A Few Myths About Subway Capacity (Updated)

Updated October 18 at 10:15 am: A few comments about system reliability during bad weather have been added as a postscript to this article.

In a recent post, I wrote about the TTC’s Capital Budget and the projects that are creeping into view as the true cost of adding capacity to the subway becomes evident.

Once upon a time, the TTC was really worried about the capacity of Bloor-Yonge Station, and came up with a scheme to add a third central platform on the upper (Yonge) level, and possibly a second, eastbound platform on the lower (Bloor) level.  Interest in this project faded with the dwindling riding of the mid-1990s, but it never completely vanished.  Plans such as a Richmond Hill extension raised concerns about YUS capacity even before recent ridership growth took back the “surplus” capacity available for many years to hide the problem.

Independently of the third platform proposal, the TTC came up with a plan to add to the number of trains on the line.  If only they could convert to automatic train control (ATC), they could decrease the headway of trains and add to the line’s capacity.  In practice, what happened was that the TTC had to replace the existing, worn out signal system anyhow, but really wanted other governments to buy into the project.  At that point, ATC’s justification became not only the rejuvenation of the subway (a maintenance project), but a way to add capacity at lower cost than building a new line.

Of course, the trains the TTC was running, the H-series cars and the newer T1 fleet, are not equipped for ATC.  A retrofit of the T1 fleet is possible but expensive, and this drives a “need” for a completely new fleet simply to make use of ATC on the Yonge line.  In earlier fleet plans, the TTC treated the entire system as one pool and simply counted trains regardless of which type they might be.  Now, however, they need a “YUS” fleet that can run ATC and a “BD” fleet that will run with conventional manual controls.  (It is unclear what will happen if a BD train finds its way onto YUS trackage, say, for a diversion.)

With the recent, overdue arrival of the first TR train in Toronto, there were bold statements by the Mayor no less (although he was just parroting the TTC) about how these new cars would allow a 40% increase in subway capacity.  Well, yes, maybe, but there’s a catch.  Several catches, in fact.

Where Does the 40% Figure Come From?

That 40% is achieved in part (10-12%) from the additional space available for passengers on the TR trainsets compared with a 6-car T1 train.  The rest comes from a 25% increase in the trains/hour that can operate with ATC.  The compound effect of these changes is around 40%.

Current operating practices restrict the distance between two trains based on the block signal layout of the subway.  Each block represents a safe stopping distance for a train at the presumed operating speed of the section of track it controls (that’s an oversimplification, but it will do for this discussion).  When a line is running at capacity, especially near busy stations, trains tend to operate at lower speeds, and the “safe stopping distance” can be quite short.  However, with a block signal system this cannot be easily implemented unless operators are given the ability to drive trains “on sight” almost up to the back of the preceding train.  For various reasons, notably but not only the Russell Hill subway crash, the TTC does not allow this.

An ATC system uses a “moving block” scheme where the safe distance is a function of both the next train’s location and the speed of the following train.  This allows trains to pull quite close together safely, and trains can follow each other through congested locations at a short separation.  This would allow more time for loading at Bloor-Yonge, for example, time that is now “wasted” waiting for signals to allow the next train to enter the station.

If, however, trains are regularly going to run on closer headways, the entire line must be capable of handling this arrangement.  It is not enough to fine-tune signals at one location, but leave bottlenecks elsewhere.  Converting the entire line to ATC addresses many, but not all of the problems.

Today’s subway schedules bring one train every 140 seconds (2’20”), or just under 26/hour.  It is possible to push beyond this by inserting trains occasionally, but this can create stresses elsewhere if the signal system cannot actually handle the closely bunched trains.  If the headway comes down to 105 seconds (1’45”), this would give just over 35 trains/hour, a 35% increase in the trains/hour and, hence, the line’s capacity.  In practice, the TTC does not need to get headways quite that close for the combined effect of larger train capacity and more trains/hour to yield a 40% improvement.  A 110 second (1’50”) headway will do.

Dwell Times, Schedules and Terminals

The frequency of trains is determined by the rate at which they can flow through choke points on the system.  The most obvious of these is Bloor Station where dwell times can reach 60 seconds and more when the platform is congested.  Under these conditions, it is not possible to maintain a 140 second headway, let alone anything shorter, because the time for train “A” to clear the station and train “B” to arrive is constrained by signal block spacing.

ATC will shorten the approach time and, thereby, increase the possible throughput at such locations.  This depends, however, on the arriving capacity (net of those who get off) being able to remove passengers faster than they arrive on the platform.

There is a similar issue, but over a much shorter distance, northbound from Union to Bloor in the PM peak where large volumes of passengers accumulate on platforms unable to board trains.

Another important choke point is the terminals.  At both Finch and at Downsview, it is physically impossible to operate a headway much shorter than the one we have today.  The reason for this is the length of the crossovers which force a long cycle time on train movements.  This can be avoided by short turning some service or by redesigning the terminal.  Short turns are obviously not an option for Finch unless the line is extended.

Any operation of this type will require that operators work to the need of the trains, not the other way around, and this will likely cause random problems during peak periods wherever crew changes or breaks occur.  The tighter the timetable, the less the margin for unscheduled extra time.

Finally, running times will have to be set shorter than peak trip times.  The reason for this is that only a few trips actually require the scheduled time (complete with longer dwell times), and on the shoulders of the peak periods, trains regularly queue at terminals.  This is a huge waste of equipment, manpower, and passengers’ time and patience.  Attempting to operate the entire line at the minimum possible headway will guarantee many delays and long queues of trains.

The Platform Door “Business Case”

A rather strange report appeared on the September 30 TTC agenda.  You won’t find the meat of it online, only a short introduction.  This clearly shows that suicide prevention was the impetus for original work on this project, but as the presentation (not available online) shows clearly from its title, this has morphed into the “YUS Line Service Improvement Strategy”.  The Commission approved this presentation’s two recommendations: (1) staff are to continue with planning for platform door installation and (2) this project is to be included in the 2011-2016 Capital Budget.

Note that “inclusion” does not mean a project is approved or funded, only that it is shown among the items competing for attention and money.

The details of the business case were not presented, only the summary.  This is difficult territory because everything depends on the assumed monetary value of improvements, some of which are intangible or subject to interpretation.  The major assumptions are:

  • Benefits calculated over 30 years
  • Ridership increases 1.5% per year
  • Installation is completed over 6 years
  • Capital costs are $9.8-million per station

The inclusion of ridership is intriguing because it does not, strictly speaking, affect the doors as much as the need for additional subway capacity.  A 1.5% increase compounded for 30 years comes to about 56%, well above the claimed additional capacity planned for the YUS without even accounting for the current 10% shortfall.

The total cost of platform doors for the entire system is given as $511.6m with economic benefits over the 30-year span of $567.1m.  When lines are reviewed individually, the greatest benefit comes on the YUS where demand is also highest.  The presentation claims that the project economics remain favourable even when various factors are adjusted for a sensitivity analysis.  Unfortunately, this entire analysis is not available.

Nonetheless, in the larger scheme, it is likely that many overall benefits of increased capacity have been included in the evaluation, and these would not be available as justification for other projects.  In other words, if the economic benefit of carrying more passengers has been offset against the cost of platform doors, this same benefit cannot be used to justify more trains, a better signal system or station upgrades.

In brief, the analysis has omitted many related capital projects that all form part of the capacity upgrade, the nominal purpose of the study.

The Service Improvement Strategy states that the present capacity is 26 trains/hour and that this must increase to 35/hour to meet forecast requirements for 2030.  (Note that 20 years at 1.5% gives about a 35% increase.  Combined with the existing 10% shortfall, this would mean subway capacity would be exhausted sometime before 2030 even assuming we can reach the higher trains/hour factor and that no major new drivers such as the Richmond Hill extension added to load on the YUS.

As discussed earlier, running more trains requires a new signal system, better use of space inside trains and possibly longer trains.  However, the other critical factor is reliability so that the design capacity is actually available a high proportion of the time when it is needed.

A review of TTC operations presented on June 2 (also not available online) identified three points based on international best practices:

“Toronto will not achieve the target level of reliability through automation alone.

“Even with TR [cars] and ATC, Toronto needs to reduce total incidents by 75% to achieve the target reliability level of 1 peak failure per week.

“Toronto needs to target key areas first and then evaluate every aspect of the subway in terms of reliability.”

In a review of incidents causing delays of greater than 5 minutes to service in 2008, Toronto ranks well (#5) among European and North American systems, but low related to new systems in Asia and South America.  This is hardly surprising considering that the latter group of systems is generally quite new with technology and system design to match.  Whether the new systems will retain their high reliability rates as they age is quite another matter, but we won’t know for a decade at least how these numbers will evolve.

Part of the improvement comes from technical changes on the trains themself.  The TTC and Bombardier claim that the TRs will be much, much more reliable than older stock, but this must be achieved and sustained over the life of the cars.  The last thing we need is a fleet that gradually deteriorates just as demand on the subway is building.

Part of the improvement comes from station management, and this includes platform edge doors.  To what degree the doors contribute to the overall solution is not specified, but this is clearly only one part of a much larger systemic review of subway operations.

To get a sense of the types of delays, I pulled together a list of all of the subway delay notices issued by TTC’s E-Alert system since July 1, 2010.  (I have them going back much further, but there’s a limit to my patience in transcribing this stuff.)  What is quite clear from this list is that the overwhelming majority of problems occurs on the YUS, and that certain stations, at least for periods of time, appear to be “hot spots” for events.  This suggests that some local factors are at work that could be (and may already have been) addressed without the complexity of a Platform Door system.  Some delays, of course, have nothing to do with PDs.

The question this begs is whether the TTC has examined the cause of all of its delays in detail to find which type of delay contributes the most, and which of various countermeasures will have the greatest benefit.  Instead, the entire exercise seems bent on “proving” that we need platform doors without establishing a real case for them.

How Many Trains Are Needed?

If the TTC is going to run more trains/hour, then it needs more trains unless it can offset the shorter headways with faster operation.  The number of trains needed for a line is quite simple:

N = RTT / Headway

“RTT” is the round trip time including any layovers at terminals or along the way, and the “Headway” is the frequency of service.  It is self evident that if headway goes down, then “N” goes up unless there is some offsetting change in “RTT”.

The AM peak service in YUS requires 44 trains, not including 3 “gap trains” that are on standby for use when there is a service delay or to slot added capacity into the crowded section from St. Clair south (these trains originate at Davisville Yard).  I am cheating a bit here because part of the service short-turns at St. Clair West and “RTT” is shorter for these trains, but for the sake of argument, this will do.

If there are to be 25% more trains/hour, then N must rise from 44 to 55 absent any other change on the line.  If the short turn point is extended north from St. Clair to Glencairn or Downsview (with the Spadina extension), then more trains are needed for the existing line.

Any extension brings additional equipment needs, and these go up if the planned headway gets shorter.  For example, if the base headway is 2’20”, then beyond any turnback it would be 4’40”.  However, if the base goes down to 1’50”, then beyond the turnback it would be 3’40”.  That service improvement requires more trains.

If the line can be operated with a shorter round trip time, this will reduce equipment requirements.  Although some time might be saved with faster station stops, the real savings would come in “high rate” operation on hilly sections and portions of the route with widely-spaced stops.  A few of us remember what this felt like on the BD line when “high rate” was used, but it’s a distant memory.

The TTC stopped using “high rate” (which has faster acceleration and a slightly higher top speed, notably on hills) due to problems with motor wear on older subway cars (now retired), as well as concerns about increased track maintenance and power costs, and the need to retime signals for the faster trains.  If the TTC intends to save on fleet size and give faster rides using high rate, then it must address  and accept the tradeoffs this will bring.

The round trip time from Finch to Downsview is 118 minutes.  From my own observations on trains that have been operating in high rate (shhh, don’t tell anyone), about 10 minutes might be shaved off of this.  Therefore, the likely improvement in fleet size due to high rate operation would be a saving of about 8%.  A slightly higher value might apply once the line is extended given the wider-than-average station spacings.

Finally, there is the matter of spare equipment.  The TTC has justified the premature retirement of its older cars on the basis that they are unreliable, and that newer cars built with more robust subsystems will not need as many spares to provide the same availability for service.  We shall see.  The TTC has a long history of operating most of its fleet (subway and surface) with excess equipment.  New vehicles come on stream, but old ones remain available while the kinks are worked out.

H4 subway cars, retained against the possibility of extra service needed for a Toronto Olympic bid, are still in operation and they provide a cushion for the lower-than-ideal reliability of other parts of the fleet.

This happened with the PCCs and CLRVs, and the continued presence of GMC New Look buses is a testament both to their longevity and to the reliability problems we face with the new hybrid bus fleet.  There will be a long period of co-existence of old and new subway fleets, and I doubt we will ever actually see the spare factor screwed down tightly, at least not until only TR trains can operate on the YUS because only they will have ATC equipment.

A reasonable target spare factor is about 15%, although this number has crept up in the transit industry as vehicles become more complex.  If a new fleet actually achieves high reliability, the 15% factor might be achieved, but this might not be sustained once the cars age to the point of major overhauls (requiring a pool to be available for service) or to the point where things wear enough to be less reliable.

More cars, of course, means more carhouse space, or at least space that can be used to store trains when they are not in use.  Transitional periods between old and new fleets push this requirement even higher while new trains undergo acceptance testing, and old trains await decommissioning.

Today’s fleet consists of 112 trains plus 6 odd cars:

  • 44 H4s (7 trains + 2 cars)
  • 136 H5s (22 trains + 4 cars)
  • 126 H6s and (21 trains)
  • 372 T1s (62 trains)

Once the current orders for TRs are delivered and all of the H series retired, the fleet will contain 132 trains (including the cars for the Spadina Subway extension and some growth in demand):

  • 372 T1s (62 trains)
  • 420 TRs (70 trains)

A further order for TR cars is included in the Capital Budget along with storage expansion at Finch Station.

However, the BD subway only requires 43 trains for service, and the Sheppard line consumes a further 16 cars or roughly 3 trains.  When spares are added at 15%, this brings the total need for a T1 fleet to about 316 cars, about 56 short of the actual fleet size.  Even doubling the service on Sheppard would only add 16 to the peak requirement plus a few spares.

TTC fleet planning was, until recently, based on running T1s on the entire system, and early planning for what became the TRs assumed full interchangeability.  However, the switchover of the YUS to ATC changes this and requires that each line have its own fleet.

The result is that we have more T1s than we need unless there is a major increase in service on BD and Sheppard. Such an increase on BD is impossible because of the same constraints in the signal system and in terminal configurations that afflict the YUS.

The current peak level of YUS service requires 47 trains, and allowing for spares this would bring the total to 54.

For quite some time, the TTC will have more subway cars than it actually needs to operate service, and it will be difficult to get a handle on the actual spare factor with which the system could, if pressed, be operated.  All those extra cars require storage space and running maintenance.

Having lots of spares allows for a maintenance policy that can let things slide, leave problem trains on the sideline because there is no real need to make them available for service.  Whether the generous size of the subway fleet will lead to such practices remains to be seen.  The problem, if this happens, is that when the cars are actually required, they may not be available, or there may be pressure to buy more new cars rather than to tighten maintenance practices and expect the reliability claims for the once-new fleet to be achieved.

The Downtown Relief Line

The TTC and Metrolinx are currently studying transit service and capacity into the core area.  A status report was on the recent TTC agenda, but it received little comment at the meeting due to the long list of more contentious issues.

Although the TTC focuses much effort on possible ways to add capacity on the existing YUS, the true cost and limitations of this approach are becoming evident.  Within the TTC, there is a strong pro-YUS upgrade faction who would just like the DRL to wither away,  Sadly, because the DRL is seen as serving only as a relief valve south of the BD line (Dundas West to Pape as a notional routing), the benefits of new rapid transit service north of the BD line is not considered.

If we are to build new capacity into downtown, it has to go somewhere in its own right, not simply act as a bleeder valve for the worst of subway congestion.  Trips must be diverted off of existing lines on an all-day basis for this route to have value in the larger scheme of the network.

By analogy, imagine that people who might otherwise ride the Spadina Subway were told that they don’t really need a line, and that everyone would be fitted in on Yonge.  That’s the sort of attitude some at the TTC bring to this debate.


During the election campaign, we have heard a lot of bilge about possible new subway lines, and the TTC has made its own contribution with a flawed presentation of the capacity question for the Yonge subway.  The new Council, Mayor and TTC Chair will, no doubt, be strongly lobbied to accept the official view of our problems.  Newcomers to the TTC tend to have stars in their eyes, be blinded by the complexity of it all, and be utterly unwilling to ask hard questions about alternatives.

Those questions need to be asked in an era of spending restraint that will exist at the City and Provincial levels no matter who is in office.  Whether the debate will be well-informed is quite another matter.

Postscript:  A Small Question of Weather

System reliability is vital to achieving the hoped-for additional capacity on the subway network, but this is doubly important during periods of bad weather.  When it snows, even when there is heavy rain, more people commute by transit rather than face conditions on the roads.  It is at precisely such times that many weather-related problems afflict the TTC — frozen switches, ice in the brake lines, door problems brought on by even more people trying to crush on board.

Reliability stats are usually reported on an averaged basis with the peaks blended into the offpeak, and the good weather blended with the bad.  One of the goals cited by the review of TTC service was to achieve no worse than 1 peak delay of 5 minutes or more per week.  From past experience, when weather is bad, they would be hard pressed to achieve better than 1 per hour, let alone 1 per week.

This affects two parts of subway operations.  One is the physical reliability of systems during poor weather.  If trains regularly stall because of iced-up third rails or signal systems that see “ghost trains” thanks to track circuit failures, the system’s capacity will be far below what we hope for.

More importantly, the system under normal circumstances must have enough headroom to absorb the overload conditions of bad days.  If the YUS is so close to complete breakdown because trains cannot handle the passengers, then the last thing we want is a bump in ridership when weather is bad.  Those who plan subway capacity would do well to leave room for this type of demand rather than assuming that just enough for normal days is acceptable.

The best possible advertisement for transit is service that works under bad weather conditions when driving is not the pleasant romp down the expressway some make it out to be.  If transit is at its worst on those days, riders will flee to their cars the moment the snow stops falling.

40 thoughts on “A Few Myths About Subway Capacity (Updated)

  1. You’ve made so many excellent points, I’m not quite sure where to start.

    First, the TTC needs to stop trying to cram more people onto the Yonge line, and get on with the the DRL. Norman Wilson never designed Bloor-Yonge and St. George to handle the number of passengers they do today, and that is that … period, end of story, over and out, QED. Even if both stations could cope, in the PM rush, how can the Bloor-Danforth line possibly handle a super-charged Yonge-University route feeding it (at TWO points, St. George and B-Y) 35% faster that it does today?

    Even if they can get the headways down to 1’45”, interlacing the short-turns with the non-short-turns will require split-second timing, not unlike the integrated service test. And, whether they can maintain that headway across the entire line for the duration of a rush-period is questionable. If the YUS loop had been built, yes, it would be possible, but not with a staggered approach of turning back trains. All it takes is the slightest hiccup, and the line is simply too long now. The longer the line and the more passengers it carries, the more spots there are for things to go wrong, and the more passengers there are that can fall ill or get stuck in the doors, delaying service.

    Finally, I remember the hi-rate operation on BD. While the top speed was the same as it is today, the trains would noticeably pull out of stations from a dead stop much faster compared to a G train on YU, especially when the shorter 4-car trains ran on Bloor. As I recall, the signals on Bloor and University were designed for hi-rate from the start, but the original Union-Eglinton stretch was never modified.

    Steve: My reference to signal changes is more for the markers indication where operators should run in parallel, series or coast, or apply brakes. This is important in timed sections where a high-rate train would accelerate to higher speeds. It also affects stopping indications for many stations. As you will remember, there used to be multiple sets of braking markers to deal with the difference between G and H equipment.


  2. For the purpose of calculating spares or trains out of service for maintenance, it might be better to refer to the existing fleet as 336 two-car train segments. If part of a train has to go out of service due to a mechanical problem, presumably the TTC would not need to take the entire train out (although admittedly it is probably easier to do it that way) — if they had to, they could uncouple the problem unit and add another married pair to the remaining 4 cars.

    Of course this won’t be possible with the TR trains, which obviously can’t be uncoupled; a mechanical problem will pull the entire train out of service. I’m still suspicious that this means that the stated TR spare ratio is optimistic, particularly (a) if they turn out to have teething problems, or (b) once they become a little older and start wearing out.


  3. Hi Steve:-

    This brings me back to an old opinion I’ve held and still do, that loops at major terminals are the best and easiest way to send trains back the way they came. You mentioned that if high rate and the necessary costs inflicted by the choice are to be absorbed as a cost of doing business, then so be it. Loops would incur a greater capital cost and be their own maintenance problem for the rails in the necessarily sharp curves used all day long will wear at a far greater rate than in straight or tangent track, but a cost necessary to be assumed if one wishes to improve headway productivity.

    A double track loop would cost somewhat more to build, but less than double the cost of two loops at different locations and would allow two platforms in each of the unloading and loading directions, as well as give the opportunity to replace worn rails during all shifts by closing one loop for the period of the replacement. Parallel loops too could optimize headways as they would allow for trains to be ready to pull out onto the line as soon as the line would be ready to take them. There should be no more terminal problems with incoming bunching trains waiting for the interlockings to clear as is necessary now.

    Probably too, each terminal loop would require one train extra as a factor in your RTT, because now it will be a longer run with the slower speed required to traverse the loop, but headway maintenance will be greatly improved and with a terminal capable of handling trains equal to or more likely to be better than the closest spacings the line can handle.


    Steve: Loops look nice in theory, but the amount of space required to hold them is considerable. The investment in the loops would be lost if the line is extended. Moreover, such an arrangement would require that we operate frequent service through the fields at the outer end of a subway line. Can we really justify a headway of 2 minutes to Vaughan Centre? That’s a lot of extra trains, operators and carhouse space.


  4. If the Sheppard line will still be running T1 trains after delivery of the TRs and implementation of ATC, won’t they still need to be manually shuttled between Sheppard and Davisville on the Yonge tracks? What effect would that have on ATC and the headways?

    Steve: The service on Sheppard is the same all day long, and so there are no carhouse moves except late at night or early morning. Even if some peak service were added, there is more than enough storage capacity at Yonge-Sheppard Station to hold trains between peaks rather than taking them to Davisville.

    Actually, the greater issue is with work trains that will need to run over the YUS during revenue hours. One plan sees Davisville becoming a yard only for the works equipment. I don’t think any budget provision has been made for ATC on the work cars.


  5. Steve,

    T1 ATO is deemed “expensive” by the TTC – do we know how much is “expensive”?

    This sounds like the barrier between capital and operating in effect (“we can’t get operating money to refit the T1s for when BD goes moving-block but we CAN get capital money to buy more TRs and make the T1s into razor blades because that means Thunder Bay jobs for senior levels of government”)

    One thought would be that a DRL would be surely ATO on day 1, but might not require six-car sets on day 1 (especially if opened on one “half” initially). Might be handy to have some ATO T1s available then to operate 4-car trains…

    Steve: We don’t know what “expensive” means, but I have heard numbers in striking distance of $1-million per car which, if true, shows how shortsighted the design work on the T1s was back in the 90s.


  6. The TTC is hoping that with the opening of the Spadina extension in Vaughan, that it would draw some (mostly from the west) of the capacity off the Yonge arm of the line. However, that would not last for long. A Downtown Relief Line will still be needed, hopefully one that actually extends above the Bloor-Danforth.

    (Maybe they can also put in crossovers at Dundas West and Pape, to allow for disruptions in service on the Bloor-Danforth, allowing alternate routes.)

    Steve: Crossovers at Dundas West would be impossible given that the line goes into deep bore tunnel immediately east of the station. There is already a crossover at Keele. In any event, you need more than a crossover if trains are going to change routes, and the curves needed to connect the DRL to BD will be very, very difficult to add. This has been discussed at length in a previous thread.


  7. On the plus side, there’s lots of room to build a nice, big, large-radius loop out in the fields of Vaughan Corporate Centre…


  8. Steve said … “the investment in the loops would be lost if the line is extended.”

    Not necessarily. One of the plans for the YUS loop along Steeles included a wye at Keele and Steeles and a “radial” extension north into Vaughan from there, but I never understood how it would work from a scheduling and headway perspective. The idea was that the loop would allow 90-second headways and totally independent “clockwise” (YUS) and “counter-clockwise” (SUY) subway routes (from an operating point-of-view).


  9. Hi Steve:-

    Subway Loops

    The Vaughan Folly aside, where even the abilities that an LRT line can provide it will be overkill; if a route is extended beyond the loop, then one each of the outbound and inbound platforms should be configured for the through route and the other of the two platforms then would contend with the trains which short turn. (Are we allowed to use that term nowadays?) The probability, that wherever the extension is, all trains would not need to go through; in peak periods anyways. Thus the investment would still be an asset even with the lesser future requirements. Too, when will this extension to wherever be built? Will we have amortized the loop’s costs by the time the extension is in place? Likely yes! And remember, I’m talking about a world where things are more Utopian and not hampered by the vagaries of the more complex interlocking system essentials as you yourself similarly have pointed out will continue to be a choke point as long as the layout at terminals remains status quo! Certainly terminals where 4 min 40 sec is going to be 60% too much service, as in the Vaughan example, then past practice for terminal design will be more than adequate.

    The Philadelphia Frankford/Market el/subway is a perfect example of the use of this simple technology. One end being extended for many decades by transfer to the suburban trolleys and buses of the Philly suburban system along with the Philadelphia and Western’s rapid line and the other, less busy end, by the City’s trolley coach and diseasel bus network. So far this route has not been taken beyond the loops which were installed with the lines initial construction, although it would be a simple matter to extend the line at the 69th street end as the carhouse leads are already grade separated from the loop. I don’t recall how the Frankord end is laid out, but there is a carhouse out there too.

    Yes Philly’s loops take up a fair bit of real estate and they don’t have the service demands that Toronto does, but hey, they work and have done since the early part of the last century. Service and terminal improvements can be accomplished if there is a will! Sometimes other transit properties do things that are simple, adaptable and could be workable in the great Burg of TO too! If only…….?

    And then this brings up my other argument which is, that no extensions to an already close to saturated line should be considered unless extra tracks are put in place to absorb the extra demands on the inner part of the route. Now there’s a prohibitive cost! Alternate route choices ala Transit City anyone?



  10. Hi Steve:-

    Me again. Surely to goodness ATO is not that big of a deal to install in existing modern equipment like the T1s. If Lindenwold can operate old motored cars for decades, then the newer motors on the T1s are not as good to consider to be adaptable? Of course they can be! It’s another example of no will to retrofit; then no way Jose!



  11. Is there a market for the surplus T1’s?

    Steve: Possibly, although Toronto subway cars tend to be larger than the vehicles used on many systems. Also, as others have pointed out, if we actually build new parts of the subway system that don’t depend on automatic train control, the cars would be available for service, at least until they reach their end of life in the mid-to-late 2020s.


  12. Both the leading mayoral candidates want to extend BD subway to Scarborough Centre. If that comes through, the excess T1 trains will be needed there. The real issue is whether there is enough TR trains to operate YUS with shortened headways.

    DRL is definitely needed, and ideally it should start with DRL East (that provides greatest relief for Yonge) and reach the Egliton / Don Mills area before the western leg reaches Bloor / Dundas. DRL will require even more trains, but perhaps the investment in ATO on Yonge can be deferred if DRL is built.

    Steve: The signal system on YUS needs to be replaced because it is long in the tooth, and so that expense can’t be avoided. However, just because we will have the technical ability to run very close headways doesn’t mean we should actually count on this as a basic mode of operation. This capability will be quite useful for situations where trains bunch due to a transient problem, but other constraints limit its use as a daily standard. The important thing is to leave some headroom in the system to deal with temporary overloads rather than using every bit of capacity.


  13. In the the current manual system could the system not be updated to allow the safe stopping distance to decrease at stations? It is so frustrating to see trains stopped just short of a station when there isn’t a train in the station. Wouldn’t it be better to use the delay to load and unload trains?

    Steve: The problem is that changing the system requires splitting up track circuits and associated control logic to allow trains to pull together at low speed while preserving safe spacing. The current system has the ability for trains to get right behind each other, but this sacrifices the safety margin and places the onus on the operator. The signal system needs to be replaced anyhow, and variable spacing under system control is a basic part of the new technology.


  14. Steve writes: “However, with a block signal system this cannot be easily implemented unless operators are given the ability to drive trains “on sight” almost up to the back of the preceding train. For various reasons, notably but not only the Russell Hill subway crash, the TTC does not allow this.”

    I remember back in the 1970s when I would (infrequently) see a train entering a station before the train ahead had fully left the station. Obviously this practice, like running streetcars across switches at speed and high-rate operation, has been discontinued.

    (And the Russel Hill collision, as far as I know, had nothing to do with any of the above.)

    Steve: Yes, Russell Hill did not have a direct bearing on any of these, although the decision to change operating practices at a single red block signal from stop-and-proceed to stop-and-stay were introduced after that accident. As for streetcar switches, that speaks to decades of neglect of a basic problem with the current equipment. The TTC would rather make service slow and jerky than fix this, although there has been money in the capital budget to replace the switch electronics (the source of the problem) for years.


  15. Steve: In your reply to W.K. Lis above, you say “the curves needed to connect the DRL to BD will be very, very difficult to add.” Does this hold true if the DRL connects to BD at High Park/Keele? I envision the new connecting station occupying the (already city-owned) land under the north end of High Park, parallel to Bloor, with a potential train connection to High Park station and pedestrian connections to both High Park and Keele Station. Thoughts? Thanks.

    Steve: By implication, you are bringing your route west on Bloor from Dundas, swinging south for your station, then north to connect with the BD line. Aside from the complexity of trackwork needed for the junction which will almost certainly require demolition of several houses on the north side of Bloor and careful planning to avoid the high rises to the north, you’re building a lot of extra track. Moreover, the problem remains of having enough service east of the diverging point if you plan integrated service from Kipling to Downtown.


  16. The Moscow Metro system runs with 90sec headways on some kind of stone-age ATO system; it doesn’t use any sort of loop trackage at the terminals of the sort suggested by the earlier poster. Instead the train proceeds into one of multiple storage tracks beyond the end of the platform as soon as it has finished unloading passengers. As far as I remember, the storage tracks hold a buffer of several trains, so that departing trains can continue to leave on a regular headway in case there is any disruption to incoming trains.

    Does this sound plausible? Has anyone at the TTC considered this sort of thing for terminal operations? Of course, I’m pretty sure that the main reason Moscow can run its lines on an interval of 90 seconds is because they ironed out the problems in their signaling system several decades ago. Either that, or there’s some kind of safety standard they could be ignoring in terms of how close together they run the trains…

    Steve: The multi-track terminal is one way of dealing with turnaround problems, but a related issue is that when trains are ready to leave, they leave. They don’t wait for the crew to show up from their coffee break. This can be handled by having drop-back crewing and/or crews whose sole function is to shuttle trains into and out of the pocket tracks. As for 90 second headways, they are possible with block signals if you design them on that premise from the outset, and if you are able to keep dwell times at all stations to a low value, considerably below what we see today from Bloor south.


  17. Steve said … “Moreover, the problem remains of having enough service east of the diverging point if you plan integrated service from Kipling to Downtown.”

    This would require a double-track wye. To maintain service east of of Dundas W. at the same level, a continuously-looping circular DRL/BD service would have to be operated (in both directions) in addition to a direct service from the outer ends of BD to downtown (and reverse) … in addition to the existing crosstown service we have today.

    That would be extremely complicated and simply not worth the trouble. Any junction with the BD and the DRL (if it ever happens in my lifetime) will most likely be flat and only used for non-revenue movements. The biggest challenge we had with interlining was trains arriving at the junction irregularly (despite leaving the terminals at exact uniform regular intervals). This resulted in an average delay of 30-135 seconds per train when everything was on time. Part of this problem came from the Gs — even with all trains in low-rate, the Gs simply could not meet scheduling requirements.


  18. Maybe this is a silly question, but what would it cost to deck over the exposed part of the subway trackage between Eglinton and St Clair, and between Summerhill and Bloor to keep snow and ice off the tracks? Would that even work?

    I know there’s more exposed trackage on the Allen Rd portion of the YUS, and on BD and SRT, but start where the gap is smallest.

    Steve: Decking could be done, although it would be a shame to lose the view as a rider. Yards are also an issue for this. Any deck must be capable of supporting something like parkland above including the weight of any snow that might accumulate there. We’re not talking about just flying a tarp over the subway.


  19. TTC and Metrolinx planning for the subway system appears to be based upon two false assumptions:

    1. The phenomenon of induced demand does not apply to the Yonge or BD subway lines.
    2. Subways are the highest order of transit.

    False assumption #1 leads to far too low future demand projections. False assumption #2 prevents us from building a rational transit system for Toronto.
    Let us look at these problems in turn. During the AM rush, Yonge trains leave from Finch Station comfortably full. There are a few standees, but most passengers can get a seat. Life would be good if it were not for all those other pesky stations between Finch and Bloor.

    At the same time, Sheppard trains are arriving at Yonge with all the seats taken and quite a few standees. When all those people then pack themselves onto the Yonge train it makes a sardine tin look roomy. This morning I was on that train, and can testify with my own two eyes that people at the York Mills Station were unable to board the train. It was just too full.

    This leads me to conclude that there is a very large induced demand that will immediately appear and swallow the alleged 40% capacity increase on the Yonge line. I write “alleged” because I agree with Steve that the reality will probably come in at well under that figure.

    When one adds the additional demand to 2030 that will come from EACH of the factors of population increase and extension of the line to Hwy #7 in Richmond Hill, then it becomes obvious that current plans are completely and absurdly inadequate.

    The lack of proper planning seems to be due to false assumption #2. If subways are the highest order of transit, what do we do when demand overwhelms the subway line? False assumption #2 asserts that there is no answer to that question.

    The correct answer is that GO transit can provide a higher order of transit, but currently is not being used in that way. Right now, except for the Lakeshore line, GO is being used as a low-volume regional commuter rail system. The Lakeshore line has higher volumes, with a 10 minute headway during peak hours. But every other line only runs a handful of trains, almost all of which are only peak-hours and peak-direction trains.

    And the Lakeshore line was never intended to be a higher order of transit. One critical necessity for higher order transit is good connections with its feeder lines. If we look at the connections (or lack thereof) between Leslie subway station and GO’s Oriole Station, or Main subway station and GO’s Danforth Station, it becomes painfully obvious that these were not designed to work together.

    The Leslie/Oriole lack of connection is particularly and painfully absurd. It would have been easy to put these connections right next to each other in a combined station building. Instead, a GO passenger gets to wave at the Leslie station as he is carried another 350 totally unnecessary metres down the line and away from the Leslie station before he can get off.

    This is getting a bit long, so I’ll write about solutions in a separate post.


  20. The Moscow Metro does several things to keep headways close. Terminal arrangements matter, obviously, and at terminals on the busiest lines, the train unloads, then continues to a turnback track beyond the station. In most places, this turnback consists of two tracks with crossovers between them, located just past the station. There are special crews just for the turnback, and they have one driver at each end of the train, so as to minimize the time spent changing ends. The signal system itself isn’t really stone age, just your basic coded track circuits and speed enforcement, but it’s designed to be very, very reliable and is relatively safe, with the only accidents happening due to drivers overriding the system (under the “stop and proceed” rule).


  21. Hi Steve and Serhei:-

    Boston too has a multi crossover installation on on a tail track scenario on its Blue line at the Wonderland end. This is on a non ATO line. In the 70s I witnessed 1920s vehicles using this terminal. It is still subject to the fact that some trains will have to hold up other trains while they cross over and will still require extra trainsets to be out of service (part of the RTT formula) for the period of time for lining them up and changing ends while out on those tails waiting to proceed back to the platform. Ergo, no advantage over loops there. Except the swapping of the capital costs required for the technically simpler although more capital expensive loop site versus the extra maintenance costs for track switches, the more complex programming of that style of interlocking and their higher chance of failure.

    With loops too, the consideration of a fall back crew does not need to be entertained. Hopefully the fact that a loop terminal can be exceedingly more efficient should easily afford operators the chance at a tinkle break.


    Steve: Ah those wonderful antique cars on the Blue Line.


  22. Would it be at all feasible to extend the platforms on the Yonge-University-Spadina line from e.g. 6 to 10 cars? Particularly the Yonge portion, it would probably be easier to split the line at Union and extend the platforms of the Yonge line only to avoid dealing with the curves at Union/St. George on the University side. How does the cost of extending the platforms of an existing line compare to the cost of building a new parallel line (e.g. the Downtown Relief line extending up Don Mills to Eglinton and in the long term Finch?)

    Steve: The short answer is “no”. In many cases there is a curve immediately beyond one or both ends of the existing station. Also, there are building foundations very close to the existing subway structure (this presents big problems for the proposed expansion of Bloor Station). Longer platforms almost certainly means another platform exist to stay within maximum distances for fire code. This isn’t just a case of extending the box. This is a complete non-starter.


  23. Re: “loops”
    This is a fantastic concept! But rather than tight loop and the end of a line to decrease turnaround time, how about really big loops? After all, Y-U-S has a loop at its south end. Why not loop the the ends of Y and S together at the north end as well with an east-west connection to form one super large closed circuit? The bonuses that immediately spring to mind are:

    1) “tying off” the northern extremities might lessen the chances that Y and S are stretched ever northward into the hinterland through political interference.

    2) if you accidentally board in the wrong direction you will still reach your station……….eventually.

    Steve: If we are not careful, people will want the subway extended further north before we “close the loop”. I hope you will enjoy the loop from Barrie over to Collingwood.


  24. Steve:
    How does a junction compare to a terminal station in allowing increased headways? Would it work if we split the ends of the routes so that, say, after Kipling trains alternated between Square One and the Airport? (Politically farfetched example for discussion only). Could 3 minute turnaround at a pair of terminals translate into 90 seconds on the center portion?

    Steve: Yes, that is possible provided that the junction is grade separated and provided that headways are rigourously enforced. The way the TTC runs terminals, a 3 minute headway will have a variation easily of 20% or more, and this would totally screw up operations at the junction.


  25. This morning I took the Sheppard subway and arrived at the Yonge station at 8:33 AM. The Sheppard subway car was crowded, with many standees. Like most of the riders, my goal was to transfer to the Yonge line southbound.

    As I got off, I noticed that many people were running to the stairway to ensure that they would be at the front of the queue to board the next southbound Yonge train. They do this because, quite often, those at the back of the queue are unable to board the next southbound Yonge train. This is because the train is so full that zero additional passengers can be added no matter how much pushing and shoving is done by desperate would-be passengers. Needless to say, these conditions make for a very unpleasant ride.

    As I wrote yesterday, I believe that the TTC and Metrolinx are operating under two profoundly flawed and incorrect assumptions:

    1. The phenomenon of induced demand does not apply to the Yonge subway.
    2. Subways are the highest order of transit in Toronto.

    Today I will write about how moving away from incorrect assumption #2 allows us to solve this problem by using the GO system as a higher-order transit system with the subways as its feeder lines. Let’s start by looking at capacity.

    Today’s subways run at just under 26 trains/hr. Although they have a maximum theoretical crush load of 1,200 persons, I agree with Steve that running that full causes serious operating problems. Not to mention serious passenger dissatisfaction problems. So 26,000 people per hour is a reasonable subway maximum. Right now the Yonge line appears to be running about 30,000 people, which is completely unreasonable.

    GO train cars seat 162 people each, with capacity for another 276 standees. For 12-car trains running on a five minute headway, this gives a maximum capacity of 63,000 people per hour. Of those, 23,300 are seated and 39,700 are standing.

    For exactly the same reasons that it is undesirable to run subways at maximum loading, it is also undesirable to run GO trains at maximum loading. So I will continue with the very conservative planning assumption that every passenger will be planned to get a seat. This is GO’s current policy, and provides a much more pleasant and enjoyable ride than standing.

    So I’ll use 23,000 passengers per hour as a planning number, but bear in mind that in the event of a crisis another 40,000 passengers can be carried as standees.
    This gives us a GO-based higher-order transit network with five nodes. On the Richmond Hill GO line there would be four combined GO/subway stations. The GO train would travel between the new subway station at Hwy #7 in Richmond Hill, the Leslie subway station, Castle Frank Station and Union Station.

    On the Lakeshore East GO line, there would be two nodes, one at Union Station and the other at Main Street Station.

    Let’s see how this would play out. The first question to answer is: Would the demand exist to fill the GO seats? The answer is “Yes.”

    Even without any future growth, existing passengers and induced demand would be enough to fill these seats. Based upon my own observations, 2/3 of current Yonge subway passengers appear to be headed downtown. I assume that the time saved on the faster ride, being able to sit instead of stand and not being canned like a sardine in direct physical contact with other passengers will be enough incentives to move these people onto GO. This provides 20,000 passengers per hour. My estimate of induced demand that would travel on GO is another 5,000 passengers per hour. Add in the net Castle Frank boardings, and we will have standees on the GO train as it arrives at Union Station.

    I predict that many of the 20,000 people diverted from the Yonge subway will be quickly replaced by induced demand. Add in the extra passengers due to population growth and to extending the subway system to Hwy #7 in Richmond Hill, and the Yonge subway will be just as packed as it is today. But it will be packed with local demand and have far greater passenger turnover at each station. The long-distance passengers will be on the Richmond Hill GO train.

    The next question is at Castle Frank Station. Is a connection doable? It is certainly not cheap, but with my own two eyes I have seen thousands of people at shift change times in South African mines moved much greater vertical and horizontal distances. They were moved in much greater comfort and with much more personal room than that enjoyed by passengers on the Yonge subway. I remain sceptical of the people who say “it can’t be done” when I have seen it being done. Raising up the GO tracks also allows gravity to be used to help brake trains entering the station and to accelerate trains leaving the station.

    We are talking about more than doubling the capacity of the Yonge subway line. So even very expensive solutions are worthwhile. Creating convenient transfers at the Leslie and Main Street subway stations are much cheaper than at Castle Frank.

    Another issue, raised by Steve, is passengers in the PM rush disembarking from the GO train to continue their journey east on the Danforth subway at Castle Frank. Steve correctly notes that right now the subway is at capacity during the PM rush travelling eastbound from Castle Frank.

    Dealing with this issue shows why it is important to look at the entire network, not just individual lines. Because there is also the GO Lakeshore East train travelling from Union Station to the Main Street subway station. For the same reasons of speed and comfort outlined above, I assume that almost all traffic from downtown to east of Main Street will be carried on this GO train. This will result in far fewer people being on the subway as it arrives at Castle Frank Station. Moreover, the only people in the PM rush transferring from the Richmond Hill GO train to travel eastbound at Castle Frank will be those whose destination lies between Broadview and Woodbine.

    Although this will be a large number of people, there should be enough capacity on the subway to carry them.

    Another issue is capacity at Union Station. GO trains currently have the capability of loading/unloading on all doors on both sides of the train at Union. But once the passengers get off the train, Union will have significant capacity issues handling this increase in passenger load. Union Station is currently in the midst of an expansion project to handle projected future demand. This project will undoubtedly need to be modified to accommodate GO being used as a higher-order transit system. Again, not cheap, but well worthwhile.

    Another issue is concern about load balance on the Lakeshore East train. For example, we want to avoid a situation in the PM rush where the train is packed from Union to Main, then runs relatively empty the rest of the way to Oshawa. I do not believe that this will be an issue due to the large number of people who will board at Main Station. The Danforth subway line will act as a local feeder line for the GO Lakeshore East service.

    This network of higher-order transit will not be cheap, but it is definitely worthwhile. It effectively doubles the long-distance capacity of the Yonge and Danforth subway lines while freeing up these lines to do what they do best – provide medium distance passenger service.

    Finally, I have never run across any feasible alternative. The present situation is completely unacceptable with a horrible passenger service deterring a significant portion of the demand. A 40% increase in capacity with ATC and TR is simply not feasible, and a more realistic 30% will be immediately swallowed by induced demand.

    This leaves absolutely nothing left to accommodate both future population growth and the plan to extend the Yonge subway to Hwy #7 in Richmond Hill. These things are simply not possible without using the GO Richmond Hill and Lakeshore East lines as a higher-order transit network. When there is no alternative, the way ahead is clear.

    Steve: I follow your argument, but it runs aground at Castle Frank. You are trying to gerrymander too much of the network to suit your model.


  26. David … the Eglinton subway proposal of the 90s included a fork and two terminals on the western end, just as you describe.


  27. Steve wrote: “I follow your argument, but it runs aground at Castle Frank.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    I remain sceptical of those who say “it cannot be done” when I have seen it being done with my own two eyes. In this particular case, I have seen South African mines at shift change times move thousands of workers for far greater vertical and horizontal distances with far greater personal room and comfort than currently experienced by passengers on the Yonge line.

    I am certainly not saying that the same technology should be used at Castle Frank. I remain agnostic about choice of technology and engineering design. What I am saying is that I know it can be done because I’ve seen it being done. I will wager anyone that if Metrolinx were to solicit bids for an engineering design contract, the full range of human ingenuity would be on display to provide effective solutions.

    The cost probably would not be cheap, but we are talking about doubling the capacity of the Yonge subway line, so expensive solutions can be worthwhile.

    I’ve also come up with a way of estimating some of the induced demand on the Yonge line but I’ll put that into another post.


  28. One thing that I’ve noticed whilst being packed like a sardine in a tin on the AM Yonge rush is the sexual imbalance between those seated and standees on the train. The proportion of women seated is far higher than standing.

    I doubt that this is due to a sudden outbreak of courtesy and chivalry amongst the riders. A far more likely explanation is that being packed in so tightly that her body is in intimate contact with her neighbours is far more unpleasant for women than for men.

    Even someone as high-minded and pure as the driven snow as myself cannot help but notice which body parts I’m being bumped against by the motion of the train. It would not surprise me if a few low-life’s were using the opportunity provided by all the bumps and curves and jolts when the subway driver slams on the brakes to grab a quick feel/grope/fondle. I don’t blame the victim for then saying “I’ll never do this again.”

    What I suspect is going on is that the seated women got on at Finch, where passengers can board with a very high probability of being able to get a seat. South of Finch, female passengers have been deterred from boarding, so most of the standees are men.

    This enables a quick calculation to be made of the potential induced demand (pent-up demand) presented by those women who would ride if they could get a seat. All one has to do is count the number of 1) men standing, 2) women standing, 3) men seated, 4) women seated.

    From that information it is then easy to calculate the answer to the question: “How many more women are needed to bring the male/female ratio amongst standees to be the same as among those seated.” That number is a part of the pent-up demand of people who would take the TTC if conditions were not so unpleasant.

    This number is probably only a tiny part of the pent-up demand. Many men also find the sardine tin situation to be intensely unpleasant and are deterred from riding. Both men and women are deterred from riding when the train is packed so full that they cannot board.

    Steve, are you aware of anyone who has actually done such a count?

    Steve: I think that your analysis is flawed on a few counts. First, more women ride transit than men, and so it’s more likely that seats will be occupied by them. Also, men don’t fit on seats as easily as women do, and when there’s only one of three left on a bench, many men will choose to stand.

    The much more general question you raise is valid — to what degree is crowding discouraging/preventing people from riding, and by extension is it valid to plan a subway on the basis that it will always be packed? How much do we want to spent on more capacity, and where might there be unexpected benefits of induced demand simply because more people can get on?


  29. Kevin Love postulates a maxiumum reasonable subway capacity of 26,000 people/hour (past a given point), and 30,000 as the current unacceptable norm on Yonge at rush hour.

    He then postulates that GO transit could carry 23,000 p/h reasonably, with another 40,000 p/h in an emergency (for a total of 63,000 p/h). This would require 12-car trains on a five-minute headway.

    Sorry, I don’t buy this. GO’s rolling stock is incapable of this kind of operation — neither propulsion systems nor car access is anywhere near sufficient. Union Station is already a queue-and-wait-your-turn arrangement.

    There aren’t very many subway stations that handle over 100,000 people per *day*, and they are much, much better designed to handle crowds than GO’s platforms. The “higher order transit” is really a supersubway, an not remotely a reasonable extension of the current GO train system.

    Steve: I fully agree, but there’s a point where I just let people post and don’t try to comment on or rebut everything. GO has a place in shaving the peak off of demand on the subway, but even if Metrolinx got down to 10 trains per hour, as The Big Move proposes on a few lines, this is still only about 20K passengers, and handled via cars and stations that are totally inadequate to the fast turnover of a subway system’s design.


  30. Kevin Love said Go Trains cars have a capacity for 276 standees. Is this an official number? I cannot fathom even 150 people standing without people being on top of each other.

    Steve: The nominal capacity of a GO bilevel car is a bit under 200. It is probably possible to jam more people in, but that would be for a short term crush load, not day to day operations. Through the single set of doors and those narrow stairways it would take forever to load and offload passengers at major stops, let alone points in between.


  31. a) is the 17″ wide seat discriminatory towards male passengers?

    b) turning loops are an expensive solution, please examine the solution that Montréal uses, namely the use of pocket tracks and cross-overs beyond the terminal station

    c) would converting GO into a high frequency, electrified, integrated (fares, stations, schedules and routes) regional rail network not unlike Paris’ RER eliminate the need for DRL?

    Steve: Although GO can shave some demand off of the YUS, that’s only part of an overall strategy. The DRL, provided that it goes to Eglinton, gives a net new service as part of the network. If we expected GO to do everything, it would be like building the University line, but only stopping at St. George, Eglinton and Downsview.


  32. Jonathan wrote:
    “Kevin Love said Go Trains cars have a capacity for 276 standees. Is this an official number? I cannot fathom even 150 people standing without people being on top of each other.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    Those numbers come from Bombardier. I took a quick look for an online information source and found this:

    “Despite having no more doors than their single level predecessors, Bombardier brags that a full car can be unloaded in 45 seconds. A full car can seat 162 passengers (142 for series IV, and 1 or 2 less in the cabs) and still have room for 276 standees.”

    Source: Transit Toronto

    Needless to say, this would result in an extremely unpleasant ride, which is why I use the seated capacity in my calculations. However, it is worthwhile to keep in the back of one’s head that there is extra capacity on the trains in case of an emergency. The Yonge subway is currently crammed solid during peak hours with zero extra capacity.


  33. I see that Wikipedia is also reporting the GO railcar capacity as 162 seated and 276 standees.

    Steve: That I suspect is a spec based on astoundingly tight packing. If it were true, and the capacity of one car were 162+276=438 people (!!), then GO would only need 4-5 car trains to carry what they do now with 10-12. I have said this before, just because in theory you can stuff a car full of people doesn’t mean that this is an ideal way to operate. BTW, the same Wikipedia page notes that a car can unload, using doors on both sides, in 90 seconds. That’s vastly longer than is practical for a busy frequent service, and it requires platforms on both sides of the track. The herd of passengers must then make their way through station facilities.

    At this point I am getting tired of outrageous claims for car capacity on GO, and note that in your previous comment you stick with seated loads. GO’s own planning assumes a modest standing load with a total car capacity of 180. Some cars will carry more, but the average (the number that really matters) is not 400+ passengers per car.

    Bombardier is fond of claiming ridiculous load factors for their vehicles, and you will see that their capacity figures for the new LRVs are much higher than the numbers used by TTC for comparison purposes with other modes.


  34. Something that occured to me about subway capacity and the long turnaround time at terminals.

    For Finch station in particular, the long dwell times with one or two trains at the platform help with orderly passenger unloading/loading. If you revised the turnback system so that it could, in theory and in the absence of passengers, zip in and out of the station in no time, that may not help very much. The sheer passenger loads means a long dwell time at the station. Subway trains can be well over half of max capacity pulling in or out of the station, and all those people either have to get off, or have just gotten on….and sometimes both!

    This is less important at Kipling and Kennedy, and probably not at all an issue at Downsview.


  35. The DRL serves different catchments but more importantly adds resiliency to the subway network by adding additional direct transfer nodes to cope with disruption.

    On the other hand even with electrification, Doncaster Diamond upgrade, double track south of Doncaster and separation of crossings like Green Lane, CN, VIA and Northland use that trackage so it can’t be assumed that it is available for GO to saturate even if Union could take all the extra traffic – we may also want to leave at least some room for regional service to the Lake Simcoe area at some point.

    The reality is that Toronto needs all three projects – more GO to divert GO Buses from Finch, more subway as far as Steeles if not further and the DRL to reduce the pressure on the Yonge Line from Bloor to King.


  36. @Kevin Love – you can’t base suburban rail system capacity on crush loads. Consider the number of times GO is disrupted due to weather and pedestrian fatalities. TTC can disperse some of that load with its other routes – GO has no alternative but to cancel services in the lost slots and utilise that same crush load space you seem to want to use for regular service even if suburban commuters were willing to tolerate such confinement on a daily basis. If they were, they wouldn’t have moved to their three-car-garage house in the burbs in the first place.


  37. Mark Dowling wrote:

    “@Kevin Love – you can’t base suburban rail system capacity on crush loads. ”

    Kevin’s comment:

    I didn’t. All of my calculations were based upon seated capacity. I am starting to regret mentioning Bombardier’s claim for crush load, as it seems to be turning into a distraction from the central issue.

    That central issue is this: Right now, at peak hours, the Yonge line is packed to its ultimate crush capacity. How do we deal with existing actual and pent-up demand, as well as future demand due to population increase and extending the Yonge line to Hwy #7?

    The 30% extra capacity due to ATC and TR cars just simply isn’t going to suffice.

    And I’m not seeing any other alternatives out there.


  38. From the TRB’s Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual (page 5-88):

    “Except for a few situations where standing passengers are accepted for short distances into the city centre, commuter rail train capacity is based solely on the number of seats provided on each train. […]

    “An allowance for standing passengers is not recommended. However, if the nature of the service has significant short trips, it may be appropriate to add 10% to the number of seats on the train. Heavy rail standing densities are not appropriate for commuter rail.”


  39. Steve:

    This is somewhat off topic.

    New York Times today had a full section on the Subway. Of interest was an interview with the man who became chairman a year ago and has had to preside over service cuts and fare increases.

    I liked this quote,

    “People that I used to trust and respect said this was a good time to come back to the M.T.A.,” Mr. Walder said at a recent speech in Queens.
    “They said the M.T.A. was funded for the foreseeable future. Well, the foreseeable future turned out to be a few weeks.”

    Anyway, my wife and I have enjoyed riding the system over the last 2 weeks, after I figured out how things work.


  40. A bit about me: I live in London, and visit Paris every other week.

    As I see it, your problems are based around 2 main problems.

    1, All your Big trains all run into just one final destination (Union station).
    2. Your subway can’t cope with demand from Union station – north towards the rest of the city.

    Steve: Point 2 is not a valid assumption. The larger constraint lies in the number of trains that can physically enter Union railway station per hour. A large proportion of riders from these trains walk to their destinations already rather than taking the subway.

    Looking @ London & Paris. We have all done the same thing. We built a mix of Inter city rail / Commuter rail and Subway. (oh and high speed rail).
    We are now moving to the next level building Cross rail + thru train projects. (These are a 1/2 way house between Subways and commuter rail).

    In Europe, we would stop 3 of the main train lines about 2 miles west of the City… (For the Georgetown / Barrie & Milton Line)
    Say near Dundas West.

    Then stop the Stouffville & Richmond Hill lines about 2 miles east of the city. Say at Main street.

    Steve: The Barrie train’s line is closer to Lansdowne than to Dundas West, and the Richmond Hill line doesn’t run anywhere near Main Street station.

    Finally build your 2nd Subway between these two Stops… What you end up with, is another Line running East / West across the city.

    Please take a look at Osaka (Japan). Their metro/train system works really well together.

    The middle of the city is a huge GRID. It’s essentially a 5 X 5 grid with the main stations all feeding into it.

    There is no single central point!!!

    Steve: That’s a nice idea if you already have a rail network built to that design, but much harder to retrofit to an existing built up city.

    Please note that the preceding comment has been extensively edited to correct spelling and grammatical errors.


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