A Grand Plan: 2011 Edition

Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a long paper about the role of transit and what a truly regional plan would look like.  To avoid extensively quoting myself, I suggest that any newcomers to this site read that as a starting point as it contains not just a list of routes, but a philosophy of how one should look at transit.

Since 2006, we have seen Transit City, MoveOntario2020 and The Big Move.  The GTA appeared well on its way to real progress in transit although problems, notably the question of local service funding, remained.

Now we have a new Mayor in Toronto, and plans that came from years of work and debate lie in pieces on the floor.  Metrolinx and Queen’s Park seem content to “plan” by carving up funding that’s already committed and redrawing their map to suit the whims of a new regime at City Hall.

The fundamental problem in this exercise is the phrase “funding that’s already committed”.  When you draw a map with a half empty pen, you make compromises, and you run out of ink leaving huge areas bereft of service.

If redraw we must, then let us do so with a view to a transit network and to a view beyond the end of next year.  What does Toronto and the GTA need?  How much will that cost?  How do we pay for it?  If we start with the premise that we cannot afford anything, we should stop wasting our time on planners, engineers and the myth that transit can actually transform travel for the next generation.

The discussion below is Toronto centric because this is a Toronto blog, and that’s where most of the GTA’s transit riders are.  All the same, the philosophy of what transit should be affects everyone, especially in those areas where so much transit growth is needed just to catch up with the population.

Some of the info here will be familiar to those who read my commentaries regularly, but I wanted to pull it all together as a starting point.  My comments are not intended as the one, definitive “solution”, but to show the need for debate on a large scale, integrating considerations from many parts of various schemes.

[While I was writing this article, the Pembina Institute published its own critique of the Ford transit plan.  I do not intend to comment on that document here because it addresses only one part of a much larger collection of transit issues.]

The Map

The two best-known maps of transit schemes are Transit City and The Big Move.  The former is actually a subset of the latter, but Transit City is important for its role in establishing the importance of LRT as a choice among transit technologies.  LRT lines are now proposed for Mississauga, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.  The concept is no longer the exclusive preserve of a small band of Toronto railfans.

However, Transit City itself isn’t perfect.  Some of the lines were not well thought-out and owe their location to connect-the-dots planning and some naïve conceits about fitting LRT into narrow streets.  This needs to be changed.

Transit City presumed that a large network would be quickly built, and that the city would grow into its new capacity.  However, even without recent political changes, funding limits stretched the seven lines out to two decades before even the first of them started construction.  Meanwhile “LRT” streets would languish without service improvements.

BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) was not considered for the lighter corridors on the basis that the infrastructure would have to be upgraded to LRT too soon to make a BRT scheme worthwhile.  This might have been true for a quick rollout, but options change when the schedule extends into the 2030s and beyond.

The Big Move does not address the problems of local service or integration with the regional network.  The map exists in an odd blank space where local service is “someone else’s problem”.  Service and fare policies for GO remain in a never-never land pretending that these routes exist only as express services for commuters, not as part of a regional rapid transit network.  Instead, GO may evolve into a mix of truly regional, express services overlaid on more frequent local operations, but the implications of such a change are not yet part of the GO culture.

If we must redraw the map, we must ignore the institutional barriers about each mode and element, and focus on how routes and services will fit together as a whole.

The Missing Pieces

Two major parts of a future network are rarely mentioned, but each is vital for its contribution — waterfront transit and the surface buses and streetcar routes.

On the waterfront, service to the planned growth areas in the East Bayfront, the Don Lands, and the Port Lands is threatened both by Waterfront Toronto’s funding problems and by Mayor Ford’s anti-surface transit rhetoric.  These areas are designed around frequent surface transit with easy access to stops.  The streets are close to Lake Ontario, many within former lake bed.  Subway construction here would be difficult, and the fine-grained service proposed for the eastern waterfront would be impossible.  Infrequent service on the Sherbourne bus will not do.

To the west, the new condo forests from the rail corridor south to the lake demand better service, but such plans as there are have the feel of leftovers in a car-oriented road system.  Proposed development of the land at Exhibition Place and Ontario Place is completely remote from transit service.  It is difficult to understand the rationale for building an LRT line all the way to southern Etobicoke while ignoring major development opportunities that are much closer to downtown and the existing streetcar network.

If Toronto plans to build the equivalent of new small towns on the waterfront, it must include good transit in those plans.

The Bus and Streetcar Network

In 2009, the TTC proposed the Transit City Bus Plan, a scheme to provide a core network of routes with frequent and express service.  This fell victim to a turf war between Council’s Budget Committee and the TTC over who had the right to commit the City to changes in transit service and spending.  This plan was intended to come back as part of the 2011 budget proposal, but the political players have changed and TCBP’s future is unclear.

Embracing TCBP presumes that the City and TTC actually want to improve transit service rather than looking only for funding cuts and blame-the-unions speechmaking.  If we believe people deserve good, improved transit service, that issue is separate from how we pay for it.  Partisan speeches do not warm people in bus shelters.

One big flaw in TCBP is the “B” of the title.  For reasons best known to the TTC, they did not include the streetcar network even though it contains some of the best-used routes on the system.  This has the odd side-effect that the only east-west route in the plan is 94 Wellesley which would get 10-minute all day service while patrons of other services, notably on Kingston Road and Lake Shore would get far worse.

In the technology debates, we hear a lot about bus rapid transit (BRT), not to mention “BRT-light” which is little more than express buses running in mixed traffic.  I say “little more”, but even the express proposals in TCBP would be an improvement for those who now face long journeys on major transit routes.

On both the bus and streetcar networks, the service principles of the Ridership Growth Strategy are important.  This plan is eight years old, but the basic ideas are sound.  RGS brought better service to many routes with improved loading standards reducing the target for the average number of riders on a “full” bus or streetcar.

Off-peak headways were improved to 30 minutes maximum and service was extended to 1:00 am, seven days a week, on most of the system.  Some routes will never be full even in the peak period, but they serve areas that otherwise would be far from transit.  This is not just a matter of convenience, it is one of accessibility, and of ensuring that someone who works off hours will have a ride when they need it.

Finally, advertising good service is not enough.  The TTC must actually operate good service.  Some unevenness is inevitable on a transit network, but as I have shown in many analyses of operations on streetcar and bus routes, management is vital to providing the best service possible.  Advertised 10 minute headways must not become pairs of buses every 20 minutes, and short turns should be rare.  This is as much a part of “customer service” as a friendly greeting and accurate website info.

Transit City

As originally proposed, the Transit City plan anticipated completion of seven routes by 2020, but this optimistic schedule didn’t last for long.  Rejigging TC is possible in many ways, and my comments here only give some of the options.  This is not intended as a definitive list.

My point in raising these is that there are bona fide concerns about some aspects of the TC designs, and these should be addressed.  It is quite odd that we can redesign the entire network in a few weeks to suit a preference for subways, but we don’t look at what might be improved for the LRT options.

  • Eglinton:  Parts of this line require review to address issues raised during the project assessment.
    • The section through Mt. Dennis, as currently designed, is quite intrusive.  Considering the amount we will spend on the tunnel from Black Creek to Leaside, saying that an underground route at Weston Road is “too expensive” is hard to swallow.
    • Treatments of left turns need detailed review, especially in light of actual service levels we will see on the outer ends of the line.  If the full service does not run west of, say, Weston or east of Don Mills, then the dynamics of intersections will be quite different than what was presented in the studies.
    • Side-of-road alignments should be revisited in the Richview corridor and east of Leaside to Don Mills.
  • Sheppard:  There is very strong pressure for the subway to be extended to Scarborough Town Centre, but such a move may foreclose any future rapid transit extension to the northeastern parts of Toronto.  We need to understand how services in this area could interact to handle present and future demand including:
    • Service to the UofT campus as a permanent goal, not just for the Pan Am Games
    • Service to Malvern
    • Improved GO service on the Stouffville line and new service on the line through Agincourt to north Pickering
  • Scarborough RT:  If this becomes a subway line, it will never reach Malvern.  Indeed, without LRT lines on Sheppard and a rebuilt RT, it would be difficult to justify any sort of LRT network in Scarborough as there would be no critical mass of routes to support a carhouse.
  • Finch LRT:
    • The Metrolinx scheme to extend this route east and south to Don Mills Station was a triumph of “missing link” planning over common sense.  If Finch East is to get improved service, Don Mills, the eastern reaches of a low density stretch of Finch, is not the place to stop.
    • If neither Finch nor Jane will see LRT for a long time, bus improvements are needed.  Whether taking road space for buses will be acceptable in Mayor Ford’s planning universe remains to be seen.
  • Don Mills:  This line, like Jane, was to be shoehorned into a street alignment at its southern end by a TTC unwilling to face the obvious — the street is too narrow.  In the case of Don Mills, if a separate structure (tunnel, bridge across the Don) will be required, they may as well carry the Downtown Relief Line north to Eglinton and reduce the need for transfer facilities at Danforth.
  • Jane:  At its southern end, Jane does not have the road width to accommodate an LRT right-of-way.  It may make more sense for this route to end at Eglinton and feed into the Eglinton line, possibly as a branch service.
  • Waterfront West:  This has always been the lowest priority of the TC routes, and its benefit for riders in southern Etobicoke is dubious given alternatives such as the BD subway and GO Transit.  As I mentioned above, the real problems are closer to downtown and plans for the WWLRT should focus on these.  As for Lake Shore, the TTC should invest in better service on the 501 before advocating a full-blown LRT right-of-way down this street.


Several subway proposals are on the table, some with more official standing than others.  What they have in common is a requirement for a substantial capital investment as well as future operating dollars.  Offsetting considerations include ridership benefits and network effects that could trigger additional costs.

  • Sheppard west to Downsview:  This is one of those “fill in the blanks” connections that looks nice on a map, but I remain unconvinced that it will attract much riding.  Through routing to York U and beyond is unlikely given the TTC’s lack of appetite for interlining, not to mention the mix of four and six car trains north of Downsview (unless stations on the existing Sheppard line are expanded).
  • Sheppard east to STC:  Political pressure for this route is very strong, and I suspect it would be the hardest to dislodge from Mayor Ford’s plan even with the low projected ridership.  The problem, coupled with the proposed extension of the Danforth subway north to STC, remains that northeastern Toronto will never see extension of “rapid transit” service beyond that point.
  • Bloor-Danforth northeast to STC:  See comments above.
  • Yonge to Richmond Hill (and beyond):  This line has strong political support in York Region, although Metrolinx and Queen’s Park have yet to tip their hands on funding.  Only a preliminary and inconclusive “Benefits Case Analysis” for this line has appeared.  The underlying question here is the interaction of many factors for which there has never been a public, consolidated study:
    • The Yonge extension itself
    • Demand effects on the existing route
    • Options for additional capacity including closer headways, more trains, platform doors and a new subway yard
    • Side-effects of increased YUS capacity on transfer moves to and from the BD line
    • The reconstruction and expansion of Bloor-Yonge Station (and possibly other locations where volumes may outstrip station capacity)
    • Much-improved service on Richmond Hill’s GO line as proposed by The Big Move
    • The Downtown Relief line as an interceptor for inner city demand on the Danforth subway

The Airport

Although the original Transit City saw a connection to Pearson Airport within this decade, the western part of the Eglinton LRT is now in a later phase of Metrolinx plans.  It is claimed that the airport authority (the GTAA) won’t be ready with a final plan for airport transit until 2020 or so, and everything is on hold until then.  Everything, of course, except the “Blue 22” link to Union Station (aka the “Air Rail Link”or whatever it’s called this week).

The ARL is now a Metrolinx project, but it is still projected to be a premium fare service for airport travellers, not for commuters to the airport or within the corridor.  The handstands performed by Metrolinx to justify this approach is closely related to the project’s long life as a PPP and the need to charge higher fares to recoup the capital investment.  (The situation is much more complex, but here is not the place for that debate.)

What is completely unclear at this point is the relationship between the ARL, the Eglinton and Finch LRTs (and possibly the Hurontario/Brampton LRT) and the Mississauga busway.  Gradually many services may aim in the general direction of the airport, but whether and how they will actually serve it is a mystery.

In The Big Move, the airport is listed as one of the two major transit hubs on the GTA (the other is Union Station), but we have yet to see an overall study of how transit can link the GTA as a whole to the airport, or any sense that this has any importance in regional planning.

GO Transit

GO Transit has an uneasy relationship with the local transit services throughout the GTA.  GO is happy to piggyback on other agencies to provide feeder/distributor capacity, but operates primarily as a peak period, peak direction service heavily dependent on parking lots.  Parking has its place, but it cannot serve a more diverse trip pattern where destinations are poorly served by local transit or by walking, or where trips occur long after parking lots are full.

The Big Move foresees a considerable amount of counter-peak and all-day travel on GO corridors, and this will require a major rethink of how riders access the regional rail system.

Notable by its absence from long range funding announcement is any idea of how GO services will expand from their present level to even the early stages of The Big Move.  This expansion will compete with other projects for capital and operating funding.  Cost recovery will fall as service expands beyond cherry-picking the most profitable trips and moving to all-day operation.

Within the coming weeks, GO will release its Electrification Study for consideration at the Metrolinx board meeting of January 26.  Although I have attended some of the community workshops for this study and commented at length on interim papers, I will hold off on a detailed review here until the final version is published.

This study presumes that rail service will increase substantially before any electrification is done, and the cost of these increases is considered to be separate from the conversion to electrification.  This avoids charging the mode conversion for infrastructure and service that would be built regardless of the mode or timing of conversion, but it assumes that the money to reach this “reference case” will actually be spent.  As things stand, we see little indication of major GO expansion plans on the scale contemplated by The Big Move.

Finally, Metrolinx must rethink GO Transit’s fare structure.  During the electrification study, and a parallel study regarding capacity issues at Union Station, it became clear that GO contemplates shifting some of its demand onto the TTC as one option.  Aside from the question of where such riders would actually fit, there is the matter of fare integration.

As GO evolves into an all-day, bidirectional service on many corridors, it will simply be one more part of a large network and premium fares with limited transfers will become harder to justify.  I can’t help remembering how the TTC found itself in difficulty charging an extra fare to travel into “zone 2”, largely that part of its network outside of the old City of Toronto.

If GO’s capacity is assumed to be available as part of networked travel, then its fare structure must not artificially discourage riders.  This is a difficult balancing act given the many transit systems in the GTA and the inevitable cross-subsidization that will occur (much as it does today within the TTC’s system between busier and lighter route).


Will the transit network, all of it, be able to provide attractive, competitive service for travel, or will it be starved for operating and capital funds?  Will transit be a real alternative, will it actually limit need for growth in auto traffic, or will it remain, on a grand scale a distant second choice?

These are huge and complex questions.  They are not being asked, let along addressed, by most of the agencies and “thinkers” of our region.  The whole story, the entire debate, turns on a few subway lines.  True regional planning lies somewhere in the dust.

88 thoughts on “A Grand Plan: 2011 Edition

  1. Toronto’s transit mess is something that is pretty much an embarassment to the whole world.

    First, I would like to say that a huge majority of the people of Toronto, mainly in the suburbs, are just plain confused morons. They say that transit service sucks in their areas, but when something like Transit City is created to address these service issues, those people start crying and saying that they oppose anything that takes away road space from their gas-guzzling SUV’s, preferring subways instead when subways are very pricey and the density in the suburbs does not require the need for subways.

    Speaking of density, I sure wonder what Metro Toronto and the TTC were smoking when they decided to build the lightly used Sheppard stubway to nowhere instead of the DRL which would have been a money maker and heavily used. I mean, Sheppard goes through low density areas where people are too stuck up like Rob Ford to get out of their automobiles, while the DRL would have passed through much denser areas where people would be more willing to use Transit, increasing the usefulness of the line. Yes, the 90s recession made the TTC ridership drop, but as they say, what goes down must come up, and ridership did come up to record levels, and because the idiots in power chose Sheppard, Yonge/Bloor is heavily congested and the Yonge line is so overpacked with frequent delays. The DRL would have solved all those issues.

    Thirdly, to vote for Rob Ford is basically selling your soul. He proudly boasts that he is pro-Harris, and we know what a mess that buffoon made while in charge of the province (especially public transit), so to vote for Harris Jr is just something that is mentally demented.

    To put it this way, both the politicians and the general public themselves are to blame for the transit mess we have here in Toronto. Come peak oil time, everyone will want to take what they have done back, but it will be WAY TOO LATE.


  2. I find it very funny that such pro-LRT group like the Pembina Institute uses the word streetcars in their report on LRT. Does anyone have this straight?


  3. Pardon me Stephen, but this has nothing to do with being “insensitive to the minds of righties”, but rather an acknowledgment of history in this area. It was a “rightie” by the name of Mike Harris who made “the decision in February 1996 to pull the provincial government out of public transit funding altogether, putting a substantial burden on municipal property taxpayers in general (effectively nullifying the benefits of Harris’ 30% provincial income tax cut), and on the economy of the Greater Toronto Area in particular. Harris himself as much as acknowledged this as a mistake five years later, when he restored limited provincial funding for transit infrastructure.” as James Bow wrote several years ago.

    While he may have changed his mind years later, how much damage was done and how long has it taken to get any momentum for new transit? Now we are at the same point we were 16 years ago, with a fragile economy and a major transit plan being shelved yet again.

    The only reason we’ve seen any money at all from the federal government is because of opposition prodding and Stephen Harper’s idea to turn stimulus spending into the biggest political ad campaign this country has ever seen (how many “Economic Action Plan” signs did you see on your daily commute?). We’ve already been told the tap is being turned off, so the possibility of ongoing federal support has vanished.

    On the municipal level, councillors like Denzil Minnan-Wong have repeatedly said there is too much spending on public transit, and would rather direct our scarce dollars to road repairs and other uses. So until I see some real commitment from conservatives that they understand public transit is not a left-wing cause, but a contributing factor in Toronto’s economic well-being, I believe my reading of the situation above is accurate.


  4. Highway 400/401ers coming south from York Region and going east on the 401. You can’t say that nobody will ride because there are no riders now.

    Steve: As you well know, demand projections are based on where trips are known to go to and from, where they are likely to go in the future, and the facilities that make such trips possible. The projected demand for a Sheppard/Downsview connection is very small and there are more important places to spend our transit dollars.


  5. Even if the SRT had been built as LRT, it would still be “sardined” by now. Have we bought any new streetcars since ’88? And, that transfer would still be just as bad. They simply underestimated the ridership growth — the technology has nothing to do with it.

    Steve: However, if we had started an LRT network back with the SRT, we would likely have expanded it over the years (including the line to Malvern) and bought more cars along the way. You are creating a phony argument here.


  6. I won’t comment on whether Sheppard subway was a good or bad idea, locals can make up their own mind on that.

    If the TTC is “an embarrassment” to the whole world, I wonder what Brisbane’s transport must be classed as? TTC subway trains might run every 5-6 minutes off peak, ours runs every 30 or 60 minutes off peak, and you would be lucky to even have a connecting bus at the station, let alone a frequent one!

    Arguments for or against particular modes of transport based on density aren’t solid ground at all, the citywide density of Toronto is actually quite high 27.2 persons/ha *which is almost identical to that of Los Angeles*, and yet mode share for Toronto is 22.2 % for public transport which is pretty good internationally, but for LA its 4.7%, one of the worst in the world.

    Same density, very different outcomes. The trick seems to be the buses that run to the TTC rail stations that can collect passengers outside the “walk-up” catchment.

    Density and mode share sources have come from here:

    How Dense Are We by Paul Mees of Melbourne, Australia
    Table of densities and modes of travel

    Steve: Yes, the use of the surface network to feed into the rapid transit system has been an important component of our design in Toronto right from the beginning. Transfers between modes are aided by station design, and Toronto’s free-transfer system encourages riders to change routes rather than penalizing them with extra charges.

    In the context of subway and LRT planning, the Transit City lines are somewhere between subway and “surface” routes in that they are more oriented to serving local demand along a route rather than being fed from major transfer points, but with stops a bit more widely spaced to improve speed. This ties in with the goals of the Official Plan to encourage medium density development along transit routes rather than high density development at a few nodes, or worse, remote from transit where cars would necessarily dominate travel choices.


  7. And in terms that transit riders might appreciate better, roughly 8 minutes out of their way (compared to 17 minutes from Sheppard to Bloor). (The Spadina line takes an extra 3 minutes or so to get to Bloor compared to the Yonge line, plus add another 5 minutes on the Sheppard extension.)

    I think you’d be more likely to see a Sheppard west extension used as an alternate route for west-enders to get to the North York Centre strip and to the Yonge subway, rather than attracting existing Sheppard East riders away from the Yonge line.

    Steve: A good analogy here is found in rider behaviour with the choice of using the Yonge or University line to get to the business district from the Danforth subway. Riders tend to take what they perceive is the shorter path.


  8. Human Transit had a post yesterday that argues:

    “What’s really needed is to engage the public in thinking about real tradeoffs, such as the choices built into budgets. What are your priorities, this or that? Those hard choices are the real work of elective government. If we ask people to think about those questions, we not only get more reliable answers, we also encourage citizens to ask smarter questions themselves.”

    That’s what has been missing since the new mayor decided to turn Toronto’s established transit plans upside down. There is little recognition that revised plans will result in tradeoffs being made, and there is little recognition of what the various priorities of transit riders, residents, and (yes) taxpayers might be, other than “The people want subways.” (I believe it was someone from the TEA that quipped that the people might also want Porsches.) How do folks in Rexdale feel about losing the Finch LRT so that the Sheppard extension will be built? Is it the best use of tax dollars (whether municipal or provincial) to build a gold- (or gravy-) plated subway that will go underused — are the people pushing for a subway extension the same people that complain about Sheppard being underused, or about buses running with 5 people on them?

    Despite its faults, the Pembina report (and subsequent media coverage) is the first significantly place I’ve really seen this come up — you can either have a little of this, or a lot more of this. The only thing that would have been more helpful would have been for the report to have been issued by a more fiscally conservative agency. (The Board of Trade, for example. Or even something like the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation — you would think some right-wing agency would have the sense to call Ford out on the galling contradiction of demanding “respect for taxpayers” at the same time as championing a more expensive and less cost-effective transit expansion plan.)

    Instead, the popular opinion seems to be an unquestioning “If Rob Ford says it can be done, it must be so,” accompanied by claims of hundreds of millions of dollars of waste just waiting to be ferreted out of City Hall. (Ironically, I might suggest that years of demanding funding reform between Toronto and higher orders of government is at play here too, with the belief that Queens Park will somehow come to our aid at the 11th hour to fund a subway under every street.)


  9. Ya know, a slight trip south to Jackson’s Point would be great for the summer time. This all sounds vaguely familiar…hmmm…..


  10. RE: Denzil Minnan-Wong

    Just listened to a news clip with Denzil Minnan-Wong who, as a ardent believer against “the war on the car”, is championing dedicated bike lanes on several streets, including of all places, Richmond. If he has the balls to take one lane of a critical artery and give it to cyclists then more power to him. This is despite Ford’s comments against cyclists during the election saying that when they get hit by a car, it’s “their own damn fault”.

    Now I don’t know about you but I am against such bike lanes if they are taken from a critical road artery such as Richmond. I COULD even go further and say that it is a “Left Wing Cause”, and if I do, and if the Mayor backs this up then this shows that this municipal government has more flexibility then you are lead to believe.

    The righties aren’t all anti-left just as much as the lefties aren’t all anti-right. But just wish that the previous administration had listened to the right during such events like the garbage strike of 2009 and the Land Transfer Tax and Vehicle Registration tax.

    Steve: Until I see what sort of network of bike lanes is proposed, I will regard the Richmond scheme as little more than the right appropriating a proposal made by the left some time ago. That scheme works, in theory, because of the nature of Richmond. It is much harder to apply to two way streets, especially those with transit service on them. Some cycling advocates are falling over each other to show how this proposal reveals Mayor Ford as pragmatic and flexible. Having watched him in action for years, that’s a very hard change to believe. See also leopards changing their spots.


  11. My take on the situation is that a lot of the reason for Los Angeles having a 4.7% transit mode share is its gross oversupply of car-only expressways. This, in turn, was fueled (pun intended!) by the USA’s federal government subsidy of up to 90% in paying for those car-only expressways.

    In Toronto, we didn’t (Thank God!!) build the Spadina Expressway, the Scarborough Expressway, the Richview Expressway, the car-only expressway from Hwy 400 to the Gardiner, etc, etc.

    I suspect that if Ottawa had been willing to pick up 90% of the costs, then some or all of those expressways would have been built. And Toronto would look a lot more like Buffalo or any other US city.

    Steve: LA also destroyed the transit system they had, only to rebuild along very similar corridors decades later.


  12. “This would create a transfer at Downsview somewhat like what we now have between the BD and SRT at Kennedy. Why are some transfers good, while others are abhored?”

    If the BD subway had just been extended to STC many years ago, the SRT wouldn’t be an issue today.
    If I understand correctly from election materials, I can’t even begin to fathom why Ford believes that converting the existing SRT route into a subway route is a good idea. Are these people blind?! The path itself, that one small tunnel, and especially the stations, are physically TOO SMALL for subway cars. I can’t say for certain which option would ultimately cost more to do, though rebuilding the 6 stations alone can’t be cheap, especially 4 stations that hardly anyone uses to begin with. And it would eliminate the lousy connection point at Kennedy. Plus they could keep the SRT running while the Kennedy Ext. is being built.

    Steve: If the subway goes to STC, it will follow a completely different route from the existing RT. I am quite sure one selling point of such a scheme will be the co-existence of the new subway and the old RT during construction. Mind you, the folks who use most of the existing stations will lose service, but, hey, we have buses after all! If they’re good enough for Rexdale, they’re good enough for the folks who won’t have RT service any more.


  13. My criticism of the Pembina Report is that it actually undersells LRT. A much stronger case can be made on strictly financial grounds. Pembina’s LRT costs for Transit City include the very expensive tunnelling under Eglinton, which they lump in with the “Plain Vanilla” LRT costs in other locations. This gives the impression that LRT is much more expensive than it actually is.

    Specifically, tunnelled LRT costs about $150 million per km, while Plain Vanilla costs $35-40 million per km.

    Being very conservative and assuming Metrolinx’s “worst case” costing scenario gives costs of a subway at $300 million per km and cost of a six-car subway train at $18 million. So a km of subway and vehicles going in both directions at a headway of five minutes assuming 30 km/hr average speed comes to $315 million.

    Worst-case costs of “Plain Vanilla” LRT is $40 million per km with vehicle cost of $5 million. So a km of LRT with vehicles going in both directions at a headway of five minutes assuming 20 km/hr average speed is $46 million.

    Source for all costings is the Metrolinx Transit Technologies backgrounder.

    Subway costings come from page 7, LRT costings page 10.

    Conclusion: The cost of one km of subway is the same as almost 7 km of LRT. Pembina is selling short LRT.


  14. (Clicked over from the Torontoist)

    I’m on the Morningside 116 route and I had no illusions about the subway coming far enough east, but I could see where the confusion was coming from, since part of the point of the LRT line was to get out that far.

    I do think that Rob Ford and his supporters should try my commute from Guildwood to Yonge & Sheppard on transit sometime, or even try to get to Scarborough Town Centre – it’s ridiculous. I’m a long time supporter of public transit but my family ended up buying a (second) car when I changed jobs from one downtown (GO-friendly) vs North York.

    I would do GO to subway and eat the extra half hour a day, but the cost of both monthly passes is more than gas + parking in my building (although not of car maintenance, etc. – but close.)

    If there were parking available I would already be driving to STC and taking the express bus to Don Mills, because I really, really prefer to use public transit. I can read and work. But it’s not an option – and you still need a car. I at least hope they’re planning for good parking since they clearly aren’t interested in cutting down the 40+ minutes and 2+ transfers (in some cases) it currently takes to get around.


  15. Not everyone in the inner suburbs is clueless when it comes to public transit. I have been a supporter of Transit City since day one. I am also opposed to a Sheppard subway to a mall (STC). The obvious reason is that it won’t serve the majority of Scarborough residents as most people will literally be left out in the cold waiting 45 minutes for an overcrowed bus.

    However, it is true that the majority of inner suburbanites heard the word subway and went crazy not realizing that they still have to travel by bus 30 minutes to get to the subway. On top of that a closed subway loop at Scarborough Town Centre eliminates the possibility of transit improvements in the rest of Scarborough. The Scarborough Mirror (Scarborough’s bi-weekly newspaper) also supports Transit City based on the articles they’ve published.


  16. “Instead, the popular opinion seems to be an unquestioning ‘If Rob Ford says it can be done, it must be so,’ accompanied by claims of hundreds of millions of dollars of waste just waiting to be ferreted out of City Hall.”

    To make matters worse, the individuals running city hall consider any surpluses as an overcharge rather than an investment opportunity.

    Steve: And moreover, some of those “surpluses” are actually simply cases where a service cost less than expected, and the saving may be transient, not permanent. It’s not as if there is any real money sitting on the table.


  17. You didn’t include the only subway that makes sense to me: Across downtown between Queen & King. There is already high density and problematic existing transit (too slow, traffic congestion, bunching, etc.) that subways could solve. I saw this route in a Metrolinx plan, but deferred until basically never.

    Why is this obvious subway being ignored?

    Steve: It’s the Downtown Relief Line (east) and it’s in my article. I did not specify a route through downtown because that’s a big debate in its own right.


  18. How come they can manage zone-based fares in London (since the 1970s!), yet not in Toronto?….

    Steve: Toronto had zone-based fares until the early 70s when the suburbanites got tired of subsidizing the TTC but having to pay more to ride it than those who lived in the central city. Now some of the more conservative pols, who happen to come from the burbs, are big on fare by distance even though it would hit their own constituents worse.


  19. BrisUrbane, Brisbane is tiny compared to Toronto.

    As for Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth, they compare quite positively to Toronto.

    …and yet it’s unfair to describe Toronto’s transit situation as an embarassment to the world. For that, you must go to major US cities. Toronto is poor by world standards, but practically every major US city is worse, much worse. Try anything in Ohio or Michigan. Indeed, San Francisco is approximately on par with Toronto, and LA is worse (though thankfully the *trends* in LA are in the right direction).


  20. A solution logical enough for Boston to do it in the 1890s, namely a tunnel for streetcars to bypass the densest downtown congestion, is apparently far too difficult for today’s politicians to imagine.



  21. Is Toronto getting new streetcars (e.g. multi-articulated streetcars) for its current network (separate from LRT)? Or was that also a Transit City thing that looks like it might not go through?

    Steve: Two orders of related but not identical cars. Some are for the “legacy” city system. These are single-ended, TTC gauge cars that will, at least initially, use trolley poles for power collection. Some are for Transit City routes. These are double-ended, standard gauge cars that will run with pantographs from day one.

    Assuming any of them is actually built.


  22. Hold on … are you saying that Bloor-Danforth trains will turn west at STC and continue their journey “into” the Sheppard line (as one continuous route)?

    My understanding is that STC will be a dual-level station with no through-routing between the lines. Is it really a loop and a 1-platform station?

    Steve: Only in Rob Ford’s dreams. This would also require 6-car trains on Sheppard. It’s a “loop” only on the map.


  23. The better thing to do would be to keep the operations of the Sheppard Line and Spadina Line separate at Downsview, such that the line can eventually continue westwards into Etobicoke. Sheppard West may not have the on-site density to support subways, but it is in a strategic location with which to attract riders from both the Wilson-Albion and Finch corridors. To wit, much of the apartment cluster at Jane-Finch extends several blocks south along Jane Street; meaning a stop at Jane-Sheppard would be relativity close to this high-density neighbourhood. Stops at Keele and Arleta could shorten the total commute time for the 106, 108 and 120 routes. Either the Jane or Weston stops could be the anchor hub for all the Highway 400 area industrial routes.

    And as there is no through corridor linking Etobicoke to North York between Finch and Lawrence, a Sheppard West subway across the Humber Valley and up Albion Rd as far as Finch Avenue could attract unprecedented volumes of riders (think everyone from Humber College students, the high-density apartment community along northern Kipling, industrial workers from Claireville, Malton/Woodbridge commuters). Use of part of the Albion Centre’s parking area minimizes land expropriation for such a mega-terminal as well.

    Given the land use, cut-and-cover could be the preferred construction method to save on costs and stops could be spaced roughly 2 kilometres apart just like the northern Yonge Line, except of course the Keele-Arleta-Jane segment. This would by and large supplant the need for a Finch West LRT line and give credence to extending the Sheppard “stubway” both ways as a real long-term transit solution to gridlock and endless commutes across the northern end of the city.


  24. It seems that the biggest need is more capacity to the downtown core, with some improvements to crosstown travel. The existing GO/rail lines seem to satisfy this with the least amount of effort. Stops/stations about 4km apart with trains every 10 to 15 minutes would be reasonable. One line could be from the airport to Union Station and back up Agincourt (the Georgetown and Stouffville lines). The Richmond Hill Line, future Bolton line, a crosstown link near Dundas, Dupont and up to Malvern and the Lakeshore lines could all be incorporated for TTC use.

    This could all be done with little physical cost. What it does require is co-operation between different levels of governments and different Agencies. With this plan, many people would be within a short bus ride away from a rapid transit line. Afterwords, Eglinton LRT (underground), Finch West LRT (in Hydro ROW to Humber College) and possibly Sheppard Subway Extension (East to Agincourt and West to Downsview), Bloor Danforth Extension to STC, and a Link to UofT Scarborough could all be considered.

    The railways are the cheapest and fastest ways of creating an extensive system. Let’s use them.


  25. A Front St. transitway anyone? – maybe splitting directions in the densest part of the core with Wellington?
    It was c. 6 years to get the Front St. Extension project knocked off, but throughout that period, I was always urging looking at transit options, and that list grew to about 12. One big help was actually the WWLRT EA – they’d actually done some thoughtful work on the timing/routing of something on Front St. c. 1993.
    Urban Affairs Library….


  26. “Until I see what sort of network of bike lanes is proposed”

    Apparently, this is what is proposed.

    I wonder what they think about the plan to create dedicated bike lanes on Queens Quay West.

    Steve: That’s not exactly a “network”, but rather just a loop around downtown with links south to, presumably, the lanes that will show up on Queen’s Quay if Ford doesn’t squelch the Waterfront Toronto proposals. Notable by its absence, of course, is Jarvis Street, and there is little indication of what people outside of this area are supposed to do.

    Meanwhile, the Globe reports that this isn’t the done deal it seemed, and the basic principle remains of avoiding interference with traffic.


  27. Steve: If that’s ‘good enough’, then ‘good’ must have acquired a very different meaning to what I remember.

    Steve: My reference was to an interview in which Mayor Ford laughingly dismissed the absence of the Finch West LRT from his plan saying, in effect, “we have buses, don’t we” and implying that they’re just fine. If they’re fine enough for Rexdale, they’re fine enough for Scarborough too.

    This of course is irony.


  28. Passenger trains which run 5km, 50km or 100 km + all run on the same tracks in Brisbane and many Australian cities. Express and all stops and freight services are all mixed in as well, some sections are duplicated to allow expresses to overtake all stops.

    Interestingly, Toronto even seems to have an east-west rail line starting near Toronto Pearson airport and traveling parallel to Steeles Ave and highway 407 all the way to Rouge park, Toronto Zoo and beyond. It doesn’t appear as an official GO train line, maybe it is a freight line.

    Steve: Yes, it is the CN freight bypass, also connecting to their main yard, north of Toronto. Sadly, as with all “planning”, there has been no attempt to preserve the corridor for expansion by blocking development immediately adjacent to it.


  29. But in reality, not every route where LRT makes sense from the ridership and connectivity standpoint can be built as “plain vanilla” LRT. Tunneled or elevated sections are needed for many routes.

    They have a good reason to use real-life numbers from the actually designed routes in Toronto, rather than some hypothetical best-case scenario costs.


  30. The real concern is the loss of Lawrence East station, that has a considerable local density and walk-in passengers. Hopefully this can be mitigated by adding a GO station in that location (the GO line runs alongside with SRT tracks).

    Ellesmere and Midland stations do not see that much usage anyway, and Ellesmere is very poorly designed.


  31. The idea of extending Sheppard subway westward to York U, in some form, has merit in theory. Various schemes can be proposed, for example running both Sheppard trains and 1/2 of Spadina trains to York U and Steeles West (and short-turning the other half of Spadina trains at Downsview).

    But that idea is moot by this point. The way the Spadina extension is designed, it continues north of Sheppard for about 400 m before turning north-west towards the station at Chesswood. It will be very difficult to connect the Sheppard subway tracks to Spadina extension without a lot of extra tunneling, and it does not make sense to delay and redesign Spadina extension for the sake of connecting to Sheppard extension which is not funded and did not undergo any kind of design.


  32. Actually, I used the worst case scenario costs from Metrolinx.

    Eglinton is currently the only heavily tunnelled LRT. Other routes are planned as largely untunnelled, although as Steve has pointed out it may make sense to have bits and pieces tunnelled in some areas that are currently planned with surface running. In any case, Eglinton will wind up with the vast majority of tunnelling.

    Averaging in Eglinton’s costs gives all the misleading conclusions seen in several newspaper articles that subways are about three times more expensive than LRT. In reality, subways are about seven times more expensive than LRT. That’s quite a difference.

    Steve: I think another way of putting this is that with a subway, there is no way to avoid the high cost unless you are fortunate enough to have a surface right-of-way and the municipality and/or local residents don’t mind your actually using it.


  33. That is what Rob Ford envisions but as Steve correctly pointed out the Sheppard subway currently runs four cars per train compared to six cars per train on the Bloor-Danforth line.

    This is why I despise Rob Ford’s transit “plans” because he has little understanding of how the current system works, doesn’t have a strong understanding of which parts of the city need rapid transit and his “plans” seem to change frequently. During the election campaign he proposed extending the Bloor-Danforth subway to STC using the current RT alignment which cannot be done. After finding out this important piece of information he change his proposal to a different alignment found in an old TTC study. The alternate alignment has stations at Lawrence East and STC only.

    Steve: And for clarity, the new Lawrence East station is not in the same location as the old one.


  34. In reality, out of the 7 original Transit City projects, the “Scarborough – Malvern” line (Kennedy Stn – Eglinton – Kingston Rd – Morningside) is the only one where you might get 7 km of LRT for the cost of 1 km of subway.

    For SELRT (75 million / km taking into account the vehicles and the yard), the ratio would be about 5:1. I’d guess about same for Finch West (with underground Finch / Yonge and Finch / Keele stations that TTC prefers).

    For Don Mills and Jane, the ratios are likely in the 3:1 or 2.5:1 range given the amount of tunneling needed.

    For the truncated Eglinton LRT (Jane to Kennedy, 303 million per km), the ratio is no better than 1.5:1. It should be better for the full Eglinton line if it is mostly on surface west of Jane; maybe 2:1 or so.

    Waterfront West is hard to judge because the route is not finalized; but the likely Bremner option is not cheap.

    So, the 3:1 ratio looks like a reasonable ballpark estimate. The 7:1 LRT-to-subway claim may be good for propaganda purposes, but it will be hard to actually deliver LRT at that cost (unless you defer most of “Transit City 1” lines and instead select streets where it costs least to build LRT).


  35. re: Denis T suggesting that “I would like to say that a huge majority of the people of Toronto, mainly in the suburbs, are just plain confused morons. They say that transit service sucks in their areas, but when something like Transit City is created to address these service issues, those people start crying and saying that they oppose anything that takes away road space from their gas-guzzling SUV’s, preferring subways instead when subways are very pricey and the density in the suburbs does not require the need for subways’

    Wow, Denis, thank-you for upgrading my 4-cylinder car to a gas-guzzling SUV!

    Seriously, most people regardless of income take the car in the so-called suburbs (where most of the lower income, subsidized housing is located) is time. Sure, 30 to 60 minutes in a car each way to works or school may seem a lot, but it’s far better than 60 to 120, even 180 minutes on the TTC. And the fact remains that even if ALL of the Transit City lines were built (not just the 3 that were approved) the commute time would still be horrendous and far longer than taking a car.

    Take the example that Marcus Gee in the G&M cited the other day about a ride on St. Clair West, which would be similar in many ways to the speed of service on most of the LRT lines proposed in Transit City (e.g. dedicated right of way). Ignoring the wait to board, he said it took him 26 minutes to go the full 6.2km. That is 14.3 km/hr, hardly rapid transit, and hardly something to get excited about when, for many potential riders, it would still be 2x to 3x longer than taking a private auto. Heck, you could ride a bike faster.

    So you might say “well it’s better than nothing”, or “it’s better than 2 subway extensions”. I think that is setting the bar way too low, especially when billions of dollars are on the line. Why should we back something that doesn;t improve lives measurably even for those lucky enough to live on the route? At least a subway plan will definitely improve the ride for many current and future transit users. Outside of the tunneled Eglinton line, all TC will do is provide a slightly better than bus service to those people who are not able to afford a car.

    Steve: As has been pointed out many times, the St. Clair line has far more stops/km than the Transit City routes, and its speed is lower as a result. Also, TC vehicles will use all-door loading and self-service fare collection (Presto or equivalent) which should speed up stop service times as compared with St. Clair.


  36. Quick comment on proposed subways:

    Why are future Toronto subway stations reported to cost in the $100 to $150 million range? I’ve seen some of the public plans for the Spadina extension stations and they seem to be way overbuilt. Why a mezzanine level? I travel to London and use the Tube regularly and even for stations that have 3+ lines (e.g. Green Park) you go right from the street level to the ticket/gate area (which is a very small but well-organized area) and then right down to the platforms. It seems to me subway stations could be built for far less than the TTC proposals, and that would make plans for subways more plausible.


  37. No one has the stomach for cut and cover construction and mass expropriations anymore but they’ll surely complain about the overbuilt underground palaces as being too extravagant.


  38. I would expect it is because of the cost of tunneling. If it involves tunnel, it will be high cost, no matter what you run in it, be that streetcars, buses (like in Brisbane), trains or subways.

    For the record, Brisbane’s newer busways (basically dedicated roads with bus only traffic) cost about AUD $100 – $150m/km, and that is largely due to the cost of acquiring the right of way, bridging and tunneling works.


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