Updated July 4, 2011 at 11:10 am:
Recently, the Toronto Star reported that Metrolinx had claimed that the travel time by underground LRT from Kennedy Station to Jane Street would be 25 minutes. They have now confirmed that the correct figure should be 35 minutes.
Also, the full presentation given at the recent board meeting regarding the Eglinton line is now available online. Only the station design portion had been posted originally.
Updated June 26, 2011 at 10:00 am:
The June 23 presentation on the Eglinton LRT line contained a great deal of interest. In addition to the presentation on station design available from the Metrolinx site, staff gave us a new ridership projection based on the “all underground” alignment of the route.
Total ridership in 2031 is projected to be 30% higher than with the surface/subway LRT design primarily because of the higher speed and the availability of a through route from the Scarborough leg to the Eglinton line. Most of the increase comes from shifted riding from the Danforth subway to Eglinton, with a minor contribution from auto-to-transit migration. Riding on the Scarborough leg drops in the projection due to the line’s termination at McCowan and the absence of a through connection to Sheppard East.
Peak point ridership doubles from about 6,000 to 12,000 passengers per hour westbound to Yonge-Eglinton station.
This chart also plots flows on other parts of the network, although no numeric values were supplied in the presentation. I have requested this info so that the full implications of the chart can be better understood.
The chart asks more questions than it answers:
- The demand westbound from Kennedy is about 75% of the demand arriving at Yonge, although there may be some turnover along the route. Details of this would indicate the degree to which the new network is simply funneling traffic from northeastern Scarborough to the Yonge Subway as opposed to providing service to many points in between.
- Placing a scale on the chart to estimate the values on other network segments, notably the Yonge Subway southbound, the values appear to be in the same range as 2011 demand, or possibly lower. A reasonableness check is needed on the projection as a whole, and these values also feed into the debate about the need for added YUS capacity and/or a Downtown Relief Line.
- The projection leaves the Sheppard Subway in its current configuration, and we need to know what the flows would look like with the proposed extensions to STC and Downsview.
- It is unclear where the Yonge subway ends in the model and whether the projection includes the effect of a Richmond Hill extension.
- The role of GO Transit as part of the service carrying riders from the outer part of the 416 to downtown needs to be explored. Metrolinx plans include service on the CPR through northeastern Scarborough, and this could be an important alternate route for riders travelling to downtown.
Metrolinx is also considering the implications of the Eglinton corridor for major GO Transit interchanges, aka “Mobility Hubs”
Although the text on this page acknowledges the difficulty of a connection to the Richmond Hill GO service in the Don Valley, it completely misses the opportunity for a hub at Leslie Street where the CPR crosses Eglinton Avenue. The planners appear to be considering the network and service levels as they now exist on GO rather than the likely status by 2020 when the Eglinton line will open. This is echoed by the lack of “bumps” in the demand projections at locations where transfer traffic to/from GO might be expected.
The report on station design provoked some discussion.
The proposed locations were chosen based on ridership potential, spacing, access and development potential. Although the “Mobility Hubs” map shown earlier implies a station at Black Creek, this is actually replaced by a station at Weston linking with the rail corridor.
Stations will be 125-130m long of which 97m will be the platform and the balance for utility functions, notably fan shafts. Building codes now require considerably more fire safety provisions in underground stations and this adds to the size and cost of the structures. Work on preliminary plans for five stations is underway. These will be presented at public consultations in fall 2011, Feb/Mar 2012 and May/June 2012 as they are refined.
The tunnel depth will range down to 30m. Although a preliminary design for the line to pass under the Don River has been prepared, Metrolinx is looking at an alternative crossing on a bridge between Brentcliffe and Leslie. This is expected to save at least $100m in construction cost, and avoids a need to change the location and depth of Laird Station to accommodate the approach to an underground crossing. The bridge would lie to one side of Eglinton rather than the originally proposed street-running in the middle of a widened roadway.
There was no mention of how the east branch of the Don will be handled between Wynford and Bermondsey Stations. This would also be the segment where any interchange with the Richmond Hill GO service would have to fit into the plans.
With the change to fewer stations, the issue of surface bus service came up again. Metrolinx is playing rather coy on this subject saying that this is a TTC decision, and the original Environmental Assessment for the line foresaw no local bus service.
This may seem to be a relatively minor issue, but it is an example of Metrolinx’ abdication of responsibility for local transit service. Many people will be affected if their existing short walks to a bus stop are replaced with long, possibly hilly walks to a rapid transit station. This comes up at every public meeting, and ducking the issue simply provokes resistance to the project.
[I will declare an interest in this matter as I regularly use a local stop at Banff and Eglinton, halfway between Mt. Pleasant and Bayview Stations, near a family home.]
Operation of the line will be fully automated with an onboard crew (like the SRT) as monitors, although the cars will have manual controls for use in any open sections such as yards and future surface LRT construction, not to mention during failures of the control system.
The projected 12K peak demand (in 2031) can be handled with a two minute headway of three car trains, and this includes some headroom for surges. The automated control system will allow headways down to 90 seconds, and this provides room for growth. Metrolinx and TTC are working on operating cost estimates, but these are not yet available.
Finally, the project now has a new official “branding” as the “Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown” route with emphasis on “Crosstown”.
The typeface chosen for this is claimed/intended to be similar to the existing “Toronto Subway”. The resemblance is only superficial, and saying that it “looks like” the original does not make it so. Note particularly the difference in the “R”.
Update: Here’s what the logo looks like in Toronto Subway. (Thanks to Jonathan Chen) Note to Metrolinx: Don’t claim you are trying to match the old typeface, use it.
The name provoked some amused questions about how this would fit into a world including Etobicoke, home of Mayor Ford who is responsible for tearing apart the Transit City plan. Presumably by the time we actually have to worry about this, the words “Eglinton-Scarborough”, already a light gray, will have faded from view.
Original post from June 12:
Two major Metrolinx projects — the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT and the Georgetown South rail corridor — have had their share of road shows in past weeks, and this will continue through early summer. Metrolinx does feel-good publicity almost too well, but that’s not the sort of thing community groups particularly want to hear, especially when they’ve heard it all before.
Some of the knottier questions have a political edge, the ones the hapless staffers at public meetings cannot possibly answer, the problems that even the professional politicians and Metrolinx board and management will duck. Some are technical questions that should have an answer, but they are either evaded or answered inconsistently.
Here’s a grab bag from recent events along Eglinton.
Where Will the Stops Be Located?
Metrolinx dodges this question every time it comes up because they are still working on the design for the outer parts of the line (west of Keele, east of Laird). However, they also repeat that there will be up to 26 stations. It doesn’t take a planning degree to make a good guess where these will be.
First, we need to look at the original proposed route map for the Eglinton LRT. Between Jane Street and Kennedy Station, there are 27 stations including the terminals. Tacking on the SRT adds 5 more for a total of 32. This means that getting down to 26 will require the elimination of 6 stops. Here’s an attempt at picking them from west to east.
- Oakwood. This stop is notable by its absence from a list of stations where design work is already in progress, and it is also fairly close to both Dufferin and Eglinton West.
- Chaplin. This was a proposed site for extraction of the tunnel boring equipment (one set coming east from Black Creek, the other west from Laird), but it is unlikely to survive as a station location without major redevelopment.
- Leslie. There is little at Leslie and Eglinton to warrant a station unless GO begins operation of considerable service on the CPR line to Agincourt and beyond. “Considerable” is not two trains each way Monday to Friday. Will things be different in 2020 when the Eglinton line finally opens?
- There were 9 surface LRT stops between Don Mills and Kennedy, of which 4 are at major arterials. The Ferrand/Wynford stops will likely be consolidated, probably on the Wynford side of the DVP. A consolidated Victoria Park and Pharmacy stop with an off-street bus loop could also make sense, as part of redevelopment of the “Golden Mile”. Further east, there will be some debate about the “in between” stops given that the N-S arterials are about 1km apart, but most will not survive financial and ridership review.
- Ellesmere. This is the most lightly used station on the SRT because it has an extremely difficult walking transfer connection to the 95 York Mills bus. Parachutes and trampolines would be required to speed up this process.
This gives us more than 6 candidates, and I suspect that Metrolinx will attempt to keep the cost of this project under control by trimming as much as possible. This issue needs to be discussed openly sooner rather than later, and relates to the next question.
What Replacement Bus Service Will Operate?
When a good chunk of the LRT was to operate at grade, this question only affected the central, tunnelled portion from Laird to Keele. However, the issue is more complex now that the line will be underground. Walking distances between stations will be longer than to existing bus stops, and Eglinton is not the flattest street in Toronto. Some stations will be quite deep, and the vertical access adds to the travel time to or from a vehicle.
East from Yonge, there are many routes, but the most frequent services are 34 Eglinton East, 54 Lawrence East and 100 Flemingdon Park. Others run infrequently if at all. To the west, there is 32 Eglinton West briefly supplemented by the two Avenue Road services, when they run. The TTC would save much grief at public meetings by simply stating that there will be a surface bus that would operate (say) on no worse than a 15 minute headway. This would be comparable to the 97 Yonge bus in the “old” section of the city south of York Mills. (I would argue that all of the parallel-to-subway routes should be improved as an accessibility measure, but that’s a topic for a different post.)
This is an example of a jurisdictional split between Metrolinx (responsible for building the rapid transit line) and the TTC (responsible for operations). As Metrolinx/GO expands out from the core, they will produce new demand patterns that local transit systems may be ill-equipped (and funded) to address.
How Will the Line Cross the Don River?
Although the Metrolinx/Ford Memorandum of Understanding has an escape clause for surface construction at the Don River, various project staff have claimed that the line will go under the river.
From detailed drawings in the EA for the LRT proposal, we can see how much different the grades and elevation (depth underground) the line would have to be to get under the river. Five pages from the EA are discussed below.
- Plate 68 shows the proposed portal east of Brentcliffe. This shows the tunnel alignment (near the bottom of the drawing) and the declining elevation of Eglinton Avenue as it drops into the valley. Note that the vertical and horizontal scales are not equal, and the grade looks much steeper than it actually is. A 5% grade is the maximum that would be provided for LRT, and for full subway 4% is preferred (the grade from Summerhill to St. Clair is 4%).
- Plate 69 shows the bridge over the west branch of the Don at Sunnybrook Park. Note the additional depth of the river valley itself below the elevation of the bridge deck.
- Plate 70 shows Eglinton rising out of the valley and passing below the CPR viaduct.
- Plate 76 shows the Wynford station at the west side of the east branch of the Don. The plan does not show the elevation of the river itself, but the drop off into the valley is visible.
- Plate 77 shows the east side of the Don.
There is no question that a tunnel is possible, but going under two rivers adds substantially to the cost, and it affects the depth of nearby stations which may have to be further underground to keep grades down to the river crossings within allowable limits.
Going under both branches of the Don is an expensive decision, and at the very least Metrolinx should keep the options open until the cost tradeoffs are understood. Such a cost saving on Eglinton presents Mayor Ford with a dilemma: making Eglinton cheaper to build frees up money that could underwrite the Sheppard subway.
Underground Through Weston
During the Eglinton LRT EA, the TTC and Metrolinx were immovable on the subject of an underground line through Mt. Dennis, the section on either side of Weston Road. This produced local resentment in the vein of “North Toronto gets a tunnel, but we poor folks get stuck with surface operations and community disruption”.
The TTC produced plans for an underground alignment, but rejected this option to keep costs down. Here are excerpts from a January 2010 presentation.
- Recommended Weston Stop: This shows the arrangement for a surface stop on Eglinton west of Weston Road (the location is dictated by space constraints of the underpass to the east). A common centre platform is shared by both directions of travel.
- Recommended Alignment — Property Impacts: Because Eglinton is narrow where the platform would be located, there are extensive property effects notably for a block of houses on the north side of Eglinton that would be demolished to allow for road widening. To say that this is unpopular would be an understatement.
- Underground Alignment: This shows a variation with the line passing under Black Creek, the rail corridor and Weston Road underground. Whether both Black Creek and Weston would actually get stations given the cost and likely demands at each point is hard to say, but this illustrates the general placement of the line.
- Underground Alignment — Property Impacts: Like the surface scheme, this design requires demolition of houses on the north side of Eglinton. However, much of this is due to the presence of a storage track west of the station which is intended for use as an emergency turnback. This was a clear example of the TTC adopting a design that would skew the choice to their preference by making the demolition of homes common to both schemes. The station has a crossover east of the platform. This is quite adequate for emergency operations, or it could be dropped completely as there will be a crossover at Keele which also has a surface bus loop, and there would also be a crossover at the terminal, Jane Street.
The alignment through Mt. Dennis has been a delicate issue for some time, and Metrolinx would be wise to begin addressing this as soon as possible. Delay only feeds a suspicion that the line will never get past Black Creek or, at best, a connection to the Weston rail corridor.
In response to a question about the level of service riders might see, a Metrolinx official replied that there would likely be 3-car LRV trains running every 6 minutes at peak, 12 at off peak. Metrolinx needs to understand that “rapid transit” is not the same as a GO train every hour. On a route where the average journey will likely be under 20 minutes (few will make the 45 minute trip from STC to Jane), long headways will contribute substantially to the trip length and to a perception that service is less than adequate. There’s a reason why the TTC runs subway trains every five minutes whether they are needed or not.
If this was an off-hand remark, it needs to be rethought, and quickly. Odd, indeed, that Metrolinx can muse on service levels in the Eglinton LRT subway, but not for what is almost an afterthought, a parallel surface bus.
Future Airport Service
After spending $8b to keep Mayor Ford happy by burying the entire line, we will still only be able to ride to Jane Street at best. Extending the line to the airport is a task for the next decade, presumably when this can be done on the surface without interference from the Mayor’s office. There will probably be a variation on Kipling Station’s Airport Rocket running west on Eglinton for many years.
Metrolinx still speaks of both the Eglinton and a future Finch line reaching the airport, but this is not going to happen using LRT in the current political climate. Meanwhile, we will have the Air Rail Link starting in 2015, but this is still to be a premium fare service and will be of little value to the most important group of potential riders, the people who work at the airport.
It’s worth noting that the ARL will provide about 18,000 daily seat-trips both ways from Union to Pearson (with a stop at Dundas West and possibly a station somewhere in the Weston area). They will not all be full — that is the nature of all-day transit service. (That’s 126 seats/train, 4 trains/hour, 18 hours/day.) The Airport Rocket already carries over 4,000 passengers daily to and from the airport, and more will eventually ride along Eglinton.
Metrolinx needs to start thinking about the airport beyond the scope of the ARL, and for riders whose trips do not originate downtown. Service may be provided by the TTC and any number of 905 transit agencies, but the “mobility hub” at Pearson should not grow haphazardly depending on the local funding and service decisions of each municipality.