Rebuilding A Transit City

The waning fortunes of the Ford regime and its defeat on planning for the eastern waterfront have emboldened many to focus on the resurrection of the Transit City LRT plan.  Advocates despaired as the newly-minted Mayor Ford so unceremoniously and undemocratically cancelled the plan.  We watched as Queen’s Park, terrified of a “Ford Nation” juggernaut decimating Liberal ranks in the 2011 election, caved in with a “Memorandum of Understanding” completely undoing the principles of their own “Big Move” transit scheme.

Now we’re in 2012, rumour has the Liberals wanting a return to the original plan, but fearing a unilateral move without a request from Toronto Council.  Oddly enough, the absence of any Council approval for Ford’s actions, a requirement of the MOU, is never mentioned.  The economics of the all-underground Eglinton “LRT” and the private sector Sheppard subway don’t look encouraging, and Queen’s Park faces widespread constraint in public sector spending.  This is hardly the time to be blowing billions to gold plate projects, to cover them with “gravy” that would invite ridicule in other circumstances.

The left may engineer a vote at Council once the 2012 budget debates are out of the way seeking to resurrect Transit City as it was originally proposed and agreed to.  CodeRedTO has formed with the intent of seeking a way, preferably through compromise, to a revised transportation plan that will keep the best of competing views of our future.  They hope to copy the success of the waterfront’s CodeBlueTO.

Whether this will be possible given the bluster and intransigence shown by the Mayor whenever surface transit is mentioned remains to be seen.  Unlike the Portlands fiasco, a scheme hatched and promoted by the Mayor’s brother Doug, the transportation file is firmly part of Rob Ford’s agenda.  It was in his campaign platform, and the Mayor has often repeated his loathing for “streetcars” and his mantra that the war on the car is over.

Unlike Waterfront Toronto, transit agencies don’t have a string of projects to show off as a mark of their expertise.

The TTC still hasn’t lived down the St. Clair project even though many of its problems were not of the TTC’s making, and “St. Clair” is as much a conjuration of urban myth than today’s experience.  Local transit is more a collection of horror stories, of fights between the system and its customers, rather than of day-to-day triumphs.  Right at the top, the TTC is infected with the premise that transit is for somebody else, for the folks who can’t afford to drive, rather than an essential part of the region’s network for everyone.

Metrolinx does well as far as it goes, but has the comparatively easy job of serving a small, concentrated and select market.  It’s easy to do well when you deliberately ignore millions of potential customers and see high farebox returns as a mark of success without seeing all those trips not taken (because service isn’t provided) as a cost to travellers and to the region.

However the politics works out, a vital challenge for advocates is to avoid an endless debate on thirty years worth of future transit plans, pitched battles between various transit schemes, technologies and alignments.  Taxpayers who must fund whatever we build, and politicians who must get re-elected, need a focussed, clear objective.

The waterfront file was an easy fight in this regard:  a widely-praised, detailed plan already exists that was demonstrably better than what was proposed.  The rivalry between agencies (Waterfront Toronto vs Toronto Port Lands Corporation) and the desire to get quick sales to fund property tax breaks in Toronto exposed the shallow goals and cronyism of the Ford alternative.  The situation with Transit City is much different.

What is a Transit City?

Transit City is not just a map with a few LRT lines.  It is an attitude, a philosophy about what the city and the region could be:  a city where people have the option to choose a “transit first” lifestyle.  This is not anti car, but pro transit, ensuring that transit is an option everywhere and that transit gets the priority in space and funding.  That may seem “anti car” in a context where the network has been designed to serve auto trips for as long as anyone can remember.

The presumption by motoring advocates that transit will never compete and that, by default, planning must concentrate on serving cars is quite understandable.  One need only attempt to travel across the suburbs, or counterpeak from downtown, or especially beyond the 416 boundary to see how inadequate transit is as an alternative.  This is a powerful incentive for motorists to dismiss claims that transit can be their mode of choice.

When transit does get attention, the inevitable request is for express services — commuter rail and subways.  Everyone knows what these are and the type of service they are likely to find.  If a scheme for alternatives like LRT is to succeed, advocates and transit professionals must convince their target audiences that the plan will work and is worth supporting.  There is no room for a sense that we are “making do” with anything less than a subway network.

The term “Transit City” predates the LRT plan by two years.  Back in 2004, the Commission asked TTC and City staff to report on how transit would support the then-new Official Plan, and specifically to develop an LRT network plan.  The first response appeared at the January 2005 Commission meeting under the name Building a Transit City.

The objectives, quoted from the Official Plan, were:

Link land use and transportation planning policies to create an effective strategy for accommodating the City’s future trip growth in a way that reduces auto-dependency by making transit, cycling and walking more attractive alternatives.

“No one should be disadvantaged getting around Toronto if they don’t own a car”

The Official Plan has Council’s blessing, and unless there are moves afoot in the new plan to rescind this outlook, it remains the policy today.  Those who decry the “war on the car” would do well to remember that this is City policy approved and never revoked by Council.

Map 4 from the Official Plan (included in the staff presentation) shows a network of “higher order transit corridors for both the GO and TTC networks.  The TTC proposals are quite different from what we would eventually see in “Transit City” and they include a mix of subway, LRT and BRT on Finch (hydro corridor), Sheppard, Eglinton, Kingston Road and the Waterfront.  The Spadina and Yonge subway extensions are also shown along with an extension of the SRT taking it north across the 401.

Equally important is Map 5 showing a network of surface priority corridors for bus and streetcar operations.  A more dense version of this would appear in August 2009 in the Transit City Bus Plan.

The TTC’s priorities for subway expansion were little more than a rehash of plans from the early 1990s, and they reflected the constraints of planning for an expensive mode.  Only the Spadina extension to Steeles and the Sheppard extension to the STC were shown as “TTC Priorities”.

In a review of travellers’ reasons for not taking transit, service related problems such as speed and reliability ranked top by a wide margin while the cost of fares ranked right at the bottom.  Service issues were of particular concern for those who travelled by transit only.

Many of the proposals in “Building a Transit City” were for improvements to the bus network through provision of exclusive access and signal priority.  An LRT network was not proposed at this time, although one can see the beginnings of what would become the Transit City map in 2007.  The most important change by 2007 was that the LRT network started from a clean slate without the many vestiges of older plans that were still present in the 2005 report.  Moreover, it addressed the design concern of putting transit where people actually were and wanted to travel, not just where there was an available off-street corridor (e.g. Finch hydro lands).

An underlying premise throughout the report is that transit be improved, and that this continue with visible results year to year to sustain support for further work.  The same idea was a foundation of the provincial Move Ontario 2020 plan with initial investments to show people what could be achieved before asking for new taxes or other revenue tools.  This too is an important part of a “Transit City” campaign — development of political support for spending on transit through demonstrable improvements.

The Scope of a New Plan

If Transit City is to be revived, it is vital that advocates not overreach by redoing planning work of the past decade and attempting to solve every transit problem with one proposal.  Large scale planning is not really Council’s mandate anyhow, but rather lies with Metrolinx and Queen’s Park.  Parallel to anything that might happen in Toronto itself, there is a separate battle to get the planning and funding in place for an entire region’s services, and to integrate them in a more meaningful way than simply using one fare card.

A few principles must be settled at the outset:

  • Where will a Sheppard east line go — Scarborough Town Centre, Meadowvale, University of Toronto Scarborough Campus — and what technology will be used for the most expensive part, the crossing of the DVP?
  • How does Malvern fit in and what is the future of service on the SRT beyond STC?
  • Is a surface alignment for Eglinton east of Leaside and west of Black Creek (with some exceptions such as Don Mills and Weston) the preferred option?
  • Can the Finch LRT be revived from Keele to Humber College as a short-term project to open with or soon after the Spadina subway extension?
  • Can Waterfront transit be integrated with the plan so that a major development area isn’t left behind in our “transit city”?

Further out, many issues remain for debate including the Don Mills, Jane and Eglinton/Morningside LRT proposals, service to the Airport, the Downtown Relief Line, and the future role of GO Transit in serving inside-416 travel.  These will not be solved in the next few months, and a debate on “Transit City” needs to focus on work already in the pipeline.

Transit City is More Than a Handful of LRT Lines

A fundamental premise of pre-Ford transit planning is that “just enough” isn’t acceptable across the entire network.  We already know that people prefer subways because, relative to other modes, they are built and operated at a level of service generally exceeding demand except during peak periods.  They are fast and truly “all day” services for which timetables or concerns about frequencies are unknown.

If the subway lines were subjected to the same service planning criteria as surface routes, off-peak service would suffer and some might even close early for the greater good of releasing money to provide service elsewhere.  This doesn’t happen because the capital investment in subways is high, and running less than frequent service is seen as counter-productive.  Imagine, for example, opening a new line to Vaughan but providing trains only every 10 minutes or so.

On the surface network, the standards are completely different and the concept of good, frequent service is under attack.  Crowding standards will be relaxed in mid-February unless Council provides more TTC funding, and routes that cannot scare up 15 riders per vehicle hour are dropped with no regard to the network gaps this might create.  Express buses are a nice idea, but unless they can be operated at no marginal cost, they are unlikely to show up on TTC routes.

Recently the concept of “Transit Oriented Development” resurfaced in a report prepared for Councillor Peter Milczyn, chair of Toronto’s Planning and Growth Management Committee.  This report considers various options that could be incorporated in an updated Official Plan.  Few of the ideas regarding transit are new.  After all, the TOD concept has been around for decades.  Sadly, it’s a concept that fails in Toronto on two important counts:

  • Development occurs more or less where land has been assembled, not on a strategic basis to support the transit system.  Most lands are privately held, and publicly financed imposed land assemblies are illegal in Ontario.
  • Actual transit construction occurs so infrequently and on so small a scale that the idea of “orienting” development to it is meaningless.  Where transit is built, the surrounding land use may not be compatible with intensification.  Indeed, a forced change in land use following rapid transit construction could work against acceptance of a project.

Two views of a future “Transit City” compete with each other, and these mirror the debate over rapid transit technologies.

  • Nodal development plans tend to produce clusters of towers separated by open spaces and to focus on a few widely-space rapid transit stations.
  • Corridor development produces smaller buildings, but with redevelopment spread along a route whose stations/stops are close enough together that being right at at station is not essential to the attractiveness of a site.

Both of these will play a role in Toronto’s future, and we should not attempt to impose one view on all streets and sites.  Moreover, the built form debate turns on more than transit access and includes walkability, availability of local services and a wide variety of concerns about building neighbourhoods that serve a wide range of people (the 8-to-80 premise).

Paying for Transit

An overwhelming challenge for any transit plan will be how we will pay for more and better transit, and how we will convince voters that new revenue sources (whatever they be called) are justified and worthwhile, not the work of fiscal devils and incompetents.

Political leadership and a credible plan are essential, and half measures, the muddling-through so common in our politics, will not do.  At a time when government spending generally is under attack, when costs and expectations continue to rise, and the economy is, at best, wobbly, everyone needs to know what the options might be, what they will cost, what benefits they will bring (and when), and how they might be paid for in the short and long term.

The value of transit must be shown for its mobility, for its economic benefits, not just for the dollar value of construction projects or future development.  We hear often about how poor transportation systems hobble the GTA, but inevitably return only to the spending side of debates on new transit lines, not on their benefits.  Everyone understands that schools and hospitals have a value in delivering educated and healthy citizens, not just consuming tax dollars, but a comparable view is not extended to transit infrastructure and service.

Where to find the money is not a new discussion.  Back on June 13, 2008, the Metrolinx Board saw a presentation on the Investment Strategy.  Many public consultations have been organized or sponsored by Metrolinx since then, and they cover the same ground over and over.  What would the support be for new funding schemes?  Which are the least unattractive?  Unfortunately, the audience for such discussions tends to the the “usual suspects”, and those who advocate new revenue tools are mainly preaching to the converted.

Meetings like this do not bring leadership for difficult debates and choices.

Many options are available to generate the billions needed to build, expand and operate the GTA’s transit networks including higher fuel taxes, road tolls, parking lot taxes, regional sales tax, vehicle registration fees, payroll taxes and development benefit or worth capture.  Each has its advocates and detractors, and only a few offer revenue on the scale needed to fund plans such as the Metrolinx Big Move.

There is a philosophical problem here right at the heart of liberal/conservative debates about individual versus community benefits and costs.  Do we tie revenue streams to specific user costs and benefits, or examine the larger societal level?  For example, making motorists pay for everything ignores the wider benefits of transit and demonizes a major political group who feel they have no alternative way to travel.

We know Queen’s Park has no money in current revenue streams and has competing demands much bigger than the transportation and transit file.  How will new transit revenue tools fit into larger scheme of public revenues and programs?  Are new/increased taxes politically saleable? Should some potential revenue streams be reserved for other types of programs rather than going just to transit?

There is much hand-wringing over a long term decline in the quality of transportation, the cost of doing business, the attractiveness of region, but we don’t want to engage in discussion of how to pay for projects.  Even worse, a cost effective transit plan is discarded for political expediency.  This is leadership?

Where Should We Go From Here?

In the short term, advocacy should focus on getting existing, committed funding re-deployed to a more sensible network.  This will include issues such as tradeoffs between a limited Sheppard subway extension to Victoria Park, the design and choice of LRT routes in eastern Scarborough, implementation of the Finch LRT and proper funding for the eastern Waterfront transit lines.  These are matters for open, public information, not for backroom decisions at City Hall, Metrolinx or Queen’s Park.

Longer term issues should not be bundled into this debate even though many are important: the role of GO and its future frequent all day service including electrification, a Downtown Relief line (or lines) east and west of the core, regional planning for good, widespread service that is more than a fare card.

Selling new revenue tools will require that we make what we have and what we build short term a clear benefit, not a distant second choice.  The momentum of Move Ontario and of Transit City must be recaptured.

The integrity and attractiveness of what we have now — service quality, facilities and vehicle maintenance — must be maintained and improved.  Winning billions for a transit future is pointless if transit present is starved and forced into decline.

79 thoughts on “Rebuilding A Transit City

  1. Kristian says:

    “If Ford is so concerned about getting his Sheppard Subway that would only reach STC anyway, why can’t we just build the Sheppard LRT beyond this point along with its planned carhouse?”

    A friend of mine had a similar idea. He proposed extending the Sheppard line to Downsview and Scarborough Town Centre. At Kennedy north station or Agincourt station (the last station before the subway dips south-east to STC), an LRT continues east on Sheppard to Meadowvale.

    I think it’s a great idea as it: (a) strike a good compromise, (b) extends the current Sheppard stubway to a useful length which may increase ridership along the line and (c) provides improved service to the outer reaches of Scarborough.

    The main problem is cost. The 12 km subway extension would cost around $4.2 billion. Add to that total the cost of an LRT line from Kennedy to Meadowvale. If I had to guess I’d estimate the total price tag at close to $5 billion. Contrarily, only building an LRT line from Don Mills to Meadowvale would cost around $1 billion.


  2. Jacob Louy says:

    “Secondly, out of the four councillors along Sheppard east of Kennedy, 2 are confirmed supporters of surface LRT (Lee and Cho)…”

    When the TTC held open houses on the Sheppard LRT in Cho’s riding, he spoke at the open house in opposition of the Sheppard LRT. He told the crowd that Scarborough needs subways. When Ford cancelled Transit City and replaced it with Transportation City, there were no transit improvements planned for Ward 42. Cho now supports the Sheppard LRT.

    I got the impression that many in the audience believed the LRT line would be replaced by a subway extension from Don Mills to Meadowvale if they advocated for it. Unfortunately, we’re now in a situation where there are no transit improvements slated for north-east Toronto. Also of note, is that the planned extension of the SRT to Markham and Sheppard is off the table too.


  3. If, as I think we should, we are talking about rebuilding a transit city, rather than rebuilding Transit City we should not forget about the need for better transit in the areas being developed in the West Don Lands, along Queen’s Quay East and on Lakeshore West. These were all going to have better transit links (OK, we can argue about the details) thanks to the Queen’s Quay East LRT, the Cherry Street LRT and the Lakeshore West LRT. The TTC was working (alone) on the latter, Waterfront Toronto was working with them on the first two.

    Waterfront Toronto now seems to have put both “their” LRT projects on the back burner and to have given up the very sensible “transit first’ plan they had developed. They seem to be hoping that the TTC can offer adequate service without LRTs for a decade or more. As development projects are already underway I doubt this is feasible. At the November Waterfront Design Review Panel there was this exchange:

    “One Panel member asked if there was currently a plan in place to provide transit to service the East Bayfront and West Don Lands, wondering if there anything in place other than busses.
    Mr. Glaisek stated that the cost to develop this as per the EA has risen by $100m, including the new tunnel and portal for the East Bayfront. Mr. Glaisek stated that they are currently looking at a temporary or partial build until the financing becomes available. Mr. Glaisek stated that the temporary solution would likely provide enough capacity for the next 5-10 years, and that a study would be done in advance.”

    The Queen’s Quay East transit EA seemed to show quite clearly that busses were not a feasible option due to road congestion around Union Station but I understand that the main cost of the Queen’s Quay East line is the tunnel to and expansion of the Union Station loop. As there is already a busy office building on QQE (Corus), a soon-to-open campus (GBC) and two very large condominium developments in final planning I really wonder how these new residents/users will be accomodated.

    The Cherry Street line – initially from King to the railway berm – is much shorter and cheaper (no tunnel) and would serve the Distillery District and its greatly expanded population and the West Don Lands which after the Pan-Am Games will be home to about 5000 more. It would also allow the TTC to bring 504 King cars east as far as Cherry before sending them back west – this would offer much better service to the growing population along King from Church to Cherry. (At present most 504 eastbound cars that are turned at Parliament return to westbound service only at Church.)

    As has been made very clear by you, Steve, transit planning is not simply looking at lines in isolation or only looking at one factor when so many are involved.

    Steve: In my article, I set out principles that need to be discussed as input to crafting a new “Transit City” and the financing that will be needed to build it. The last of these is the question of including the waterfront lines.

    At a recent meeting of the WFT’s Design Review panel, Chris Glaisek stated that the Cherry Street project is part of Infrastructure Ontario’s work on building the Athletes’ Village. The line should be available for use after the Pan Am Games is over, in effect, for a fall 2015 opening. Exactly what the TTC is planning I don’t know, and much will depend on the state of their funding and the outcome of the election in fall 2014.

    The section on Queen’s Quay is more challenging. There is a shortfall of at least $150m in available WFT funding due in part to the TTC’s underestimation of the complexity of the expansion of the loop at Union and the cost of the tunnel section on Queen’s Quay. The Union loop’s cost also suffers from the lack of co-ordination with the other work now underway on the railway station. For some reason, at the political level the idea of merging some of the work on these projects never got much attention (a problem I lay squarely at the feet of the pre-Ford regime) possibly because it was regarded as a “Waterfront” project and bound up in all of the tripartite funding tangles of that agency.

    Further out, there is no funding yet for the reconfiguration of the Lake Shore, Parliament, Cherry, Queen’s Quay knot of streets which would happen as part of the Don River naturalization scheme. That’s all part of the Fords vs CodeBlueTO debate, and as the future of the Port Lands evolves, we may have a better sense of when or if these streets will be restructured. That work is essential to the through-routing of service from Cherry to Queen’s Quay.


  4. “Why is there no parallel bus service, not even rush hour service, anywhere along Bloor or Danforth when the stops are 700+ metres apart?”

    This was proposed, and rejected, in 1966, or 1968 — can’t remember which. Why Danforth doesn’t have the automatic entrances that every other Bloor stop does (to reduce the distance between station huts) I don’t know.

    Steve: Probably because they were in the middle of residential districts where, as we have seen with the proposed exits from Greenwood and Donlands, the effect of the added exits would not have been trivial.

    Steve — I never said TC supporters were to blame for Eglinton, and that’s not Ford’s fault either. Ford never wanted Eglinton — he wanted SHEPPARD. Metrolinx always wanted a fully grade-separated ICTS Eglinton line because of its importance in the regional context, and they got it. I’m just saying Queen/King is more urgent right now. Sorry, but everybody’s version of a Queen subway was a full or semi “crankshaft” route (with connections to BD on the east or east+west).

    Steve: The idea of a “crankshaft” subway is a relatively recent scheme, and I spent a lot of time only a few years ago trying to talk people out of a subway to the Beach. To say “everyone” wanted a line with a BD east+west connection is a stretch. As for BD east, that has always been part of a DRL. The questions have been (a) where it would end at or north of Danforth and (b) what its function would be downtown. Drawing a line along King or Queen does not mean that the route would actually replace the Queen or King cars depending on station locations and feeder patterns. King, for example, picks up a lot of traffic on its trip in from Broadview Station, and this depends on local stops and proximity to the neighbourhoods it serves. Ending up at Bay and King is a sideline. Indeed, it starts to drop off as it’s going through the Old Town serving George Brown students. There is also a substantial counterpeak flow out to Liberty Village.

    If we focus only on the people who want to divert from the BD subway to another route, we will miss a lot of the finer-grained demands elsewhere.

    The TTC made the same mistake back in 1966 when, briefly, they thought that a 4’00” headway of King cars could handle the traffic because everyone would ride the subway, and the 1’40” pre-subway headway wasn’t needed. They quickly found that most of the loading didn’t originate at the subway, and that they needed a 2’00” headway of streetcars. That’s what happens when subway-oriented, commuter mentality takes over in planning. Not much has changed in 46 years.


  5. Does anybody the status of detailed engineering design for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT? i.e how much has been designed, and what and how much has been tendered for construction. There’s general agreement amongst the enlightened readers of this forum that burying the line East of Leaside is not the best use of our limited transit dollars. My questions is; if we (transit advocates) are able to raise awareness, to the level that the citizenry demand that the decision to fully bury the line be debated in council (as it should); would it still be possible to design and build the line with the surface option east of Leaside? Where are we from a contractual point of view, and is it too late for the saner idea to prevail?


    Steve: Before they can even begin work on an underground version of Eglinton East, they need to do some detailed engineering work and amend the existing Transit Project Assessment. There is already enough rumour coming out that an underground valley crossing just isn’t going to happen, and of a desire to revert to the original plan (or something very much like it). At this point, only the central tunnel (common to both plans) is underway, if building the western launch shaft can be described that way. Some station design work has been done along with community meetings, but the stations are not supposed to be built for several years yet. Almost nothing has been tendered so far, and I suspect that Queen’s Park wants to keep their options open as long as possible depending on whatever position Council eventually takes.


  6. This may be a tad controversial question to ask, but Steve, were you/are you relieved that the original Eglinton West Subway was not completed?

    Seeing how the RTES, written before Miller became mayor, questioned the future operating success of an Eglinton West subway, and that Transit City concluded that the ridership would not justify a subway, I can’t help but think that Harris did us a favour.

    Although I’m not sure whether to say this out loud.

    I can’t help but think that Harris did us a favour (cancellation fees, sunk costs, and Sheppard Subway aside).

    Steve: RTES was a very strange plan in that the portion on Eglinton was only from the Spadina Subway to the west. It was clearly seen only as a feeder route for inward travel, as well as a potential airport connector (long before the Air Rail Link had been concocted as “the answer”), but would have no function for local service across Eglinton itself. The rest of RTES was very much a “subway in every borough” plan, and it was all radial — BD to Scarborough, Spadina north to York U, BD west into Mississauga, Yonge north to somewhere, and the Waterfront West line as a strange afterthought. Transit City was a completely different concept.

    People was on about RTES as if it was some great plan, when in fact it was pulled together in the last days of the Peterson government, Sheppard subway included, to give the impression that the Liberals had a transit plan. Rae inherited it, but his government supported the scheme more as a make work construction project than a transit scheme, and continued penny-pinching on increasing operating funds for the TTC. Harris wanted to kill Sheppard, but left the project active to placate Mel Lastman and buy him off from opposition to amalgamation.


  7. Steve, with all the different DRL scenarios out there, where do you think the western terminus should be? I’m not sure about the recent Metrolinx proposal… would add to the TTC network, but running it into the exhibition grounds does not seem like the wisest endpoint.

    Neither am I a fan of the “crankshaft” option. I live just north of Dundas West, and I think it would not be a great bang for our bucks, as an electrified Georgetown line (if that ever happens) would be a better bet along this corridor.

    I think that leaves the Roncevalles or maybe even Humber loop? Could a conncection to GO be possible either at Humber loop or the former Sunnyside station?

    Steve: I do not believe that a DRL east should try to find a western terminus like Sunnyside/Roncesvalles or Humber. People seem to be trying to make one route do too many things and in the process create constraints on possible routes and potential damage to the surface system which will be ever more important in the west end.

    The Metrolinx scheme of bringing a DRL along Queen and then diagonally down to connect with a station at Bathurst North Yard, and thence to the CNE ignores the difficulty of making that diagonal through what a dense and growing forest of condos. Continuing to the CNE only makes sense if that site will be a massive development zone in its own right.


  8. To iSkyscraper from Jan. 12 concerning photos:

    A regular contributor to here by the name of Calvin Henry-Cotnam has a site under the “Toronto LRT information page” banner. Go there and scroll down the left side and look at some of the photos from other cities. I love seeing the London-Croydon Tram coming onto a street where there is shopping on both sides of the tracks.Can’t happen here because the naysayers would state how unsafe that is!! Take a look at them. Steve, if you haven’t, take a look also.

    Steve, also, if people expect to have allies for many of these transit battles, some have to stop blaming others for the overcrowding. As I see it, the mayor got in more than anything because there was a feeling perpetuated by the current administration that central Toronto was getting everything and calling all the shots (we’ll say this is the area south of the 401). That outer fringe had something to cling to with this along with the “gravy train”. So, don’t blame all the crowds that come on the trains saying that they are from 905. At the Finch terminal, they are coming from all directions.Yes, there eventually has to be a change in the fare system, but stop blaming 905ers for waiting for trains.You do need our help in trying to obtain a lot of theses projects! Good luck and thanks Steve.

    Steve: I am not blaming the 905ers, per se. What bothers me is that since subways are what they seem to think they can get the most of, that’s what they ask for when they should be pounding on Metrolinx to improve GO. Of course that runs aground on all of the boneheaded decisions about capacity at Union Station that have limited growth there, but the long-term fix is not to extend the subway system to Barrie.

    Metrolinx, for some reason, has plans to run frequent, all-day service on the Richmond Hill line even though this is very hard to do given its alignment, while they don’t plan to run frequent service on the Barrie line which they own and which makes a connection to the Spadina Subway at Sheppard West Station (or whatever it will be called eventually).


  9. “Transit City was not promoted as “all we could afford”, but rather as a responsible way to improve transit capacity and, to some extent, speed and coverage in the suburbs at a scale that will never happen with subway technology.”

    And this sentence nails down the main issue with Transit City, “speed”.

    Why do people want to spend billions on a scheme which is going to do nothing to improve travel speeds for people in the outer reaches of Toronto?

    The capacity issues in suburban Toronto could be fixed today with a mix of local and limited stop bus service, queue jump lanes, and select bus lanes on our major roads. And we could cover more territory with that plan than even TC.

    The fact is Toronto’s outer areas need rapid transit.

    Toronto proved in the 60-80’s that expanding subways to the suburbs worked. Now all these people blinded by TC ideology are using excuses that there is no density, etc. Well tell subway riders in Scar that, as we jam onto crowded trains running every 2 minutes. Tell that to people in North York, where more riders are generated each day from the North York stations than the inner cities south of York Mills.

    And if TC people want buy in from people like me who actually live in the outskirts of the city, then you gotta show me why TC is good. And so far, riding a streetcar for 40 minutes to Yonge Street, compared to riding a bus for 42 minutes, is not a good enough reason to spend this money.

    I am much more happier seeing the Eglinton line go through as a underground. For me, it will mean a one seat ride from STC to Yonge Street. It will mean vastly faster travel times than the current buses and than TC would have offered. Even more when you count not having to transfer at Kennedy.

    And it will aid in city building. We have to think to the future, and there is no doubt that Eglinton will need a subway. So just get it built now.

    We made the mistake with the SRT that a subway was too much capacity. And now look what we have. People talking about how the subway should have been extended from the start.

    I think TC supporters really have a hard time getting their ideas across, because they are so anti subway, the majority of supporters live downtown and not out in Scarborough or Etobicoke, and so they don’t put up with the commutes people like myself put up with on a daily basis.

    And I find many TC supporters have this ideology that transit should be slow (like TC would) so that it will force people not to visit downtown or other areas of the city, and everyone will stay within a 2 km radius of their homes. Well we are not going to be told we can’t enjoy downtown or we should not go more than 2 km from our homes. We will just jump in our cars as we many do now, because transit is so slow.

    Steve: I was with you up to that paragraph. We can debate the merits of a subway network of size “x” versus an LRT network of size “y”, but when you start saying that the idea of TC was to discourage long distance travel, you are way off of the mark.

    And that is the thing with TC. People already have buses coming by their homes every 2 minutes in many cases. TC was just going to replace that with a streetcar every 5 minutes, and with almost no speed improvement. So if people are already not riding a bus that takes 45 minutes to get to the subway. What makes you think they will right a streetcar that takes 42 minutes?

    They will continue to drive.

    And we have to stop acting like there is all this local travel. The fact is, that half to well over half of bus riders in the outer areas of the city, are riding to the subway. And we want faster service, which can be done with express buses and bus lanes.

    Steve: The irony in this is that the biggest objection in some circles to TC is the loss of road space which applies to either express buses on their own lanes or to LRT. Also, remember that express buses only serve people who originate at express stops and they will either have to take a local to get to one of those or walk. This adds to their overall travel time even if the express bus itself is “faster”. The situation will vary from route to route depending on the originating pattern and destinations of the riders, and this is not a one-size-fits-all argument.


  10. I hope that Transit City is resurrected. I believe that the Sheppard subway should extended across the DVP, probably to Victoria Park, as most of this would need to be tunnelled anyways and it would provide a better LRT Bus Subway interchange.

    I would like to see Eglinton be on an elevated or not in the centre of the road right of way across the Don Valley and Black Creek and go in a subway under Weston road and Don Mills. This would save a lot of money over a total subway while providing faster travel times through this area.

    Steve: Don Mills and Eglinton was always going to be underground, and it’s shown that way in the EA. Weston has many problems with its alignment regardless of where you put the line because of vertical and horizontal constraints, made all the worse by the TTC’s insistence on having more infrastructure near Weston Station than is strictly necessary (a pocket track west of the station). Then you get Queen’s Park cheaping out on this part of the line, but then deciding to throw a few billion at putting the whole thing underground. Consistency is not their strong point.

    I don’t know who in their right mind would want to ride a TTC subway from Vaughan Centre or Richmond Hill all the way downtown. It would be a mind and bum numbing ride. If you told me that they would all get off before Bloor I could understand that.

    Steve: Much depends on what kind of service and fare GO offers. As long as the Newmarket and Bala subs have peak only service and a substantially higher fare than the TTC, many people will opt for a subway ride, long though it may be. There is a lot of demand that is not bound for Union, and these folks would have an advantage riding on the TTC versus on GO. So much of this is bound up in the utter lack of integrated planning for the “local” and “regional” networks, and the penny-pinching attitude to GO improvements. They are so busy patting themselves on the back for their high cost recovery that they ignore the huge potential market unserved through limited schedules.

    A Downtown Relief Line, to be effective, cannot also be a local Queen King line. If you want people to make an extra transfer then you have to give them a reward. I don’t think knowing that they are allowing other people to get on south of Bloor will win over many converts. Metrolinx has to get their head out of the sand and realize that just because it is on a railway corridor it does not have to be a railway train. Build an electric non TC/FRA compatible line on the railway corridors that they own and run them as a system like Sydney’s city rail system.

    GO/Metrolinx started out as a 2 year trial system to see if people could be diverted from cars in the rush hour to a public mode of transport. It succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The problem is that it started out as a mainline railway operation and that is all that the GO/Metrolinx people know how to run. I don’t know how many people remember the original GO single deckers had the same trucks as the H1 subway cars, the same window size and the same side skin. If the system failed the province hoped to be able to use the cars to build more subway cars. The trucks had the bolt holes for the engine mounts already in place. They also had conduits in the sides of the cars over one of the trucks to connect to a pan.

    Their bus system started out by taking over Gray Coach’s Hamilton and Oshawa runs, the most lucrative that Gray Coach had. Without their only money making lines the TTC sold off Gray Coach and GO was forced to provide commuter service on a lot of the other lines. I am not saying that they have not done a good job, they have, but it is probably due to the fact that they were there to meet a latent demand rather than smart and strategic moves on their part. Nevertheless they have done some smart moves in the bus end of their operations.

    GO needs to do some searching in its past. Since they own the Newmarket, Weston and Stouffville subs outright along with the USRC and, I believe, the Kingston Sub to Pickering along with the GO sub, they should re-open their plans for GO ALRT. A totally isolated system would not need to meet TC/FRA requirements and could run at headways less than once every 10 minutes.

    Does anyone know if Transport Canada has gone along the US requirements for PTC (positive train control)? If they have then it is going to add a lot to GO’s operating and capital costs.


  11. Steve said: “Continuing to the CNE only makes sense if that site will be a massive development zone in its own right.”

    Ignoring that the CNE can still justify a subway for one month of the year, wouldn’t it also make sense if Exhibition station were to be turned into a “Union West” for the Lakeshore line?

    Steve: The problem would be that Exhibition would need modifications to be a transfer station from a major rapid transit feeder. Trains would still run through to Union and on to Oshawa, and there would be problems balancing out the load. I suspect that for outbound passengers, most would prefer to board at Union where they would have a fighting chance of getting a seat. Don’t forget that many people walk in to GO, they don’t get there on the TTC and indeed would resent having to pay a TTC fare and go out of their way to board at Exhibition. Bathurst North is at least in striking distance of downtown (it’s really just west of Spadina).


  12. @Michael

    I can sympathise with you and other speed advocates that the Transit City staff at the open houses were deliberately misleading about the merits and drawbacks of surface LRT (about how rapid it would be). However, I would advise subway advocates not doing the same.

    “And we have to stop acting like there is all this local travel.”

    You seem to be only looking at the demand during rush hour, when demand is dominated by people having to travel long-distances in short time. Local demand exists all day, and can make up half of the total daily ridership on some routes. A subway with wide station spacing won’t serve these off-peak customers nearly as well as a surface line with short station spacing.

    At close station spacing (400-600 metres), there is little difference between LRT and subway speed. People travelling along the entire length of Finch west would take 45 minutes by LRT, but 40 minutes by subway, a 15 minute and 20 minute time saving over a bus in mixed traffic. A 400-600 metre station spacing on Sheppard, Finch, and Eglinton is necessary to facilitate growth along the “Avenues” as per the OP, and to adequately serve local demand.

    I’m a Transit City advocate, but I don’t deny the need for long-distance travel options. But we need to put rapid transit only where it makes sense. A brand new subway does not make sense when there already exist exclusive rights-of-way that can be upgraded at a fraction of the cost to serve the same long-distance commuters.

    This is how Transit City (or The Big Move) should have been advertised from the beginning.

    Note that this is also a “fantasy” map, but is far more realistic than those subway-only maps people like to propose. Also, the station locations for the “GO rail” lines are entirely conceptual, since Metrolinx didn’t reveal any new station locations.


  13. @ Robert,

    I have a feeling the Vaughan subway extension is going to be a huge hit, and I would not be surprised to see a lot of GO riders in the area switch to the subway.

    The subway is going to provide a trip from Vaughan to downtown that is just over a half hour. That is great travel time, and also allows you to get off at different downtown stations, than just Union. So the Barrie line riders who live in Vaughan, may well just switch, and I would not be surprised if loads are well above projection (as they usually are anyway).

    Steve: A big issue with the Barrie line and GO will be the comparative service levels and fares by the time the Vaughan extension opens.


  14. Steve, what’s your view on extending the Sheppard Subway to Victoria Park, versus starting the LRT at Don Mills? I keep reading that the justification for the subway extension is that it would have to be underground across the DVP, but that alignment can easily be accommodated with LRT, no?

    Between forcing the interchange at Don Mills or at Victoria Park, I fail to see the advantage of putting it at Victoria Park.

    Steve: The proposed design of the LRT terminus at Don Mills is at the same level as the subway so that passengers only have to walk along the platform, but the track layout is a bit of a kludge. I would like to see this revisited if the LRT plan is reactivated. There is something to be said for an interchange where the LRT and subway are directly above each other, but that needs to bring the LRT in at the existing mezzanine level of the station. Of course the TTC designed the tunnel with a view to recycling it for a future subway extension, but if it’s built that way, a mezzanine level LRT is unlikely.

    There is also the proposed connection to the Don Mills LRT as a surface track from Consumers all the way to Don Mills. Whether we will ever see a Don Mills LRT is uncertain, but if the Sheppard line ends at Victoria Park, the surface link to Don Mills becomes unreasonably long (it’s bad enough just to Consumers). This begs the question of whether the more appropriate link would be at Eglinton and Don Mills itself a design challenge depending on whether there is also a DRL station here.

    If the subway goes to Victoria Park, it will be easier to build a stacked station, but this also requires more subway tunnel than the LRT scheme which would have surfaced at Consumers Road. Indeed, there would almost certainly not be a stop at Consumers for a subway extension.

    If you read between the lines here, you can probably tell that I don’t have a firm view either way, and a decision would depend a lot on the details of the alternatives. Either way, getting bus traffic off of the congested section between Consumers and Don Mills Station will be an important improvement for transit riders.


  15. Jacob, there is no doubt there is local travel on the suburban bus routes.

    However if you ride the buses out in Scarborough on a daily basis as I do, and at all times, you will see that the vast majority of riders are still going to and from the subway.

    Does not matter what time you are riding. And in fact at night, I would say more people are coming from the subway than using the bus for local travel.

    The fact is transit has to compete with the car, and at the end of the day, I don’t want to see billions spent on a project that is really going to not improve travel options, when the same results could be had with limited stop bus routes and some queue jump lanes.

    The TC money should be invested in real rapid transit projects, as it is now, with the Eglinton subway (LRT subway). There should be money for a Don Mills-Downtown subway as well. Those two projects alone would have greater impact on making transit a viable alternative to the car, and attract many more people to transit then the whole TC project would have.

    If you look at the stats, the TC project really was not going to attract many people to transit, because it really is not an improvement over the current bus system, save for having its own lane.

    And yes subway will not work everywhere. However, why was an LRT in the Hydro corridor north of Finch not proposed, like it was in the 60-70’s? Such a service I would fully support.

    Steve: Because people don’t actually live in the hydro corridor. They are on Finch. For Finch West there are two additional problems — a big valley, and the fact that the corridor does not go all the way out to western Etobicoke.

    At the end of the day, people want get where they are going fast. If Sheppard is going to turn into an avenue, it will no matter if an LRT or a subway is built. Yonge Street north of Sheppard developed just fine with a subway extension.

    Steve: Actually a lot of the commercial space in buildings north of Sheppard has been vacant for some time. This is not exactly prime territory for developments.

    We also have to really sit down and understand that Sheppard and most of the suburban corridors are never going to be the Danforth. No matter how much we think they are going to turn into that because of an LRT line, they are not. They will densify. But they will not be Danforth, College, or Yonge Street.

    It is just funny that in this day and age in a bigger city, Toronto wants street running streetcars in their own lane (which is what TC is). Yet when Toronto was smaller and planning for growth, the TTC never planned in street LRT. All the LRT plans for the suburbs had grade separated rapid transit.

    I really do think we have to understand Toronto is not a European city.

    Yes some European cities have in the middle of the street LRT. But they also cover vastly less land than Toronto, and trip times are small because of this.

    I was just in Italy visiting family, and the city they live on the outskirts of a city of almost 400,000 people. And yet despite living on the outskirts, they are only 3 km from the centre of the city.

    So Toronto wants to try be European with in street LRT. But we have a totally different built form and travel distances. Even in bigger European cities, grade separated transit is what is being built. Not streetcars trying to serve people 25 KM outside of the city.

    Steve: Please name the cities where grade separated transit is being built on a large scale in Europe today.


  16. @Michael

    “The fact is transit has to compete with the car”

    Our philosophies are very different here. Transit has to be designed to serve existing users first and foremost, before trying to attract car-users. If we can serve both populations in a cost-effective manner, then I would agree with you. The fact is that car trips are too dispersed for transit to compete for, without making major sacrifices to existing service and funds dedicated to improving the existing system.

    Steve: I would also add that there are huge numbers of riders (existing and future) for whom a car is not an option, or is a severe economic burden. Transit may allow families to at least do with fewer cars, or fewer car trips. The idea that we have to duplicate the car with transit presumes that its primary market is existing drivers who can afford to buy that level of service for their travel.

    “Does not matter what time you are riding. And in fact at night, I would say more people are coming from the subway than using the bus for local travel. “

    Those suburban passengers that come from the subway still need good local service to reach their destinations, and many of them don’t have the fortune of living near major intersections. Subways with widely-spaced stations will not fulfill this need.

    Also, vehicle speed is only a small part of the overall journey speed. Another important segment is access time from origin to station (access to stations can be done on foot, or by feeder bus). Although subway lines with few stations are faster, the time it takes one to reach a station may negate these speed savings altogether, whilst improving speed for only some passengers.

    The 400-600 metre station spacing provides the optimum balance between local accessibility, and overall travel times, while facilitating the growth and distribution of jobs, residents, and services along the corridor (where development already exists between major intersections).

    I won’t repeat my arguments from my previous posts, but at 400-600 metre spacing, subways have negligible speed advantage over surface LRT. Therefore, this leaves peak passenger volumes as the determining factor in deciding the technology, and the TTC has already determined that ridership won’t justify subways under the routes in question.

    Also, I urge speed advocates to look at Metrolinx’s “The Big Move” (pre-Ford era), and not just Transit City. In the long-term, commuters will probably choose other routes than staying on Sheppard, Finch, or Eglinton for long-distance travel.

    “And yes subway will not work everywhere. However, why was an LRT in the Hydro corridor north of Finch not proposed, like it was in the 60-70′s? Such a service I would fully support. “

    Same as what Steve said. Also, if frequent service is to run on the Hydro-corridor, the transit-signalling-priority offered to the Hydro-corridor service can possibly delay north-south traffic significantly, and a traffic light barely 400 metres north of Finch is the last thing motorists need. The keep-transit-off-the-streets advocates need to fully realise the implications of their proposals.

    Steve: I should add that when a line was proposed in the hydro corridor back in the 60s, much of the land around it had not yet been developed, or redeveloped to higher density. If a line had gone there, at least there would have been a chance to focus development around its stations even though this might have been at the expense of Finch itself.

    “The TC money should be invested in real rapid transit projects, as it is now, with the Eglinton subway (LRT subway).”

    First of all, we need to improve BOTH local transit and rapid transit, and we should stop pitting these two against each other for funding.

    Secondly, there are better places to locate rapid transit than under Eglinton or Sheppard, and still serve the same riders at a fraction of the cost. Subway advocates need to understand all of the available corridors and alignment options before advocating for a particular street, and a particularly expensive alternative. Unlike local-travel, long-distance travel can be largely independent of the route they travel on (except near their origin and destination), and they don’t strictly have to stay under Yonge Street, Bloor-Danforth, or Eglinton.

    “I really do think we have to understand Toronto is not a European city.”

    I don’t have a response to what other cities are doing, but every city has unique transportation needs that make them not comparable.


  17. The speed difference between subway and LRT is no better than the speed difference between LRT and bus so why is a $1 billion LRT a waste but a $4.7 billion subway (or any fully grade separated line) not an equally foolish expense? Particularly when there will be no one to fill the trains? By the way that $1 billion included carhouse and tunnel, does the Sheppard estimate that’s floating around include train yard?


  18. “Steve: I would also add that there are huge numbers of riders (existing and future) for whom a car is not an option, or is a severe economic burden. Transit may allow families to at least do with fewer cars, or fewer car trips. The idea that we have to duplicate the car with transit presumes that its primary market is existing drivers who can afford to buy that level of service for their travel.”

    The TTC did not become a model transit service or a success by putting all the focus on captive people who no other choice. American transit systems do that, and we have seen what that does to transit.

    The fact is for transit so thrive it has to compete and attract people who would either go buy a car, or use a car they already have. At the end of the day, 80% of TTC riders could hop in a car tomorrow if they wanted. And if we do not work to make transit a viable option then it will only attract captive riders.

    @ L. Wall: I don’t see empty trains. Sheppard carries almost 50,000 riders in a 6.5 km stretch, and on a line that is not finished (it is only half of what is planned). That is actually amazing rideship and challenges many subway lines around the world.

    I really think we have to get over the myth that Sheppard is not being used. Because it is, and transit usage in the Sheppard corridor has skyrocketed on a percentage basis, since the subway opened. So wide stop spacing, and other complaints made to discredit Sheppard seem to have not affected ridership.

    If it went the whole way to STC ridership would be even more impressive.

    We built a 6.5 km line which carries 50,000 people a day and complain.

    Sydney built a 12km underground extension to their rail system, that carries 12,000 riders a day, and they are beyond happy and excited to have a rapid transit connection to a more suburban area than the Sheppard corridor.


  19. @Michael

    Regarding my point about path independence for long-distance travellers, consider commuters travelling from Scarborough to Downtown.

    I’m not sure why subway advocates insist on building grade-separated rapid transit strictly on Sheppard (forcing downtown-bound riders to travel in straight and perpendicular lines), when rapid transit can be implemented on the Agincourt-Crosstown rail line at a fraction of the cost and provide an even faster ride for these passengers.

    The same logic can apply to many other origin-destination node pairs. If we’re going to implement rapid transit, we have to select our routes in a logical manner, not just randomly.

    Steve: Ah, but without a subway on Sheppard, all that potential condo land would be worthless, and the direct to downtown service would mainly benefit people in the far east end of Scarborough. Your priorities are obviously badly thought out ;).


  20. To Steve and Michael:-

    New grade separated lines in Europe must be few and far between as all of the recent (within the last 15 years) French systems are at grade (the tiny Burg of Gay Paris included here). Milano, one of the most interesting LRT/streetcar cities there is, has extended lines and they are not grade separated, although they have as much PRofW as is practical as does their core routes.

    None of the British lines either recently constructed or planned have much grade separation in them, if at all. And I’m afraid I don’t consider the Docklands as anything more than an ‘amusement land’ ab-oration due to its inane propulsion choice.


    Steve: I didn’t dare mention those “streetcar” lines for fear of seeming biased. We won’t mention that even Madrid, that bastion of vast subway building (amazing what you can do when the EU and the federal government gives you vast amounts of money) is turning to LRT as a cost-saving measure.

    As for the DLR, I’m not sure what you refer to re propulsion. Although it uses the same signalling system as the Scarborough RT and the Vancouver Skytrain, it does not use linear induction motors.


  21. Steve said:

    “Because people don’t actually live in the hydro corridor. They are on Finch.”

    Strictly speaking, there is one exception to that rule: in the Murray Ross / Four Winds area (just west of Keele), one can see several highrises very close (within 30 m) to the hydro corridor. However, that area is within walking distance from the future Finch West subway station, hence the LRT won’t make much difference there.

    The rest of Finch West hydro corridor misses many trip generators and does not have much development potential. From Yonge to Bathurst, it is surrounded by low-rise residential houses. Between Bathurst and Dufferin, it is limited by the cemetery and then the G. Ross Lord reservoir; highrises and two hospitals are located on the south side of Finch and not easily accessible from HC. Dufferin to Keele is a commercial area; the list of businesses includes many auto mechanics who are quite unlikely to take public transit to work. I am less familiar with the area west of Black Creek, but quite obviously 2 out of 3 malls at Jane / Finch, as well as the York Finch hospital, are located on the south side of Finch.

    Steve: Just west of Highway 400, the right-of-way swings south and stops running parallel to Finch. It is amazing how often people talk about this right-of-way as if it ran straight west on the same alignment all the way to Mississauga. By the time you get to Kipling, the right-of-way is 4 km south of Finch.


  22. RE: Finch Hydro Corridor and access

    Technically, there are buildings (and hence, development) beside the Hydro-corridor, but the fact that only arterials and a handful of minor secondary streets cross the corridor makes access to the Hydro-Corridor service very difficult for people on the south side of Finch.


  23. “Steve: I beg your pardon. I live downtown. I know what it’s like trying to get on an overpacked subway, and if I were not using a Metropass, I too would scream loudly about paying $3 for a short journey with the TTC’s transfer regulations. The point I am making here is that in any political fight, if you try to accomplish everything in one go, you use up a lot of effort on issues that are not central to the one you want to win — saving Transit City in some form today.”

    The priority shouldn’t be Transit City. Similar systems in Europe were/are being created to complement existing subway infrastructure. Urban planners, including former TTC general manager David Gunn support this proposition. You can’t keep on building feeder lines into a system cracking at the seams from over-capacity.

    The political fight shouldn’t be about Transit City, but about building subways in dense areas that are desperately needed right now. And it’s not as if this idea isn’t supported. Transit City is dead, let’s not forget that.

    “Steve: I was on the Queen car, or at least trying to be on one, this morning and watching lots of people walking while looking over their shoulder to see if anything was coming. Eventually, I gave up and walked down to King where the first four cars to appear were not going far enough to take me to my destination.”

    Thanks for proving my point.

    “Steve: South of Bloor? In case you have not noticed, I have been advocating for the Downtown Relief Line for years”

    It’s not in your “Grand Plan”. A post you made in 2009 talking about (yet another) study on the DRL is not enough.

    “back when all the subway jocks in this town wanted to do was build more subways off into the open fields of suburbia (and thereby overload the YUS)”

    Funny, you’re campaigning for this now, but it’s only the slightly better scenario of cheaper LRT in suburban communities of two-story homes.

    “There is a lot of demand on all of these routes that has nothing to do with the subway or core area travel. Should we not give them better service?”

    Yes, dedicated bus lanes as I’ve seen in Europe.

    “If you want to insult Transit City without proposing some alternative”

    I don’t care for alternatives for transit in the suburbs when what we need is several (yes, plural) downtown lines connecting areas where people CANNOT drive.

    “I will lump you in with the no-brainers”

    Count David Gunn among them. He inspires my ideas and has the experience to back up what he proposes and lends support to.

    “If you want to talk about transit without assuming I am some hermit living in a cave up around North Bay who never rides the TTC, then we can have a conversation.”

    We can have that conversation when you start to not only propose and support the DRL with some regularity, but to offer insight on where it should go and stops it should have. I would love it.

    “Don’t bother leaving more comments here.”

    I’m not interested in leaving comments about GO expansion and lines to nowhere. The entire GO network is less than the Queen Streetcar. We need to start talking about the infrastructure of the core downtown. It’s embarrassing to have tourists/friends visit and not be able to have rapid transit to Little Italy, the Distillery District, Liberty Village and Queen West. These are the areas of the city worth visiting, not suburban areas. It’s the hard truth. And I speak with passion about this because I’m from here and see a lot of potential to this place, and after the Sheppard debacle I have zero tolerance for transit expansion being driven by politics in lieu of a grand vision for what could be the best city in North America.

    Steve: A Grand Plan was written in March 2006, and at that time I advocated a DRL based on LRT technology. Since then, my position has shifted (and that’s a few years ago) to be open to subway technology based on demand projections. As for GO, both what I was advocating and what is now in The Big Move is a massive investment in GO to make it a truly regional rapid transit network, not as you put it the equivalent of the Queen car (in loading, if not in density of service).

    In other threads I have discussed the question of the alignment of a DRL through downtown as well as the likely places where a DRL or Queen Subway (whatever it winds up being) might stop. I’m not going to hunt for the posts, but any line coming in from the east end will at best have a stop just east of the Don River, something serving the developing area in the old town (say Parliament or Sherbourne) and then something at Yonge/Bay. This presumes that the line is north of the rail corridor. The waterfront (also a big issue in my “Grand Plan” cannot be well served by any subway line north of the corridor, just as the downtown cannot really be served by one that runs south of it.

    As for LRT vs BRT in the suburbs, the first problem is that we must agree to give up road space to get transit priority regardless of what vehicle we run on the lanes. That’s the biggest challenge, and the primary impetus for the Fords for underground construction. Then the question is one of eventual demand and its origin-destination characteristics. As I said in “A Grand Plan”, BRT is great for line haul (Ottawa is an example), but lousy when the buses have to stop (see again Ottawa).

    Your argument appears to be overwhelmingly for at least two new subway lines into the core. I will agree with one, and the rest of the capacity improvement rests with future expansion of GO. When I talk about the need for studies, it is to look at the network as a whole, not whichever pet project happens to be under discussion at the time, so that we can understand how all of the possible projects and their likely construction/startup dates will interact with each other. I didn’t say “don’t build it”, but that we need to understand how it fits overall.


  24. Do you think the designers would omit centre-poles, bike-lanes (instead, put sharrows), and boulevard-space to reduce property reductions along Sheppard and Finch?

    (I know this won’t be adequate for Mount Dennis though).

    Steve: I’m not certain, but I think the centre poles are no longer part of the design as it has dawned on the TTC and Metrolinx that it is much harder to share a right-of-way with buses (and emergency vehicles) where there are centre poles. Boulevard space is generally part of the street right-of-way and provides room for road-widening to accommodate additional lanes. As for cycling, this really needs to be part of a wider discussion that isn’t happening right now with the Fords’ thinking that hydro corridors and ravines are the right place for cyclists. The big problem, and it’s a street-by-street, block-by-block question, is the question of parking and access points to properties.


  25. I also want to take this opportunity to apologize for my tone in the previous message. Since writing it I’ve learned much about your lobbying for streetcars in addition to other campaigns you’ve been a part of and my appreciation should be noted.

    I just can’t, for the life of me, understand why you’d support Transit City. I hope to see you on February 1st at the town hall meeting with Sarah Thompson to hear more.

    Steve: Thank you for the apology. I’m not going to go into the whole Transit City issue here because I think that my reasons are clear in many other places. There are suburban corridors that deserve better transit, and they will eventually have more demand than a BRT line can handle, but nowhere near a subway. That’s why Transit City.

    I am just as annoyed as you (and many others) about how the TTC persists in painting the DRL as something that should be built as a last resort after all other avenues for increased capacity on the existing subway are exhausted. What that really means is that we would have the subway completely overloaded with no hope of relief for decades. Meanwhile, the subway jocks at the TTC will continue to plan for extensions like the line to Richmond Hill and beyond thereby worsening the crisis we are trying to avoid. The DRL is painted by some as a “downtown” line (must have something to do with the name) even though the reason for building it is to make room for all those folks from further afield.

    The event Sarah Thompson is organizing focuses on transit funding, not Transit City, although I suspect there will be some spillover. However, people will get exercised enough about things like tolls and sales taxes, I suspect, without getting into TC. In any event, we should be talking about the philosophy of transit funding and how (or if) we can raise enough money. The technology comes in when we get to the question of what we get for what we pay.


  26. Michael says:
    January 20, 2012 at 12:21 am

    “@ L. Wall: I don’t see empty trains. Sheppard carries almost 50,000 riders in a 6.5 km stretch, and on a line that is not finished (it is only half of what is planned). That is actually amazing ridership and challenges many subway lines around the world. “

    I was in Baltimore this summer. It has 1 subway line 25 km long that runs 6 car trains on an 8 minute headway in the rush hour that goes down to two 2 car trains on a 22 minute headway in the late evening. Its cars are 75 feet long and ten feet wide with 3 double doors. They have 100 cars but only operate 54 in the rush hour. Daily ridership is about 45 000. As Michael says Sheppard is doing marvellously well by US standards but not by Toronto standards.

    Steve: As a matter of comparison, the St. Clair car carries over 32,000 passengers daily on a route that is 7km long, and is nowhere near the reasonable capacity of the infrastructure. The Sheppard subway is 5.5km long. This does not mean Sheppard should be LRT or St. Clair should be subway, but that one must be careful when talking about total daily ridership. If St. Clair had stations spaced like Sheppard, it would stop at Yonge, St. Clair West, Oakwood, Dufferin and Keele, and would provide a vastly different type of service. The Sheppard subway is on a part of Sheppard that has comparatively low demand, and most riders travel the full trip from Yonge to Don Mills where they connect with many feeder bus routes. Also, the ratio of peak to offpeak riding is higher on Sheppard than on St. Clair. This changes the way the infrastructure and service are used.

    Unfortunately most US systems with the exceptions of the large cities depend on a mainly captive clientele. Toronto has to have a system that attracts riders with a choice in transit modes. GO does a good, if limited, job because of all its FREE parking which attracts car owners who don’t want to pay the downtown parking choices. Unfortunately it is not as good at getting carless riders on to its trains unless they live near a station. Local transit is not that great in many places. Brampton has put large transit terminals at its three GO stations so that is a start but I don’t know what the ridership is for transfers.

    St. Louis has a 45 mile long light rail/commuter line. It runs in 3 counties (at least) and two states, MO and IL and carries 52 000 passengers per day. It is a system that you would get if you decided to run GO with articulated light rail vehicles. The cars are 90 feet long with four 200 hp motors. That is 800 hp per 40 tonne car, no wonder they accelerate so fast. There are two branches with a 12 minute rush hour service and 20 minutes base. It is a nice service but where would it fit in the GTA, the Stouffville line?

    People in Toronto complain about the transit but they should try many of the US cities with their hourly service six days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Be thankful for what we have but don’t stop fighting to make it better.

    I believe that people will ride the subway to Vaughan Centre and Richmond Hill but I question if that is best cost alternative to get there. Let York Region pay all the capital and operating costs for the extension and see if they still think it is the best. There are cheaper ways to provide the service and the extra money could be used to improve service else where. If we used US loading standards half of the suburban bus lines would be LRT, but the system would be broke.

    Steve: York Region is paying for part of the capital cost of the Spadina extension. It’s a 1/3 1/3 1/3 deal between the three levels of government with the municipal share paid proportionately by Toronto and York relative to the mileage south and north of Steeles. The TTC will pay all of the operating costs and get all of the marginal revenue. A good example of regional integration, although I would use a much coarser term to describe the linkage.

    I read someone’s comment that taking the subway from the Vaughan Centre would take about as much time as the GO train. Since I have never ridden the Barrie line I found this hard to believe but I check the TTC schedule and it says 24 minutes Union to Downsview while GO is 32 minutes Union to Rutherford. Either the TTC runs a much faster subway service than I remember or GO needs to speed up their trains. Unfortunately, except for the Lakeshore lines and perhaps Milton, the lines they used were never set up for fast passenger service. They need to get their operating speed up, but that might attract even more passengers and Union couldn’t handle them. A interesting dilemma.

    Steve: GO always has to deal with the slow exit from Union, and the speed limit on the Newmarket Sub at least as far as the Davenport crossing (which is to be grade separated). i suspect that eats up a lot of time. The southbound time from Rutherford to Union is 30 minutes, and it’s 27 northbound (schedules effective January 28). The shorter times may reflect the end of some construction enroute. The trip from Rutherford to Barrie South takes 68 minutes, but is somewhat longer.

    As you said Michael 50 000 passenger per day on Sheppard would be considered a success elsewhere but in Toronto there should have been a cheaper way to get that capacity. Keep up the fight.


  27. In section 4 of the MOU, it states that the new plan needs to be ratified by the following parties:

    -City Council
    -TTC board
    -Metrolinx board of directors
    -Queens Park

    We keep hearing about how the final outcome hinges on City Council, but I’m assuming that Queens Park are secretly holding off on their approvals until the council vote.

    But from all the eagerness from Metrolinx about an all-underground Eglinton line, I can’t help but think that Metrolinx has already voted to approve the new plan, ahead of all other parties.

    Steve: Metrolinx is not “eager” to build an all-underground line. If you read the MOU, you will also notice that it provides an exception for the valley crossings, and I know that there is no love for burying the whole thing by the organization as a whole. As far as I know, there has been no secret vote to approve such a scheme, and Queen’s Park is privately waiting for Council to take them off of the hook by voting to retain the original design or some variation on it. “Cost savings” will be the mechanism everyone will use to justify their position, and I suspect that the province is anticipating a Ford-free Council after 2014 and keeping its options open.


  28. Paris is building a very expensive “Grand Paris Express” outer ring subway to relieve traffic congestion in the suburbs on the A86 and other highways. This is more expensive than Eglinton and Sheppard put together.

    Given the horrendous traffic congestion on the 401 (AADT of 450000 in some sections) suburb to suburb subways are badly needed in this city. Light rail is not adequate. The Sheppard line seems to be quite successful, 50000 is good for a very short line, the only reason it is so low is that far, far more people drive on the parallel highway.

    Steve: And Paris has a much more intensively developed transit network, including government support for transit building and operations, than we will ever see in Toronto. When I consider that Rob Ford’s Sheppard line will only be built, if we believe him, as and when the private sector ponies up the money, then we are a long, long way off from seeing that line in Toronto.

    I find it hilarious that an LRT network come under attack when the alternative, a full subway network, will never be funded. We don’t even want to pay for the bus network we have today.


  29. @Andrew

    I’m going to sound like a troll here, but it seems that your main interest is to build transit to appeal to the needs of motorists, rather than existing transit riders. And no, the two groups of constituency do not always have the same needs.

    A fundamental difference between car and transit demand is this:

    Transit infrastructure tends to bring its passengers toward populated people-oriented districts. Car infrastructure avoids these people-dominated regions, and often leads motorists to car-oriented districts. Those motorists on the 401 might not be headed to the same regions as transit riders on Sheppard, although exceptions to exist.

    If you want to have alternative transportation options to serve motorists on the 401, go advocate for your own funding, and stop cannibalising transit riders funding in the process.


  30. Sorry Andrew, I doubt anyone using the 401 as part of their journey to get to an office park in the 905 will switch to using a slow Sheppard subway when it means having to wait 30 minutes for a another slow connecting bus or train (Metrolinx willing on the latter!) The odds drop even more if they have to take a connecting bus to get to Sheppard in the first place.


  31. I find it hilarious that an LRT network come under attack when the alternative, a full subway network, will never be funded. We don’t even want to pay for the bus network we have today.

    The ridiculous attitude of “build LRT because we can’t afford subways” needs to die now. Even in a budget deficit situation the last thing we should do is underfund infrastructure because subways have a 10 year lead time to build. We have three choices: go into debt or raise taxes, build subways and commuter rail improvements, seriously fix Toronto’s traffic problems; build LRT, which is cheap but much less effective than subways (probably better to just buy articulated buses and build bus lanes instead); or do nothing.

    GTA traffic is just so horrendously bad now that if we don’t spend big $$$ now than it will only get worse, and Ontario’s economy will suffer heavily because of this. If we are going to cut then we should cut anything but infrastructure capital spending, or we should raise taxes, or we should impose road tolls.

    France and the UK have significant budget deficits but they are funding infrastructure (the Grand Paris and Crossrail respectively) heavily. Also I seriously dispute the notion that building transit to suit the needs of car drivers is a bad idea. Downtown to suburb and suburb to suburb mobility both seriously need to be improved in the GTA, and I think that if a suburb to suburb subway were to be built, drivers will jump at the opportunity to use it rather than sit in traffic jams on the 401 or pay through the nose in 407 tolls. Also I expect that North York Centre and other dense areas along Sheppard will gradually expand and deal with the issue of areas being too car-oriented (not that I expect that development charges will raise much funding for a subway).

    Steve: I am not disputing that mobility needs to be improved, but do not agree that subway construction is the only way this can be done. I also do not agree that there is nothing in between BRT and subways — we have been dealing with that myth in Toronto for decades while other cities built LRT. As for the London and Paris projects, they are starting out with vastly higher demands on their systems than we have now or are likely to have in the midterm. I cannot accept that the Sheppard Subway is the equivalent of either the Crossrail or the Grand Paris in its network function here in Toronto. Yes, it’s wonderful that the UK and France want to invest so much in transit even in difficult times, but we’re not going to see that kind of spending here. Moreover, megaprojects tend to soak up a lot of capital and divert attention from other needed works, especially when times get tough. It will be interesting to see how much this happens in Europe.


  32. @Andrew

    “Also I seriously dispute the notion that building transit to suit the needs of car drivers is a bad idea. Downtown to suburb and suburb to suburb mobility both seriously need to be improved in the GTA, and I think that if a suburb to suburb subway were to be built, drivers will jump at the opportunity to use it rather than sit in traffic jams on the 401 or pay through the nose in 407 tolls.”

    Once again, you seem to be advocating that we should steal from existing transit riders to give the motorists on 401 transportation options that would serve them only. Again, this is funding cannibalism.

    I agree that the Sheppard Light Rail is absolutely useless for motorists on the 401, but that’s too bad for them. The LRT was never meant to serve those motorists anyways, but to serve existing transit riders on Sheppard who are coming from/bound toward people-centric districts and corridors, as well as to improve local access to neighbourhoods.

    A Sheppard Subway with widely spaced stops may help the motorists on the 401 (if the subway ever reaches their destinations), but would be absolutely useless to existing local transit riders. For more explanation on why this is, please read the other comments on this post.

    As for extending transportation options in order to transform car-oriented districts into people-friendly districts, that’s great, but should not take priority over improving transit for existing transit users and neighbourhoods.

    Again, if Highway 401 users want transportation options to serve their needs, they should go and find extra money to pay for themselves, and not steal from transit riders.


  33. Steve, you stated that “I also do not agree that there is nothing in between BRT and subways — we have been dealing with that myth in Toronto for decades while other cities built LRT. “. Does Toronto even have anything that even counts as BRT?

    Steve: No.


  34. @Walter and Steve

    The York University busway is BRT.

    Steve: Yes, but it is an express service that does not really translate to, say, the Finch or Sheppard corridors. Also, it is considered a temporary measure pending the subway opening. It serves no major locations enroute from Dufferin to Keele.


  35. Jacob Louy said:

    “Again, if Highway 401 users want transportation options to serve their needs, they should go and find extra money to pay for themselves, and not steal from transit riders.”

    I disagree with that line of thinking, for a number of reasons:

    1) “Transit riders” do not have any money that “Highway 401 users” could possibly steal. The governmental transit funding comes from general tax sources, mostly income taxes and sales taxes, collected equally from motorists and transit riders (as well as people who sometimes take transit and sometimes drive – actually not a small group).

    2) The goals of helping existing transit riders and attracting new riders are, generally, of similar importance.

    3) Any major new transit line will serve both groups of riders (existing and new). Whether Sheppard subway extension is cost-effective or not is a separate issue; but if built, it can serve quite a few existing riders who now use Sheppard and Finch buses and travel long distance towards Yonge. Conversely, an LRT line can serve existing riders but also attract some new riders who would drive otherwise. It is possible that a subway attracts higher percentage of new riders while an LRT tends to serve the existing riders, but one would need a study to prove that trend.


  36. @Michael Forest

    1) I agree that the money is from taxpayers throughout, but if funds are dedicated to improve transit for a certain group of people, demanding those funds to be redirected to serve an entirely different group is effectively “cannibalising” from each other.

    2) I also agree that attracting riders is important, but Transit City was supposed attract new populations who move into the area and haven’t established their travel patterns and lifestyle yet; less so existing car drivers in the area. The latter group is considerably more difficult to attract.

    3) I agree with you on this one too, but only if its practical to effectively serve both groups. However, one cannot assume that transit riders on Sheppard are headed to the same regions as motorists on the 401 (although exceptions to exist). A fundamental difference between car and transit demand is this:

    Transit infrastructure tends to bring its passengers toward populated people-oriented districts. Car infrastructure avoids these people-dominated regions, and often leads motorists to car-oriented districts. Furthermore, the origin and destinations of car-demand are more dispersed than the origins and destinations of transit demand, and these trips would require vastly different types of service.

    This is accommodating both groups isn’t always practical, so we often have to choose which group should be higher in priority.


  37. Has anyone travelled for an extended period in the US? I spent 11 months travelling from Chicago to New Orleans, Texas and Florida by the River System then up the east coast to Long Island. The biggest difference between US cities and towns when compared to Canadian ones is the amount of land area given over to the automobile.

    Did anyone watch any of the NFL playoff games and see all the land used for parking around the stadia? In some cities I counted over 60% of the downtown land area given over to roads and parking lots. You can’t get a decent transit ridership when you are basically serving empty fields, even in the downtown.

    My favourite comparison is Mobile AL with Peterborough. Mobile has a city populations of 195 000 and a CMA population of 412 000. (Mobile County as opposed to city.) Peterborough has a city population of 77 000 and a CMA of 117 000.

    Peterborough City has 12 bus lines plus 3 express line which run every 40 minutes or better from 6:00 a.m. until 11:20 p.m Monday to Saturday and 8:00 a.m. to 7:20 p.m. on Sunday with 55 transit buses 40 feet long.

    Mobile’s bus service, The Wave, runs about 40 buses on 12 lines on an hourly service 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday, no Sunday holiday service. About half of Mobile’s buses are Ford Econoline E350’s with transit bodies. The rest appear to be 35 foot transit buses. I believe that they have 35 to 40 buses. This service is very typical of medium and small size cities in the south. Three lines run until 9:00 p.m. for shopping areas.

    If you do not have a car in the US you don’t count. You have no mobility, it is difficult to get to appointments or to a job. It is sad to realize that there are a number of people who want us to emulate this model.


  38. Regarding the Sheppard LRT/Subway connection at Don Mills Station. I read that a true cross-platform interchange would be impractical, since the Sheppard Subway and Sheppard LRT would use both terminal tracks, possibly simultaneously.

    Steve: This is not true. The exchange is not “cross platform” but “along platform” in the sense that there would be one continuous platform with subway trains stopping on the west (existing) part and LRVs stopping on the east (extended) part. Note that the tracks would not run through because the LRVs and subway cars have different floor heights. Therefore “track level” for the LRV section of the station will be higher than for the subway portion. Even without the question of using standard gauge for the Transit City lines, the two vehicles cannot occupy the same part of the platform or share trackage.

    But why didn’t the TTC consider increasing the train length and confine the Sheppard Subway to use only one terminal track at Don Mills, leaving the other platform for a possible LRT track? The stations are supposed to be expandable to handle 6 car trains. And I doubt the ridership on Sheppard demands frequent service yet.

    Steve: Expanding all of the stations to a full six car length is a very expensive way to deal with Don Mills Station. Also, a single track terminal would leave the Sheppard subway open to disruption if there were no place to store a bad order train.

    I’m not convinced that a stacked station with LRT and subway platforms on different levels is more attractive than a run-along-the-platform interchange either.

    Steve: It depends on the stacking. We seem to do just fine at many locations on the system including the major subway interchanges, but Kennedy is a pain in the butt because the two major services, subway and SRT, are so far apart and the stairs and escalators are arranged in such a way (when they work at all) to make for a long connection. Part of this is a direct result of having a centre platform at subway level and side platforms up on the RT, a holdover from a station designed for single-ended streetcars.

    Transfer issue aside, wouldn’t you agree that a transfer would make more sense at Don Mills than at Victoria Park, from a transit network perspective?

    Steve: I can argue this one either way. There are many permutations of trips that would be simpler or would have an added transfer depending on where the subway ended, and on whether the service from Don Mills to Victoria Park was the existing bus lines or a new LRT line (either LRT or subway eliminates travel through the congested area around the DVP). People travelling from east of Victoria Park and transferring to the Don Mills bus would get a double-transfer with a subway terminal at Vic Park, but how many of these are there relative to many other potential origin-destinations that could benefit? People who come to Consumers Road from the east will gain a transfer (or a different walk to their destination) while those from the west will no longer have to change to a bus just to get across the DVP. Some fine-grained origin-destination info would be needed to sort out the balance of the options, and there will be unhappy people no matter what is done.


  39. Hi Steve:-

    I’m humbled for not having researched the Docklands Light Railway better than I had done, for if I had I would have known it wasn’t linear induction.

    Egg on my face or what.

    Thanx for pointing out my error Steve. So yes there is one major European installation of grade separated LRT, in amongst the dozens of at grade LRT lines built in recent years. I understand expansion is either underway or under consideration as well there in London.

    Your embarrassed student, Dennis


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