with other Games venues, it is unclear how much demand this will actually create on the transit system. The Village is a closed site with no competition venues, and it will not attract large, surge loads to and from events. Given the security arrangements for atheletes and others officially connected to the Games, it is not even clear that “public” transit would be able to serve this area.
The real issue comes once the Games complete, and the Village’s housing stock is opened for public occupancy. Toronto will see an “instant city” in the eastern waterfront, and transit needs to be there from day 1.
The Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE)
The Spadina extension to Vaughan is now under construction with opening planned in 2015. The total project cost is $2.6bn funded by Ottawa, Queen’s Park, the City of Toronto and York Region.
The line is expected to increase net operating costs of the TTC by over $10m annually once it opens, but there are no plans at present for supplementary funding to cover this.
New Cars for the City Streetcar System
The TTC has ordered 204 new Bombardier Flexity streetcars to replace the existing CLRV and ALRV fleets. Current plans call for the ALRVs to be retired first as they are the less dependable of the two fleets and more expensive to keep in operation. This project is funded 2/3 by the City of Toronto, and 1/3 by the Province of Ontario.
Although money was supposed to be included in the Waterfront Toronto budget for added cars for the new lines, it is unclear whether this has survived various budget cuts and inflation. At this point, no additional cars have been ordered for expansion of the streetcar system.
The TTC will build a new carhouse and maintenance shops at Ashbridges Bay on the southeast corner of Leslie and Lake Shore Blvd. E. No special funding arrangements have been announced for this project.
In the final part of this article, I will turn to the projects that are not yet funded.
1) What will happen to the Sheppard part between Don Mills and Consumers Road? The stop 1900 Sheppard Avenue East (WB)/2025 Sheppard Avenue East (EB) has 3 buildings on the north side (Crossroads) which has residents who actually use Transit (I lived in that building and pass through that stop daily). There is construction on the south side for a building. I can’t remember right now if it will be commercial or residential. Two stops are going to be gone, unless the 190 takes them over (Parkway Forest, which has 3 condos/apartments, and 1900/2025 SAE). I am also speaking accessibility wise, asking someone to walk from Consumers to Don Mills who has issues walking…
Steve: This, like the Eglinton line, is a situation where a surface bus must remain, and at a better headway than what passes for service east of Don Mills. The TTC needlessly alienates people from their proposals by ignoring the people left on the surface.
2) Rossi has issues with Transit City and wants more discussions, I even read that Smitherman is not fond of TC any longer as he used to be. There are going to be 4 Transit routes in Scarborough (Sheppard, SRT/SLRT remake and extension, Eglinton, Scarborough-Malvern), like I said to you and others many many many times…this is an election year, I have fears of TC going down the toilet.
Steve: Rossi is staking out an anti-everything position, Smitherman seems to be biding his time, and we’re now waiting to see whether Giambrone is actually capable of saying that the TTC isn’t perfect. I hope that there can be enough intelligent discussion about various transit proposals that we don’t wind up simply stopping for another decade. The most dangerous force here is Queen’s Park.
3) What do you think of the SELRT being extended to Downsview (maybe up to Weston) and the Etobicoke-Finch West LRT being extended east of Yonge to Neilson? Basically both Sheppard and Finch having their LRTs?
Steve: Eventually, maybe, but not now. Don Mills, the DRL and some of the Waterfront stuff needs funding first.
4) The WWLRT is supposed to go to Union via Bremner Blvd. but TC lines will have standard gauge, 509/510 are not standard gauge, how will that work?
Steve: WWLRT will be a “streetcar” line as part of the existing network. There is no gauge issue because it will use “city” cars, not Transit City cars.
The mention of the GO Stouffville / Sheppard East separation at Agincourt made me take a look at the situation on the neighbouring roads. While the separation at Sheppard East will be a good thing, there are eight more LCs south of the diamond and three of them are on Steeles, Finch and Kennedy-Pacific Mall. Might be worth taking the Agincourt hit on the LRT budget if we hope to see those separations done one day!
Steve: They need to be done. My main issue here is that people not blame the LRT project for the cost or the disruption. GO’s plans for this line would have triggered the work no matter what.
Has anyone proposed “three rights make a left?” That is, banning left-hand turns on designated transit right-of-ways and adjusting surrounding streets so that motorists wanting to make left turns can instead make 3 quick right turns? Or doing left-hand underpasses? Or basically any approach that prevents transit from fighting with private vehicles?
This huge potential problem gets back to my comments regarding the futility of building “rapid” transit that is not fully separated from conventional traffic. Is it worth going with a right-of-way approach if cars and transit will be in each other’s faces?
Steve: Two separate issues here. First as to turns, many of the locations in question do not have a street layout that would make the three-rights move possible. Similarly, an underpass requires additional land for the ramp structures, and this land is not generally available.
Transit fighting with vehicles? Well, get used to it. I don’t want to sound harsh, but the assumption is always made that transit has to get out of the way. This is not viable either by auto-favouring lane and signal arrangements, nor by paying a fortune to put the transit lines out of sight.
My main concern on Eglinton is that we get a chance to test the new arrangement separately from actual operation of the line. This is to avoid a son-of-St. Clair situation where the line opens and then we find out it has problems.
Regarding Eglinton’s surface sections, a question to ask is whether Torontonians handle a Michigan Left? I think we can. At least there is some “thinking outside the box”, an almost incredible development for traffic or transit planners and engineers here in Toronto.
The other solution, really, is to decouple the transit signal cycle from the traffic signal cycle. If the light is red, and notes a streetcar/tram/LRV (pick your nomenclature) arriving, why not a 5-10 second white-bar phase before any left turn movement cycle or in between any auto movement cycle? At minor intersections, this could even do away with fully-protected left turn phases all together (this is already done, on Queen’s Quay) if the transit vehicle is given first priority.
And side-of-the-road LRT works, even inexpensive underpasses then can provide a fully grade separated roadway without the expense of subways or elevated structures. I’m glad you brought that up for the Richview Corridor.
A michigan left isn’t signalled. A michigan left involves crossing a wide median at your discretion, not crossing a busy streetcar line at a signalled intersection.
Transit City would be an easier pill to swallow if the stops were actually in-street stations where …
– the side platforms for both directions are together
– the station has a continuous roof that covers the tracks and the platforms
– the station is lit up — add in some seats, a payphone, a NEXT TRAIN monitor … you get the idea
Now compare this to St. Clair — no shelter, no lights, nothing.
Actually, many Michigan Lefts are signaled, where a traffic light handles U-Turn traffic. Telegraph Road in Detroits’ inner suburbs is just one example.
Left turns on Eglinton in the Richview Expressway zone could turn out to be a nightmare. There is tons of demand to turn left at an intersection like Islington and Eglinton and the U-turn locations have to be far enough from the intersection to avoid lined-up cars blocking the intersection. Surely these are ideal locations for underground stops if the money was available.
On Eglinton West:
A long long time ago, with a government ideology far far away, there was a plan to build a subway that would have went from Eglinton West Subway to the Airport. This would have, of course, been a 100% grade separated line.
Today, we want to build an LRT to do the same. This makes more sense in terms of capacity but the issues you bring up with regard to Eglinton West in Etobicoke still matter.
I for one, would prefer to see the line in either a raised berm or sunken valley in the large “empty space” with elevators connecting the stations to the streets. You effectively get the entire “Eglinton West Subway” built for a fraction of the cost.
I saw some plans that had the future yards for the SRT at Bellamy. Is this still in the plans or are these LRT cars only going to use the planned yard at Conlins Rd. for the SELRT? I am glad they are mentioned the extension of this line past Sheppard to Malvern, the residents in that area use transit a lot.
Like other poster have mentioned hopefully the Sheppard subway finds some funding to extend it west to Downsview. This would make getting to York U a lot easier and quicker, universities are heavy transit users as well.
Steve: The SLRT will use the Conlins Road carhouse, and does not require the yard at Bellamy.
Steve where talking about the Finch West connection to Don Mills Station said:
I wonder about that. I don’t see there being a huge outcry.
Most traffic in the area is straight north south down Bayview and Leslie with Finch carrying people going west to Yonge and beyond or East to the 404 and beyond. A lot of the inflow to the North South routes happens to the north on Cummer while to the South people get to Sheppard or east of Bayview, use Empress.
There will be people complaining about not being able to turn, or back out across the street, as there always will be, but I don’t suspect it will be anything like the concerns we see on St. Clair; there aren’t the businesses on the street who are the most vocal complainants usually. We will also hear complaints from people turning up towards the school on Maxome, or at Finch public or to get towards Pineway School, but that’s about it.
Where we might see more complaints is around the Peanut Plaza with two schools and some community shopping.
Steve: I think the complaints would come with the city making use of the full 36m right of way. Today, Finch is a four-lane street plus a boulevard on each side, with throat widenings for right turns at intersections. I suspect most people think of the boulevard as being part of “their” front yard even though it is beyond the sidewalk. Removing this would shift the curb lane closer to their front doors.
Parts of the boulevard contain trees whose removal would alter the look of the street.
@Karl Junkin: I checked the property lines on map.toronto.ca again. It appears that Finch East (Yonge to Bayview) is a bit tighter than Finch West (Yonge to Bathurst). The gap between existing property lines:
Finch West: 35 m east of Bathurst; 29 m at Senlac; 32 m at Talbot.
Finch East: 25 m at Manor Crest (near Bayview); 28 m at Maxome; 24 m at Willowdale; 32 m at Kenneth.
So, although you are right that property acquisition would be required on both Finch West and East, Finch East would be affected more.
Another point to consider: construction in the street proper will be more disruptive than in the hydro corridor (provided that HONE permits the latter). For Finch West, this is justified by the existing trip generators (highrises, hospitals, a school) and the potential for more trip generators in future. But if we don’t expect such trip generators on Finch East (applies to the Yonge – Don Mills segment only, not the whole street), should the construction occur in the street proper anyway? I am not so sure.
Just to let everyone know…
Sheppard East LRV Maintenance and Storage Facility Open House
Date: February 10, 2010
Time: 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Chinese Cultural Centre – 5183 Sheppard Avenue East (east of Markham Road)
February 5, 2010 at 10:36 pm
Don’t forget the Eglinton LRT meeting about the line through Mt. Dennis the following night. From the Transit Toronto web site:
Steve: But of course, the Commission only makes policy decisions and never criticizes their staff. It will be interesting to see how this works out at the TTC meeting.
Once again the issue is presented as the base case being no noise or other impact! Wouldn’t the passage of a 90m LRV consist be quieter and less frequent than the current bus load through the area? Just goes to show – you can run electric through Weston and it won’t stop the complaining…
Obviously the second argument – saving money through reduced expropriation – should be explored but it occurs to me that given the necessity to maintain the tunnel and station infrastructure such as lighting and elevators/escalators that might get swiftly eaten up by operating costs.
Any thoughts regarding the potential location for the Sheppard East LRV Maintenance and Storage Facility?
Steve: It is on the north side of Sheppard at Conlins Road. Visit the project website.
At what figure would you consider Transit City to be ‘too costly’ to build?
Steve: This cannot be directly answered without reference to alternative proposals as well as the implications for changes in the City’s intensification plans. Having said that, it’s important to remember that the big ticket item is Eglinton with its long underground section. Everyone says “just build a subway”, but that would cost even more. The projected demand on that line is well beyond the ability of a surface bus operation.
I will return to this question in a future post as it is far too complex to address in a comment response.
I cannot believe how the underground portion has turned out between Yonge and Laird. With the EA comments process limited to concerns about the natural environment and native land claims, if I understood it correctly, I feel like the area is about to receive a very expensive downgrade in service.
Providing parallel bus service isn’t really even the issue. In my opinion, as I state in detail below, it largely wouldn’t even be necessary if the TTC made the stations more customer friendly.
Relying on the Yonge Line’s existing egresses at the four corners is a mistake. Given the placement of the station box, there is no reason not to provide an entrance, to the west, at Duplex and, to the east, near the planned fire ventilation shaft.
Given the deletion of bus stops, it would be more than just a courtesy. I’m certain that even people who live that close to the Yonge Line are happy to board a bus to get to the station when the weather isn’t sunny and warm which, let’s face it, is a lot of the year.
The original location of the station box, and how it affected egress selection, was much more customer-friendly for people living east of the intersection in the row of apartment buildings. Given the location of the main entrance, on the west side of the intersection, and in combination with additional egresses at Yonge, the station box should be moved east, allowing an entrance at Rawlinson.
After all, Bayview is too far east for most, even if the hill wasn’t present.
Generally poor egresses at this location as well, partly due to the geography, but partly not. The egresses will be great for future condos that will likely replace the two corners that currently have retail parking lots and a third corner which McDonald’s already tried to redevelop. Unfortunately, they will be near useless for the existing community and/or anyone that lives in a house.
Residents of the one existing condo on the southwest corner don’t even get an egress to themselves even though there’s a bungalow right next door that I’m certain can be acquired. Instead, they get to cross the street!
Residents of South Leaside will, at least, have a pleasant walk across Talbot Park, but North Leasiders, whoever doesn’t already, should just take the car. There really needs to be another egress in the middle of the Sunnybrook Plaza parking lot to meet those homeowners half way.
Laird, formerly Brentcliffe, has many problems, although the location change was the correct decision.
The first problem is in relation to Bayview. Again, an improvement over Brentcliffe, but the station box should really be between Sutherland and Laird, with egresses at either end, to be convenient. Given that the TTC plans to combine the 51 and 56 routes into one route and run it along Eglinton between Leslie and Laird, thus maintaining those bus stops, there’s no reason for the station box to straddle the intersection. Instead, just like Bayview, Leasiders (west of Laird) will be getting a marginally useful station and losing all of their bus stops.
The second problem is its location relative to Brentcliffe, this time in the sense of providing a future station. Given the TTC’s position on having tailtrack / turnaround track east of the last station while still within the tunnel, as well as having Laird straddle its intersection, Brentcliffe will never happen. Given that there’s already new housing on the hill, new condos on the way, and likely more as the retail plaza is retired, it will be yet another missed opportunity. Secondly, it would be an ideal transfer point to the Eglinton LRT for Thorncliffe riders of the 88/A bus depending on how much of the land is appropriated, and whether or not a Don Mills LRT or DRL is ever built. Not everyone likes to head east to Don Mills and Eglinton just to head west again!
It would be a short distance between Laird and Brentcliffe stations, but it would be somewhat equivalent to the distance between Osgoode and St. Andrew, which I have never heard a TTC customer complain about! Admittedly, I do not know whether the TTC’s operational need to have a tail track / turnaround track east of the last station, within the tunnel, is an absolute or just preferred.
I really think that this is going to turn out horribly. The mode of transportation is fine, but the planning behind it is exceptionally poor.
The EA for the Finch LRT line stated that the ROW width is too narrow to accommodate the standard 36 metre cross-section without significant property expropriations.
Michael Forest then wrote that the ROW width is 35 metres wide, only 1 metre smaller than the required 36 metres.
Is it therefore fair to say that property expropriations would generally not building destruction (as proposed through Mt. Dennis) between Bathurst and Yonge Streets?
Steve: The section east of Bathurst is narrower and property taking is required on both sides of the street. However, that part of the line was not to be built in the first phase, only the section from Keele west to Humber College. This gets us into the whole argument about whether Finch or Sheppard should provide the continuous link across the city, but there has to be a jog somewhere because the land uses east and west of Yonge on these streets don’t match up.