Furious George Has A Plan (Update 2)

Updated June 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm:

The Smitherman campaign has posted a backgrounder to his transportation plan which has been updated to reflect the funding of inflation by Queen’s Park.

In a previous update, I noted that there was a bit over $1-billion still unaccounted for.  This is explained in the backgrounder as follows:

Once the provincial government formally approves their contribution escalation the Smitherman construction cost increment is reduced to $3.87­billion, or $5-billion once financed to 2021. [Page 3]

Although this issue has been addressed, the method of paying for transit investments has not been changed.  Smitherman still depends on revenue from gas tax and dividends from City agencies, money that is already spoken for by existing budgets at the TTC and the City.  He also depends on new tax revenue from developments along the routes to be built.  However, those taxes traditionally have been at least partly spent to serve new residents and businesses these developments would bring.

While I applaud Smitherman for at least producing a detailed plan, I still do not agree with elements of it such as the Bloor-Danforth subway extensions or with his financing scheme.  (For the record, at Council today TTC staff responded to a question from Councillor Thompson about a subway extension and explained that any subway extension could not be built along the existing SRT corridor.)

The original content of this post follows the break.

Updated June 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm:

According to today’s Star, George Smitherman has reduced the estimated cost of his transit plan from $7-billion to $5-billion.

Responding himself to questions about the $17 billion transit plan he announced last week, Smitherman said his plan would require only $5 billion more than the money already promised by senior governments and the city. That’s $2 billion less than he had originally suggested.

The difference, he said, is the cost escalation attached to phasing in the Metrolinx Transit City light rail plans more slowly. The province has agreed to cover that $2 billion cost.

I cannot help wondering, what with Smitherman having assistance from a Metrolinx director on his policy team, he did not know about this funding arrangement before releasing his platform.  Roughly $1-billion is still unaccounted for in Smitherman’s plan comparing the costs for each line (see details in the main article below), and the $5-billion total.

Then there’s the small matter of paying for it all, but with a $2-billion saving before he’s even managed to get elected, what could be easier?

Original Post from May 28, 2010

Toronto Mayoral candidate George Smitherman unveiled his transportation platform at the Toronto Convention Centre today.  It was a big affair, filling a large room with supporters.

Former Premier David Peterson introduced Smitherman, and the irony was probably lost on most in the room.  Back in 1990, I was at Peterson’s announcement in the Macdonald Block at Queen’s Park when he launched an updated Network 2011 plan.  Peterson was defeated months later by Bob Rae, and much of his transit proposal was stillborn.  Only part of the Sheppard subway was actually built, and a short excavation on Eglinton was filled in.  This was an ominous beginning to the announcement of yet another plan.

Smitherman began with the usual thanks to friends, family and supporters, and then turned to transportation issues in Toronto.  Although he decried the lack of leadership and confused nature of some transit planning, he was careful not to single out anyone specifically.  The audience was left to read into his speech a criticism of whoever they wished all the way from David Miller to Mike Harris, possibly by way of Dalton McGuinty and Mel Lastman.  This was a wise tactic both because there is lots of blame to go around, and because the real issue is moving forward from decades of inaction.

“Things need to work” was a theme running through many comments.  At this point, my sense of disappointment started to grow because of Smitherman’s scattershot remarks and his lack of knowledge about why things work, albeit imperfectly, as they do.

One notable example is the question of road repairs.  Smitherman would love to see crews working 7×24 to get in and get out of a neighbourhood with any project.  Sadly, residents tend to complain about noise, and few projects lend themselves to round-the-clock construction.  Without question, there are serious problems of unco-ordination among various agencies and companies, only some of which are under the city’s control.  Indeed, attempts to do “big bang” projects where every utility visits a neighbourhood for one co-ordinated push have tended to fail because there is always something unforseen in one utility’s work that fouls up everyone else.

Certainly, politicians need to take a much more aggressive approach to poor work by civic staff, but this extends all the way through management ranks, not just at the lowly level of a garbage crew.  Bad advice is given to Council.  Site conditions turn out to be different from plans.  Promises made to neighbourhoods are broken because plans and schedules change.

Smitherman recognizes that citizens are frustrated with their city, and he wants “to get things done”.  This requires real leadership backed by good information and policies.  Here, the platform starts to come unglued.

The Smitherman Transit Plan

Smitherman avoids a catchphrase like “Transit City” for his plan, preferring to concentrate on what he will actually deliver.  Well, that’s fine, but names are handy if only so that people know what bundle of proposals a comment, a newspaper article, a political debate might be addressing.  Let’s look at “Transit Delivered”.

Phase 1 runs to 2015 and addresses the Pan Am Games.  Smitherman commits to:

  • Expediting the Spadina subway to have it open to York U (a Games venue) by 2015.
  • Completing the Sheppard LRT and extending it south to U of T Scarborough Campus and Centennial College by 2015.
  • Completing the Queen’s Quay LRT from Union Station to the Portlands including the Athletes’ Village.
  • Get the Eglinton LRT underway, but with its tunnel extended west from Black Creek portal to Weston Station where it would include a direct link to the rail corridor and the Air Rail Link.
  • “Champion” the Air Rail Link, with “priority” for electrification, whatever that means, but as this is a provincial PPP with SNC-Lavalin, he has no influence in its design, implementation or operation.

If I were Mayor, this would be an astonishingly easy platform to achieve.  I would sit back, put my feet up, and snooze until 2015 when the call came for photo-ops at the ribbon-cuttings.

The Spadina Subway is already planned to be open to York U by late 2015.  Whether this can be accelerated to get trains to the University in time for the Pan Am Games is hard to say, and is substantially dependent on a construction plan that is already set.  Tunnel boring machines cannot be made to move more quickly by Mayoral fiat.  Smitherman decries the length of time needed to get the project going, but confuses delay in reaching the point where this project is approved and funded, and the actual time needed to get it built. 

“1. When will the subway go to York University?

“Service on the new extension is planned to start in late 2015. So you can expect to catch a train to the York University’s Keele campus at that time.”  [Project FAQ]

The Sheppard LRT is already under construction, and Metrolinx plans to have it opened by mid 2014.  The extension to UTSC is part of the Scarborough-Malvern LRT for which there is already a completed and approved EA.  Metrolinx will consider a report on this option at its June 2010 meeting, and it is hardly a new proposal.

Through operation of Sheppard trains to UTSC was foreseen in the original Transit City announcement, and I have advocated building this connection before the SMLRT ever since it became obvious that the entire Transit City network would not be built in one go.  The idea was well received in private discussions with both TTC and Metrolinx folks as an obvious project add-on.  Meanwhile, then Minister of Infrastructure Smitherman stated that Toronto should not be too hasty looking for additional transit money for this type of improvement.

The Waterfront East line has been designed, in part, including the sections from Bay east to Parliament, and from King south via Cherry to the rail corridor.  The connection between these two segments is bound up in the Don Mouth redesign.  Service into the Port Lands is considered a distant plan to coincide with residential development of those lands.  Waterfront Toronto has funding in place for part of the currently-designed segments, but not for the fleet needed to provide service.  There is no announced construction date, but like many other projects, there is a push to get this on the rails in time for 2015.

The tunnel boring machines for Eglinton will be ordered by the TTC next week, and both TTC and Metrolinx are pushing ahead with this project.  The only significant change in Smitherman’s design is the placement of an underground station at Weston to make a good connection with the rail corridor, rather than at the intersection.  Problems with an underground alignment, however, do exist related to houses on Eglinton west of Weston Road that could be affected by the width of the tunnel structure.

In effect, Smitherman promises to build more or less what is already in progress or very close to approval.  He makes no suggestions about how any other projects could be accelerated (or restored to their original timing) if financial situations change at the City or at Queen’s Park.

For Phase 2, Smitherman proposes:

  • Finch West LRT from Keele to Highway 27, then south to Humber College, Etobicoke General Hospital and Woodbine Racetrack.
  • Extend the Sheppard Subway west from Yonge to Downsview.  This replaces the “Finch Middle” LRT between Keele and Yonge, and by implication the “Finch East” LRT to Don Mills Station.
  • Extend the Danforth Subway from Kennedy to Scarborough Town Centre (McCowan Station).
  • Extend the Bloor Subway from Kipling to Sherway Gardens.

These plans are substantially different from the Metrolinx schemes, but Smitherman dismisses “The Big Move” as a plan cobbled together by a bunch of politicians, costing far too much and not generally warranting his serious comment.  He may want to talk to Rob Prichard at Metrolinx about this.

Finch West is roughly as proposed by the TTC and Metrolinx in its current form with the only change being confirmation that it would go to major destinations in the Woodbine area as one project, rather than as a phased expansion.

The Sheppard Subway proposal rarely achieves political lift-off because projected demand is low compared to its projected cost.  It looks nice on a map, but when other projects have stronger support, it goes to the back of the queue.

The Danforth Subway extension to STC has two significant issues.  First, the plan calls for the subway to follow the existing RT alignment although this is physically impossible at Kennedy Station where the station points due east and a curve to the north would (a) be very tight and (b) be blocked by an existing high-rise.  Alternative alignments have been proposed with fewer stations, but these would also be completely new construction, not a recycled infrastructure.  The elevated stations at Midland, STC and McCowan would need major reconstruction to accommodate wider and longer 6-car trains from the BD line.  None of this appears to have been considered.

Moreover, the extension of service north to Sheppard and beyond to Malvern, part of the SRT/LRT Transit City proposal, has completely fallen off the map.  Smitherman cavalierly dismisses this problem by saying that people in affected areas will have good service nearby.

The Bloor Subway extension to Sherway was part of Peterson’s 1990 announcement, and it has languished ever since.  It is not part of The Big Move because Metrolinx concentrates on GO improvements in the west, not a subway extension.

Financing Transit Expansion

The marginal cost of Smitherman’s plan versus current commitments (given to the media as part of a background briefing by a senior member of the campaign team) is:

  • Sheppard extension to UTSC: $240-million
  • Waterfront east:  $225m
  • Finch west to Woodbine:  $250m
  • Scarborough subway:  $535m (over and above the proposed LRT to Sheppard)
  • Eglinton LRT tunnel extension to Mt. Dennis:  $300m
  • Bloor subway to Sherway:  $1-billion
  • Sheppard subway to Downsview:  $1.3b
  • Total:  $3.85b

However, Smitherman’s speech talks about $7-billion, and it is unclear why the difference in the component costs  is so great.  Unit costs were cited as:

  • Subway: $300-million/km
  • Subway on surface (e.g. SRT replacement): $250m/km
  • LRT: $100m/km (surface)

All figures in 2010 dollars.

The subway expansion proposals do not appear to allow for a new yard to store the trains needed to operate the extended lines.  McCowan Yard is far too small for this purpose, and the TTC gave away its interest in land at Kipling years ago.

How would we pay for all this?  Smitherman proposes that the private sector, with which he is intimately familiar from his experience building hospitals for the Ontario government, would finance the lines on a design-build-finance basis.  Toronto would lease them using a Transit Trust whose funding would come from:

  • provincial and federal gas tax
  • dividends from Toronto Hydro and Toronto Parking Authority
  • fees generated through “transit-enabled development”

There is a small problem here.  Most of the funding earmarked by Smitherman is already used for other transit and municipal programs.  Indeed, as Queen’s Park in particular has backed away from capital funding, the gas tax revenues have backfilled for discontinued programs.  This is not “found money” just waiting to be spent on transit expansion.  Indeed, if we actually had this sort of money sitting in City coffers, Toronto would not be crying to Queen’s Park to fund its transit system.

Smitherman is strong on transit staying in public ownership and control, and the financing arrangements would simply obtain the benefit of private sector expertise and risk transfer away from the public partner.

Sadly, Smitherman’s experience with PPP is on a much smaller, well-defined scale.  He cites hospitals like Bridgepoint (formerly Riverdale) and Sunnybrook as examples, apparently ignorant of the fact that much of Sunnybrook was built before he was born (it started out as a Veterans’ hospital) and that Bridgepoint is nothing more than a hole in the ground on Gerrard Street.

A billion dollar subway project is quite a different matter, and involves expertise and risks the private sector may not have or be willing to undertake, at least without a premium on their pricing.

The most striking part of Smitherman’s financing plan is the degree to which it matches Mayor Miller’s scheme to bridge Transit City funding while the Province sorts out its debt woes.  Smitherman observes that interest costs in the early years are low as projects build out, and in any event the debt is held by the private partners and paid off like a mortgage.

This scheme was rejected by the Province right up to the Premier because, under post-Enron public sector accounting rules, a debt is a debt no matter who holds it.  A long-term lease (or “mortgage” to use Smitherman’s term) is a liability for the City which cannot be avoided any more than debt raised by borrowing money.  Smitherman’s days at Infrastructure Ontario may have involved accounting schemes that Queen’s Park now explicitly rejects.

Fares and Operations

Smitherman proposes to allow senior citizens to travel free between 1000 and 1400 on weekdays.  This, he argues, will have no marginal cost in service requirements, and only minimal cost in foregone revenue.  Indeed, Smitherman’s team argues that some seniors would shift their riding out of peak periods to take advantage of free travel, and this would liberate space for other riders.  Trips otherwise taken at evenings and weekends would shift to weekdays.

As someone who will soon qualify as a “senior”, this is a “thanks but no thanks” offer.  Either you value my age and contributions enough to give me free travel at least at all off-peak times, or you’re just throwing me a bone that does not constitute much of a fare cut overall.

Speaking of fares, Smitherman wants to revisit the cost recovery level, now at about 70%, with a view to increasing farebox revenue as a portion of the total budget.  To put this in context, revenue for 2010 is projected to be $958m of which almost all is from the farebox.  To get to an 80% recovery, revenue would have to go up by about 14% to $1.094b.  Alternately, service cuts would be required to achieve the same effect, and this would come at the cost of some ridership.

We have been here before, in 1996 when Harris-era cuts forced the recovery rate over 80% and service was ruthlessly slashed.  We are in an era of growth today and at a minimum need more service on the system as a whole.  Although some complain of half-empty buses roaming the streets, they have a definite purpose — that of “showing the flag” so that riders know there will be service at all hours whenever they wish to travel.  Indeed, the TTC will soon begin the rollout of its Transit City Bus Plan including a core network of 10-minute headways or better on major routes at all times except overnight.  This is an example of leading riding growth with better service, rather than hacking away to hit an arbitrary budget target.

Smitherman did acknowledge, near the end of his media briefing, that Queen’s Park needs to come back into the operating funding arena.  It took some effort to pull this information out of him.

Smitherman wants to see a fare card system in place by 2014, including the ability to use cash, debit or credit cards and the provincial “Presto” card.  How much this would cost and how it would be funded is not yet known.

What’s Missing

There was no mention of any of the following issues:

  • Actual target fare and service levels
  • Funding of ongoing maintenance and capital programs
  • GO Transit and the role of the regional rail network
  • Regional service and fare integration with operators such as Mississauga Transit, YRT, etc.
  • Remaining Transit City lines (Jane, Don Mills, Scarborough-Malvern) (Smitherman explicitly said he would kill the Waterfront West LRT, another holdover from Peterson’s 1990 announcement)
  • The Downtown Relief Line

Most critically, the big missing piece is the financing.  Smitherman plans to make a number of policy announcements over the campaign, and then wrap it all up with a consolidated financial plan.  This would be available in late September.  How the electorate or other candidates are supposed to deal with this is a mystery.

Anyone can promise the earth in their platform, but they need to bring some sense of how they will pay for their schemes and whether they are actually feasible in the larger scheme of municipal operations.  If a Mayor were to introduce a major policy proposal without at least a basic financial overview, he or she would be pilloried by those who demand responsible government. 

Personally, I was very disappointed in this platform.  There are too many vague statements, too much glossing over of major issues, too many examples of bad advice from a policy team that should know better.  Smitherman is a leading candidate for Mayor, and I had hoped to see “Mayoral” quality platform material.  Candidate Smitherman has taken on the most important issue in current political debate, and produced a platform worthy of a junior Councillor with keen, but ill-advised staff.

[For those who might object to this article’s title, “Furious George” is a name the candidate himself embraces as a badge of his commitment to the city.]

Postscript:  Mayor Metrolinx?

Although the Smitherman transit plan distributed to the media has no credit on it, a larger (and different) version was on display at the media briefing.  It bears the name of “Malone Given Parsons Ltd.”.

The “Parsons” in question is Lee Parsons, a director of Metrolinx.  How is it that a company associated with a Metrolinx director can be involved in producing a plan for a Mayoral candidate?  Is there a conflict of interest?  How does he square the Smitherman plan with “The Big Move”?  Will his discussions at Metrolinx reflect his role as a director, or his connection to the would-be Mayor’s transportation plan?

54 thoughts on “Furious George Has A Plan (Update 2)

  1. This is an incredible critique of Smitherman’s Transit plan. I find a number of mayoral candidates include in their transit plans a list of lines that are already being built, are in the planning stages, have been committed to or will be built. They announce these grand plans where most of the projects were proposed by previous politicians and are already in progress and then they try to take credit for them.


  2. It looks like the TTC is in the process of laying rails on Parliament St. between Front and Lakeshore. Is this part of the Waterfront East line, or some sort of revival of the old Parliament route?

    Steve: The TTC is rebuilding the track north from King and Parliament. However, due to watermain construction in the area the tracks will eventually go, they have to stage the new track south of King.


  3. Two points come to mind.

    1) What is the advantage of extending the tunnels along Eglinton out to Weston Rd.? That won’t be cheap.

    2) Would the elimination of the Watefront West line be the prelude to reviving the proposals for a Queen St. subway? I suspect a Queen St. subway wouild eliminate streetcars on Queen AND King. I don’t think this would be good for life and commerce on Queen. Indeed the Queen and King streetcar lines together with an express waterfront LRT would serve the lower part of the city far better than would one regional subway line with the streets turned over to the automobiles.

    Steve: The purpose of tunneling through Weston is to allow the placement of the station immediately west of the rail corridor for a good connection to GO and to the ARL, as well as avoiding demolition of several houses triggered by the widening of Eglinton to accommodate a surface stop west of the intersection. In evaluating this sort of design, the TTC placed the box structure of the station at Weston Road rather than east nearer the railway, and included a pocket track west of the platform. The three-track section needed for the pocket was wide enough to require demolition of the same houses as in the surface plan. This skewed the comparative evaluation by saying, in effect, those houses are coming down no matter what.

    The WWLRT needs a major redesign in any event because it has been a patchwork of routes ever since the original proposal in 1990. Also, the TTC needs to seriously address service quality on Lake Shore as a prelude to “rapid transit” service there. I don’t think dropping the WWLRT is a prelude to a Queen Street subway.


  4. I guess there are two questions:

    1) Which of the other candidates have a better (or, more realistic) plan? Basically, if you are looking for a candidate supporting current plans, it comes down to Pantalone… not that he has announced anything.

    2) To what extent would these plans, whether Smitherman’s or the other candidates’, actually be implemented? Normally I would say that there are a few opportunities for sober second thought when it comes down to individual projects, funding schemes etc. — support of councillors, support of staff/professionals, and support of the public. I would hope, for example, that a Sheppard West subway would not get much traction as it would be difficult for staff to justify from a ridership and a cost-effectiveness perspective, and presumably it would be easy to get council to oppose it on the grounds of cost-effectiveness. However, Transit City was Miller’s equivalent, and it has passed through those levels largely unscathed (even if elements have been deferred beyond sight). Can we rely on staff, the (shortened transit) EA process, etc. to scuttle any of the more unrealistic proposals, or would Smitherman (or whichever winning candidate) argue that they have a mandate from the electorate to deliver their program, process be damned?


  5. I am dissappointed with the proposal that Smitherman has tabled — Steve I think you’ve done very well critiquing many of the elements he is proposing.
    First of all I’m very concerned with his lack of funding options. I’m willing to consider P3’s — It seems to have worked in New Delhi.

    Steve: There are errors of fact and of interpretation in the National Post piece.

    The claim that the TTC has 12,000 unionized workers is false. Only the staff who operate and maintain the system are unionized, while the engineering and construction side of the operation is not. TTC projects are built by private sector contractors. There may be design and project management issues, but they are not the fault of TTC unions.

    The article complains about Toronto’s fare struture by comparison to Montreal and New York without mentioning the much higher level of subsidy these cities receive for their operations. It also mentions the Madrid system whose massive expansion received strong government funding support.

    The population density in New Delhi is such that it would be just about impossible not to make money on a transit system. That is not the case in Toronto where fares don’t even cover the day-to-day running and maintenance costs, let alone capital for initial construction, major repairs (old subways need major overhauls) and expansion. Construction costs in Asia are also substantially lower than in Canada due to much lower labour costs, and in some jurisdictions, a much less stringent regulatory environment.

    I could go on, but these issues have been discussed at length in other articles on this site.

    But I’m not sure if I trust Smitherman to get the P3 agreement correct. I would certainly believe that consultations at the very least should be considered with Elattuvalapil Sreedharan, the managing director of the DMRC. He seems to have a proven track record of success based on this story and mayors from such cities London and Dublin are calling — so should we.

    Smitherman’s first term seems to promise nothing more than what’s already planned and when we get all excited that nothing has been accomplished in 4 years, just like he promised, we’ll re-elect him. It almost seems genius. Even after 20 years not much more is being provided.

    I do agree, however, that expanding the Sheppard subway to Downsview and eliminating the Finch ‘middle’ and ‘east’ portions of the LRT seems to make better use of our existing system and makes the Finch West LRT a better fit. As you have already suggested Steve, I would run the Sheppard line along the YUS to York Unv.

    Steve: Actually, I have not suggested running the Sheppard line to York for two reasons. First, I don’t agree with the subway extension, but also because this would require six-car train operation on the Sheppard line whose stations are built for four-car trains.

    I’m okay with an extension of the BD to Sherway Gardens and making the SRT into a subway, but it is certainly a mistake to stop at McCowan. This line, whether LRT or subway needs to connect with the Sheppard LRT and hopefully serve the Melvern area and this needs to happen by 2020.

    Smitherman talks about ‘electrifying’ the rail link. So vague — what does this really mean. A really big step forward would have been to build the western link of a DRL all the way out to the airport with a connection to the Eglinton underground LRT at or near his proposed location — MT. Dennis area. In my mind both an express service could be offered — with stops at the Eglinton LRT, BD and Union Stn offered, and a local service provided. This would be an electric option — I think it’s the way to go — with the Eastern leg of the DRL being built connecting with the Eglinton LRT at Don Mills. The Western Link should be fast tracked and given some priority — I’m not sure how feasible but do whatever it takes to get it done to serve in 2015 and get the eastern link done by 2020.

    Also missing are the LRT’s for Jane, Don Mills, Scar-Malvern and the WWF. I would not forget about these lines. Once Sheppard, Finch, Eglinton, DRL West/East, and SRT(subway or LRT) are completed, these lines should all be built together with a timeline of completion by 2025.

    Beyond 2025, we should have a plan for further expansion of either the subway or LRT’s — some possibilities might be along Kingston, York Mills, Lawrence West or Lawrence East — I’m not an expert or by any means want to draw lines everywhere on a map but what I do want is a plan to build transit across our city and funding in place to get it done.

    Refer to this transit map of Taipei for example.

    On this map the current system is shown, the lines currently being constructed and the planned routes. A 3 step process. Taipei knows where they want to go and so many other cities around the world do too.

    I don’t want a politician to tell the majority only what they think they want to hear but rather what we need to hear and the plan to get us there. Should we consider using P3’s — the answer is yes but we need to do so in a way where the public does not assume all the risk. We need to focus on development rights, road tolls, regional sales tax and marketing revenue such as ‘video advertising’ in the tunnel of the subway.

    We have options — what we need is some leadership and vision to get us there.


  6. I listening to CBC radio and heard of Smitherman’s plans. They sound great, subways, LRT, streetcar expansions but you, Steve Munro, were also interviewed explaining that the money that Smitherman was going to use was actually money that is used to keep the TTC running on a daily basis. Smitherman is making some outrageous claims and has no real concrete plans to pay for these campaign promises.

    Smitherman had the provincial Health Portfolio and was in charge when it ran into some serious cost overruns trying to bring us the much needed e-health which will make our health system much more effective and beneficial when it is in place. Smitherman has shown absolutely no accountability for this disaster under his watch. The reason that I bring this up on a transit blog is that I really feel his irresponsibility on that e-health project most likely mean he would bring the same reckless spending to his plans for TTC expansion.

    Toronto needs some serious investments in public transit in all its forms: commuter rail, subways, LRT, streetcars and buses, but we also need a new way of generating this funding since it has been shown to be unreliable from the provincial level. I know tolls are not popular, but more and more cities around the world are using this to generate revenue for their own transit systems and expansion plans.

    Now at the federal level we need more revenue for public transit as well. This can be done by adding some more taxes to fuel, so that we pay around the same as they do in Europe for fuel. This would mean a lot more revenue for the feds to help all Canadian cities invest in their public transit system to make it more attractive so that more of us take this rather then the automobile.

    Sometimes politicians have to make unpopular decisions, such as taxes and tolls, and Smitherman isn’t saying any of this at the municipal level, he is just saying things that he knows are going to attract voters. One thing he did say was extend the Subway west to Sherway Gardens and I hope that happens and Mississauga has a better connection by a possible LRT route to the subway system then the presently used Islington Station.


  7. If Smitherman is able to put the Weston Station on Eglinton underground, please no crossover tracks or pocket tracks at Weston. Keep the crossover tracks and pocket tracks at Keele Street. That way, there would be less expropriation of property needed for the extra width needed for those extra tracks.


  8. Transit politics is too influenced by “If you build it, they will come, and those other guys will pay for it”-type thinking. I suppose it is too much to hope for a serious transit platform during an election.

    But at least Smitherman is not pledging to cancel Transit City and has limited his vision of magical new subways, compared to Rossi, Ford and Thomspon anyway. And since Pantalone’s platform is apparently to proceed with Transit City as is, funded or not, both Smitherman and Pantalone seem to be counting on money that does not currently exist. I guess the question is, who is most likely to deliver on whatever portion of these plans is ultimately deemed practical?

    John Lorinc recently wrote that despite the provincial funding cut, er, “deferment,” he says the politics favors the long-term implementation of TC, regardless of Miller’s rhetoric of the Eglinton line being reduced to a link “between Forest Hill and Leaside.” Do you agree, Steve?

    Also, Steve, you did not really stress the absence of the Jane, Don Mills or Malvern lines in GS’s plan, which I thought were a key part of the “social justice” aspect of TC. I know these were considered longer-term, lower priority lines, but isn’t it pretty significant that they are missing?

    Steve: Yes, it is significant that they are missing, but I wanted to concentrate on what Smitherman says he would do, not on all the things he might do. All three of these lines need some redesign as I have discussed here before, and Scarborough-Malvern is even more important in the context of Smitherman’s plan to end the Scarborough Subway just east of STC. This could quickly get into the design of an alternate platform for Smitherman, and that’s not my goal. He has advisors, one of whom is even a “transit expert” who sits on the Metrolinx Board. Let them do their work.


  9. None of the mayoral candidates has a realistic plan for transit. They all seem opposed outright to LRT with the exception of Pantalone and Smitherman in the case of a couple of the lines. They have no real plan on how to pay for their magical subways, just a bunch of hail-Mary passes like Thomson’s tolls and Rossi’s big clearance sale of city assets. I’m waiting for Rob Ford to tell us he can finance his transit plan by cutting office budgets, reducing council by half, and having all city staff work for minimum wage. Oh, and did you know he coaches high school football?

    Coming this close to not voting.


  10. Also, Marcus Gee reports today that GS’s plan would triple the City’s $2.5 billion debt, which he says requires $450 million a year to service. Are our annual debt servicing charges really 18 percent of the principal? Should we switch banks?

    Steve: The $450m includes principal repayments.


  11. A pocket track at Weston Road does NOT need to force the tunnel allowance wider. If the station is shifted to align with the railway then there will be plenty of distance left to duck the pocket track vertically BELOW the mainline tracks which can then pull together. I still however stand by my earlier argument that the mainline tracks and platforms should be stacked vertically through the area from Black Creek through to past Weston Road. This requires the minimum footprint and allows for a common elevator shaft and staircase serving both platform levels. It also provides for a carhouse access with as few movement conflicts as possible, as with the Greenwood Wye in the subway but on a much smaller scale.

    I’m not pleased with Smitherman’s plan in general but at least he isn’t burying this issue like the current project ‘leadership’ did. (Just to be clear, I’m not referring to Miller.)

    Steve: To be clear myself, Smitherman’s plan at least is an attempt, flawed though it may be, to address a major issue. The flaws, however, suggest bad advice and, in some cases, the insertion of ad hoc, vote-getting ideas that won’t survive detailed scrutiny. Particularly troubling was Smitherman’s behaviour at the press conference where his answers were evasive and, at times, cavalierly insulting to those who might criticize his proposals. I had hoped for much better.

    As for the design at Weston Road, there is a terrible double-standard within the TTC. Residents of Mt. Dennis were shabbily treated when they attended a TTC meeting to urge a revised design. The usual “we can’t afford it” and “the design is set in concrete” answers met their complaints. By contrast, quite recently Toronto Executive Committee bowed to criticisms of the proposed link between the extended SRT and the Sheppard East LRT by opting for a grade-separated link in place of on-street trackage on Progress Ave. The marginal cost is about $65-million. Of course with Smitherman’s plan, the SRT won’t ever get to Sheppard or need an LRT junction if it did, and so this would be a moot point.


  12. Let’s see … you don’t support a westward extension of the Sheppard subway, but, if the Sheppard subway were converted to an LRT and connected to the Sheppard E. LRT now under construction, would you be against it then? … don’t think so. This is where your anti-subway bias shows.

    Steve: The difference here is that the Sheppard East subway already exists. It is a sunk cost, and changing to LRT is much less expensive that building a brand new subway west from Yonge to Downsview.

    Not only would that connection be useful for passengers from Vaughan and the northern end of the Spadina line wishing to go to the Yonge subway to points north of Bloor, or Don Mills and further east (and vice-versa), the connection allows easy access to the Wilson yard for short in- and out-of-service moves from the northern Yonge subway. When the Eglinton LRT is up and running it will provide the same kind of very useful connection between YUS’s two arms.

    But you have to tell me why you think a 4-car service can’t be run from VMC to Don Mills? — by all accounts the demand on that section of the line can be handled by 4-cars, so what’s the issue? Will short trains not fit on longer platforms? Bloor used to run with 4-cars.

    Steve: You and I know perfectly well that the TTC will not run short trains on a VMC to Don Mills service intermixed with longer YUS trains, and they will insist on extending the Sheppard platforms to handle 6-car trains. They will also probably want to run TR trainsets rather than T1 cars due to signalling and train control issues. Yes, mixed length consists are perfectly possible, but given the way the TTC operates, highly unlikely. When BD ran with shorter trains, they were all the same length.

    Sometimes I read your blog and I say to myself, “man this guy really knows his stuff” and other times I’m just stunned by some of the remarks.

    The core issue in the extension of Sheppard will be the price of a full wye junction to the Spadina line, and whether the TTC would ever plan to use it for revenue service. Last weekend I found out from two operators that the TTC intends to use the B-U wye junction downtown again at least two more times this summer for maintenance … so they can use it when it conveniences them, but not when it conveniences us.

    Steve: The way they operate that wye leaves a lot to be desired. Trains sit for a long time at Museum, and it is impossible to fit all the service through the junction.


  13. While a subway extension to Sherway Gardens would be nice for me, it’s in general a bad idea.

    Are there any planning documents that show how the proposed extension details? The really cheap “just follow the rail aligment” will *not* make a useful Sherway stop. As anyone who has ever spent time in the big-box hell of North Queen/Sherway/West Mall knows.


  14. Steve said: “… the Sheppard East subway already exists. It is a sunk cost, and changing to LRT is much less expensive that building a brand new subway west from Yonge to Downsview.”

    Subway from Yonge to Downsview: 4 km, assuming $300 million/km: $1,200 million.

    Conversion of Sheppard East subway to LRT, according to the Metrolinx’s Sheppard – Finch corridor study: $670 million.

    LRT from Yonge to Downsview: note that about 1.5 km (Yonge to Don River) would have to be tunneled, since that part of Sheppard is narrow. Assume 1.5 km at $250 million/km and 2.5 km at $75 million/km (on surface); total is $560 million.

    Total for converting Sheppard subway to LRT and extending it to Downsview: 670 + 560 = 1,230 million. This is approximately equal to the cost of just extending the subway to Downsview.

    Admittedly, the LRT option would eliminate the transfer at Don Mills. On the other hand, it involves the hassle of closing the line for conversion. And, the LRT option does not help the carhouse moves of subway trains from Wilson Yard to the Yonge line; the subway option does.

    I don’t think Sheppard West rail should be a high priority project. But if it starts, the subway options looks like slightly preferable.


  15. Btw, Mr. Smitherman’s transit map shows Eglinton LRT as underground all the way from Don Mills to Royal York, whereas his project description only mentions “tunneling further west to Weston Road”.

    Do you know Steve which source takes precedence, the verbal description or the map?

    Steve: I am not sure, as there are two versions of the map, both with errors. The big one, the one with the “Parsons” name on it seen only at the press conference, has the Eglinton line ending at Weston. The little map shows it going to Royal York. The little map shows the Waterfront east line swinging south into the Port Lands, while the big map includes the Cherry Street link. As Lee Parsons is a Metrolinx person, I can assume he and his firm are geographically challenged about Toronto. Smitherman was born in Etobicoke and should know where Royal York is, but may not have checked the map too closely.


  16. Kristian says:
    May 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    “A pocket track at Weston Road does NOT need to force the tunnel allowance wider. If the station is shifted to align with the railway then there will be plenty of distance left to duck the pocket track vertically BELOW the mainline tracks which can then pull together. I still however stand by my earlier argument that the mainline tracks and platforms should be stacked vertically through the area from Black Creek through to past Weston Road. This requires the minimum footprint and allows for a common elevator shaft and staircase serving both platform levels. It also provides for a carhouse access with as few movement conflicts as possible, as with the Greenwood Wye in the subway but on a much smaller scale.”

    How do you plan to continue west to Jane St. if you run the line NNW under the rail line? You will have to swing west under some side street and then go back to the Humber River valley to get to Eglinton and Jane. If the province/Metrolinx is serious about cutting the line back to Jane then it would be advantageous to have a completely grade separated line to Jane. They can do this with an elevated line across Black Creek, a subway under the rail corridor and Weston Road then an elevated structure through the Humber River valley to Jane. This would allow the entire line west of Brentcliffe to run with ATO. With the station under the rail line instead of being under Eglinton and with no pocket track the tunnel would be narrower under Eglinton and almost no houses would need to be destroyed, but Metrolinx probably has plans to sell these to a developer and turn a profit or pad the pockets of political pals. No they wouldn’t do that.

    Did anyone see Rob Ford on television being interviewed and his comment that we don’t need streetcars as they interfere with the smooth flow of traffic? This guy is frightening. My fear is that the three centre leftist candidates will split the vote and Ford will win. I only hope that Pantalone can sneak up on all the others and win. If he can’t, then god help us but Smitherman would be my fourth choice, I don’t have a second or third by the way. Where is Rick of the Universe when you really need him?

    Steve: Three centre-leftist candidates? And who might they be? George gets into that camp only by comparison to Ford.


  17. I have never understood the need to extend the Bloor subway line to Sherway. There is little there other than the mall. Most shoppers drive. There is reasonable bus service. People driiving in to Toronto on QEW will not stop there to take the subway, at least not in huge numbers. If it ran past Sherway to connect with GO at Long Branch that might make some sense.

    Steve: Some subway extensions are designed by people who think like drivers, not like transit riders. Unless we put in a big park-and-ride at Sherway, the subway’s main traffic will be via bus feeders. GO is just now building a regional terminal at Kipling.


  18. The only reason I would support the Sheppard West subway extension is because it takes so damn long to get from the perfectly adequate rocket bus to the subway itself. First one descends into a hallway, then down to the concourse, then down to the yonge subway, and then finally up to the Sheppard subway. Its quite the hike, and maybe some of that $1.2 billion could be better spent fixing Sheppard-Yonge Station.


  19. Steve: Three centre-leftist candidates? And who might they be? George gets into that camp only by comparison to Ford.

    True but to people who only know him as the former liberal cabinet minister he might appear centrist, especially compared to the Harissites.


  20. Would the Sheppard West subway line help the TTC’s subway yard needs?

    Sheppard itself between Yonge and Dufferin is in high gear for intensification (contra Adam Giambrone’s assertion) but, as you’ve noted before, Steve, it’s not local density that feeds subways, it’s feeder lines.

    Are you sure the Sheppard E subway platforms are built for 4 car trains? I’ve never looked closely but I was under the impression from my few travels on the line that the stations were actually built to the standard 500′ length. There might be some blanked out platform spaces at either end though.

    Steve: The stations are laid out for 6-car trains, but it’s not just a case of knocking down a few temporary walls. They are not finished out to the full length.

    I had to laugh at the “speed up TYSSE construction to York U” electoral position. There’s an idea with no legs.


  21. Steve: Three centre-leftist candidates? And who might they be? George gets into that camp only by comparison to Ford.

    I am grateful that this blog discusses the practical realities of transit, apart from the political considerations. So cheers to Steve for calling BS on the magical aspects of GS’s plan.

    But it IS a pro-transit plan, after weeks of speculation about whether GS was going to pander to the anti-transit, pro-car crowd. And phase one of the plan, which is really the only part that is relevant to the next mayoral term, is doable and nearly identical to the existing Transit City plan. Meanwhile, Ford, Rossi and Thompson say they will scrap Transit City and replace it with subways. Strip away the impossible parts of those plans, and all that is left is Transit City canceled.

    Some folks like John Lorinc are unworried about such a cancellation. But I am still unable to comprehend the federal government’s unwillingness to fund the new LRVs, and the Queens Park folks evidently felt that the funding hold on Transit City was not that politically risky. Those “Save Transit City” buttons exist for a reason.

    So keep telling it as it is, Steve. But please note that the CBC currently has you tag-teaming with Rocco Rossi on how bad Smitherman’s plan is, which may not be your preferred use of your criticism. I’m not persuaded that most voters will assume the alternative to GS’s plan is say, Pantalone’s.

    George Smitherman may be centre-left only in comparison to Rob Ford (and Rossi), but that’s not nothing in the current political climate.

    Steve: I hope that the sense of disappointment came through in my article. Yes, Smitherman is making lovely pro-transit sounds, but if transit turns out to be “too expensive”, we are back to the bad old days of big talk and no action.

    Smitherman’s talk about raising the farebox recovery ratio strongly hints at higher fares and lower service, and that’s not a pro-transit platform.

    Anyone can draw lines on maps. Anyone can talk about the magic of private enterprise that will finance and build a new system. Without a real commitment to better transit everywhere in the city, a commitment matched with the hard message that decades of underinvestment can only be reversed with new sources of revenue, the policy is not credible.


  22. Is the Spadina extension to York going to open by 2015 as originally planned? This article makes it sound like it’s been delayed to 2018.

    Steve: It’s the complete subway to Vaughan CC that won’t be done until 2018. It only has to get to York U to make the 2015 target.


  23. We’ve gone over the pros and cons of Sheppard extension a few times here. An LRTification would mean the rectification of the likely botch job arising from the decision of the TTC to bring the LRT into Don Mills on a single platform. Extension would allow the T1s to be serviced from Wilson rather than Greenwood (and a big reduction in deadheading) but this could also be achieved without a change in the existing line if the T1s simply went up the Yonge Line to the Richmond Hill yard which should be a prerequisite to that extension. $1200m is probably light for such an extension, given the river crossing, the extra trains to cover the extended line, the need to adjust Downsview station to connect to the Sheppard line platforms and the line connection to run to Wilson out of hours.

    We need to stop talking about poverty (because nobody who makes a difference is listening to that argument) and start talking about usage. Do that, and we get the same result – prioritising poor neighbourhoods will bring the biggest passenger-km uplift so that’s where Staff are likely to concentrate, not buses in Forest Hill that have 4 riders per trip. They might even get over their fear of bendy buses if it meant more riders per driver.

    TTC should also be permitted to contribute to Metrolinx/GO capital projects like Richmond Hill if they feel that net extra ridership in psgr-km south of Steeles/per dollar invested will be higher than forcing more people down the Yonge Line or putting on more 14x Express buses. They may not be in a TTC vehicle but they’re not in a private vehicle either.

    Smitherman and his competitors should say that TTC will be given x hundred million a year in capital spend above good repair to implement an increase in ridership, and failure to increase the ridership targets that go with that over a plan’s implementation period (which should be 4 years, falling in directly between mayoral elections) will result in Management being fired and new management headhunted from other systems with proven records in modal shift.

    At present, TTC management have hard financial targets and soft ridership targets – that means they can abandon riders on Lakeshore West to save money rather than manage the line properly and achieve the same net outcome in fares gained by ensuring streetcars are on the street not sitting in loops, in the middle of the street because a driver wasn’t given a break at a terminus or bunched.

    He doesn’t need to produce maps – that’s what Staff will do when they bring forward their plan, which Commissioners and Council should either approve or veto rather than play Railroad Tycoon (that’s what the commenters here are for, myself included). If their maps produce bad outcomes like local resistance because they didn’t consult, or cost overruns because they didn’t coordinate, or poor ridership because their assumptions or choice of mode were wrong – they will have to update their resumes and the Commission will have to answer for the fact that they chose poor leaders.


  24. Steve said: As for terminals, the biggest problem is that trains have too much running time at the end of the peak period, and they tend to back up at terminal approaches. This is related to minimum headways through crossovers and the length of time required for crews to change ends or swap trains at the terminals.

    Another problem is the fact that the trains at terminals use crossovers before entering the station to switch tracks. Quite often during rush-hour at Kennedy station, trains stop in the tunnel just as they are approaching the crossovers to wait for either side of the platform to free up. If the turnarounds were done in the tailtracks, it would be much more efficient since you can have 1 train loading, another waiting in the tailtrack to arrive on the loading platform (or 2, depending on how much tailtrack space there is), and an arrival train off-loading passengers before heading into the tailtrack to change directions. While Kennedy, Kipling, Don Mills, and Downsview have stub tailtracks that can only store trains, Sheppard-Yonge and Finch have the capability to switch directions in the tailtracks, and they should be used to their full extent. It is a very efficient turnback system in Montreal and a lot of other subway systems like the Moscow Metro. I definetly think the TTC should look into using the tailtracks for turning back trains instead of the crossover before arriving at the terminal station.

    Steve: This sort of arrangement is essential to getting closer headways on the subway which are claimed as part of the ATO signalling project. Given the current layout of the YUS, this will actually be achieved by having short turns at both ends of the line (Finch on the Yonge side, Downsview or York U on the Spadina side) so that terminals are not overwhelmed. The TTC cannot achieve the headways they claim for future ATO running without changing their terminal operations. A related issue is that crew changes must run like clockwork, not the leisurely manner we see today.


  25. Just back from Chicago and wondering about the relative costs of elevated lines over existing thoroughfares (Finch, Sheppard, Eglinton) versus LRT and subways. They seem to work very well in Chicago and the streets in question here are so ugly now an elevated rail line would be an improvement.

    Steve: You might want to talk to the folks who live and have stores on those streets about your “ugly” comment. If you really want to destroy a street, put an El on it.


  26. Steve,

    It doesn’t seem to hurt the businesses under the El. The city has spent money on creating wide sidewalks and planters under the El and the shade it provides is actually nice on a hot day. The elevated lines have the advantage of street cars in exposing a neighborhood to travelers without the expense of right of ways. The biggest issue I could see was accessibility — it’s hard to get up to the El when the only option is stairs. I’d really like to know what the per KM cost are of an El style RT versus a street level LRT and a subway. Chicago seems to have got it right — I could get to 2 airports via the El but in TO can’t get to York or Pearson or the Island airport on the existing subway.



  27. Michael Forest says: “LRT from Yonge to Downsview: note that about 1.5 km (Yonge to Don River) would have to be tunneled, since that part of Sheppard is narrow. Assume 1.5 km at $250 million/km and 2.5 km at $75 million/km (on surface); total is $560 million.”

    Ok,… the TTC isn’t exactly the most efficient system in the world,… but even they wouldn’t dig the same tunnel twice. Oops,… almost forgot about Eglinton! 🙂

    Most of that 1.5km under Sheppard Avenue West from Yonge Street to West Don River is already tunnelled. Under Sheppard Avenue West from Yonge Street West to about Senlac Road is already tunnelled and the TTC uses it to store Sheppard line subway cars. Just as the Yonge subway line extends past Finch Avenue to Cummer-Drewry and the TTC uses this extra space to store some Yonge Subway cars when needed.


  28. Steve said:

    Actually, I have not suggested running the Sheppard line to York for two reasons. First, I don’t agree with the subway extension, but also because this would require six-car train operation on the Sheppard line whose stations are built for four-car trains.


    The stations are laid out for 6-car trains, but it’s not just a case of knocking down a few temporary walls. They are not finished out to the full length.

    Steve, I seem to recall (correct me if I’m wrong) that the original plan for Sheppard was to build for 6-car trains but the plans were changed as a result of the cutbacks.

    You state that the stations are laid out for 6-car trains but not finished to the full length. Presumably, that means that there is a platform but no tiles, appropriate lighting, tac-tiles, warning signs, advertisements, etc.

    What would it cost for the TTC to finish the stations to allow 6-carriage trains? I’m guessing they have an idea of how much they ‘saved’ back then – how much did they ‘save’ in comparison to how much it will cost to upgrade the stations eventually (let’s say, in 2015 for argument’s sake).

    Steve: Riding along the line, one is aware that the box structure extends beyond the platform, but there is no “ghost station” sitting there beside the tracks. I suspect the situation varies from station to station depending on local circumstances. The important thing is that there be a long enough section that stays at no more than a .3% grade, and does not curve.

    How much it would cost to finish these stations I don’t know, but if it were cheap, they would have done it as part of the original construction.

    I’m now wondering:

    *how much it would cost to extend the Sheppard line west

    Steve: Yonge to Dufferin is about 4km, but as others have noted, the existing structure goes to about Senlac, and so there’s only about 3km to build. Conversely, there is the question of the interchange with the Spadina Subway and the Don River crossing. Smitherman’s plan estimates $1.3b for this, probably a bit on the generous side.

    *Whether it makes sense to build to interline or not

    Steve: This presumes that there is enough traffic potential coming from north of Downsview and headed east, not south, that it would be worth building the north leg of a wye linking the two lines. Interlining would make design of the Sheppard-Downsview station harder because trains would not be able to turn north until a point west of the station. This would likely involve some parallel structure to curve north and eventually intersect with the Spadina line. A grade-separated junction would be needed due to headway considerations. Not a cheap way to give people a one-seat ride from Vaughan to Don Mills Station, especially considering the need to break into what, by then, would be a completed deep bore tunnel.

    *how much it would cost to get the additional TR trains to cover Sheppard (assuming that they interline and therefore ‘must’ use additional TR trains)

    Steve: Sheppard uses 4 trains today, a current value of $60-million plus spares at say 15%. This assumes that the through Sheppard-Spadina service would operate at the same headway. That may be impractical given interlining constraints depending on the scheduled YUS service north of Downsview.

    *How many trains can be created by shifting the T1 cars to the Bloor-Danforth line (assuming that they interline and ‘must’ use TR trains on Sheppard)

    Steve: There are already more T1 sets that will fit on the BD line at its minimum headway.

    *How many cars can ‘presumably’ be removed from the 401 – and what the subsequent reductions in GHG emissions and traffic congestion will be (because those ‘matter’ when making ‘policy’ announcements related to roads)

    Steve: This sort of calculation is tricky because we must first know the net new transit riding induced by the subway line (and possible interlining). Trips that are already on the TTC and simply get a faster route don’t count here. There is also the question of backfill effect. If a new line actually reduces traffic enough to be noticeable, this capacity may be taken up by new trips. We also need to know where and how long the original trip was, and whether the new subway induces conversion of a longer trip completely to transit, not just the short stretch along Sheppard itself.

    As for the argument of extension to Sherway Gardens, it seems to me that if someone comes up with the money (and limits where it can be spent) the TTC will extend the subway to the middle of a field, or big box store.

    I agree that an extension of the TTC subway to East Mall & Cloverdale is necessary but I wonder how they will get past the condominium building near the end of the tail-tracks.

    Cheers, Moaz


  29. Joey Connick says:
    Is the Spadina extension to York going to open by 2015 as originally planned? This article makes it sound like it’s been delayed to 2018.

    Steve: It’s the complete subway to Vaughan CC that won’t be done until 2018. It only has to get to York U to make the 2015 target.

    YorkRegion.com is flat out wrong on this. There is no phased build. Schedule is full open December 2015 as of right now.


  30. “I never understood why Sheppard wasn’t done to the standard 500′ length. They could have used platform markers or gates to indicate “ALL TRAINS STOP HERE”.”

    Cost cutting measure. It saved them having to tile and finish the areas of the station that were unused.

    I remember how difficult it was getting the Sheppard subway funded. After all the promise of Network 2011, first Petersen and then Rae dilly-dallied, and then Rae managed to get the shovels in on truncated versions of the Eglinton West and Sheppard lines (going to Don Mills instead of Victoria Park), and then Harris came in to shut down construction on the Eglinton West line.

    Even with Rae, it was a hard fight to get the shovels in the ground, because Metro wasn’t sure that they had the taxes to pay their share. During the budget crises of 1996, they talked about not building Bessarion station, or even Bayview, and finally they approved construction of just the tunnels but not the tracks. That finally got political will together to get the whole thing approved.


  31. “… considering the need to break into what, by then, would be a completed deep bore tunnel”

    The technique used is to build the new structure is to use cut-and-cover techniques to build a superstructure surrounding the original tunnel, then simply remove the original tunnel.

    This was how North York and Shepherd-Yonge were modified. Bessarion was originally tunneled straight through then the station box built around the tunnel and the tunnel liner removed. For that matter the expansion of Bloor station was done this way also.

    Steve: The subway between Sheppard and Finch is a box tunnel built cut and cover, not as a deep bore tunnel, and provision was left with a level spot for a future station at what became North York Centre. The centre wall of the station has the typical holes found in box tunnels, and you only need to ride the line to see it’s not a round, bored tunnel north of Sheppard.

    There are also groundwater issues in Downsview that could make the kind of link you describe tricky. to build. This junction needs to be engineered into the Spadina extension as part of initial construction, but that is unlikely to happen.


  32. A key component of Smitherman’s transit plan would be to have the Province of Ontario assume control of the subway system. The freed up revenue would be part of this $7billion price tag Smitherman is throwing out there.

    More controversial than $7billion.

    Steve: This scheme has been rumoured, but there is nothing in the Smitherman announcement, backgrounder or press briefing to support this claim. In fact, the statement is quite clear about keeping the system in local control.


  33. The only thing that I believe he has which might make this work is connection with the current Provincial Government at Queen’s Park. Assuming that the Liberals are re-elected in 2011, Mayor Smitherman may be able to use his connection to the party to get money out of the Government.


  34. We never finish anything! Has there ever been a transit plan in the GTA which outlines multiple routes either LRT or Subway that we have planned and completed? If we had just completed one major intergrated transit plan over the last 30 years we would be not be talking about Transit city right now. Even if we had found the money to complete project 2011 even though it was a lot of over build as far as subways was concerned we would only be faced with makeing additions and changes in the millions as oposed to the billions we need to spend now. Another thing that bothers me is the layers of governments and agencies that need to be involved due to costs. It went from just Municipal for the origional subway to municpal and provincial to municipal, provincial, federal and now municipal, provincial, federal and metro linx.

    I remember as a youth going and seeing a presentation about the toronto of tomorrow (This was around 1976 or so) IT showed a high speed Go-train sytem electrified, enhanced subway systems and other transit improvements by the year 2000. I think it was even a government film. Nothing better then over promising and under delievering. If I can ever find this video I would love to post a link to it on this site.


  35. One thing about this ‘media announcement’ is that Smitherman is actually doing his campaign damage by opening his mouth and leaving himself open for criticism. I really can’t get past the mess up he did on his provincial portfolio regarding the much needed e-health implementation. He lost over a billion on that single file and I think the more he talks about funding his transit plans that if he gets elected it will make his e-health screw-up look like small potatoes.

    Getting everyone on board for different transit plans is not easy and I think that Smitherman is flip flopping too much to convince many to get on board with his plans and directions. The more he talks the less he appears to understand how politcs work and what is needed to get and direct funding.

    Steve: Moreover, he shows how dependent he is on is policy staff, and how they can’t get it right. Sounds a lot like his days at Queen’s Park. The difference with being Mayor is that you have to understand the city, rather than letting your party figure out a platform to get “the team” elected.


  36. I don’t think the goal needs to be to finish transit plans. What we need is to build the right things in the right places, starting with the highest priority lines. To actually plan construction priorities once every 20 years is foolish – we need projects in all stages of the pipeline at all times. That means a pile of researched and vetted ideas ready for EA, and a small handful of projects with completed EA, ready to break ground. The mass initiatives like Transit City are more useful as a rally point to get public support for transit than as a logical way to actually go about transit expansion.

    I think the initial plan of putting LRTs on Don Mills and Jane was short sighted – so I’m somewhat glad to see them gone. Those lines have the potential for full subway volume when combined with a DRL (although I’d start that project from the bottom). Effectively everyone east of Don Mills or West of Jane who is presently bussing to Yonge / University / Spadina to get downtown would use this line instead. Speaking of the DRL, I just don’t understand why this isn’t at the top of the list. If Yonge really is over capacity with 10% latent demand (very likely the case in the winter months), and University isn’t far behind, virtually any new riders attracted by means of expansion north of Bloor-Danforth are going to come directly at the expense of riders somewhere else in the system.

    Steve: Transit City made two important points. One was to get people away from thinking of one line at a time, and to shift from looking at core-oriented routes to cross-city routes. It also was intended to get many EAs into the pipeline and succeeded on that score. Sadly, because the Don Mills EA was so skewed by past work on a BRT line on the DVP, it failed to consider how the corridor would work as a rail line including a DRL. We (as a city) wasted a lot of effort thanks to the pig-headed foolishness of staying with a study already in progress.

    The TTC has a single-minded focus on increasing the capacity of the Yonge subway by any means possible, even though they will compromise the system in the process. They don’t care, and that lack of care verges on dereliction of their responsibility to run the system properly. They have justified so many projects on the basis that they need to somehow reach this mythical higher capacity on Yonge rather than building a bigger network, they just can’t look at anything else. At the political level, the Commission is too busy acting as cheerleaders for the best transit system on the planet to rein in their management.


  37. Speaking of the DRL, I just don’t understand why this isn’t at the top of the list.

    Because only suburban votes matter. The punchline is, of course, that the DRL actually has profound impacts on the suburban quality of transit, in the east end at least.


  38. Well you have to give George his due. He came up with a great idea in pronTO. Now if we could give it an easy to remember phone number like 311 then, – oh, wait a minute, don’t we have that? Well it is a nice name.

    Steve: And only a few weeks ago, he said he wasn’t going to run on slogans. So nice to have a consistent campaign message.


  39. Steeles Avenue could use a subway… from Markham Road to Kipling. That would be nice. LOL – Fantasizing again!

    If George does win, I wonder how this plan will turn out…


  40. Does Georgie’s Sheppard W. subway estimate include the cost to cross Earl Bales Park? … or the Y at Spadina (double/grade separated)? Maybe he should hold that $2B just in case.

    It was also my understanding that the RT structure/alignment cannot support an extension of the Bloor subway, so why is that in his plan? Are they nervous about the possibility of abandoning the RT tracks and stations for a BD extension to STC along another path?

    Steve: I think it is a case that whoever put together Smitherman’s plan knows a lot less about the problems of building transit in Toronto than most readers of this blog. Considering that one of his advisors is a Metrolinx director and a supposed transit expert, that’s rather frightening.


Comments are closed.