Transit City Revisited (Part III, Updated)

(Updated at 3:00 pm, February 1.  I omitted a section on the proposed Sheppard subway extensions to Downsview and to Scarborough Town Centre.  This has been added.)

In this, the final installment of my review of Transit City, I will look at the unfunded (or underfunded) TTC transit projects.  Some of these spur passionate debates and the occasional pitched battle between advocates of various alternatives.  There are two vital points to remember through all of this:

  • Having alternatives on the table for discussion is better than having nothing at all.  It’s very easy to spend nothing and pass the day on comparatively cheap debates.  The current environment sees many competing visions, but most of them are transit visions.  The greatest barrier lies in funding.  Governments love endless debate because they don’t have to spend anything on actual construction or operations.  Meanwhile, auto users point to the lack of transit progress and demand more and wider roads.
  • Transit networks contain a range of options.  They are not all subways or all buses or all LRT.  Some are regional express routes while others address local trips.  Most riders will have to transfer somewhere, even if it is from their car in a parking lot to a GO train.  The challenge is not to eliminate transfers, but to make them as simple and speedy as possible.

I will start with the unfunded Transit City lines, and then turn to a range of other schemes and related capital projects.

Don Mills LRT

Original proposal:  Steeles to Danforth, route south of Eglinton to be determined, surface operation except possibly at the BD subway connection, $675m (2007) including vehicles but excluding inflation.

Revisions to date: 

  • Queen’s Park, in announcing funding for the Finch LRT line, also included an easterly extension to Don Mills and south to Don Mills Station.  This would both prebuild 2km of the Don Mills LRT and likely shift the Sheppard Station on that line underground for easy connection to the subway and the Sheppard LRT.  The surface connection between the two LRT lines would no longer be part of the scheme.
  • A Don Mills line would not have its own carhouse, but where it will be based will depend on what other parts of the Transit City network exist by the time Don Mills opens for business.
  • York Region is considering a northerly extension of the route.

The Don Mills line’s design suffers from its origin in the Don Valley Transportation Corridor Study, a scheme to add bus lanes to the DVP.  The proposed routes are bus-based and included possible subway connections at Pape, Broadview or Castle Frank.  The latter required a new road to be built linking Millwood to Bayview south of the CPR corridor in Leaside, as well as a new access to the DVP’s Bayview offramp that would allow buses to reach Castle Frank from Bayview.

The LRT scheme is proposed to run through the middle of Thorncliffe Park via Overlea Blvd., and then turn south across the Leaside bridge.  This bridge was originally only four lanes wide with extra structural support for a streetcar extension north from Pape and Danforth.  That support was substantially consumed by the bridge widening to six lanes.  The TTC is looking at a special lightweight trackbed as a means of staying within the bridge’s capabilities.  However, this does not address the severe problems of surface operation through East York to reach the Danforth subway.

The TTC has quite pig-headedly clung to the concept of LRT on a narrow right-of-way (both Pape and Broadview are only four lanes wide with buildings at the sidewalk line), and has wasted a lot of time and effort on fitting in a surface design.  This undermines the credibility of the whole proposal, and an alternative scheme should have been part of their studies long ago.  (Similar problems afflict the Jane proposal discussed below.)

The Leaside bridge alignment is also affected, I understand, by curve radius problems at the south end where the line would swing southwest onto Pape.  At some point, the more credible exercise would look at alternative alignments south of Eglinton and their implications for network design.  Yes, any new crossing of the Don River will cost money, but a better network may be money well spent.

The Don Mills line crosses a proposed new GO service on the CPR north of Eglinton.  It is unlikely that the GO service would stop to connect with both the Don Mills and Eglinton LRT lines (the latter at Leslie Street), and the real question is how useful either of these connections will be.  GO has already bought the Don Branch which links the CPR’s main line to Union via the east side of the Don Valley below Leaside, and downtown-bound passengers are unlikely to transfer to the LRT routes.  The transfer, instead, would primarily benefit those bound for non-core locations.

Wherever the Don Mills line intersects the BD subway, there will be a large volume of transfer traffic and with the extra capacity of an LRT route, this will be considerably more than the combined volumes on the bus routes passing through Thorncliffe Park.  An underground interchange will be required, and given the depth of Pape Station, one might hope that it would fit between the existing subway structure and the surface.

A new off-road alignment south of Eglinton (or at least south of Overlea) brings us to the question of the Downtown Relief Line.  A new tunnel and bridge could carry either the Don Mills LRT south, or the DRL north to a major transit hub at Don Mills and Eglinton.

I will return to the DRL later in this article.

Jane LRT

Original proposal:  York University to Jane Station via Steeles and Jane, all surface operation, $630m (2007) including vehicles but excluding inflation.  This line would operate from Black Creek Carhouse and does not require its own maintenance yard.

Revisions to date:  None.

Problems with right-of-way width on the southern portion have led to speculation about tunneling, but the larger issue is whether the route south of Eglinton needs to be built as LRT at all.  Where are riders from the north end of the Jane route going?  Do they want to go to Jane Station, or does that simply happen to be where the Jane bus takes them?  Would they be better served if the Jane LRT were operated as a branch of the Eglinton line?

We know that demand on the western end of Eglinton will be lower than other parts of the route (indeed this was proposed as a BRT corridor in an earlier plan because of projected demand), and trains from Jane Street might do better heading east to Eglinton West Station.  Such an operation would require that Eglinton West be configured for frequent turnback service to the west.

The south end of Jane Street is under 30m wide except for a short section immediately south of Eglinton, and fitting a surface operation here would be challenging, similar in places to problems getting a Don Mills line through East York.  Underground construction is possible, but this begs the question of how much demand would actually go to Jane Station if some other connection to the rapid transit network were available.

Yet another connection option for the Jane LRT is the Weston rail corridor, GO Transit and a possible west branch of the DRL.  These connections could occur in Weston, although the grade separation of the rail lines and Jane, plus the short distance from the proposed rail station at Eglinton, make this a difficult proposal.  If the Jane route turns east on Eglinton, it could share any new connection at Weston/Eglinton.

Between Weston Road and Black Creek Drive, Jane Street is only 27m wide, 3m narrower than St. Clair.  It includes both the overpass at the rail corridor and the interchange with Black Creek.  Fitting in this part of the route will be a challenge, and the standard Transit City road treatment will not work.

Scarborough Malvern LRT

Original proposal:  Kennedy Station to Malvern via Eglinton, Kingston Road and Morningside, all surface operation, $630m not including inflation.  This route would not have its own carhouse, but would likely share facilities with the Sheppard East and/or Eglinton lines.

Revisions to date:  The north end of this route into Malvern has been dropped in favour of the proposed S(L)RT extension.  However, that extension is itself on hold and it is unclear which, if either, service to Malvern will survive.

This route has an unusual (for Transit City) side of the road operation south of Ellesmere where it serves the University of Toronto and runs alongside the Highland Creek valley.

Between Sheppard and UTSC, the line would cross Highway 401 and would only have one intermediate stop.  As I discussed in the previous post, building this northern link would allow Sheppard East trains to reach UTSC directly from Don Mills Station even before the southern part of the Scarborough Malvern line is in operation.

Waterfront West LRT

Original Proposal:  As an extension from the existing Harbourfront 509 streetcar route west from Exhibition Loop, this line would run through southern Parkdale, along the existing Queen 501 route to Long Branch Loop.  $540m not including inflation.  This would be a “city” streetcar route operated from existing facilities rather than part of the Transit City network and its fleet.

Revisions:  This project has seen so many revisions since its original 1990 version that it is almost unrecognizable.  The most recent changes include:

  • A revised alignment east of Exhibition Loop via Fort York and Bremner Boulevards to Union Station Loop.
  • Various proposals for alternative connections through the Sunnyside area and the Queen/Roncesvalles intersection.
  • Right-of-way treatment issues on Lake Shore Blvd.

In the 2010-2019 TTC Capital Budget projections, this line is shown as opening in the late 2020s, over 35 years after its original Environmental Assessment.  This would beat out the lead time for the Spadina streetcar (1973 proposal, 1997 opening) by a decade.  This is hardly a project aimed at current road or transit congestion problems, and the ad hoc way in which it has been planned leaves it always controversial, always on the back burner.

Lake Shore Boulevard West is an Avenue in the Official Plan, and a small amount of redevelopment has already taken place.  One might hope that transit improvements beyond the occasional Queen car would happen here long before 2029.  Parts of Lake Shore are not wide enough to accept the standard Transit City right-of-way treatment, but it is unclear whether this is an absolute necessity given the traffic levels.  The real problem is the absence of service, hardly a good advertisement for a future LRT line.

At Sunnyside, there are four major families of proposals to connect from The Queensway to a line west from Exhibition Loop.  From west to east, these variants are:

  • South via Colborne Lodge Road (the signalled intersection east of Grenadier Pond) to a reconfigured Lake Shore Boulevard, then east to serve the western beaches and connect into the new route south of Parkdale.  A new connection into The Queensway opposite Roncesvalles Carhouse linking south and east via a ramp to the new south Parkdale route.  This scheme has severe problems with traffic operations at the nearby Queen/Roncesvalles intersection and has, I understand, fallen out of favour.
  • A new connection into King Street through Beatty Parkette linking south and east via a ramp.  This scheme is not quite as messy as the second variant above, but adds all of the Lake Shore LRT traffic to existing movements at Queen and Roncesvalles.
  • Using the existing tracks on Dufferin to King Street.

The first of these alignments is preferred by the Mayor’s office, but whether this will survive the change to a new regime in 2011, let alone the long wait to actual construction, remains to be seen.

East of Exhibition Loop, the original alignment for the WWLRT was to follow the 509 route to Union Station.  Indeed, part of the rationale for rebuilding Fleet Street from Bathurst to Strachan was to provide one more small piece of the WWLRT right-of-way.  However, traffic operations at the Fleet, Bathurst, Lake Shore, Queen’s Quay intersection pose challenges to frequent services turning south into Queen’s Quay.  Operations on Queen’s Quay itself are not exactly speedy thanks to frequent stops and less-than-helpful “transit priority” signals.

An alternative alignment was proposed by the TTC via the abandoned rail spur which lies just north of Exhibition Loop and connects through to Fort York Boulevard.  The route would run east via Fort York and Bremner into Union Station Loop.

This scheme ran headlong into the planned renovations of the Fort York site including a new visitor centre.  Fort York Boulevard west from Bathurst was never intended for LRT and the right-of-way provision extends only east from Bathurst to Spadina.  East of Spadina, there is some question about whether a frequent LRT service can co-exist with activities at the Rogers Centre (aka Skydome).  There is provision for an underground path from Simcoe Street into the Bay Street LRT tunnel.

The entire WWLRT scheme needs complete review including the issue of how the redeveloping lands at Exhibition Place and Ontario Place will be served with a good transit link to downtown, one of the original purposes of this line lost in the many revisions.

Union Station Loop

Union Station Loop has been an embarrassment since it opened in 1990.  It is too small, and its capacity was vastly overestimated by the TTC.  The following changes are in the pipeline:

  • When the new second platform of Union Subway Station is built, the existing passageway to Union Loop will connect directly onto that platform (roughly where the bottom of the escalator is today).  This will eliminate the up-and-down transfer moves at least to/from the northbound-to-Yonge platform, but will do nothing for the loop itself.  This work is funded, and construction gets underway this year.
  • The TTC has proposed to expand the track structure in the space under the rail viaduct from two to four tracks.  The existing tracks would be the inner pair, and new outer tracks would be built to serve new platforms roughly under the teamways used by GO Transit at street level.  Part of this work will be funded within the Harbourfront East LRT project by Waterfront Toronto.
  • The Bremner LRT connection (see WWLRT above) would connect into the tunnel just south of the rail viaduct and at the the point where the new four-track section begins.  Bremner tracks would lead to the new outer pair of rails on Bay.  The junction at the south end of the rail viaduct would not be grade separated.
  • Union Railway Station will undergo substantial changes by the City and GO Transit creating a new concourse at a lower level than the existing GO ticket area in the east wing of the railway station.  The TTC had not, as of summer 2009, produced any updated plans for Union Loop to connect with this revised GO layout.
  • Any changes to Union Loop must be co-ordinated with construction within Union subway and railway stations.

At this point, it is unclear which portions of the expanded loop will be built when.  The current proposal is for the new west track and platform to come first thereby providing additional capacity for Waterfront East.  The east track and platform would follow when the WWLRT connection is added, or possibly in the more distant future for capacity when the Port Lands extension of Waterfront East comes into play.

One important design change the TTC does recognize is the need for more and better platform access.  This may be simplified with the planned move to smart card fare collection over the next few years because the concept of a “paid area” may not require as strict access controls as today.  Access to the new platforms will be provided at the south end and this will greatly simplify traffic between the Air Canada Centre and the streetcar loop.

St. Clair Extension to Jane

This extension was proposed as part of Transit City to connect in the Jane LRT route, to serve new development on St. Clair itself, and to provide the option of running the 512 St. Clair route from Black Creek Carhouse.  (Note that this is not its official name, but in lieu of anything better, that’s what I am using.)

With the decision by Metrolinx to build Transit City as standard gauge, that connection is no longer possible, even assuming the south end of the Jane LRT is ever built.

I suspect that the dust will have to settle on the St. Clair right-of-way operation before there is any consideration of extending the route westward.

Kingston Road BRT

An original proposal for LRT on Kingston Road, not part of Transit City, has morphed into a BRT proposal with service running east along Danforth from the BD subway and out Kingston Road to an eventual connection to the Scarborough Malvern LRT.

This project is not funded.

Sheppard Subway Extensions

Many pro-subway folks want to see the Sheppard line “completed” with a western extension to Downsview and eastwards to Scarborough Town Centre.

On the eastern side, one of the major advantages claimed is the elimination of the transfer at Don Mills.  However, the trade off is that people who don’t want to go to Scarborough Town Centre will be forced to travel there anyhow, and the bus services will be gerrymandered to serve that terminal.  The intent of the Official Plan is to develop Sheppard Avenue, and this cannot happen if the major transit link is south of Highway 401.

On the western side, the demand level projected for the link from Yonge to Downsview is quite low due to the land use in the area.  Even allowing for potential transfer traffic to/from the Spadina subway, this segment will never achieve subway-level ridership.  However its projected cost is now on the order of $1bn.

In both cases, the issue is the same as for many subway proposals:  does the potential demand justify the investment?  My opinion is, no, it doesn’t and I have yet to see a compelling argument to the contrary. 

Ideally, the Sheppard LRT would run through the subway tunnel to Yonge, although that would require an unheaval during conversion few are likely to accept.

Transit City Bus Plan

The Transit City Bus Plan proposes to establish a network of routes where servive would be provided at all times (except the Blue Night period) every 10 minutes or better.  This is a laudable idea, but there are a few implementation issues needing serious rethinking.

  • Routes that are destined to be LRT lines are not included.  The premise is that the TTC cannot guarantee good service while construction is underway, and so should not advertise it.  That avoids the obvious question of why the very routes on which we will spend billions in LRT improvements don’t deserve guaranteed service levels now.
  • Many of the future LRT proposals are not yet funded.  Should riders on the affected routes put up with lesser service levels while they wait?
  • Lake Shore Boulevard West is a proposed LRT route, but as it is a streetcar line, it’s not part of the “Bus Plan”.  This has to be one of the more bone-headed decisions by the TTC, and it shows the length to which the TTC will go to avoid providing good service in southern Etobicoke.

This plan needs some tweaking, but in an example of the Commission’s blindness to problems with TTC staff proposals, it has been left untouched.  Whether it comes into play starting in fall 2010 depends on the outcome of the City’s operating budget debates starting in mid-February.

I gave a detailed review of this plan in an earlier post.

Yonge Subway Richmond Hill Extension

The Richmond Hill subway was included in MoveOntario2020’s list of projects, but no funding has been announced for the project.  The scheme triggered a wave of objections from Toronto Council which, finally, woke up to the fact that we cannot keep expanding the subway without compromising the capacity of the existing system.  Several related issues emerged:

  • The TTC proposes a massive reconfiguration of Bloor-Yonge Station to handle more frequent service and to speed transfer flows.  Whether this project is technically possible, operationally feasible during construction, or will only shift capacity problems elsewhere (including onto the Bloor line) have not been addressed.
  • The existing block signal system on the Yonge line is being replaced in a multi-year project aimed at completion in time for opening of the Spadina extension into Vaughan.  The new Toronto Rocket trains will be equipped with ATO controls so that they can interact with the signal system.  However, the TTC does not have enough trains on order to operate the entire line, and a supplementary order is planned for this year.  Additional cars would be needed to extend the route to Richmond Hill with an all-TR fleet.
  • It is unclear what target capacity the TTC has in mind for the Yonge line and how this will interact with terminal configurations and major stations where more frequent service will strain existing stair/escalator capacity even when all of them are open and working.
  • Capacity on the BD subway, which must accept transfer traffic from YUS, will be constrained by its signal system (among other factors) until that is replaced likely in the 2020s.
  • If very frequent service is needed at a peak point, the fleet must grow to provide that headway over a considerable territory where it is not required.  This contributes to capital costs for trains as well as maintenance and operating costs.

All of this leads to consideration of the Downtown Relief Line (DRL).

Downtown Relief Line

The DRL has two components, one with a longer history than the other.  An east leg would run from downtown to somewhere on the Danforth subway, nominally Pape or Donlands station.  The alignment of a west leg is less certain, but commonly it is proposed through the Weston rail corridor.

As I have described here many times before, the DRL in an earlier incarnation actually began at Don Mills and Eglinton.  This arrangement was proposed by the TTC back in 1968, but opposition to additional downtown rapid transit construction and the cost of the line put the scheme out of action for decades.  It enjoyed a brief appearance as a possible ICTS line running from Pape Station to Union via Eastern Avenue (complete with an elevated structure on Front Street in front of the railway station).

Among the benefits of a DRL East are:

  • If we accept that the Don Mills LRT cannot reasonably use an on-street alignment from Thorncliffe Park south, then a separate structure could be used either by an LRT or a subway line.  The only debate is the capacity required and the logical point where a change of mode, if any, would occur.
  • If a Don Mills LRT ends at the Danforth Subway, it will impose a substantial transfer load of core-bound traffic at a point where the line cannot now accept many more riders, and this traffic will contribute to congestion at Bloor-Yonge Station.
  • If a DRL East continues south into downtown, it will provide an alternate path for passengers who would otherwise travel west to the YUS via Eglinton or the BD subway.

The alignment of a route through downtown will be difficult regardless of which street is chosen.  Some prefer an existing streetcar route, while others look to streets like Richmond, Adelaide or Front/Wellington.  All of these need careful consideration as part of a DRL study to be done this year by the TTC.

A DRL West is quite another matter.  First off, the Weston Corridor is already rather heavily spoken for by GO Transit and by the Airport link.  A DRL could travel underneath the corridor, but station arrangements would be extremely difficult since they could not simply be excavated near the surface as one would do on a “normal” line.

The real issue here is the role of the Airport link.  As long as this is treated as a separate, premium fare, private sector service, it will have limited value but will consume resources (space in the corridor) disproportionate to its benefit and ridership.  If the Airport line is operated as a semi-local service stopping, say, at major concession roads (Queen, Bloor, St. Clair, Eglinton, etc) and priced as part of the local fare structure, it could provide a good alternative to GO for local service, intercept some of the downtown-bound traffic from the west, and give good, frequent service to the airport.

Alas, that is precisely what Queen’s Park vehemently opposes, and any attempt to open up or undo the private sector agreement for the airport service runs into a brick wall.  This is a triumph of ideology over good planning.

In this discussion, you can probably see that I do not argue for a through DRL East-West service.  I believe that attempting such a configuration would seriously compromise alignment options through downtown.

The TTC has a tender call closing on February 16, 2010 for a consultant to study “Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion”.  Many firms have already picked up tender documents according to the TTC’s website.

And So To Conclude

At the end of these three long articles, I do not plan to give my own definitive proposal.  Indeed, there are probably multiple credible schemes, and some of the options depend on decisions made at other levels (notably the role and pace of expansion of GO Transit rail services).

The fundamental issue is that there are issues to be discussed both in Transit City and The Big Move, but simply stopping is not a reasonable approach.  Some in Toronto argue that LRT plans are a waste of time, and that we are underbuilding for the future.  I strongly disagree especially when the alternative is vastly overbuilding a subway network.

34 thoughts on “Transit City Revisited (Part III, Updated)

  1. Steve you say

    GO has already bought the Don Branch which links the CPR’s main line to Union via the east side of the Don Valley below Leaside…

    Did I miss this announcement? Google only brings up discussion within your own blog about the Weston sub purchase in which the rotting condition of the branch is discussed by Drew T, but he suggested that GO was offered and chose not to take it from CP.

    My interest has to do with potential to make Richmond Hill GO into frequent service – why twin the tracks when you can simply send the trains up a separate existing route? Perhaps this would reduce the time needed to get this option up and running, and we’re back to the Doncaster diamond grade separation being the big roadblock. Oh, and you’d have to reinstall the tracks on the connection between the Bala sub and the Belleville sub…

    My assumption is that the Don branch would have to be rebuilt as part of a GO train to Peterborough anyway.

    Steve: The Don Branch was purchased by GO/Metrolinx in December 2009. I don’t think they made any announcement at the time.


  2. I’d like to know how much GOtrolinx paid. Judging by pictures of the alignment I saw over the weekend, I’d say CPR should have paid to have it taken off their hands, what with the volume of weeds and dereliction that was apparent.


  3. Steve said:

    “The intent of the Official Plan is to develop Sheppard Avenue, and this cannot happen if the major transit link is south of Highway 401.”

    Well, sort of. The Avenue designation for Sheppard only extends as far as Brimley and I don’t think there’s much realistic chance of it being extended given that Scarborough Centre remains an Urban Growth Centre in Places to Grow and the the OP. In fact, such an extension would probably go against the typical interpretation of the principle of Avenues/corridors (provincial Places to Grow vs City OP language there), extending from and being connectors of centres (although Toronto DOES talk about them in isolation quite often).

    In any case, the point is that the Sheppard subway isn’t necessarily any less compatible with the official plan than the SLRT. It would serve the part of Sheppard that is designated (true, not as well for local demand as an LRT) AND would connect North York and Scarborough Centres (another specific goal of both OP and Places to Grow).

    In terms of the gerrymandering of routes into STC, it might not be a terrible thing for either the city or the network. Yes, some trips would be less direct, but they would gain better interconnectivity to each other and to GO. For the most part Scarborough Centre isn’t even a massive detour for bus routes within Scarborough, especially if it did become a subway terminal. Scarborough Centre itself is a growth centre, and bringing more people through it certainly isn’t going to hurt its growth potential.


  4. I don’t know where this fits but the Mt. Dennis Community Association is not too happy with the proposal to run 3 car LRT trains along Eglinton Av. on a surface Right Of Way. They are having a meeting about it. Here is the announcement:

    Councillors Nunziata and Di Giorgio host
    Eglinton Crosstown LRT Town Hall
    Thursday February 11, 7pm
    York Civic Centre
    2700 Eglinton Ave West

    Come out to see the proposals for the LRT between Keele and Jane street.

    This is a group that is fighting hard for their community which is apparently one of the lowest socio-economic groups in the city according to an article in the Star. I went to their previous meeting about the LRT, by mistake as I thought it was about the GO service, and spent a couple of hours wandering around the community. I was quite impressed by the concern that I saw from the residents about their community and their desire to see it improve. They believe, and I agree, that a completely surface Right of Way on Eglinton will have a major impact on their community. Inside Toronto has an article on it.

    They want the line to be underground to minimize land expropriation and impact on the neighbourhood that would result from a centre platform station.

    I am planning to attend this meeting and will let you know what happens.


  5. The following comment was left in another thread by M. Birganti.

    About the Jane LRT, you can’t be serious about bastardizing an established route structure just because light rail can’t handle it. That’s the wrong approach. If the road’s not wide enough, it’s not wide enough. This is proof that TC was designed on the back of a napkin, because everyone knows that without an Eglinton subway, it doesn’t make any sense to stop Jane at Eglinton. Instead, that line should go further west, on Islington or possibly Kipling, from Steeles to Lake Shore. My bet would be Islington as it’s a 24-hour route.

    Steve: My point about Jane is that we need to at least understand where riders on the line want to go. Many TTC routes are leftovers of decades-old structures that may not make sense once rapid transit lines are extended into the suburbs. The TTC routinely splits and reroutes services when a new rapid transit line goes in, sometimes to excess. I’m simply saying that this is an option. However, I do agree that we should look at a north south route further west.


  6. As I understand it, Transit City is the FIRST network of LRT for Toronto. That means, another expansion phase could follow. To me, for a starting point, all the current Blue Night services should get rapid transit. What sort of rapid transit, we’ll see over time.

    By the way, more people use the 35 Jane (3’10” afternoon peak) than the 37 Islington (6’40” afternoon peak).


  7. My problem with this whole discussion is the notion we are doomed to go from 40 foot buses to 120 foot streetcars in one jump. For pre-LRT routes like Jane, we need to see the impact that higher-capacity vehicles can bring, and it’s time for the TTC to find a way to make manufacturers build the buses they want and in the meantime to consider leasing some in (to avoid the deemed necessity of rebuild).

    I’m not talking about a busway or BRT or anything crazy, just a 60 foot route using Proof Of Payment and allied to expropriation of some of the many strip malls along Jane / conversion to parallel parking to achieve partial widening in the interim, possibly involving the creation of a centre reservation which would ultimately become either the LRT ROW or the ventilation outlet for subsurface portions.


  8. 1) Regarding Robert Wightman’s posting. Since the Eglinton LRT would be a centre of the road line, where are the properties to be expropriated?

    Steve: If you look at the drawings for the Eglinton LRT shown on the project’s website (the November 2009 version), the illustration of the Weston/Eglinton intersection shows a road widening to make room for the LRT. This requires several properties to be taken.

    2) Question for Steve: Talk of the DRL seems to presume a subway ragther than an LRT. Is this a given?

    Steve: The issue is the capacity requirement south of the Danforth subway. Previous studies and the Metrolinx demand projections suggest that this will exceed the ability of an LRT service. A related issue is that the technology choice will affect carhouse needs. The old Queen subway scheme assumed that they would use Greenwood, but the TTC doesn’t have spare capacity on the BD line after giving up the option to built a yard at Kipling. If LRT, the trains may well be too long to be through-routed for surface operation on Don Mills north of Eglinton.

    Metrolinx predicts 17.5k passengers at the peak point.


  9. Maybe this is off-topic but when will construction on the Union Second Platform be tendered or start? I noticed there was a Pre-Qual back in the fall but nothing since. This project has been a long time coming…

    Steve: Construction is to start this year. One important issue is that the TTC’s work needs to be co-ordinated with the City and GO’s work on the railway station so that they don’t trip over each other or create mayhem for pedestrians trying to navigate through their worksites.


  10. David O’Rourke says:

    February 1, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    “1) Regarding Robert Wightman’s posting. Since the Eglinton LRT would be a centre of the road line, where are the properties to be expropriated?”

    If you look at page 2 in the November display panels part 2, you will see where the white area for the street is laid over top of the aerial photo of the area. What is does not show well is the old street boundary. Every building on both sides of Eglinton from east of Weston Road to well west is losing property to the LRT line. Because of the grade on the east side of Weston Road the platform must be to the west.

    The diagrams that the city property department had the Mount Dennis Community Association meeting show the existing property lines and the new property lines after expropriation. All the properties are losing some land and a few near Weston Road are being expropriated totally. This will close several businesses. Some of the houses on the south side near Guestville Avenue are having major chunks of their front yard expropriated and this will affect the ability to park their cars. In addition it will make getting in and out of the driveways even more difficult than it is now not to mention getting into Guestville Avenue.

    This surface station and right of way will have a major impact on the community. The 300 foot plus long station in the middle of the road will effectively divide the community in two. This station is over three times as long and twice as wide as any on St. Clair or Spadina. As far as I can remember this is the only part of Eglinton that will have a surface station in an area with houses on both side of the road that front on to the street. The whole area needs to be re-thought. The surface Right of Way also will make it difficult to have a station to connect with the GO line just east of Weston Road.

    My proposal, and I don’t know if it is feasible, would be to have the line elevated from the portal to the east all the way to just east of the GO line where it would go underground again to pass through Mount Dennis. This would eliminate the level crossing with Black Creek Drive and provide a better elevation to enter the car house. It might also make it easier to have the station east of Weston Road so it could tie into a future GO station.

    From The article:

    “If built underground, fewer properties would be expropriated and 92,000 square feet of park land would be saved”.

    “Underground would be better but either way our property is affected,” said one Mount Dennis resident, refusing to give her name. “I’ve been here 12 years in the area and I want to stay.”

    “Of the 100 properties directly affected by expropriation along the Eglinton LRT route, 26 full and 10 partial properties are in Mount Dennis.”


  11. Isn’t it also the case that the hill from Black Creek to Weston might be tough to crest? It might make sense to put the line underground for that short section, just like they’re planning to do at Don Mills. It would also offer an opportunity to produce a seamless connection between a Weston Road station and a station on the GO line…


  12. Steve said:

    Many pro-subway folks want to see the Sheppard line “completed” with a western extension to Downsview and eastwards to Scarborough Town Centre.

    On the eastern side, one of the major advantages claimed is the elimination of the transfer at Don Mills. However, the trade off is that people who don’t want to go to Scarborough Town Centre will be forced to travel there anyhow, and the bus services will be gerrymandered to serve that terminal. The intent of the Official Plan is to develop Sheppard Avenue, and this cannot happen if the major transit link is south of Highway 401.”

    Subway to STC is only one of several options.

    Another option is to extend the subway from Don Mills just to Kennedy, and start SELRT east of Kennedy. That configuration would support the development of Sheppard Avenue just as nicely as the LRT alone, but in addition, allow the subway to anchor many other bus (and maybe LRT) routes. Those are routes serving the eastern sections of Finch, Ellesmere, maybe Steeles; N-S routes running on Vic Park, Warden, Kennedy into Markham; and express buses to Scarborough Centre and Durham region’s Hwy 2 BRT.

    That “subway – LRT combo” on Sheppard would cost more than just SELRT, but about as much as subway to Scarborough Centre.


  13. James Bow says

    “Isn’t it also the case that the hill from Black Creek to Weston might be tough to crest? It might make sense to put the line underground for that short section, just like they’re planning to do at Don Mills. It would also offer an opportunity to produce a seamless connection between a Weston Road station and a station on the GO line…”

    The TTC and Metrolinx are being too cheap. Apprently it would cost too much money to make the line Tunneled between Jane and Weston.


  14. Mark Dowling says:

    February 2, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    ‘Elevated = wide” noise footprint – an already sensitive subject in that neighbourhood.”

    I don’t know if you are talking about my idea but no one lives in most of the area of the Black Creek Valley. There might be some people affected at the east portal but the noise would not be much different than from the centre reservation. By the time you get to the buildings west of the Weston sub you would be back underground until it re-emerged in the Humber valley.


  15. Steve said this about the Union Loop Expansion:

    The TTC has proposed to expand the track structure in the space under the rail viaduct from two to four tracks. The existing tracks would be the inner pair, and new outer tracks would be built to serve new platforms roughly under the teamways used by GO Transit at street level. Part of this work will be funded within the Harbourfront East LRT project by Waterfront Toronto.

    Steve, would it be possible to have direct connections (elevators and stairs) between each teamway and the Fare-paid area of the Union Loop below?

    The connection could be considered as ‘outside’ the fare-paid area. Direct access would encourage better GO-LRT connections and reduce the number of people entering Union Station itself.


    Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

    Steve: This is physically possible, but the LRT platforms should be “fare paid areas” in the sense that people would be expected to have a valid fare, pass, etc. just as they do when they go up from the teamways to GO platforms.


  16. Michael Forest said:

    Another option is to extend the subway from Don Mills just to Kennedy, and start SELRT east of Kennedy. That configuration would support the development of Sheppard Avenue just as nicely as the LRT alone, but in addition, allow the subway to anchor many other bus (and maybe LRT) routes.

    I saw this suggestion on a forum and thought it would be interesting to see this “In.The.Future”:

    Imagine if you will, a complete loop line, Sheppard – Don Mills – DRL East (@Eglinton) – DRL West – Jane – Sheppard

    *Don Mills becomes an extension of the DRL East up to Sheppard and is fully linked to the Sheppard Subway;
    *DRL East & West are linked;
    *DRL West is linked to Jane which is upgraded to a Subway;
    *Sheppard subway is extended westwards to Jane;
    *The loop is completed.

    I’m sure that current projections for the demand on each of those segments (except the DRL East) will not justify the construction of a subway for at least 30 years.

    But then, this is building “For.The.Future” (like the Sheppard Subway, you know).

    Plus the complete loop might encourage more usage including ‘ride-around’ passengers, making a whole line that is greater than the sum of its part.

    Or if the cost is too high, perhaps it can all be built sooner, using LRT technology instead…

    Building a complete LRT loop around the city … at a fraction of the cost of the Sheppard Subway extensions … would definitely be a step forward.

    The question of what to do with the Sheppard subway would then arise. Conversion to LRT would cost money, but the benefits of a single, complete through-loop would have to be weighed against those costs.

    Or maybe not.


    Regards, Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

    Steve: This sounds far more like planning that looks good on a map than taking into account the way people actually travel and constraints on which links are likely to be built soon, or ever. There is a real problem with through-routing the east and west legs of the DRL downtown, and that west leg is unlikely to appear given alternative service in the same general area.


  17. Excuse me, but isn’t all this talk about Sheppard subway extensions a little on the moot side? Why is there any discussion of an eastern extension after all this time since it was moved off the table? I’m not going to deny that I wish that the subway-LRT transfer point was going to be further east than it’s going to be but why even bring up any extensions to the Sheppard subway when we all know perfectly well that there it’s present length is all the longer it’s ever going to get?

    Steve: The election campaign has spurred hopes among the subway advocates that Transit City will be replaced by something more “sensible” like a big network of subway lines.


  18. Steve,

    To the best of your knowledge, beyond the price for their services, what information do interested firms typically provide to the TTC for a tender? I imagine that whichever firm wins the Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study will perform the contract using a combination of data provided by the TTC, existing data acquired from third parties, and primary research?

    Steve: Typically this sort of study will review a lot of existing data and will update this to reflect current conditions. The real question here is how much detail there would be in the outcome including such issues as the viability and rough cost of different alignments, validation/updating of ridership estimates and maybe (horror of horrors) some public participation. The TTC has only so many staff to go around their many active projects.


  19. I was just reading the Star it looks like the Eglinton line may be a huge topic in the mayoral race. It looks like the battle line has been drawn in regards to how Eglinton should be built: Subway, ICTS, or the current plan LRT.


  20. If this election has spurred any hopes on my part those hopes would have to be cutting back the Spadina extension to Steeles and for the Yonge extension to go to Steeles and NO FURTHER.

    Steve: The Spadina extension is already funded by four governments. Undoing that deal would be almost as messy as setting it up in the first place. As for the Yonge line, that’s entirely a Queen’s Park show, and they’re feeling kind of broke these days. York Region of course can be counted on to want everything, but pay for little.


  21. Couldn’t frequent GO service, in the short term at least, delay the need for a downtown relief line? For instance, suppose that a GO service running every 15 minutes or better were operated between Danforth, Union and Bloor GO stations. (This could be extended in either direction, and intermediate stops could be added at Pape/Gerrard and Liberty Village in the future). This would be far cheaper than a full-scale downtown relief line, could be set up quickly (it could be rush-hour only initally) and would take thousands off the Bloor-Danforth subway line.

    Steve: Have you ever walked from Main Station to Danforth GO Station? It ain’t close by. People who are on the subway will stay on the subway. Pape isn’t much good because the only folks you will intercept there are riders on the Carlton car who don’t contribute to subway demand anyhow. The essential point about the DRL, especially if it runs north to Eglinton, is that it can intercept trips that would either use the Danforth subway to reach Bloor-Yonge, or attract trips that now travel west to the Yonge line further north to an alternate route directly into the core.


  22. It is 300 meters from the Danforth GO Station to Main Station — about a 4 minute walk. People could forced off the subway at Main. The inconvenience sufferred by the B-D ejectees would be less than the benefit to the Yonge-line riders from Richmond Hill. The good of the many….

    Steve: You should work in TTC public relations! Now instead of stuffing people onto trains, we will push them off and make them walk (through whatever weather) to Danforth GO. This is a crock of bovine excrement, and you should know better.


  23. Anonopus says:
    February 5, 2010 at 11:33 am

    “It is 300 meters from the Danforth GO Station to Main Station — about a 4 minute walk. People could forced off the subway at Main. The inconvenience sufferred by the B-D ejectees would be less than the benefit to the Yonge-line riders from Richmond Hill. The good of the many….”

    Where would they ride? There is no room on the existing service as it is. GO removed the Scarborough stop at St. Clair for the Uxbridge trains as too many people, especially in the p.m. were using them. There are at least 7 trains per hour through there as it is. If you ran another 7, it would carry 14 000 people max. Then there is the problem of no platform space at Union rail station and no capacity in the subway station for all these people. GO trains cannot run much better than a 10 minute headway because of the railway signal system and the archaic rules for changing ends when they reverse. Everyone had better get it through their heads that GO trains cannot replace subways. They are designed for longer haul and wider headways. Don’t think that you can change the rules because that would require an act of Parliament and the U. S. Congress because there is so much cross border operation of main line trains. Perhaps Positive Train Control (PTC) will allow for shorter headways.


  24. Robert Wightman said “GO trains cannot run much better than a 10 minute headway ”

    If GO starts throught trains at Union, the headway can be reduced. Even with this, I agree that there is a practical limit until the signaling technology is changed.


  25. AL says:
    February 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    “Robert Wightman said “GO trains cannot run much better than a 10 minute headway ”

    “If GO starts throught trains at Union, the headway can be reduced. Even with this, I agree that there is a practical limit until the signaling technology is changed.”

    Where are you going to run them through to? Are you just going to have a lot of trains sitting at Danforth and then run them through to Willowbrook to get them out of the road? Most of the trains that go into Union run through it, either to the Don Yard or Willowbrook if they are not going out on another line. The running time from Danforth to Union is 11 minutes. The time to change ends is about 5 to 6 minutes. This means that with three trains you could run an 11 minute headway which would carry about 10 000 passenger per hour. This would effectively tie up one platform at Union and you would need a new one at Danforth to allow for flexibility if a regular train was a few minutes late. And most of the people don’t want to go to Union. They would have to ride a train north to their desired destination. This is not a well thought out idea.

    The existing signal systems requires 12 minutes to reset a route if a train does not take a route that has been set up. I learned this listening to a dispatcher explain to a crew why she could not change the routing that she had given them. When the North Bathurst yard comes back into service you could run the trains there and then turn them to get them out of Union but this would require another train. GO has trouble fitting the existing service into Union without putting in another 6 trains per hour. Face it: GO cannot handle the extra trains with the existing infrastructure. Union station cannot handle the extra passengers, and nobody in their right mind is going to walk from Main Station to Danforth Station. The time wasted walking and waiting would be more, on average, than they would save by transferring at Bloor-Yonge. If GO starts running the extra service that they want on the Lakeshore line then they are not going to be able to provide relief for subway users.


  26. @Robert

    Robert I enjoy your posts, however I do have an issue with your statement:

    “nobody in their right mind is going to walk from Main Station to Danforth Station.”

    I’ve walked this transfer many times. I live near Long Branch GO (on the Mississauga border) & if I’m going as far east as Main Station, taking the GO train cross town is something I definitely do, if the hourly schedule works out. It’s about a 4 minute walk.

    This walking transfer may not appeal to everyone, especially in poor weather or someone with walking challenges, but it is an important intermodal connection.

    This Main Street Station to Danforth Station transfer used to be easier when the TTC still had the 506 College/Carlton car stop on the bridge.

    Unfortunately, some genius at the TTC decided that this stop had to go, probably under the rubric of ‘safety’. If safety was the issue, why didn’t they build a streetcar island there (no idea if the bridge is wide enough there or could support the extra weight)?

    Or install a cross-walk, to stop traffic whilst passengers boarded/alighted the streetcar?

    Steve: The cynical among us might wonder how often the Carlton car would actually pass by.

    As for those who don’t feel up to the walk, when the system advertises a transfer connection that is going to handle more than a trivial number of passengers, it should be comfortable for everyone involved 12 months a year.


  27. Rapidtransitman says:
    February 7, 2010 at 9:13 pm


    “Robert I enjoy your posts, however I do have an issue with your statement:

    “’nobody in their right mind is going to walk from Main Station to Danforth Station.’

    “I’ve walked this transfer many times. I live near Long Branch GO (on the Mssissauga border) & if I’m going as far east as Main Station, taking the GO train cross town is something I definitely do, if the hourly schedule works out. It’s about a 4 minute walk.”

    I have walked the CP line from Warden and Ellesmere to Union Station and my son has walked from Brampton to Union station. Just because we are willing to do that or that you are willing to walk from Danforth GO to Main station does not mean that we are “in our right mind.” As my left handed daughter likes to remind me, “Only Southpaws are in their Right Mind.” If you enjoy my posts then you, like me, “are not in our right minds.”

    I used to go from Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton to Oakwood and Davenport by taking the Leaside bus to Pape and the Danforth and then taking the Harbord car to Oakwood and Davenport. This is not exactly the most efficient way as I could have taken the St. Clair Car to Oakwood and the Ossington trolley coach to Davenport. So I am definitely not in my right mind and I am beginning to worry about you.


  28. Isn’t there a revision for the Jane LRT line to go north into York Region? it’s on Vivanext’s website.

    Steve: Yes, there is also a proposal to extend the Don Mills line further north. However, neither of these is part of the current TTC Transit City proposals.


  29. Well, it’s the typical ‘Leaside Bridge to Don Mills & Eglinton’ traffic jam tonight, which has persisted for hours, due to the snow storm and likely a resulting collision.

    If any of our city councillors, TTC commissioners, TTC senior staff, and/or transit consultants had to sit through it on a bus, an improvement to the corridor would be bumped up to phase one of Transit City for simultaneous completion with the Eglinton LRT.


  30. On the St Clair extension, it would be nice to route the St Clair car past Jane, turn south on Scarlett Road, and continue westward on Dundas Street West all the way to Kipling station, although the densities along Dundas may not justify it. I wonder if the streetcars could fit through the Scarlett Underpass.

    Steve: The reconstruction of the underpass and surrounding roads allows for this option.


  31. Steve,

    With the scaling back of Jane and Don Mills TC plans, maybe the best way to move forward at this point is to build both lines only from Eglinton north, and then join them through the Eglinton tunnel, forming an uptown U?

    I would think that if they install ATC within the Eglinton tunnel, the headways could be short enough that putting two lines through the tunnel would not cause capacity issues.

    Steve: All underground sections of Transit City are intended to run with ATC. The one caveat I would have is that parts of the Eglinton line will be at grade west of Don Mills and east of Jane and so there is an upper bound to the number of trains/hour.

    This would take care of most of the problems with trying to build a surface LRT on four-lane streets, but would still have the benefit of giving LRT service to priority communities – most of which are north of Eglinton anyway, and build a bigger constituency for transit, and maybe in 15-20 years, when the Eglinton tunnel will have reached capacity, something like a DRL will have enough political support.

    Steve: I agree that building the northern parts of these lines makes sense. In the case of Jane, the service could end at Eglinton West Station. In the case of Don Mills, it makes more sense to connect to the DRL at Eglinton for trips through to downtown rather than trying to take the Don Mills trains west. All of this is an academic discussion anyhow until we know how both the new mayor and Queen’s Park feel about the lines in question.


  32. Here is a problem with your point about “proof-of-payment” part. Not everyone pays to ride the system. One example where I think there is a problem is with York Region’s VIVA bus, where many people just get on without paying.

    Steve: That is a problem of enforcement. If York Region doesn’t want to pay enough people to check fares, then the chance of getting away with riding free is fairly high.


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