Metrolinx Muses About Elevated Railways

A strange twist of journalistic coincidence saw two articles with almost identical content in The Star and in The National Post about technology alternatives for Transit City.

Toronto Star:  Elevated transit among Metrolinx alternatives

Toronto Star:  Beauty in the eye of the rider

National Post:  Elevated trains:  Metrolinx offers subway alternative

When this sort of thing happens, and especially when some of the reference material is supplied by a public agency, I can’t help thinking someone wants to get “a message” out.  Whether it’s the appropriate message, or one that has been approved by the Board of the agency pushing the story, is another matter.

I can’t help thinking of the shell game perpetrated by the TTC and Queen’s Park to get an elevated through Scarborough Town Centre.  The politicians didn’t want it, but the decision for an el was forced on them before the technology change to Skytrain.  “Streetcars” would isolate land south of the Town Centre and an el was the only solution.  Scarborough Council held its nose and agreed.  With this decision out of the way, an elevated Skytrain line was a much easier sell.

We now see lovely photos of Vancouver’s Skytrain, some courtesy of the head of Metrolinx, in local media.  Do we see the view from underneath the structures?  Do we see neighbourhoods where buildings are close to the road, or suburban lines with roads surrounded by parking?  Does anyone talk about the road space occupied by support structures and stations?  Does anyone acknowledge how much of Vancouver’s Skytrain does not run down the middle of arterial roads, but underground or along old rail corridors?  Dishonest presentations of elevated proposals for Toronto go right back to the days of the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation, and little seems to be changing.

Those of us who watched the tug of war over Transit City know that there was a big fight between Metrolinx and Toronto about the technology choice and, as usual, Bombardier had an inside track as a proponent of a turnkey project to build new transit lines.  This scheme was eventually scotched and, for a time, LRT won out with the expectation that David Miller and his successors would keep Transit City alive long enough to ensure it didn’t revert to a Skytrain network.

That was a nice idea, but political events didn’t work out as planned, and we now have a Mayor for whom LRT is a very bad word.  This plays right into the hands of those at Metrolinx who never wanted an LRT system in the first place.  Oddly enough, this seems to be happening without public debate, precisely the concern levelled at Transit City for its choice of technology.

If we are to revisit the technology choice and the network design, then this needs to be an open and fair discussion, not something cooked up in a Metrolinx back room and leaked out through the media.

Meanwhile, transit planning continues its journey into fantasyland.  MPP David Caplan wants to set up a development company to market land around potential subway station sites as a way to pay for construction.  The former Minister responsible for Infrastructure Ontario  touts the success of “alternative financing procurement” used for projects like hospitals and court houses as a sample of what might happen with subways.  Caplan ignores the fact that subways cost vastly more than hospitals, and that the land around stations is generally not in the public sector.

Is Caplan freelancing (not a great comment on the cohesion of McGuinty’s government) or is he floating a trial balloon of possible government policy?  Has he considered the reaction of neighbourhoods to the possibility that they can get a subway, but only at the cost of their established lower densities?

Meanwhile unnamed transit planners say it’s too soon to decide on specifics of a new network, and claim that they trying to respect Mayor Ford’s desire to preserve surface road capacity without necessarily putting everything underground.  This directly contradicts the Mayor’s love for a Sheppard subway — if we don’t have the money, other lines can just wait.  Ford dismisses elevated structures as cavalierly as streetcars.

This is not transit planning, it’s the hubris of a Mayor who won’t discuss anything, who would rather make announcements than involve his Council, his Transit Commission, in a real discussion of what is possible and desirable.  We hear how important a change in the TTC board’s makeup will be, how we need experts and business-minded people running the show rather than politicians.  Why would any true “expert” lend their name to an agency whose only function is to rubber stamp the Mayor’s narrow view of transit’s role?

Metrolinx may try to counter Mayor Ford’s position with selective discussions through the media, but at best this only exposes the Mayor’s intransigence to any consideration of alternative schemes.  At worst, this tactic replaces considered studies and consultation with seat-of-the-pants planning aimed at getting something, anything, approved by Council early in 2011.

45 thoughts on “Metrolinx Muses About Elevated Railways

  1. Elevated lines are far, far more expensive than surface lines, and the long-term maintenance costs are much higher too.

    Considering that one of the Ford supporters’ biggest (and stupidest) talking points against surface transit was “oh Canada has winter, so clearly we can’t have transit anywhere it can snow”, I don’t see how an elevated transit line that greatly complicates snow clearing would be the solution.


  2. A few years ago I rode the elevated train in Philadelphia. It was fascinating but really disturbing to see it graze decaying buildings. Safely cocooned above, you could see poor areas below. There was no connection at all. It was ugly physically and socially.


  3. I don’t even think this qualifies as “planning on a napkin”. I’d love to know who in the private sector is eagerly waiting to invest in a “tunnel” company and a “station” company to build the 10’s of kilometres of subway that would replace the plans for TC? I’m finding this whole thing becoming more and more of a farce. Is Metrolinx now (discretely) pushing for the elevated option so it can run ICTS trainsets (supplied by Bombardier!) for at least the Eglinton route (Sheppard remaining as a subway to STC) and possibly an upgraded SRT to new ICTS ?

    What is sad is that no one seems to be looking a options to mitigate the apparent issue with LRT lines impact to road capacity. Many of the arterial roads out my way are 7 lanes wide with raised medians where one could run an LRT line with little impact. For left turns where another arterial crosses, could we consider grade separation (the LRT line going under the cross road)? A friend of mine has written to TTC chair Karen Stintz regarding use of existing rail lines in the City, specifically the CPR line running from northeast Scarborough and past the Summerhill railway station (now an LCBO), using cars similar to those on the Deux Montagnes line in Montreal. I’ve also pondered the possibility of using Hydro right-of-way (the one south of Finch comes to mind) . In the end none of this may come to pass – my fear is that in the end little if anything will get built.



  4. All I can say in response to the above revelations is – appalling!

    Your entire system of policies and procedures for planning public works projects in the Toronto region is in complete shambles.

    I now see how readily a new administration can undo years of hard work done by its predecessor, simply by edict based on a presumed voter mandate that these plans be set aside and redrawn. It appears that whatever Mayor Ford decrees is now to be the law of the land, with no further public debate or thoughtful evaluation.

    To me, the lesson so painfully being learned here is – there is NO point in doing future transit planning of ANY kind in the Toronto region UNTIL a political structure is put in place which ensures that, once a plan is agreed upon and financed, as Transit City was, it MUST be carried out – and CANNOT be cavalierly swept aside at the whim of any succeeding political administration which may disagree with it.

    I cannot but imagine how infuriating this complete waste of time, effort and money spent on Transit City must be to those who worked so hard and tirelessly over so many years to cobble it together, only to see it now being swept away so thoughtlessly and carelessly.

    This is nothing less than a travesty.

    Steve: Transit City, and indeed the whole idea of large scale transit planning, was dealt a body blow when Queen’s Park cut back on the funding and left so much of it to the magic of the Metrolinx “Investment Strategy”. So far, all we have seen on that front is a mixture of proposals for new taxes that will be hugely unpopular even though they are necessary, and belief in the Tooth Fairy of private financing.


  5. Another article in the Toronto Star this morning indicated that Rob Ford’s going to use the city’s budget surplus to balance next year’s budget. That means he isn’t even going to try to bank the money and put it towards the increased cost of the subways he wants to build. Meanwhile, as transit expansion planning degenerates to a new low of absurdity every day, the provincial government refuses to put a stop to it and demand that the Transit City money be used responsibly or withdraw the funding if it isn’t. I pay provincial tax too, and I’m not happy about Queen’s Park standing by while Rob Ford and, apparently, now Metrolinx dump an established, reasonably well thought out plan that a reasonable amount of design work has already gone into for arbitrary, last minute ideas that appear to be grasping at straws.

    I find myself having the “Oh, you live in (…fill in the blank…)? What’s the commute like from there?” with people at work increasingly often as the idea of taking my good, solid middle class income somewhere where housing costs are lower becomes more attractive than paying a whopper of a mortgage to live in Toronto with voter endorsed nonsense like this.

    Steve: I do not believe for one moment that all of the people who voted for Rob Ford did so with the intention that he become a one man show dismantling transit plans without bothering to engage in any form of debate with Council or the public. Quite clearly, he has complete contempt for the way government is supposed to work.


  6. How come we never see anything about swan-boats in the Toronto Star? If ever there was a time – now is it!

    I guess my main question right now is – how is the rank-and-file taking this? I work in software and if you cancel a project after 5 years of working on it, things get grim pretty fast … I’d like to know if people are resigning yet. If I was Mississauga right now, I’d be picking off LRT staff from the TTC like nobody’s business … I’d really like to know what all the staff that is still on payroll is doing?

    I think one of the issues currently with the TTC staff is that they really don’t have much of a public face – blogs etc. So there isn’t much publicly reliable information about what the planners are dealing with, what the professional opinion is etc.

    Steve: Some have already left. Many are contract staff or working for third party consulting firms. Mississauga’s problem is that their LRT line isn’t one of Metrolinx’ priority projects, at least not yet, and if the Tories come to power next fall, we can forget about any spending on transit for another decade. Of course the same people who fume about traffic congestion and the lack of alternatives will probably vote for whoever promises the biggest tax break.

    As for Swan Boats in the Star, that requires a sense of whimsy, a characteristic so far removed from the mindset at City Hall as to be on a completely different planet.


  7. One thing that occurred to me upon rereading the Globe and Mail article, what happened to Ford’s grand scheme to replace the Scarborough RT with a subway?

    Steve: What is happening is that Ford can only build the Sheppard Subway with the $3-billion from Transit City, and the rest has fallen off of his plan.


  8. Sometimes I think it would be easier to deal with “public transport planning” in Malaysia, where a company can come up with an unsolicited proposal for an MRT network, present a 30-slide powerpoint worthy of high school to the Federal Cabinet to justify the proposal, and get it approved in the space of 3 months.

    Not to mention, get named as “project delivery partner” and be guaranteed to get an estimated 30billion ringgit contract to build the tunnels … without any open tender required.

    Oh, and this project which was proposed in February 2010 and adopted in June 2010 will apparently start construction in July 2011. Never mind that the LRT extensions announced in September 2009 after 1 year of planning have not started construction to this date.

    I seriously do not know if corporate shenanigans and public transport “planning” for private profits is any better or worse than political shenanigans and public transport “planning” for the sake of the egos of politicians and civil servants.

    In Malaysia and Canada our ‘leaders’ seem to be more interested in telling the public what they (the politicians or civil servants) think is good for them or talking about what “the public” wants, rather than actually listening to what the public really *needs*and making wise, careful decisions in the best interest of the public.

    I’m ashamed that Toronto has managed to take the best opportunities to showcase “LRT” (Queen’s Quay, Spadina, Fleet, St. Clair) and turn them into examples of “what not to do” when it comes to making these supposedly ‘transformative’ public transport projects happen.

    Jeers, Moaz


  9. I am just appalled with the state of transit in Toronto. It’s ridiculous that a plan 8 years in the making, that has been approved by council over a dozen times and has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars is being tossed aside for no good reason. Where is the respect for taxpayers Ford? Toronto will never get a decent transit system and it will never be a viable option for those who live in the inner suburbs. I’m so disillusioned with this entire city that a move elsewhere is in order.


  10. I wonder where someone would look for a parts store to start the Toronto Swan Boats Transit (TSBT).

    Why is it that the Gardenier is coming to mind? Oh yeah another “Elevated” thing in the City of Toronto.

    At least Metrolinx/McGuinty/Ford will not be able to get rid of Scarborough’s streetcar tracks. (Guess where they are).


  11. Phil, I think you’re spot-on. I too have been thinking about this and can certainly imagine Bombardier forgoing any cancellation penalties for the LRT vehicles in exchance for a large order of Mark II cars to operate on the SRT and a rebranded Eglinton line. In addition, going with Mark II cars would eliminate the hefty cost of converting the SRT to LRT, and would also allow the TTC to address the SRT much sooner (2015 would likely be very doable).

    Ford never said anything about extending the SRT route, so maintaining the existing technology and simply purchasing new vehicles would appear to be the cheapest option. As always, the question is whether or not council will have an opportunity to vote on this. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Metrolinx proposal for a Sheppard subway, Mark IIs for the SRT and, if there’s money left, a maglev Eglinton line also running Mark IIs. Finch W is OK with buses, according to Ford himself.


  12. I actually like the idea of an elevated LRT line on Eglinton avenue, especially in Scarborough. As a former Scarberian An EL on Eglinton would be a big improvement on the appearance of the road. It has to be the ugliest stretch of road that I have seen. It would probably force a tunnel under the CPR line but it could run above ground to the south of Eglinton until it got east of Wynford then go in the middle of the road to Kennedy where it could meet the subway and the totally grade separated line that replaces the LRT.

    In the west end it could be elevated across the Black Creek ravine then go underground through Mt. Dennis then be an EL surface mix along the north side of Eglinton. It could run at the surface until the intersection when if could go into an elevated station across the cross street. This would have the added benefit of going up a hill into the station to convert kinetic energy into potential and the revers upon leaving.

    This would have the benefit of preserving the Eglinton line, make use of the LFLRV that have been ordered (I think) and allow Ford to say that he is preserving road space. I don’t think an EL would have worked on St. Clair or Spadina but anything would be an improvement over Scarborough’s “Golden Mile.” I actually like the view from an EL much better than staying in a subway, mind you the view of the Chicago EL from the four lanes streets which it runs over is not very nice. With reinforced concrete and modern noise suppression techniques it should be possible to have a very quiet EL, as long as it doesn’t have a reaction rail. This EL subway mix would also allow them to use a totally automated control system like the Sky Train.

    As long as it uses the LRT cars that are ordered and not LIM powered crap then I like it on Eglinton. I don’t think it would work on Finch between Bathurst and Bayview where the road is narrower than on the above ground section of Eglinton. It is certainly better than a few miles of underused subway., I prefer to think of this proposal as a means to salvage some of the work that has already gone into Transit City. And an EL would probably allow for a station at Mobile drive to serve the Latvian or Estonian Cultural Centre.


  13. To me, the lesson so painfully being learned here is – there is NO point in doing future transit planning of ANY kind in the Toronto region UNTIL a political structure is put in place which ensures that, once a plan is agreed upon and financed, as Transit City was, it MUST be carried out – and CANNOT be cavalierly swept aside at the whim of any succeeding political administration which may disagree with it.

    I find this pretty unrealistic because it would easily, if not instantly, be labelled and argued as undemocratic. I’d have to agree, because in the case of Transit City, nobody had actually run on it as a developed plan before. In 2006, no details existed at all for Transit City, the brand had not been crafted (or at least had not been released), the plan did not even actually debut publicly until about half a year after the 2006 election. If you said “LRT” in 2006, people most likely weren’t sure what that meant. Given how far off the network’s cost estimate was in 2007 (and they were really far off), it is quite likely that in 2006, even staff weren’t as sure as they should have been on what “LRT” entailed.

    When a vote takes place, and a new administration arrives, if that administration can amass enough support amongst its elected counterparts, then they are and should be given the right to alter transit plans. That’s part of the democratic system. The key question out there right now is: Does the new administration have enough support amongst its elected counterparts?, which has been claimed but not yet demonstrated. Only time will tell.

    This doesn’t strike me as a left-wing/right-wing issue. Even the right-leaning mainstream media are scratching their heads over what the Mayor is doing with transit plans at the moment. Even when doing pro-subway pieces, as has been done in the Toronto Sun (some inaccuracies notwithstanding), they point to the DRL on occasion as a worthwhile subway, while denouncing the Sheppard Subway as wasteful spending.

    It sounds like there are a lot of people who thought Transit City was close to flawless, and I have to disagree with that. The marketing and consultation for it were terrible, and have contributed to a large setback in public acceptance and understanding of transit options as a whole, even though the technology itself isn’t the problem (although the lack of a plan that included more than one technology was, in my view, part of Transit City’s downfall). The poor consultation for the project has resulted in poor designs in numerous parts of the proposed Transit City network, and in some cases information simply was not articulated appropriately, leaving people confused.

    My opinion is that there was a fundamental lack of understanding in what kinds of problems existed with Transit City (even though the documentation was recorded and available, mostly in the LURA reports, which appear to have been seldom used, (why spend the money on consultation if the findings aren’t going to be applied? LURA does good work, work that should have been applied)), and in how to approach a project that needs community support in general in order to succeed through implementation. It seems there was more interest in progressing as quickly as possible for the previous administration, when the interest should have been in developing/delivering the best design/product, so that the public in general continues to want the product until it is delivered. That’s good marketing, and critical political strategy.

    There was an article the other week in The Star where Royson James points out Transit City may have been “too clever by half.” Try to pull the wool over their eyes, and the public grows distrusting.

    Royson James article snippet: One wonders, though, if there are two sides in this debate, how come, over the past three years, there was no … jangaroo at council over the Transit City plan?

    Because it was carefully orchestrated, stealthily introduced, woven into the fabric of city policy bit by bit, approved in pieces, and finally became a fait accompli, attracting dissent from none but the most ardent opponent.


  14. “Steve: I do not believe for one moment that all of the people who voted for Rob Ford did so with the intention that he become a one man show dismantling transit plans without bothering to engage in any form of debate with Council or the public. Quite clearly, he has complete contempt for the way government is supposed to work.”

    Certainly not all, but sadly, based on the couple of conversations I had with one early and rabid Rob Ford supporter, at least some of the people do want exactly that. This particular individual certainly seemed to have a great deal of contempt for the previous council, ‘streetcars’, and believed he was getting not getting value for his taxes.

    (My attempts at explaining Transit City/LRT and the difference between them and streetcars seemed to fall on deaf ears. As did any sensible discussion on the realities of the city’s budget.)


  15. Surprised to see so much “no we can’t” attitude towards elevated rail. JT, subway tunnels or even light rail tracks have their own maintenance needs as well. And John, the cause of Philadelphia’s socioeconomic problems stem well beyond an elevated railway in their backyard.

    An El is obviously more expensive than an LRT, but can be far more cost efficient than subways. It provides a more scenic view for commuters, and can be integrated into the cityscape quite well when done properly.


  16. A Vancouver friend gloated to me just a couple days ago in an e-mail about taking the SkyTrain from his apartment to the airport for 7 bucks!

    I have suggested Els more than once here. It was obvious to me years ago that Transit City operating at grade with motor vehicle traffic wasn’t going to fly (so to speak). An El, being quicker and cheaper than a subway, would be the best way to make up for so many lost years while carrying just as many riders.

    My preference would be something along the lines of the DRLnow plan, which wouldn’t even run along road ways for the most part (so space wouldn’t be taken up with support columns), plus perhaps the Eglinton crosstown route.


  17. Steve says: “I do not believe for one moment that all of the people who voted for Rob Ford did so with the intention that he become a one man show dismantling transit plans without bothering to engage in any form of debate with Council or the public. Quite clearly, he has complete contempt for the way government is supposed to work.”

    And what exactly is “the way government is supposed to work.”????

    Like how Metro Toronto used to build subways to connect each of the city halls of each of the boroughs and cities within Metro Toronto? (The city hall for the Borough of York was the only one that never got connected, … but it was certainly planned, … until Harris cancelled the Eglinton Subway line).

    Or how our Provincial Ontario Liberal government hijacked the Spadina subway line to extend it up to their Liberal stronghold in Vaughan (Hwy 7 & Weston),…. yeah, like there’s density up there to support a subway!!!,… passing all those open fields. Funny how the Ontario provincial Liberal government manage to find all that funding for a useless Spadina Subway extension into Vaughan, with designer subway stations! But when it comes to subway extensions and lines in much more densely populated Toronto,… there’s no funds available. Well, only funds for Transit-SHitty LRTs.

    That Spadina subway extension to Vaughan Centre should be converted to an Elevated LRT Line,…. then north of Steeles, the passengers can watch all those farm animals and coyotes in open fields pass underneath. It’ll be like riding the monorail at the Toronto Zoo!

    Steve: There is a myth floating around somewhere that transit is supposed to be the purview of some sort of expert, non-political board who would magically do the right thing. Not, however, if the Mayor’s office makes all of the decisions without even bothering to check with his own transit commission or council.


  18. I do remember in the 2006 campaign David Miller repeating the words: streetcars on their own rights-of-way at a fraction of the cost.

    Steve: You can read about Miller’s 2006 platform in my own article on the subject.


  19. Steve says: “Transit City, and indeed the whole idea of large scale transit planning, was dealt a body blow when Queen’s Park cut back on the funding and left so much of it to the magic of the Metrolinx “Investment Strategy”. So far, all we have seen on that front is a mixture of proposals for new taxes that will be hugely unpopular even though they are necessary, and belief in the Tooth Fairy of private financing.”

    What transit planning???

    Our municipal government (Toronto city council) who are suppose to represent the residents of Toronto,… never even voted on approving Transit City.

    Steve: That is not strictly true. Council voted overwhelmingly for various parts of Transit City. You are correct only in saying that the entire plan was never put to a vote as a package.

    As for transit planning by Metrolinx,…. a provincial agency with no funds,… they lost what little credibility they had when they threw out all their own criteria and analysis to place their master’s (Ontario Provincial Liberal government) Spadina subway extension to Vaughan as their number one regional transit priority on their 15 year must do list,… ahead of every other transit proposal.

    Steve: To be fair to Metrolinx, the project was already committed and funded with detailed engineering underway before Metrolinx even existed. The Spadina line went to the top of the list because it was an already-approved project. I agree that the line to Vaughan is blatantly political, but it wasn’t Metrolinx’ doing.

    Remember when Queen’s Park (Ontario provincial Liberal government) cut back the funding for Transit City by over $4 Billion,…. at the same time when they announced they’ll “loan” GM and Chrysler about $4 Billion. Well,… they certainly stated where their priorities are with regards to public transit and cars,… and if anyone think they’ll ever see this $4 Billion back from GM and Chrysler,… and into public transit,…. well, there’s your tooth fairy!


  20. Of course, David Miller was touting St. Clair W. as a half-subway in the 2006 re-election campaign, defending the disastrous project management in progress at the time, which frankly he shouldn’t have done if he’s planning on using it as “the model” for other projects, but he had placed all his eggs in that one basket and not bothered to steer the ship tightly enough. Nobody should ever place all their eggs in one basket as a general principle, but if they must be in one basket, that basket had best be watched like a hawk, which didn’t happen.

    Transit City debuted in a March 2007 announcement, and a big deal was made about it at the time, including on this site, as well as elsewhere. “Transit City” in 2006 was rather loosely defined with a vastly different network definition in 2006 from 2007, and it was not exclusive to a single technology in 2006. This is crystal clear in David Miller’s re-election campaign website (I assume it matches printed literature, but full disclosure; I was overseas during the 2006 election and didn’t see any of the printed campaign literature). Transit City in the re-election campaign did include St. Clair W., but apart from an extension of St. Clair W. via Eglinton to the airport, it doesn’t actually specify LRT or streetcars for any new corridors, and thus, the public never cast a ballot on that idea.

    In 2006, for new transit infrastructure construction, David Miller was touting/championing:

    – The Spadina Subway Extension to Vaughan (as an accomplishment he’s proud of, as funding was largely secured by this point)
    – An “enclosed, dedicated right-of-way” on Yonge between Finch and Steeles (technology not specified, later established as BRT (I’m not sure what “enclosed” is supposed to imply here…), then nixed for subway extension that has yet to be funded (and probably won’t be given the finance issues at Queen’s Park))
    – An “enclosed, dedicated right-of-way” on Kingston Road between Eglinton and Victoria Park (technology not specified, later established as BRT (I disagree with this conclusion, as I favour a continuous corridor solution as was supposed to be a key aim of the project to begin with based on community feedback in the early stages of the study, but that’s another topic for another day))
    – York U BRT
    – “Rapid Transit” through the East Bayfront/Portlands (technology not specified, later established as “Legacy” LRT)
    – “Rapid Transit” on Don Mills from “City Centre” (presumably meaning downtown core) to Steeles (technology not specified, and still not resolved (EA suspended, and tied up with DRL/Yonge North))
    – Local air-rail link service (service provider not specified, later established as an new internal company within GO/Metrolinx without providing local service (stations are ~5km apart, except through Etobicoke, where it doesn’t stop at all))
    – “Dedicated transit corridor” through Finch Hydro Corridor from Scarborough to Etobicoke (technology not specified, later established to not even use the hydro corridor (which I agree with, but David Miller clearly campaigned on the hydro corridor in 2006) with LRT)
    – “West Waterfront Rapid Transit” connecting Etobicoke to Union (technology not specified, although fairly obvious as “Legacy” LRT (EA suspended))
    – SRT extension to Malvern “and beyond” (with “upgraded technology” specified, presumably meaning Mark II ICTS technology given the TTC report on the future of the SRT released earlier in 2006)
    – “Dedicated Rapid Transit” along Eglinton that will connect the St. Clair W. right-of-way to the airport (streetcar technology)
    – “A Rapid Transit connection that will connect the Sheppard Subway to Scarborough Town Centre” (subway technology clearly implied, and later changed to LRT that does not go to Scarborough Town Centre (a spur LRT connection for which never got to the EA stage))

    Transit City as released in 2007 had scarce similarities to David Miller’s 2006 re-election platform. David Miller’s platform talks about a St. Clair W. extension, and a new fleet for the existing streetcar system, but it does not specify new LRT routes across the city’s suburban areas, except in Etobicoke (WW and Eglinton West (from… Scarlett? Weston?) to airport). It even touts a Sheppard Subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre, ironically enough (a hangover from RTES 2001 and RGS 2003). It makes no mention of a tunnel along Eglinton that is impossible for subways to use in future. It makes no mention of Jane. It makes no mention of LRT along Eglinton through Scarborough. It makes no mention of Morningside. Only in Etobicoke does David Miller’s platform bear any resemblance to Transit City as released in 2007.

    Interesting to note, too, that this campaign video of David Miller’s from 2006 shows images of subways, but not a single streetcar… his campaign website shows David Miller in front of a subway, too, but not a streetcar to be found anywhere.

    The vagueness and imagery developed for David Miller’s Transit City in the late-2006 re-election campaign when compared to what was actually presented as Transit City in early-2007 does not smell like roses. “Streetcar” was a dirty word at the time, and so presumably was avoided with St. Clair W. being the only exception. The idea that he campaigned in 2006 on what was released as Transit City in 2007 is absolute nonsense; people did not vote in 2006 for Transit City as released in 2007, as the two simply do not match (except in Etobicoke).

    Steve: For clarity, I never said that “people” voted for Transit City, any more than “people” voted for Ford’s plan in an up-or-down referendum. When someone considers Mayoral candidates, they look at the overall style that person would bring to the job. Miller’s campaign literature contained too much that was a grab-bag of TTC staff proposals, and this was recast as the Transit City plan in 2007. Ford’s campaign was primarily about gravy, not subways, but even his subway plan does not have the reach of TC.

    As for Council, it had lots of opportunities to vote against TC projects, but chose not to (including then Councillor Ford). One can argue that the opposition developed along the way as people found out just what TC meant, and what TTC designers were trying to ram through.


  21. I think that elevated trains would work quite well on Eglinton (between Don Mills and Kennedy), they would provide higher speed and capacity than at-grade LRT. Also elevated trains need not have a major negative impact on neighbourhoods – see Vancouver: where new condos are often built right beside SkyTrain stations. The same is true in other cities with elevated rail like Paris (Metro lines 2 and 6) and London (Docklands Light Railway). In any case the streetscape along that stretch of Eglinton mostly consists of big-box stores anyway so an elevated line there can’t do much harm. Obviously the trains should use conventional motors (either LRVs or longer versions of trains like the Canada Line) not ICTS because of ICTS’s poor performance in winter.


  22. “It sounds like there are a lot of people who thought Transit City was close to flawless, and I have to disagree with that. “

    Well, sure, it’s easy enough for you to disagree with that strawman that you’ve just set up. It’s possible to support the concept while admitting that the execution needs improvement. Kind of the the Queen streetcar. I don’t think you’ll hear many people saying that the Queen car is perfect; yet the number of people who want to get rid of it altogether (for buses or a subway) is pretty low. The majority of riders just want more frequent and reliable service.

    “It seems there was more interest in progressing as quickly as possible for the previous administration, when the interest should have been in developing/delivering the best design/product, so that the public in general continues to want the product until it is delivered. That’s good marketing, and critical political strategy.”

    Are you implying that Transit City planning should have gone even more slowly? It took four bleedin’ years to get to the point where we had some tenders and a bit of digging going on. If you think that’s too fast, what do you propose? Ten-year planning cycles?

    Hell, Mayor Ford is planning the City’s future on AM640 interviews! That’s not too quick for you?

    “The marketing and consultation for it were terrible, and have contributed to a large setback in public acceptance and understanding of transit options as a whole, even though the technology itself isn’t the problem (although the lack of a plan that included more than one technology was, in my view, part of Transit City’s downfall). The poor consultation for the project has resulted in poor designs in numerous parts of the proposed Transit City network, and in some cases information simply was not articulated appropriately, leaving people confused.”

    Yes, and the “marketing and consultation” that Mayor Ford has done for his transit vision is like one zillion times worse. That’s the problem. We’ve gone from a plan that had its problems (and most plans everywhere have problems, if they’re the least bit ambitious), to an idiot plan.

    “There was an article the other week in The Star where Royson James points out Transit City may have been “too clever by half.” Try to pull the wool over their eyes, and the public grows distrusting.”

    Ah, Royson James, who makes Marcus Gee look good. I wonder what James will call Mayor Ford’s plan. “Too stupid by a zillion times” would be my preference, how about you?


  23. While elevated rail may work well on Eglinton, its not the smartest option. East of Don Mills, there is tons of room in the right-of-way to have both vehicles and an LRT.

    The debate shouldn’t be on the type of technology, but should focus on what is most cost-effective. The ‘gravy train’ campaign was about ‘respect for taxpayers’ – a subway on Sheppard or Eglinton, while desirable, does not achieve these core principles.

    You can’t always get what you want with the budget you have, and telling taxpayers that it is all possible is fraudulent at best – this is the ultimate insult that Rob Ford could have given to the residents of our fine city.


  24. Andrew, Do the Paris Metro elevated lines run above grade for their entire routes? A map shows, the 2 and 6 apparently form a circle route around the city. That would be a cool way to sightsee. Although they must run mostly beyound the scenic centre.


  25. Didn’t Toronto learn anything from the elevated Scarborough RT line??? Where any bit of snow will shut down the entire line!

    Ever since the Gardiner was built in the 1960’s Toronto been complaining about how this elevated expressway cuts downtown Toronto from the lake and how ugly it is. Toronto city council (and the former Metro Toronto council) have spent decades trying to figure out how to level or bury this eyesore,…. without being suckered into a bottomless money pit Boston type big dig project. Now the geniuses at Metrolinx are floating trial balloons for elevated LRT/subway lines,…. if they ever have the funding to build an elevated line in Toronto, they better have the funding to tear it down and bury it.


  26. I was playing around with Google Street View around Paris, France when I saw how they have designed the elevated portions of the M6 line. I warn you Steve, this may turn your views of elevated rail upside down.

    And this is near a station as well! While I sincerely doubt that Sheppard will ever look like this, there is no question it is wide enough (or can be made wide enough) to accommodate such a design.

    Steve: The important design issue here is that they have taken space in the middle of the road for the el, and the curb-to-curb street width looks like it would be about eight lanes. The el is so generously provisioned with space that while it is certainly a “presence” on the street, it does not block out the sky. There is even room for trees beside the el structure. If we take Mayor Ford at his word, the idea of giving up so much space in an existing street would be a non-starter and, at best, might be accepted only where there is sufficient land to widen the street (something we would have done for a surface LRT anyhow).

    I suspect that in some cases, the street envelope would make incursions into privately-held land, and Ford would balk at paying to expropriate the property (so would the owners, I suspect). Note that the Paris street has roughly two useable lanes, considerably less than we have on Sheppard especially at intersections which are the most likely place for station structures.


  27. Steve: “Note that the Paris street has roughly two useable lanes….”

    Looks like about 3 lanes on each side of the Paris el at Ben’s link. And there’s quite a bit of space under the el for more although, as you note, it has been allotted to parks and playgrounds rather than motor vehicles there.

    Steve: “Useable” is the operative word. The rest is taken up with parking and cycling space. Yes, if this were dedicated to through lanes, you would have three, but with fewer street amenities.


  28. Some of the areas under the SkyTrain in Vancouver may not be the best, but look at the gloom that LRT has brought to Main Street in Buffalo, 7th Avenue in Calgary and Howard Street in Baltimore. These once proud streets have become decrepit and stores and restaurants have moved away since the LRT lines came to them.


  29. In terms of roadway space, a guideway column is narrower than two side-by-side LRT tracks. The biggest benefits of an EL is that it won’t interfere with (or be interfered with) by car traffic (whether cross-traffic or left or right turns) – it also allows pedestrains to walk freely across at each and every intersection (unlike an LRT, particularly if fenced, or a trench). Also, the guideway is much more urban friendly if it is placed at the side of the road rather than in the median (middle) of the road – that’s because stations can be shorter since they do not need mezzanines spanning the width of the road (and the guideway shorter) so it’s all more human in scale. That also reduces the cost of stations because they are smaller in scale.

    The one good thing about Metrolinx raising the issue is that it has opened up the idea of a medium capacity “subway”. Just like streetcar and LRT are variations of one another, not all subways are 6-car bohemoths. Mini-metros (like the RT, SkyTrain, VAL, Copenhagen Metro and Docklands Light Railway make up for short trains by offering higher frequency. That would work very well on Eglinton (and the smaller systems would offer similar quality characteristics at much lower construction costs).

    As for linear induction versus standard technology – that’s a different issue than shared right-of-way (at grade) versus exclusive right-of-way (elevated or underground) and either drive system can automated.

    Steve: Without question, it is possible to have elevated guideways that can be less intrusive than a Chicago El type of installation. The issue, as your comments show, is very much one of design and the specifics of each site. Side of road, for example, presumes that the existing road layout could accommodate this type of structure without affecting adjacent properties. Easy to do on a wide arterial with setbacks and boulevards, not so easy on a narrower street with old, city type construction to the lot line.


  30. Main Street in Buffalo was decrepit long before the LRT came along. It as a problem with a lot of downtown streets in the U S. I don’t think that the LRT there had a negative effect on what was already a bad street.

    In Toronto you cannot say that the Spadina Quasi LRT has had a negative effect. There is a difference in building an LRT line on a street in a thriving neighbourhood and on building on in an area that is already run down. I don’t know enough about Calgary or Baltimore to comment.


  31. Snow shuts down the SRT because ice gets between the reaction rail and the LIM. The rail gets hot, melts the snow then ice results.

    A properly designed EL with conventional rail would have gaps in the structure so that snow would be blown off the structure by wind and the breeze created by passing cars. Also there is the height that the rail is above the ties or guide way structure plus the height that the axles are above the rail head.

    The surface section of the subway and the Queensway do not seem to suffer from all but the worst storms and then the manage to keep running even if at reduce speed.

    The problems of snow on a properly designed EL are a non-starter, unless you live in Washington DC who can’t seem to figure out how to operate in snow. Chicago, Boston, New York and Philadelphia seem to be able to run EL’s in snow.

    Steve: The usual problem with snow on open subway rights of way such as the section from Warden to Victoria Park is that snow drifts against the third rail to a height where it is melted and freezes, the same problem as on the RT. If the snowfall is very heavy, snow may pile up around the third rail as happened on the Yonge line south of Eglinton.

    I have never seen trains stuck on the Viaduct even though there may be some arcing from ice because the wind always blows the snow off of the bridge. (For those who don’t know, I have a direct view of the bridge from my apartment.)

    One reason that the Gardiner is so intrusive is its size. A properly designed structure in a wide street with set back buildings would not have the visual intrusion that the Gardiner does, nor anywhere near the amount of noise. EL’s will not work on most streets but could work on the surface parts of Eglinton with an extra couple of tunnelled sections, especially Mt. Dennis.


  32. I lived most of my adult life in Vancouver, and that is where I got hooked on public transit. I lived in the West End where there was never a long wait for a trolley bus to get me to the Skytrain Staion on Granville (Skytrain travels underground downtown Vancouver and in New Westminster). I am not writing this to say how great it is, I want to point out an aggravating flaw of that technology for use here in Toronto. Vancouver is quite a bit milder then Toronto but it does get a bit of snow and that horrible stuff called ice! When the power rail is down below as a third rail it is really vulnerable to ice build-up and their are many, many delays of this heavily used transit line when a little bit of ice is present.

    I did a bit of work in the ’90’s in Edmonton as well, though not in the winter and I am just relying on a friend of mine’s testimony. Edmonton’s LRT does have some delays but, from my friend’s info, the delays were a lot less frequent even though the weather was more severe then I experienced for a decade and a half in Vancouver.

    I have drawn a conclusion that to deliver the power to a transit vehicle via an overhead cantenary vs a third rail like the Bombardier’s Skytrain gets its power from which is from a third rail is a lot more reliable. Sure with a few power poles and its lines cause a bit of visual pollution but that is better then the unseen pollution that comes from a diesel bus’ exhaust stack or the unreliability of having a third rail exposed to the elements frustrating us commuters in bad weather.

    I think the Skytrain Technology is fine if it were used in warm dry areas like Phoenix, Arizona or San Diego, California but up here it is quite unreliable in bad weather. I had to check transit updates in bad weather constantly when I lived in Vancouver to see if I had to leave early that morning to avoid being late when my friend who went to University of Alberta had much more dependable transit in Edmonton.


  33. What about monorails? Nobody ever talks about them anymore. They are less obtrusive than wide els and can even look nice. In North America they are mostly limited to theme parks and kitschy places like Vegas. In Japan, and now in the Middle East they are used successfully as a regular transit option. Why not here? Bombardier builds them. They just built a bunch of new Monorail trains for Disney last year.

    Steve: The major issue is capacity. It’s Christmas, and I am not going to write a long article about this now. Disney does not need to carry thousands of people an hour, nor do they expect their equipment to work for 30 years, and the infrastructure much longer, through weather from -25 to +40C with all manner of precipitation.


  34. Even if it is designed well, those spaces in Paris are loud, uninviting and tend to be avoided by pedestrians. These images the M2 line are only a few blocks apart:

    With elevated

    Without elevated

    I used to live nearby and can tell you that the elevated section has no pedestrian activity or street life at night whereas the other is lively and safe at all hours.


  35. Meanwhile in New York City comes news that:

    “Numerous above-ground routes will see reduced or canceled service, and Transit is doing what it can to get everything up and running for the morning rush. Per their statement on Sunday night, trains will operate on a “normal weekday schedule” for the morning commute, but as of this writing, nearly all elevated train service has been suspended.”


  36. And your point is…?

    Every technology has it flaw … so tired of people painting elevated transit as the evil of all evil.

    I wonder what would happen to LRT overhead cables during a major ice storm like the one in Montreal in 1997.

    Steve: The major argument against els is the effect they have on the roads below. The SRT runs on an el through the back lots of an aging light industrial area, and then through STC in an area where there is little pedestrian traffic. At the station itself, it is integrated into the buildings which, from a pedestrian point of view, turn their backs on the RT. All of this was possible because the complex was built around the RT. Before people go plunking down new els in the middle of streets, they need to consider what is there today, and what is planned for the area in the future.


  37. The sections of Eglinton that everyone is saying could benefit from an El, i.e. the outer sections in the east and west, are already wide enough to build at surface level and not impact traffic capacity, as Steve already mentioned. Other than the novelty factor, I don’t see huge benefits.

    There is an elevated section of the Bloor subway right around Keele Station and the surrounding neighbourhood has often complained about the “barrier” effect of the structure cutting them off from Bloor St. There are residential areas bordering the Richview ROW in Etobicoke between Scarlett Rd. and Kipling that have already expressed their opposition to anything on the surface that would be near (i.e. within 25m!) to their homes — I can’t imagine they would welcome an elevated line where trains ran beside their homes and riders could overlook their backyards! Rightly or wrongly, I suspect that an El could be just as hard a sell to the adjacent communities as surface LRT is/was.


  38. Breaking news ..Beijing the Capital of China just opened 5 new subway lines. NOT stations but LINES. and here we are in Toronto fighting over where buses,streetcars, LRT’s,ART’s, and Subways should go. where did we go wrong?

    Steve: And if you had a government that spent money like water on public works, had access to cheap labour, and had a huge population to move as an essential part of maintaining its economy, you might open 5 subway lines too. You would also not have a blog that suggested there might be better ways to move people around the city. Or at least you wouldn’t have one for very long.


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