At the end of my series on Transit City, I refrained from offering my own recipe for a new transit system. That sort of issue is hard to address, and without first knowing just how much any government, future mayor or council might want to commit to transit, it’s very hard to pick a “solution”.
Indeed, we have seen exactly this conundrum with Metrolinx, a body formed to sort out the details and priorities of MoveOntario2020. With much effort, they whittled a $90bn plan down to $50bn and change, only to find themselves in a recession and a desire by Queen’s Park to limit spending.
All the same, having a network view of things is absolutely essential. We need to know what we will do as and when money is available either from a booming economy or a change in relative budgetary priorities. That is the philosophy behind Transit City and The Big Move.
Some readers are relatively new to this site and probably have not delved into the archives. There are a lot of archives, and I don’t blame people for not reading every word. Back in March 2006, I wrote an article called A Grand Plan that attempted to give a unified view of transit from my perspective. Note that this was a year before Transit City was announced, 15 months before MoveOntario, and well before Metrolinx came into being.
Sadly, that agency regarded me as an arch-rival, an enemy to be neutralized, not as a potential friend and supporter of transit. They are under new management now.
Reading my words from 2006, I am struck by how much survives either because it has already been implemented or is an integral part of current plans. There are a few points where I took a hard line on the subway-vs-LRT argument, notably what we now know as the DRL East, but the paper stands up. For the record (in case you haven’t read anything else here), I now agree that the DRL requires heftier service than an LRT line integrated with surface operations on Don Mills could provide. This change comes in the context of the DRL’s “relief” function for the Yonge line and the Richmond Hill subway extension.
I recommend it to any would-be mayors, and to those planners whose gaze rarely extends beyond their own drawing boards.
I have been reading the comments on the DRL and GO transit lines with some interest and amusement. CP has sold the part of the Belleville Sub from Leaside to the Union Station Rail Corridor. This was mighty big of CP as they get money for a line that they have not used for a few years and which has a bridge that needs replacing. This magnanimous sale allows them to get some money and look good instead of looking like CP, a line that wants to get as far away from any connection with passengers as possible.
Anyone who thinks that this line can be used for a DRL or as part of the Richmond Hill GO service has been smoking some strange smelling tobacco. The line is at least 200 m below and 300 – 400 m from either Broadview or Castle Frank Stations so it does not make an easy connection with the Bloor Danforth Subway. The siding that connected the Bala Sub with the CP at Leaside has been gone for years and any attempt to put half hourly or better trains service on it is dead before it starts. This is a rich neighbourhood and if you think that the Weston Community is screaming it will have nothing on this area, and there are no rails there now.
I agree with Steve that the DRL has to go at least to Don Mills and Eglinton. I would like it to go along the CP Belleville sub to Agincourt and along the Weston sub to the airport and Bramalea but my grand children will be dead before that happens. The only subway extensions that are needed are the Yonge line to Steeles and the DRL, at least from Don Mills and Eglinton to Weston but preferably from Agincourt and the Airport and Bramalea. The extension to Vaughan City or Corporate Centre via York and up Yonge Street should be York Transit LRT lines.
If Smitherman has his way, you might find yourself on some kind of TTC governing/advisory body, but I suppose you’d have to stop blogging and openly criticizing the TTC. Are you willing to trade one for the other? Just think, your title could be …
Senior Transit Consultant /
Resident LRT Fundamentalist and “Big-got”
It’s better to be there (where many of your good ideas can be put into action) than to stay here and blog about it to a bunch of transit trekkies. This site doesn’t exactly attract a large demographic.
Steve: It may not attract a large demographic, but I am accused of single-handedly being responsible for all sorts of evil plans on the transit system. Either I have an effect or I don’t. I object to the idea of a citizen board on the basis that it is usually packed with the usual cronies of those in power, not with people who know or care about their roles. Moreover, Council and TTC management can hide behind whatever bone-headed decisions they make. Just look at the flak Giambrone is taking over screw-ups that were almost entirely management’s fault.
Being there as an advocate means that they pay lip service to your ideas by appointing you, then keeping you in a box where confidentiality provisions prevent your actually discussing anything publicly.
The text of a comment re the Jane LRT has been moved to the appropriate thread.
If only we could have the money spent on the highways in the 1950’s and 1960’s (adjusted for inflation) and have it now spent on public transit, that would be a miracle.
Still people want HRT subways, but seem to forget that there is little money coming from the powers above to pay for it. At least with the LRT, we could get a large network of rapid transit instead of stubs.
“Just look at the flak Giambrone is taking over screw-ups that were almost entirely management’s fault.”
He’s getting decimated over on YouTube right now …
Parody video …
I’m laughing so hard right now it hurts.
While using this alignment would be an important part of speeding up the GO service from RH, I agree with this assessment – politically it would be very difficult to reinstate the tracks, particularly as the City of Toronto just turned it into a railpath if I’m not mistaken. (That said, I think the City now owns it and resisted selling it to the adjacent owners when pressured by them, so who knows?)
I also have no idea about the condition of the run from Belleville sub to Union, but surely it’s got to be cost-effective to rebuild it rather than expanding the valley portion of Bala to two tracks? My understanding is that all of the bridges (timber) along that sub are in need of replacement as well and I think there are six of them…
Steve: The City didn’t “just” turn the Leaside CN/CP connection into a rail path, it has been a pedestrian/bike area for many years.
Robert Wightman says:
Google Earth tells me the elevation of the RH line is 87m, and the street above Broadview is 121m, a vertical seperation of 34m (actually less, what with the subway being below the surface), which can covered with a couple of sets of esculators.
Horizontally, it is about 300m, but it probably depends which end of the subway station you measure from.
I’d like to see the RH line operating with short trains (or even EMUs) on a 10 minute headway throughout the day, with stations every 2km or so… could that serve as an eastern DRL?
Steve: I can look at the location of the connection you propose simply by peering out my window. First, you would have to build a station adjacent to the single track rail line. It would have to go to the west because the DVP is immediately to the east. A connection to Broadview Station would have to tunnel under the DVP, the east bank of the valley and a residential building.
Broadview Station lies diagonally across Broadview where the line shifts north from the Viaduct to string of parking lots north of Danforth created when the BD line was dug. The westernmost point of the station platform is located on Danforth a bit west of Broadview in front of the seniors’ building. If you look at the Google Earth photo taken just west of Broadview, you will see a black ventillation grate in the north sidewalk. This shaft is just beyond the west end of the platform where the tracks curve to go across the Viaduct. The subway structure runs under the seniors’ building, and your proposed connection would probably collide with that building enroute to the platforms.
If you are going to run a service of DMUs every 10 minutes, you are not going to carry a lot of passengers unless these are fairly long trains in which case they may as well be regular GO equipment. A rider is not going to make a transfer connection that requires a walk of over 1000ft/300m and a large change in elevation, especially if the escalators/elevators have their usual level of TTC reliability.
This would be a huge expense for a small market.
In my opinion, the “Grand Design” has held up well.
1) Blue 22 is dead in the water, per your recommendation
2) Transit City uses many of your LRT recommendations
3) The bizarre schemes for inappropriate technology were ignored.
My own opinion is that your recommendation for subway extension to Steeles on the Yonge line was wise, and the funds being spent to extend into York Region would be better spent elsewhere. However, political realities must be acknowledged.
The demand certainly exists to overwhelm the Yonge subway line once it is extended to the GO Langstaff Station near Hwy #7. In my opinion, it is necessary to have frequent service on the Richmond Hill GO line to relieve the Yonge subway line. This also includes a proper connection at the Leslie Subway station; the current connection is absurd and an excellent example of bad transit planning.
I cannot think why anyone would think that taking the old spur line from near Oriole to Leaside then down the CP line to Union would save any time or money over doubling the CN Bala sub in the Valley. The right of way of the old spur is not a high speed line; you are not going to travel at 60, let alone 85 mph through someone’s back yard. The idea of using it as a DRL is a total none starter. Go stand on the Viaduct above the rail right of way then walk to the subway station. Now try to envisage trying to do it while gaining or losing the necessary altitude and imagine how much time you would save, especially if it dumped you with another 100 000 people every morning at Union Station. This is the worst possible place to have to board the Yonge University subway after Bloor Yonge.
Maps have the unfortunate fact that they are only two dimensional. You actually have to get out and visit the site to see the problems that you would encounter with a line that looks nice on paper. When I was in University I actually walked the CP line from Agincourt to near Union, the CN line in the Don Valley and the Spur from Oriole to Leaside. You are not going to run a high speed line along that spur, or down the line from Leaside to the lower valley. I also walked along much of the North Toronto sub and you are going to have a group of irate residents that will make Weston long like a bunch of happy campers if you try to run a frequent service along it.
What a telling statement. Looks like the ‘immovable object’ met an irresistable force … and found itself moving.
Cheers and thanks for all your hard work. Will you post a revised, updated edition of “A Grand Plan” for the archives?
Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
Steve: Alas, the change at the top removing a defensive, insecure chair was accompanied by the removal of its political board that actually had a sense of public involvement and responsibility.
Re: Bob Wightman’s comment about Canadian Pacific’s sale of the Don Branch of the Belleville Subdvision.
Having spent the last 22 years working on numerous contracts for CP, I can tell you that company’s current position is not to get as far away from the passenger business as possible, but to get as much passenger traffic as possible on its tracks. Contrary to the position it took in the 1960s and ’70s — when the unsubsidized passenger loss was large and growing larger — CP is working constructively with Amtrak, VIA and numerous commuter agencies to increase its passenger revenue. Lofty idealists who think the railways should provide their facilities and services at cost (or less) won’t approve of the approach taken by CP and other pro-passenger freight railways such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe. But that nasty ol’ profit incentive is motivating the better railways to take a fresh look at passenger operations for solid business reasons. If you can find a low cost replacement for the strategic corridors the railways own (and on which they pay taxes), more power to you.
Greg Gormick says:
I am glad to hear that. I heard a few years ago that CP was a pain to work with for trains on the Galt Sub to Milton. His comment was that CP wanted them to triple track and re-signal the line as far as the Rockies before they would let them run more trains to Milton or Galt.
I have no illusions about this line being truly high speed, regardless of whether they actually could reinstate and run the RH GO line down the old connection between Bala and Belleville. It would still likely be faster (at least downhill toward downtown) because of the speed limitations on Bala – design speed 45, and that’s probably not achievable in its current condition.
Regardless, all this points out is the difficulties GO is going to face in actually creating a frequent RH service.
To be clear as well, I have no interest in having GO provide DRL function, and I also do not believe the DRL has any business in connecting into Union either.
As for the North Toronto sub, I heartily concur and my brother in law on Russell Hill Road would too. That’s a political no-go as well.
Steve, the rails may have been gone for quite some time (the City purchased it in 2001), but the Leaside Rail Path was only just officially built this year out of infrastructure funds.
Steve: It may have only been “built” this year, but people have been using it far longer.
I think there is an improvment to comments above regarding the options discussed above of using the various rail alignements in the Don Valley as part of a DRL with extension up to Richmond Hill.
Steve and others have advocated that the DRL should be a *subway* running from downtown tunnelled under Pape and going as far north as Don Mills/Eglinton.
If it is alredy tunnelled as a subway, is there substantial cost difference to make it a tunnelled route for EMU trains? Where the train line reaches the Don Valley at the north end of Pape several options are available to have it branch onto one (or many) of the rail routes through this area for extension beyond the 416 with stations for interchanges at Eglinton, Sheppard, etc. At the southern end, to minimize initial cost, it could turn in tunnel from the Pape alignment onto the existing rail corridor near Riverdale mall and head to Union and then up the Weston corridor. When funds are available, additional tunneling across say Queen would give another East-West route through the core.
Rail with catenary and lightweight EMU trains would be similar in cost to building a subway with 3rd rail, but may need a larger tunnel bore. Of course this idea works best if we have Go/TTC fare integraton and GO commits to electrify adjoining routes.
Steve: You are confusing the function of two separate routes. The Don Valley corridor needs a local service from somewhere around Eglinton to downtown that makes good connections to the Danforth subway. Further north, the rail corridor needs frequent but fast service to Richmond Hill. Both of these will divert traffic from the Yonge Subway which would otherwise occur with the northern extension of that line, but they would divert different elements of the traffic.
Greg wrote of:
What Greg neglected to mention is that almost all of these strategic corridors were given free of charge (along with numerous other subsidies) to the railways in the first place.
The government hasn’t given me any free real estate, so I feel very little sympathy for the railway companies.
Greg may sneer at “Lofty idealists,” but who do you think handed over all this valuable real estate to the railways to begin with? I call them “nation builders.”
And, by the way, providing passenger service at cost to Amtrak is the law in the USA.
I’d like to know just what the CP is working with VIA, Amtrak and GO Transit on.
Contrary to Kevin Love’s comment, providing passenger service at cost is not the law anywhere in North America for any railway. Amtrak is required to pay its full costs just like every other passenger carrier operating over lines owned by private railways.
The implication that the railways received all their rights-of-way for free is not true either. Many corridors were purchased fully by the railways, while some were provided by governments which were unwilling or unable to build the railway lines themselves, such as the original CPR transcontinental main line. These were commercial agreements that were approved by elected legislative bodies.
Furthermore, the railways were often required to provide free or discounted services in exchange for the so-called land grant construction subsidies. The U.S. railways were held up for ransom for decades on discounted postal rates. In Canada, the Crowsnest Pass freight rates resulted in substantial losses on grain transportation for both CP and CN after the Second World War and they were only eliminated when they threatened the whole western grain handling system.
Why is it that every other for-profit enterprise is cheered when it returns dividends to stockholders, but the railways are crucified when they attempt to do it? Railways are not public utilities. Until they are, they have an obligation to generate a profit from all the traffic that moves over the lines they build, maintain and on which they pay taxes.
Comments on the former CN spur from Oriole to Leaside versus the Bala sub and the problem with connecting either of them to the Bloor Danforth Subway.
Except at its ends the former CN spur is in what looks like a 66 ft (20 m) wide right of way in a totally higher priced residential area. This line is not going back in so forget it.
The CP line from Leaside down the Don Valley has a 1200 ft (370 m) long high level bridge that needs replacing. It also drops from an elevation of 432 ft (130 m) at Leaside to 286 ft (87 m) under the Prince Edward Viaduct during a horizontal run of about 7400 ft (2240 m) resulting in about a 2% grade. While it has a straighter run than the CN’s scenic tour of the Don Valley it will not get built so forget it.
The elevation of Broadview Station is 393 ft so let’s say the subway platform is 40 ft down or at about 350 ft (106 m). The horizontal distance is about 900 ft (270 m). To get from the railway track to the station you need to go up from 286 ft to at least 350 ft or 64 ft (20 m) and travel 900 ft horizontally. I don’t care how fast your moving walkways and escalators are you are going to have very long walk. Have you ever gotten of the Spadina stop on the University line and walked to the Spadina Street Car? It is not a quick walk. The elevation of the CN line is 260 ft (78 m) and the horizontal distance is almost 1600 ft (485 m). This is an even longer walk. And don’t forget you will need elevators for those who have trouble with stairs and escalators. The likelihood of an interchange going in between the railways in the Don Valley and Broadview Station ranks slightly lower than Steve being chosen to head the Tories.
Railways do not like grades over 1% for freight or 2% for passenger traffic. The problem in heading north from Union is that you have to climb up the old shoreline of lake Iroquois (The hill north of Davenport). The way they did that was by going well out of their way to increase horizontal distance. The Bala Sub does this by following the meanders of the Don River. The Newmarket and the MacTier Subs go well to the west before heading north. None of the rail lines will provide a fast route to get to Yonge Street and the 407. The best bet is to double track the Bala sub and perhaps try super elevating the curves to increase the speed up the valley. The current service takes 35 or 37 minutes to get from Langstaff to Union which is still better than the subway. Perhaps a few minutes can be shaved off this time.
Steve: When I take over the Tory party, I will move my seat of office to Casa Loma so that I can throw those pesky opposition members into my specially constructed dungeons. I, oops, we will hold court with appropriate pomp appropriate to our exhalted position.
There were rumours about Amtrak switching from CN St-Hyacinth/Rouses Point to CP Adirondack/Lacolle prompted by the appearance of a P32DM and two trailers at Lucien L’Allier in November. Doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere yet.
Without that bridge, the whole line from Leaside to Union is useless, so why would GO purchase it at all?
I think you’re right about the unlikelihood of reestablishing the tracks into posh back yards now. Someone more imperious than I might force it back through but I can’t imagine it ever being done in today’s political climate. Maybe a century ago it would have been possible.
Steve: Back when the Scarborough LRT was first proposed (before ICTS came on the scene), the route it would have taken was the old Canadian Northern right-of-way running northeast just north of Kennedy Station (it’s the continuation of the hydro right-of-way that comes in from the west). The houses here are built quite close to the right-of-way, and there were very strong objections from people to having streetcars running through their back yards. That’s why the line was shifted to the north-south alignment parallel to the railway. A similar issue arose for the portion of the SRT extension proposed from Sheppard northeast to Malvern which would use the same right-of-way further north. To placate the neighbours, the line would be underground. In general, building surface rapid transit has become quite difficult unless you are in an existing corridor and the technology can handle grade crossings and pedestrians.
Steve, perhaps you may already be aware, but Metrolinx recently appointed 2 key senior executive level individuals with very little public fanfare.
The following is the Metrolinx response to CUTA’s request to obtain staffing updates, their bios. and details of their responsibilities so that they can publish it in their next issue of the Canadian Transit Forum magazine:
Jack Collins is Vice President, Project Implementation for Metrolinx. Jack is devoted exclusively to the implementation of the first “Big Five” infrastructure investment priorities that include: Transit City’s Sheppard East, Finch West, Scarborough and Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit projects; York Region’s Viva bus rapidway program and any additional major infrastructure projects outside GO Transit that the Province may assign to Metrolinx. Jack’s focus will be continuing to successfully drive these projects forward – on time and on budget – with our municipal partners and the Province.
Mr. Collins brings 35 years of transit construction and program management experience to Metrolinx. Jack held the position of Chief Engineering and Construction Officer for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in California, where he was responsible for the successful completion of a $1.9b light rail transit expansion program, a $675m highway improvement program,and the prleiminary engineering phase $6.1b Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) extension project to Silicon Valley.
Before joing Metrolinx, Mr. Collins was a VP at Hatch Mott MacDonald, where his consulting assignments included rail projects for TriMet, Virginai Department of Rail and Public Transit (DRPT), North County Transit District and the Toronto Transit Commission.
John Brodhead is Vice President of Strategy and Communications for Metrolinx and a member of the Metrolinx Executive Group. John overseas internal and external communications functions, builds stakeholder support for Metrolinx initiatives, and liases wioth government and community partners.
Prior to joing Metrolinx, John served as a Senior Policy Advisor for infrastructure, transportation, and social policy in the office of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. During his time in the Premier’s Office, John led the policy development of the Ontario Government’s $17.5b MoveOntario2020 plan, which became the foundation for Metrolinx’s Big Move plan. John was also the lead on the Metrolinx Act, which merged GO Transit and Metrolinx into a single transit agency.
In addition, John initiated and led the policy development for the Ontario Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, which included the first-ever legislated targets and indicators to reduce poverty in Canadian history. John also worked for the federal government as a policy and political advisor to the Honourable John Godfrey, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and the Honourable David Pratt, Minister of National Defence. John hold a Bachelor’s degree in Political Studies from Queen’s University and a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of British Columbia.
Steve: Yes, I knew about these appointments. Jack Collins was at the last public meeting of the Metrolinx Board.
February 5, 2010 at 9:22 am
To protect the right of way for GO trains along CP to Havelock and North Oshawa. The bridge would have needed to be replaced as it was only single track. Hopefully the pillars are OK.
After reading Mark’s comments and clicking that link, I sure hope Amtrak doesn’t change stations. I think it would be a very ignorant move, considering the way trains got moved out of Windsor station and all the VIA trains that run out of Gare Centrale.
I’m not sure I’d call it “ignorant” David, apparently Amtrak were merely responding to an offer by CP for their business which would save them a substantial sum at a time when their NY State funding is under pressure and their riders a substantial amount of time. It would have been politically unwise for them not to explore the possibility – and better transfer links between Lula and Centrale are probably a good idea anyway.
What the episode highlights for Torontonians however is the need for Metrolinx to continue expansion of the USRC so that the distinction between one operator’s rails and another does not hinder the most efficient routing of passengers – in this case being able to approach MTL from the CP Adirondack and still use the more long-distance suited Gare Centrale.
Perhaps the word “ignorant” was a bit strong. I don’t honestly blame CP for wanting Amtrak’s business and Mark does make some good points here but the plain truth is that to move the Adirondak out of Gare Centrale would be an inconvenience to connecting passengers.