The TTC Capital Budget contains many projects that address the renewal and expansion of the subway fleet, although this information must be collated from various sources. When we discuss what might happen in the next decade on the subway network, it is important to know what is already provided for (whether it is actually funded or not) in the plan as opposed to what would become a “surprise” addition.
The largest component of the plan relates to capacity, especially on the Yonge-University-Spadina (YUS) line. The YUS already suffers from at least at a 10% backlog between demand and the capacity actually provided, presuming that the service runs more or less to the advertised headway. Bloor-Danforth (BD) is not as critical, but planned service expansion to 2020 will bring the scheduled headways to or below the level that can be operated with the existing terminal layouts and signalling.
The current plan does not include any provision for the effect of major additional demand caused by extensions other than the Spadina line to Vaughan, aka the Toronto York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE). There is no provision for the effect of extensions on either end of the BD line.
As the fleet grows and headways decline, there are two immediate effects:
- storage and servicing for a larger fleet require more yard space and maintenance capacity in carhouses
- service must be scheduled and operated on timings with little room for delay, and no padding for recovery
These effects, or rather the TTC’s attempt to address them, show up in various ways in the overall plan.
By 2015 when the TYSSE opens, the TTC plans to operate each line with its own dedicated fleet. The YUS will be served by “Toronto Rocket” trains (TRs) based mainly at Wilson Yard with a smaller fleet at Davisville and, possibly, some online storage north of Finch Station. The BD line will operate entirely with ‘T1″ cars, the most recent of the fleet (1995-2001), operating mainly from Greenwood with some storage at Vincent Yard (Keele) and Kipling.
All of the numbers in this plan are given in 6-car “trains”, the unit in which service is scheduled (except on Sheppard).
TR deliveries are planned out to 2015:
- 39 trainsets to replace the H4 and H5 fleet by the end of 2012
- 21 trainsets to replace the H6 fleet by the end of 2013
- 10 trainsets for the TYSSE for delivery in 2013
- 10 trainsets for “line expansion or reduced headways” in 2015
Service will gradually improve on both YUS and BD, but there is no allowance for more service on Sheppard which uses only 16 cars at all times). However, there is ample room in the “contingency” of T1 cars to handle this.
The plan includes correction for an “oops” in the 2010 Fleet Plan where the extra capacity of the TR trains translated to a reduction in the number of trainsets required for YUS service. That plan had the false assumption that if the trains were 10% bigger, we needed 10% fewer of them to handle service. Of course that directly contradicts the claim that the TRs would add 10% to the capacity on the YUS. This has been fixed by the addition of a new order (not yet placed with Bombardier) for 10 more trains under the rubric of “growth”.
This proposed order is not yet funded nor approved although under current service plans (see below) the TTC will be short of trains once the TYSSE opens because orginally the fleet plans assumed that the T1s would be available for the Yonge line.
The unit cost of the TR trainsets is roughly $16-million in current dollars.
It will be interesting to see the effect of the larger units on maintenance requirements and practices because entire 6-car sets of TRs will have to go out of service even if a problem only affects one car.
The spare factor is shown consistently as 13% both for the current fleet and for trains to come. This suggests that the spare pool exists more to aid scheduling of trains through the shops for work taking them out of service for extended periods than for changeoffs of trains that fail in service. Although the reliability of newer trains has been cited first for the T1s and now for the TRs (claimed to be 10 times better than their predecessors), this has no effect on the planned allowance for spares.
Better reliability, if achieved, has an effect by reducing the frequency of failures in service. Unfortunately, a review of the e-alerts issued by the TTC shows that equipment failures do not account for the majority of subway delays. A ten-fold improvement in train reliability will not translate to a 10-fold reduction in delays.
Because subway trains are bought in large batches, one can have a “bulge” in the fleet that is not immediately taken up by new service. This happens for both the TR and T1 fleets:
- Until the TRs and their unit consists were ordered, TTC fleet planning treated all trains as interchangeable for service. The T1 fleet is actually larger than needed to operate the BD and Sheppard subways, and even by 2021, there will still be three cars in the “contingency” (equipment over and above that needed for spares).
- The TR fleet purchases have been accelerated to take advantage of volume discounts and to keep the production line going in Thunder Bay. The TTC will actually have 12 more trainsets than it needs immediately before the TYSSE opens, and this contingency will gradually drop as service is added out to 2021.
In both fleets, there are contingency trains right out to the end of the 10-year plan, and especially in the period 2013-14. This could prove dangerous for maintenance practices as the system will get used to having vastly more spares than the official 13% level, and may never really adjust back to that level. The TR fleet, claimed to be marvels of the age, will not drop below 19% when the “contingency” is factored in for the entire 10 years of the plan.
This has been a long-standing problem in TTC fleet planning. One can argue that a more generous ratio gives headroom for unexpected growth and provides for the increasing maintenance needs of older parts of the fleet. We have certainly seen this with the streetcar fleet that is over 20 years old and was none too reliable in the first place. Although low spare factors are always cited, the actual fleet available rarely operates at this level and the savings claimed for a smaller spare ratio never actually materialize.
The Fleet Plan includes provision for a number of changes in subway service.
On the YUS:
- 2011: Extension of the St. Clair short turn AM peak operation to Glencairn (using the pocket track south of Lawrence Station) (3 trains)
- 2015: Extension of through service to Vaughan (6 trains), extension of short-turn service to Wilson (3 trains) and improved headways (3 trains)
- 2018-2020: Improved headways (2, 1, and 1 trains in each year respectively)
On the BD:
- Addition of one train to improve headways in each of 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2020
Although scheduled headways are not included in the plan, one can work backwards from the number of trains to reach an approximate headway for each scenario.
On YUS, headways cannot possibly be reduced until something is done about train congestion at the peak point. By 2015, the line will be converted to a new signalling system with Automatic Train Control (ATC), and with the TYSSE’s opening, the headway will drop from 2’21” to about 2’14”. Further additions to service will reduce this to 2’06” by 2021.
Physical constraints at terminals come into play here. Many years ago, the TTC contemplated subway extensions and a Yonge-Spadina loop where a connection between the north ends of the Yonge and Spadina routes would allow trains to circle without ever reaching a terminal.
The Alternatives Analysis for this scheme commented on subway operations thus:
As the length of the subway system increases, and as headways are reduced in response to increased demand, it becomes more difficult to maintain reliable service on the system. Reducing the headway of the system would require increasingly precise scheduling of the existing terminal station turnarounds in order to avoid congestion.
… the YUS Subway was designed to operate at a theoretical headway of 120 seconds which would correspond to a capacity of 36,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd), however, the minimum actual headway which has been on the system is only 130 seconds. This headway corresponds to a capacity of 32,400 pphpd (based on 27 trains per hour). The system is currently limited to this longer headway because of the extended dwell time which occurs at Bloor/Yonge station … and also because of operating constraints which are imposed at Finch and Wilson Stations for train turnaround movements. Any improvements in system capacity would therefore require elimination of these constraints.
During the AM peak, turnback operations at St. Clair West eliminate any potential bottleneck at Downsview (now the northern terminal), but there is no such provision on the Yonge side of the line. Indeed, passenger from Finch south is so heavy that a turnback at Eglinton (operated when the line only ran to York Mills) would leave too little service at Finch.
If Finch were reconfigured to turn trains around using pocket tracks north of the station, the headway could possibly be reduced, but it would still be tight. This problem will only really be addressed once the line is extended further north with provision for short turning at, say, Finch or Steeles.
This discussion presumes the AM peak configuration where short turns are included, but for the PM peak, all trains run through to the terminals. This sets a lower bound on PM peak headways of about 2’10”, compared with the 2’31” now operated on YUS, in the absence of operational changes allowing a shorter headway.
The constraint at Bloor-Yonge is another matter (see below), and it would not be surprising to see other bottlenecks show up as headways drop below two minutes. One particular problem with current schedules is that the running time allows for peak demand and longer station dwell time. At the shoulders of the peak, trains arrive at terminals early producing long queues of trains. (On the BD line, until the schedule was adjusted, a queue from Kennedy back to Victoria Park was not unusual.) For close headways, trains must leave as quickly as possible, and there can be no “recovery time” that would translate to queueing time. Alternately, trains would always have to be operated with long dwells at major stations enroute to ensure that they burned up the “recovery” time before reaching the terminals. This is all a balancing act. Given the TTC’s less than stellar record with razor-sharp operations, it is difficult to believe they would actually achieve such a target.
As a side comment, it should be noted that extremely close headways elsewhere depend on many factors including the age of the route, the line topology and whether the operation is completely automated and is not subject to disruption for crew changes and breaks at terminals.
The capacities cited above use 1,200 passengers per train, although for service planning purposes, the TTC uses 1,000. With the larger TR sets this can be bumped to 1,100. Higher loads are possible, but crush capacity cannot be sustained especially if this triggers long dwell times at major stations.
The headway reduction from 2’21’ to 2’06” represents a 12% increase in capacity, and coupled with the interior layout of the TR trains, this will bring something like 23% more room for passengers than we have today. However, there is a backlog of demand and this will be consumed as fast as it is provided.
On the BD line, the gradual addition of trains will bring the headway down from today’s 2’21” to under 2’10” by 2018. (The number of trains planned for 2021 is equivalent to a 2’04” headway, and it may not be achieveable.) Terminal constraints will kick in as the headway gets closer to what the terminals can handle. This is not, as I have discussed here before, something that can be solved with ATC. It is a physical limitation of the track layout, the length of the trains and the speed at which they can operate through curves, brake and accelerate without danger to passengers.
There does not appear to be any provision for a move to “high rate” operation that would allow for better speeds on grades and in areas where stations are further apart, not to mention a reduction in the number of trains needed to operate the service.
The signal system on the YUS is being replaced starting with the oldest portion of the line downtown, but gradually working outward.
Current plans call for the lower part of the Yonge line, which is receiving a hybrid form of signalling to handle the transition period, to switch over at the end of 2013. Final commissioning of the new system will occur in 2016. The estimated cost of this project is $343-million.
Conversion of the BD line, which will be 50 years old in 2016, will follow in the period to 2020. Plans call for the T1 fleet to be retrofitted for ATC, a change that was not included for the YUS project forcing the acquisition of a completely new fleet for the Yonge line.
The crossovers at Bloor, College, King and St. Clair (technically Rosehill, just south of the station) were manually operated when the Yonge line opened in 1954, and they were very rarely used. In time, replacing worn special work did not justify its cost, and the crossovers vanished, except at Bloor where electric switches and signalling were retrofitted.
Work is now underway to reinstall College crossover, and this will continue over coming years with Rosehill and King. Separate work is required to rearrange the power supply because the crossovers are now breaks between power sections on the subway. New breaks must be added roughly a train length north and south of each crossover so that power can be maintained on both sides of a crossover when it is used as a turnback point. This work will not be done until the end of the project when the new signal system comes online, and the crossovers will not be available for use until then.
Yards and Storage
Work is underway at Wilson Yard to provide additional storage for the growth in the fleet and to adjust buildings so that they can maintain 6-car TR sets. With luck, the TTC has been far-sighted enough to ensure that 7-car trains (with an added short car filling them out to the platform length of stations) will fit in the new facilities as this is mentioned elsewhere in the Capital Budget.
Davisville Yard will only be able to hold 7 TR trainsets given the constraints of building and track geometry. The remainder of the space will be used for the Track and Structures section.
At Greenwood Yard, space now occupied by a CN delivery siding on the west side of the site will be converted for additional storage. Eventually, Greenwood will require modifications to handle TR trainsets, but that is beyond the scope of the 10 year plan. A second yard on the BD line will require property elsewhere, and should definitely be part of any expansion scheme to take BD to the Scarborough Town Centre.
At Kipling, there are plans for a third track in vacant space north of the station (partly under the bus platform). This would allow two (or possibly three) more trains to be stored at the west end of the line.
Also included in the budget is the reactivation of Vincent (Keele) Yard as an active storage location for BD trains.
On the YUS, the TTC had been counting on availability of a new yard in York Region to absorb the growth in its fleet, but the timing of that project (not yet approved even by Metrolinx, although it is in the top priority group) is no longer auspicious. Instead, the TTC proposes to pre-build 800m of the line from the north end of existing tail tracks at Finch through to Cummer Station which would be fitted out only as a shell.
This $376m project would provide storage for 10 trains, the same number that was originally intended for an online yard north of Richmond Hill Station. This project is shown for construction in 2014-16 with availability in 2017. However, that does not deal with the interim crunch in existing capacity that will arise when the last of the proposed TRs arrive in 2015.
A new yard will be required to handle the extra capacity for service demand from 2021 out to 2031 and, of course, for any extension of the Yonge line.
The TTC recently awarded the contract for reconstruction of Union Station with the addition of a second platform and the reconfiguration of the mezzanine area. Few detailed plans are available online at the TTC or City websites, nor is there any information on staging of the construction work.
This work will add a new platform south of the existing subway structure to be used for trains bound for the Yonge line. The existing platform will be used only by University trains. The existing narrow stairs and escalators to the existing platform will be rebuilt and shifted south to give more room between them and the re-purposed University line platform.
As part of the City’s project to rebuild and expand Union Railway Station, the concourse level of the subway station will be widened and reconfigured for better pedestrian flow from the PATH system to the north and the new lower level of the railway station to the south. The crossing between the subway and the new east GO concourse will be lowered so that there are no stairs, and the space in the Union Station “moat” will be covered.
At Bloor-Yonge Station, the scheme for adding a third platform between existing tracks on the Yonge line has been dropped in favour of a simpler change on the Bloor line. As at Union, a new platform would be added south of the existing structure to give Eastbound service its own dedicated space. This would also allow expansion of the mezzanine connection between the two lines and greatly widen the space over which passengers moved between the BD and YUS platforms. In effect this would build into the structure the ad-hoc redirection of passengers now done in the AM peak at Bloor, but with considerably more space.
Potential construction challenges include the need to occupy Bloor Street east of Yonge at least to deck over the structure for excavation, as well as the fact that part of Yonge Station lies physically inside of the Hudson’s Bay building. (Yonge Station is on a diagonal from roughly the SE corner of The Bay at Park Road and Bloor to Yonge Street beside the Starbucks which was formerly Britnell’s Book Shop.)
The Bloor-Yonge project is budgeted at $200-million, but has not yet been presented to the Commission or City for formal approval. It is shown in the 10-year budget for 2014-17.
The TTC claims that it will not achieve the full potential of the subway’s capacity without Platform Edge Doors. Of course, they have also claimed that the doors will reduce or eliminate track-level fires caused by litter, and will eliminate suicides. Both of these contribute to unreliable service.
Current plans call for:
- A prototype installation at Bay Lower Station with design in 2011 with construction in 2013
- Installation from St. George Upper to Bloor Station by 2015
- Installation on the remaining portion of the YUS by 2020
- Installation on the BD line by 2026
The estimated cost in current dollars is $492m for YUS and $510m for BD. Among the recommendations from the City’s Budget Committee for 2011:
The TTC complete a cost/benefit analysis of Platform Edge Doors and report back to Executive Committee through the Budget Committee during 2011 on whether the installation of Platform Edge Doors is appropriate for the TTC, given the number of other SOGR, service improvement and growth projects for which there is currently no funding available.
It is self-evident that if PEDs are installed, it will be a very long time before their alleged benefits actually appear on the system. Meanwhile, the TTC needs to address the most common problem, track level fires (and the frequent delays for “smoke at track level”) that occur often on both lines.
The remainder of the Richmond Hill subway (north of the Cummer storage tracks described above) is budgeted at $3.6-billion with spending to start in 2014 for budget planning purposes. Most of this line would be paid for by other governments as it is located mainly outside of Toronto. No funding has been announced for this proposal, and Metrolinx is still working on an updated review of how demand from the north would be handled by the subway and possible GO service improvements.
The Downtown Relief Line is under study by the TTC and a functional design is supposed to be available by mid 2011. However it is unclear whether the scope of the study will stop at Danforth, or continue north to Eglinton.
The proposed Sheppard Subway extensions are too recent to be reflected in the TTC’s budget, and in any event they are to be privately financed.
Ongoing System Maintenance
The topics discussed here all have to do with service expansion and fleet replacement. Not included is a long list of routine maintenance projects such as roof and concrete repairs, tunnel leaks, fire system upgrades and accessibility. Collectively, these account for a considerable amount of spending in the Capital Budget, but there is a risk that they will be crowded out.
I will turn to these in a future article.