Rejigging Transit City

The entire purpose of this post is to hold comments dealing with possible alternate transit plans that were originally left in the thread “Why I’m Voting For George”.  That thread is becoming polluted with issues that are far from the mayoral campaign, and I will move all related comments to this new stub.

64 thoughts on “Rejigging Transit City

  1. “2. Building the promised Sheppard subway – not going to happen”

    If it does happen, let’s hope it doesn’t deadhead at Downsview like it does currently at Yonge. It would be better if a turning curve is built in so it could continue south on the Spadina line for greater functionality.

    Here’s another prediction: major labour strife including a total TTC system shutdown if Ford tries to rip up streetcar lines or “get tough” in other ways. And that extends to other city workers as well.

    Steve: Why would there be labour strife about the streetcars? The far greater issue would be any attempt to privatize operation of the TTC, something that would probably be easier to market if it was an all bus system.


  2. You’re taking Ford’s win quite well. By now I thought you would have mobilized the Streetcar for Toronto troops and armed them with heavy weaponry (old fareboxes and identra coils).

    Seriously, do you think the TTC would even go along with a plan to phase out streetcars operating in mixed traffic over the long term? I always got the feeling that deep down, TTC management was indifferent to the streetcar system and reluctantly kept it in the 70s.

    I know Ford’s camp is now saying that St. Clair and Spadina-Harbourfront are off-limits because ROW lines don’t impede traffic flow, but I have to wonder if these guys know what they’re talking about. Spadina is due for a major track rebuild soon. If I were following their logic, Spadina would be my first target.

    My fear is that technical problems with the prototype cars may give Ford all the ammunition he needs to cancel the contract and kill the system. I don’t know, but I just have a nagging apprehension that the new longer cars will have trouble with our turns and switches.

    Steve: I have been holding back on a broadside against the new regime because, as we have seen in the press, they are still coming to terms with what they can or cannot do. Indeed the idea that such a major policy decision would be in place before Council has even had a chance to vote on it suggests that the Mayor-Elect needs a short lesson in basic democracy.

    Spadina and Harbourfront are problems because of the planned track renewal projects. The track south of King and east of Spadina is the some of the last “thunder track” on the core system and it badly needs to be replaced. Another important chunk is on Queen at Russell Carhouse including the carhouse ladders.

    As for Bombardier and the new cars, we won’t know for a year until the first prototype gets here, presuming the contract isn’t allowed to be cancelled by a spineless Premier.

    And, of course, the streetcars never carried identra coils!


  3. Miguel said …

    “It would be better if a turning curve is built in so it could continue south on the Spadina line for greater functionality.”

    If Sheppard is extended west, a wye will definitely be built for non-revenue service moves to Wilson yards. Will it be used in revenue service? … no. When the Eglinton West subway of the 90s was proposed, the original idea was to run some Yonge-University-Eglinton trains. The TTC killed that idea almost immediately. By the 90s they had pretty much lost all institutional memory of the wye in 1966 (I mean, everyone involved in that original experiment is now dead), so it was surprising to see them kill it at the design stage.

    Steve: I really wish everyone would stop trying to figure out ways to integrate service between the Sheppard and YUS lines. It ain’t going to happen for a variety of reasons, notably basic math about how we would run all of the services. Some people want trains from the north to turn east on Sheppard, while others want trains from the south. If you really want to make a mess of service at the north end of Spadina, and spend a fortune on the tunnel connections, be my guest. Meanwhile, we have more pressing needs elsewhere on the subway system.


  4. Steve this is a bit off topic but is there any reason why the TTC doesn’t allow a greater variety of vendors in the Subway system? I was speaking to the owner of the newspaper stand in Lansdowne station and she mentioned that she had sold recently because business was slow. It seems to me that the captive nature of these spaces would make them valuable to the likes of Tim Hortons or Starbucks for example perhaps it would even generate enough revenue to cover the station maintenance.


    Steve: The main contract for the newsstands is tendered and has been held by the same company for ages. However, they don’t find some locations attractive, and they don’t pick them all up. Castle Frank is another example of a lower-volume independent vendor. These “leftover” locations are also put out to tender, but the TTC doesn’t always get a bid as some simply don’t have enough traffic.

    The problem with Tim’s or Starbucks is that the existing locations are very small. Money would have to be spent on water supplies and, probably, electrical services, and these are unlikely to be funded by the TTC. There would not be room for a full line of products, and there could be sanitation/health issues for spaces that are open to the wind and dust typically found in subway stations.


  5. OK – we could run an LRT on a zero lane road – riders would get out and carry the vehicle portage-style. What could be more Canadian – eh?

    Steve: Sounds like an LRT Nature Trail!


  6. Imagine if every one of the people now riding the Scarborough RT drove a Zipcar instead. Where would we put them all?
    Are you serious? Car-sharing is an amazing way of reducing automobile ownership. It works on the principle that if you don’t own a car and instead pay per usage, you actually end up using it a lot less frequently. When you do use it, you chain together trips to optimize your spending.

    Moreover, if you’re looking to reduce the number of parked cars on the road, research shows that one auto-share car removes about 6-8 privately owned cars from the roads.

    No, auto-sharing is not a replacement for public transit, but it is hugely helpful for people who want to live a transit lifestyle and don’t want to own a car. It completely baffles me that the city is not more supportive of auto-sharing as part of their integrated transit strategy.

    Please tell me you’re not opposed to auto-sharing.

    Steve: The problem is that if you move people off of transit and into cars, you still need the road space to handle them, and the parking spaces at their destinations. Car sharing as you describe it is for off-peak trips — a transit lifestyle with occasional car use. I am talking about people who commute every day by transit, with most of them going downtown. Car sharing is a completely different market.


  7. In Regards to the recently approved Scarbrough RT Conversion plan…The entire plan is great except for one main area:
    ** The modified Kennedy Station looks like such a waste of money and very very short-sighted! **

    #1 If the Eglinton-Crosstown line is going to curve north and go towards Scarborough Town Centre, then why is there another platform for Scarborough RT and a loop track?

    The whole argument of having a seamless ride from downtown to Scarborough Town Centre can be solved by marketing the simple idea that… Yonge Subway to Eglinton, and Eglinton LRT straight direct to Scarborough town centre! Done! Half the people on the Scarborough RT will not switch onto Bloor subway if they can just sit on the same train all the way to Yonge subway!

    #2 Why does the malvern line end abruptly at its own platform? Why does the rail not connect with the Eglinton-Crosstown line? It makes absolutely no sense…its like going on Bloor subway then getting off the train at Yonge, walking a few meters, then getting on another subway to continue east…its not like there is even a technology change!

    Money tremendously wasted…3 platforms instead of 1…i really don’t understand it unless i am missing something here!

    What should be done in my opinion?
    Eglinton Crosstown LRT should carry 2 services and be interlined.

    A. Eglinton Crosstown to Malvern (via scarborough RT)
    B. Eglinton Crosstown to University of Toronto Scarborough (via Malvern LRT)

    With a single major platform (Yonge-Sheppard Station Size) for both lines…

    I am sure that eventually down the line…a more higher capacity route has to be built to accomodate the frequency of two lines but it will surely kill the momentum to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway to Scarborough Town Centre.


  8. @Joseph C:

    I have spoken with TTC staff in the past extensively on this subject and can answer your questions.

    Before getting into the specifics of your questions, what is important to bear in mind is that all the lines have different demand projections. TTC staff are operating on the assumption that the overwhelming majority of users of the Morningside LRT and SRT will switch to the Bloor-Danforth Subway “because it is fastest.” I have issues with TTC staff on this assumption because of the impacts those assumptions will have on B-D. B-D sees substantial volumes of traffic come on board at all the Scarborough stations as well as Main Street as all of these have a large number of bus connections compared to the Former City of Toronto stations east of Yonge, and the trains get pretty crowded as early as the time they leave Scarborough. The peak hour peak point is ridership is already exceeding 24K in the AM peak (they’ve added another train to B-D during the AM rush service levels).

    The current SRT corridor has an AM peak hour peak point demand in the realm of 5,000, of which 3,800 is carried by the SRT alone, and parallel bus services pick up the rest. The TTC modeling, which TTC staff have confirmed ignores GO service expansions proposed by Metrolinx, sees the SRT corridor AM peak hour peak point demand doubling to 10,000 by 2031. If all these transfer to B-D, and we assume that there will be growth on other bus routes feeding B-D east of Yonge, then B-D’s peak hour peak point demand could crack 30K, possibly more, in 2031, which the TTC is totally unprepared to handle due to constraints at Greenwood Yard and don’t yet even have a study on how to expand yard capacity along B-D (although they have asked for the Commission to make a budget allocation for such a study when they handed the Commission such a study on YUS).

    The TTC sees demand on the Eglinton LRT east of Don Mills as a low figure, surely less than 3,000. I find this rather hard to believe, especially if all opportunities are taken advantage of for making the network convenient for various trip patterns and consider that B-D has limits on how many people it can carry and could seriously benefit from alleviation through attractive service along Eglinton going west from east or north of Kennedy Station.

    To answer your first question, the reason why there is a loop track is because the TTC proposal is to run far more frequent service between Kennedy Station and Scarborough Centre than along the Eglinton LRT between Laird and Kennedy Station. The design does allow SRT trains from Scarborough Centre to run through on the Eglinton LRT, and from the Eglinton LRT to Scarborough Centre, in addition to the SRT loop so that they can run every other train or something along Eglinton and turn the other back. Whether every Eglinton train will run through or not is not known, but it is designed in such a way so that the TTC can choose to turn trains back at Kennedy Station or run them through to Scarborough Centre, so that they aren’t locked into one choice or the other.

    For the second question regarding the Morningside LRT, this is projected to be a low-demand corridor and the TTC expects the consist lengths to be different (i.e. 1-2 cars for Morningside and 2-3 cars for Eglinton). There was, I have heard from the consultants themselves, some back-and-forth between TTC staff and the consultants on whether or not the Morningside LRT would be designed to accommodate 90m platforms to keep open the possibility of running Eglinton LRT trains through on the Morningside LRT (I didn’t ask if that referred to part or all of the route). Ultimately, TTC wants to start with different consist lengths and run the lines separately. Because the SRT and Morningside routes are proposed to both connect with Conlins Carhouse, the Eglinton LRT doesn’t need a through-connection via Morningside to have vehicles fed to it by that route (although I would argue that the redundancy is a good reliability measure that gives additional peace of mind). The design is arranged so that the tracks for Eglinton and Morningside can be connected at a later date. You may have noticed, too, that the location of the wall between the two LRTs is directly below the GO Uxbridge Subdivision, which engineers don’t want to disrupt more than absolutely necessary, so it is in part a design of convenience for staff. I think there is a golden opportunity being missed with respect to the Uxbridge Sub and Kennedy GO design, but that’s another debate.

    Steve: Thanks for all of this detail. Given the current situation at City Hall, whether any of it is actually built, whether Queen’s Park has the courage of its convictions, whether the TTC will fall back into its usual stance of favouring subways and downplaying alternatives, this entire discussion, sadly, may be moot.


  9. A very quick question for you Steve. What will happen to the Pan Am Games if the Sheppard tram line is cancelled? Even if we build a metro, it will never go as far as UTSC. Are we suppose to shuttle people with buses? Does cancelling the line affect our bid for the Pan Am Games?

    Steve: Many buses from STC, assuming that the SRT is still running.


  10. I saw confirmation in the Star this morning of my speculation that most of Ford’s landslide win came from the old suburbs (Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke). Given that, it is to be seen what if any of TC is built, given those parts of the city favour subways over surface transit. Ford has backpedalled a bit on cancelling the order for new replaement streetcars if the penalties are too high, but he may try to haggle with Bombardier (perhaps add to the existing order for subway cars for the subways routes he’d like to see built?). And the current Liberal Provincial government is likely facing a serious battle for survival next year and may want to appease Ford in hopes of securing it’s chances for another term.

    Or am I being overly pessimistic?


    Steve: What I have heard so far implies that Queen’s Park remains on track with the “Big 5” projects: Sheppard East, Eglinton, Finch, and the SRT replacement (VIVA is the 5th and is outside of this discussion). However, I expect that there will still be some haggling to be done.

    One question a new Mayor, regardless of political stripe, should have for the Premier is the question of funding “local” transit capital. As I have written here before, the gas tax revenue we get is miniscule compared to our needs. This problem will grow not only for the TTC but for the 905 agencies and GO as services build up under The Big Move (local systems will have to improve service to feed the more frequent GO operations). The Premier should dump this in Metrolinx’ lap if only through an explicit recognition that local transit costs are an important component of the “Investment Strategy”. To date, Metrolinx has washed its hands of this, and this is one of the most serious oversights in their entire planning process.

    McGuinty could ante up higher subsidies for the new streetcars allowing Toronto to save money on its capital program, although given the long delivery period, this saving will accrue over an extended timeframe, not all in the next few years. He could also chip in funds for the new carhouse. The underlying problem is that if Queen’s Park beefs up subsidies, it needs to explain (a) how it will pay for them and (b) how this fits in an overall provincial funding strategy.

    I am planning to write an article on this whole situation, but have held off waiting until the dust settles a bit and we have a better idea of positions taken by various players.


  11. The Premier should dump this in Metrolinx’ lap if only through an explicit recognition that local transit costs are an important component of the “Investment Strategy”. To date, Metrolinx has washed its hands of this, and this is one of the most serious oversights in their entire planning process.

    Leslie Woo has claimed that local transit costs are part of the Investment Strategy, although this was at a breakfast session which isn’t necessarily a “public event” per se. The ongoing problem that never gets acknowledged is that there is too little public dialogue and reporting on the progress and development of the Investment Strategy, a problem that nobody seems willing to tackle.


  12. “Steve this is a bit off topic but is there any reason why the TTC doesn’t allow a greater variety of vendors in the Subway system?”

    Some of the stations have a pretty wide variety of vendors, like Eglinton which has (or had) a book shop, a gadget shop and several places to eat. Warden also had a variety, but I haven’t been there for quite a while.

    “Sounds like an LRT Nature Trail!”

    You mean like the Halton County Radial Railway?


  13. You wrote: “Steve: What I have heard so far implies that Queen’s Park remains on track with the “Big 5″ projects: Sheppard East, Eglinton, Finch, and the SRT replacement (VIVA is the 5th and is outside of this discussion). However, I expect that there will still be some haggling to be done…..”

    That sounds encouraging, though I’ve seen past plans for transit expansion promised but not delivered. I would certainly see the SRT replacement as a pretty high priority given the existing equipment is end-of-life and may not last much longer, and both the Sheppard East and Eglinton lines should receive high priority. I guess sending a letter to my MPP and local counillor elect can’t hurt.

    I look forward to reading your article.



  14. Steve: ….The problem with Tim’s or Starbucks is that the existing locations are very small. Money would have to be spent on water supplies and, probably, electrical services, and these are unlikely to be funded by the TTC. There would not be room for a full line of products, and there could be sanitation/health issues for spaces that are open to the wind and dust typically found in subway stations.

    Why so negatory? There are plenty of TimHo’s in gas stations, in a Ryerson hallway and other equally tiny nooks. There are even Cinnabons in some TTC stations already! I’d prefer Second Cup myself though. Maybe it’s just as well there aren’t more coffee places in TTC stations as I consume enough caffeine as it is but it would be an excellent fit.

    Steve: I am not being negative. If Tim’s had wanted those spaces, they would have bid on them long ago. There is already a Tim’s at Finch Station, but the customer traffic there is huge compared to other stations with empty newsstands. Gas stations and Ryerson hallways have the traffic to make investment in new plant worthwhile. Also, the Cinnabon stores are substantially enclosed, and the one at Eglinton is quite a bit bigger than a typical vacant newsstand.


  15. There is a very small Tim Horton’s at Pape Station also. Keep in mind that their business practice typically is to operate such small locations as satellites of regular full-size locations, sharing staff and resources between them.

    Steve: The Tim’s at Pape uses a small space at street level and serves the neighbourhood generally outside of the fare control area (it’s a great place to wait for the Don Mills night bus in the winter). At present, the station is under construction and a new Tim’s will be provided for. This is an exception both in its location and its presence at a busy station. The locations we are talking about are those without enough traffic to attract a “standard” newsstand.


  16. Sorry, I didn’t realize we were only talking about nonviable locations. I thought the general suggestion was just to have more and better outlets within stations.

    Steve: Yes, the thread started with someone asking about a location where the tenant was about to give up the space. As to a growth in outlets, it would be interesting to hear how TTC management would trade off revenue from more coffee stands and the litter/spill problem of widespread coffee drinking. They’re very big on saying “no” except when there’s a dollar to be made.


  17. An opponent of Transit City Light Rail Plan and Subway advocate often says that LRT will not be able to provide the capacity needed for the corridor in the long-term future. An LRT advocate’s response:

    -Some LRT lines run parallel to high capacity GO routes, and therefore, the heavy demand for long-distance travel along that route has already been taken care of.
    -Should the capacity of an LRT line be exceeded, another LRT line can be built very easily on the next suburban arterial road. This is an affordable way of easing the burden off existing LRT lines, while expanding the transit network to reach many more neighbourhoods.

    With regards to the second argument LRT advocates make, is it feasible just to plan another parallel LRT line as a means of increasing capacity? I think it’s a great idea, but I wonder why it’s hardly discussed as a solution.

    Also, you were discussing catchment areas for different transit corridors, and how they affected capacity requirements in a different post (the Queen Street Subway Debate). Are catchment areas the same if we considered trips not bound for the core? And how large would the Eglinton LRT’s catchment area be?

    Steve: This gets a bit tricky depending on whether one is looking at current or future land use patterns. The Transit City plans (and indeed The Big Move) assume lane use projected out 15 and 25 years from today including new locations of both homes and jobs. Certain things — basic geography — will never change, but if there is an evolution of a new residential corridor along Eglinton, then it can originate more traffic destined for many places. Conversely, if there is a new office complex, this will draw traffic from around the region.

    Some of the traffic is a direct result of the interconnection of lines. If Eglinton connected with a DRL at Don Mills, then it will act as a feeder to that line and will attract traffic Eglinton might not otherwise get. However, the presence of the DRL will also siphon off some trips that might otherwise have continued west to Yonge, and this will reduce the peak point demand on Eglinton.

    The big problem with so many proposals, especially in a campaign atmosphere, is that they look at a few “squeaky wheels”, but don’t consider overall network behaviour. Funding tries to prioritize routes based on accounting mumbo-jumbo establishing which route, on its own, might make sense, when a network view might produce a different result. The best example of this is the whole debate about the effects and benefits of adding capacity to the existing Yonge subway, extending the line to Richmond Hill, expanding GO service, and building the DRL. If the DRL is only view in isolation, it costs a lot and doesn’t appear to serve the region. However, if it is seen as providing a relief valve for the YUS, this improves options on a regional scale and may avoid some of the upgrade costs.

    Finally, as to building a parallel line. There are not too many cases where this is a simple option, although it is attractive. For example, Finch East is an obvious parallel to Sheppard, but the section for several kilometres east of Yonge was left as low rise residential in the Official Plan due to some horse trading among politicians and planning staff. Steeles might be another location, but it only makes sense if the YUS goes at least that far north to provide a good connection.

    As with so much planning, “it depends”, and there isn’t one easy, standard solution for every problem.


  18. I personally favour LRTs over subways unless there is sufficient current and future ridership to justify the latter, but I suspect the fervour for subways (especially in the suburban hinterland where I live) is that based on current experience with the TTC — subways offer the best service in terms of speed and capacity but also have no impact to existing roadways. Much of the negative arguments against TC seems to be in terms of the existing streetcars lines running in mixed traffic — that is the TC LRT lines will be nothing more than slow-running streetcars, with the added insult of creating more traffic congestion (this image was once again brought to mind as I pedal westbound on Gerrard St E, watching motorist “gunning” past a streetcar just ahead of me).

    Steve, has there been posted anywhere the project operating speeds for the LRT lines? I’m guessing a lot faster than the often stated 17 kph? I’m assuming the TTC might be able to operate LRVs at roughly subway speed along the underground section of the Eglinton line (I watch the speedometer of a T1 reach 62 kph between stations)?

    Steve: There are speeds given in the materials for each line’s EA. Eglinton will operate like a subway, although it is important to remember that the stations, especially west of Yonge, are spaced more like the old part of the BD line than on the Sheppard subway. Station spacing is one of the primary constraints on operating speed. One reason that subway and LRT vehicles are not built to run at 100kph is that the stations are too close together to make such performance worthwhile.

    Don’t forget that 17kph is the average speed including stops. Many surface routes have no trouble achieving that sort of speed.

    The BD subway manages 31-33kph while the SRT does 35-37kph. The difference is mainly in the average stop spacing (those two 2 km gaps from Kennedy north to Ellesmere really help), as well as shorter terminal times. The Sheppard subway at 29.8 kph is actually “slower” than BD because the terminal layovers dominate on this short line enough to offset the wider station spacing.

    Anyone looking at TTC service summaries should note that the subway and RT show “0” for the terminal time on all lines at all periods of operation, and the average speed given in the summaries includes the, at times, substantial layovers at terminals. The surface routes show the terminal times separately, and the speeds shown in the summaries are only for the running time between terminals.


  19. The question of average speed is interesting. If we measure the average speed of motor vehicles travelling within the city, it is only about 20 km /h (including parking). This is no faster than a bicycle or even a horse drawn carriage. So much for progress?

    The TTC should publish these numbers in comparison to trams and metros so that people know. There is a reason why a rational person will always take the Spadina tram over driving on Spadina.


  20. There is no point in posting the averages of any given line or mode because it all varies dramatically with infrastructure design. 501 travels significantly faster between Roncesvalles and South Kingsway than it does between Spadina and Church. Same goes for the Yonge Subway on either side of St. Clair.

    Buses aren’t any exception, either: See how the 192 compares to the 127?

    The notion that there is some hard and fast rule for the average speed of any given technology is a non-starter. It all is governed by the design of the track infrastructure, station spacing, and, for buses, roadworks (i.e., in the example comparison above, do they use freeways?).

    The speed of the service is not the onlyl important element anyway; too many, including some on TTC staff, tend to forget about how convenient is it for people to access a service. In that context, it is important to remember that convenience of access and convenience of travel speed most often tend to conflict, so priority needs to be given to one or the other (because we all have to face the reality: We can’t have both!), and I’d argue it is critical to give priority to convenience of access if you want an efficient, equitable, and attractive system.


  21. Karl wrote:
    “There is no point in posting the averages of any given line or mode because it all varies dramatically with infrastructure design”

    Kevin’s comment:
    Unless the infrastructure is explicitly designed for transportation at a particular speed. An example of this is Copenhagen’s famous “Green Wave.” The traffic signals are all timed so that a cyclist traveling at 20 km/hr hits every signal green. Nice, since it takes a large amount of effort to accelerate a bicycle to cruising speed from a stop.

    See details here

    Steve: A related point is that if traffic signals are designed to favour transit rather than giving the leftovers to any passing bus or streetcar, transit can move more quickly too. That said, there is a limit to how fast any service can operate based on stop spacing, demand at the stops, and vehicle/loading designs.


  22. Steve, what’s the status of the Sheppard LRT line right now? Is it still just utility rerouting at this point?

    Steve: Agincourt GO grade separation is in progress.


  23. To expand on Steve’s comment re: Sheppart LRT – the GO Train platform extension is nearly complete at Agincourt and they are in the process of laying down temporary rail to re-route the train around the crossing that will be dug up.

    In the meantime, utility relocation near Markham Road is complete (I think) and Infrastructure Ontario’s RFP for the Conlins maintenance facility will close in early 2011.

    Moving a bit slow for my liking, but it’s clear that our new mayor won’t be able to touch it.


  24. I would think Ford would welcome road/rail grade separations like that at GO Agincourt, given that cars will now not be bothered by gate closures. It would be interesting to see traffic counts pre- and post- construction to see if people used to avoid Sheppard at Agincourt GO when trains run.


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