The Secret Sheppard Subway Report

On February 15, 2012, the Star’s Royson James wrote about a TTC report prepared in March 2011 for Mayor Rob Ford on the Sheppard Subway.  The article included a photo of the report’s summary.

Royson James graciously provided me with a copy of the document, and it is available here for those who want to see the whole thing.  I suspect that it is only part of an even larger report because this material only covers one big question: why are the assumptions from the Network 2011 study done back in 1986 no longer valid?  There is no discussion of construction costs, project financing, or any comparison of alternative schemes.

2011.03 Transit Technology Summary and Background

2011.03 Transit Technology Table

Note:  These files were prepared by scanning the copy I received, which itself was a previous generation copy including a lot of marginalia.  The text was imported into and formatted as a new Word document with approximately the same layout (and typography) as the original.  This allowed it to be “printed” in PDF format (the files linked above) rather than a much larger set of images of the scanned sheets.

The report contains a few rather intriguing comments that won’t sound new to regular readers of this site, but which raise questions about the planning assumptions underneath decades of work by the TTC, City Planning and other agencies.

Planners and politicians make grand statements about how policies, official plans and zoning will focus development in locations and patterns of their choice.  In practice, this does not actually happen because the best intentions are inevitably diluted by political reality.  Developers build where there is a real market, not where a plan tells them they should build.  Jobs move around in complete ignorance of city, regional and provincial goals.  Do you own some land that doesn’t fit the plan?  Just sit on it until a friendly government comes to power and get a brand new, as-of-right zoning upgrade.

The idea that transit will shape development is demonstrably false because so many parts of the city with subway stations have not, in fact, developed at all.  This may be due to neighbourhood pressure, or to a policy of preserving the “old” parts of the city because that character has a value greater than massive redevelopment.  A neighbourhood may simply not be ready for development, or may have the wrong character.

This is particularly striking for residential development where local amenities and the “feel” of a neighbourhood are more important than with an industrial/commercial/office development.  People may work in office towers surrounded by pedestrian-hostile roads and parking, but they want to go home to something friendlier.

Because the market for commercial real estate and the jobs it brings has shifted to the 905, much of the development in nodes originally intended for employment has been residential.  This completely changes the transit demand pattern.  Instead of many commuters travelling “in” to a few nodes, we have residential areas that spawn outward trips all over the GTAH.  Subway plans presumed the concentrated trip making that nodes full of employees would create, and these have not materialized.

We are now seeing this pattern even in downtown Toronto with the growth of the condo market.  Many residents live and work downtown, but a considerable number are “reverse commutes” out to the 905, trips for which both the local and regional systems are very badly equipped.

The idea of “downtown North York” or “downtown Scarborough” has simply not materialized in the form expected three decades ago.  Actual employment levels at these two centres are about 1/3 (North York) or 1/5 (Scarborough) of the 1986 projections.  This should be a lesson for today’s planners and politicians who think they can forecast and direct future growth patterns with the aid of a few maps and regulations.

The employment growth projected back in 1986 for “Metropolitan Toronto” (now the City of Toronto) was a rise from 1.23-million to 1.9m.  In fact, employment grew only to 1.30m by 2011 with the lion’s share of the jobs going instead to the 905.  With the absence of strong nodes for new jobs, there was little chance of improving the modal split to whatever commercial development did occur.  Combining lower than predicted growth and a failure to achieve the projected transit modal split leaves us with demand projections that are completely meaningless.

Far too often, there is a political imperative to make the future look better than it might be, or at least to do a proper sensitivity analysis, a “what if” scenario for conditions that don’t match what we would like to see.  Any subway financing scheme that depends on future ridership must answer basic questions:  will those riders actually arrive, and will land development occur in a manner that will generate trips the subway will serve?

We have already seen development in the Sheppard corridor, but it is unclear whether this attracts buyers because it is near the 401 and DVP (and thus to a wide set of GTA destinations), or because it is near the subway.  That development is generating many car trips because, for most destinations, auto travel is the only real option.  The market share for transit at the North York and Scarborough centres is barely half what was projected in 1986, and the compound effect of much lower employment means that transit demand to these centres is a trivial fraction of what Network 2011 was intended to serve.

One item caught my eye in the section of “Public’s travel patterns and behaviour”.  Not only were the employment and mode share values used to model demand considerably above what actually happened, assumptions were  made about the way the Sheppard subway would get its passengers.  Regional and local bus services would be gerrymandered to force riders onto the Sheppard line (at least in the model), but riders actually preferred to go to Finch Station where there was a chance of getting a comfortable spot on a train.

Another assumption in the demand model was that the cost of driving would rise substantially both through higher gas prices and the cost of parking.  Neither of these materialized, although based on typical motoring behaviour, without a very  good network of transit alternatives, the pricing of auto trips does not discourage much travel.

This begs a vital question for all regional planning — can we trust the models?  What assumptions went into the model for our new transit  network, and have these been tested against actual patterns of development and of the regional economy?

The projected demands on new transit lines made back in 1986 were substantially higher than today’s expectations:

  • The Sheppard subway was expected to have 15,400 peak riders by 2011, but the actual number on the existing line is 4,500.  The projected peak demand for the full line in 2011 is now 6-10,000.
  • The Eglinton subway was expected to have 17,600 peak riders by 2011, but the LRT projection is now reduced to 5,200 (based on having the central section underground).
  • The Downtown Relief line was projected to have 11,700 peak riders by 2011, and the demand projection today is 12,000.  This is no surprise given that the DRL would serve a demand that actually existed 25 years ago, rather than a notional demand in a regional plan.

In previous articles, I have discussed the matter of the TTC’s Capital Budget and the mounting cost of simply keeping the subway system running.  Nothing lasts forever, and many systems are wearing out.  We are now on the third major generation of vehicles, there are problems everywhere with station finishes and equipment, water penetration and damage is an ongoing headache, and the signal system must be completely replaced.  Contrary to statements by some subway advocates, subways do not last for 100 years without major investments in rehabilitation.

Back in 1986, the TTC had not yet reached the point where the subway had started to wear out.  The oldest line (Yonge from Eglinton to Union) was only 32 years old, and much of its first generation equipment was still functional.  The TTC now knows that the subway system has an ongoing cost of $230m operating (routine maintenance) and $275m capital (major systems replacement) every year.  Looked at another way, simply maintaining the subway system consumes about 1/6 of the annual operating budget, and a substantial slice of the non-expansion related capital budget.

There is a large backlog of needed capital repairs with a shortfall of $2.3-billion in the 10-year capital budget thanks to provincial cutbacks in capital funding.  Building more subway lines will only add to this set of maintenance costs a few decades in the future.

Finally, we have a bit of creative history writing.  Why, the TTC asks, was LRT not embraced as an option back in 1986?  They claim that at the time it was a poorly understood mode with only limited use, particularly in North America.  What we now think of as “modern” LRT had not yet evolved.  This statement ignores the LRT renaissance in Europe and suggests that despite new LRT systems in North America (notably Edmonton’s and Calgary’s), it was too soon for the TTC to embrace the mode.

I will not dwell on the fact that the Scarborough ICTS system was brand new, and the idea that an “intermediate capacity” system between buses and subways already might exist was simply not in accord with provincial policy.

In fact, the TTC’s love for LRT is a very recent phenomenon.  When the Ridership Growth Strategy was first proposed in 2003 for “short term” service improvements, TTC subway planners were terrified that their pet projects had fallen off of the map.  The RGS was hastily amended to include a commitment to the Spadina and Sheppard extensions, and this move has been cited ever since as “proof” that the TTC supports the Sheppard line.  It would be another four years before the Transit City scheme was launched.

LRT was well-established around the world before the Transit City plan was announced, but it took a major rethink of Toronto’s transit network at the political level, combined with the economic constraints against subway building, for LRT to get the consideration it deserved.  Transit City was not perfect, but it got Toronto thinking about what might be built.

This report is a year old, and its existence shows that the pro-subway forces in Toronto, notably in the Mayor’s office, did not want an informed, public discussion of subway plans to occur.  Observations about the changing growth patterns in Toronto raise important questions about the future role of transit, indeed of the ability of transit to serve the region as we have actually built it.  Far too much effort is concentrated on the subway-vs-LRT battle in a few corridors when the real challenge lies “out there” in the growing and very car-oriented 905.

116 thoughts on “The Secret Sheppard Subway Report

  1. LRT cannot reliably carry 15,000/hour. This would require 3 car trains and 2 minute headways which means that signal priority must be disabled (otherwise north south cross roads would be impassible in rush hour, since a streetcar would be going east west every minute on average).

    Steve: I agree that you’re not going to get 15K/hour in the middle of a street. If nothing else, the congestion of pedestrian traffic at stations would be a huge problem. However, the projected demand on the surface lines under discussion is nowhere near 15K.

    According to [Calvin Henry-Cotnam’s] Toronto LRT Information site, the capacity of surface light rail is 5,250 to 7,875 and this is a pro-LRT site. The existing Sheppard subway carries 4,500, which is just below the maximum capacity of LRT, despite ending at Don Mills (which means that it is not very attractive as an alternative to the 401, e.g. there are always traffic jams at rush hour caused by office workers in North York Centre going to/from the 401, and the subway would provide an alternative for workers going east). I strongly suspect that increased ridership caused by a subway extension to Scarborough Centre and Downsview would even under the most pessimistic ridership projections, result in ridership at the absolute high end of LRT capacity (especially between Don Mills and Victoria Park), which means that a LRT would experience severe overcrowding problems on opening day.

    Steve: You say that 4,500 is “just below the maximum capacity of LRT” when the numbers you site have the minimum LRT capacity at over 5K. Also it would be wrong to assume all of those 4,500 riders are destined to continue east on a Sheppard line.

    Also I do really think that transfers are a serious problem with the Sheppard LRT. If one is transferring from the Sheppard subway to the LRT to a north south bus this causes an additional transfer, and passengers will be forced to cross the street and transfer at a busy intersection in rain and snow. If one is going to Scarborough Centre an additional transfer is necessary vs the existing bus #190, and since STC is a major bus transfer point this would create additional transfers for a lot of people (though I suppose this might be alleviated by moving most of the buses to Markham/Sheppard). Commuting from STC to York University requires 4 transfers (bus, LRT, subway, bus, subway).

    Steve: You completely miss the fact that if the subway goes to STC, people will still have to make a transfer connection there. STC is not the primary destination of most people who go to that station. It is an artificial network node because that’s where the interchange point happens to be. Someone who wants to travel across Sheppard has no reason to go to STC unless the network forces them to.


  2. Just out of curiosity, does anybody know what Webster’s position on the DRL was/is? Has he ever spoken about it?

    Steve: Last year, Webster was holding to the TTC’s “party line” that the DRL was not required until all possible improvements to capacity on the existing subway were implemented. This appeared to soften in recent months as, I believe, even the TTC acknowledges that some of the proposed improvements may be impractical or excessively costly. However, the DRL study has never been released, and I can only guess at the biased outlook it might include. For starters, I believe that the TTC’s version stops at Danforth. This defeats the purpose of the route and the benefit of a “Don Mills” rapid transit line. This is just one more left over piece of business from the end of the Giambrone era when the shortcomings of Transit City and related planning work were not pulled out into open public discussion before the plans set in concrete.

    Richard said …

    “When the Yonge and Bloor streetcars reached capacity, they were replaced with subway lines”.

    Not exactly. Bloor was not replaced with a subway because it reached capacity and absolutely needed something more. The streetcars were handling the loads. After the success of the Yonge line, Metro wanted one east-west line *somewhere* to establish a basic rapid transit backbone, simply as a matter of policy. Just as we call Eglinton the crosstown line (which implies that most people will use it to get across town), back then BD was called the east-west subway. The idea was that riders would use it to go east-west, and not just if they needed to use the Bloor streetcar. Look at it this way, if ridership that streetcars could no longer handle had been the deciding factor, we would not have built University as part of the same project.

    Steve: A related piece of misguided planning assumed that more demand within the old city would shift to the BD subway than actually did. The King car (a U-shaped route from Broadview to Dundas West) had its service slashed by over 50% on the mistaken belief that riders would use the new subway even though for many trips to the core, that would require backtracking north to the subway rather than a one-seat streetcar ride. This service change had been substantially backed out within a few months of the BD line’s opening. We have also seen how the Sheppard demand projections were gerrymandered to include trips that riders chose to take via the faster, simpler surface bus routes. When planners who think like motorists build transit demand models, they think people will happily go miles out of their way to use an “express” service, a common behaviour for car drivers, but not for transit riders.

    Today we all think Mammoliti’s idea of a Finch West subway is absurd, but what if the Spadina extension forked at Finch West station, with one branch going north to Vaughan, and the other heading west on Finch to serve northern Etobicoke. What kind of ridership would that attract over 20 years? So, when Webster told Mammoliti that Finch is only 3,000 per hour, it really is short-sighted thinking.


  3. Hi Steve:-

    It’s interesting to note point 5 on page 1 in the report of ‘FACTORS AFFECTING CHOICE OF RAPID TRANSIT TECHNOLOGY’ linked to in your article that:-

    ‘In the 1980’s, there was no proven or established transit technology to accommodate passenger demands which were between the capacities of bus and subway operations so, for demands which could not be accommodated on buses, transit agencies usually opted for subways. ‘

    I beg to differ for here they have ignored their own documents which placed the lowly, shared streetspace ‘streetcar’ squarely in the intermediate zone. I remember those reports when they were published! (Bloor/Danforth car comes to mind)

    But worse yet, besides missing their own in house info, I guess the TTC, the best transit system in the world wasn’t reading the Transit Press either. They must have had their heads in the sand, for in 1978 Edmonton opened its first Light Rail line, which became an instant success. Other areas of that City were immediately clamouring for their routes too! This opening was soon followed by Calgary’s and San Diego’s first lines in mid 1981. All having had planning well in advance and shovels in the ground, long before that magic date of 1980 cited in this report.

    But where did these three cities find out that LRT was a worthwhile enterprise to get involved in? They had no equivalent to the Ontario Transit Development Corporation, like we had, to guide them and help them investigate and develop intermediate capacity transit. Wow, fortunate us eh that we did! So how could they conjure up such a technology out of thin air?

    I guess they didn’t have their heads in the sand; for they appear to have listened to the sales and technical folks from Siemens–Duewag. In Germany, they had successfully sold and equipped Frankfurt with ‘proven’ derivatives of the first vehicles used to equip those three ‘new-built’ North American LRT lines (soon to become systems). They were able to introduce those North Americans to and extoll the benefits of, modern, in between bus and subway capacity, rapid transit technology. Technology that German systems had already (well before 1980) been using!

    But then too, the TTC should have been well aware of all of the North American examples in use for decades prior to that ‘modern’ introduction of the German technology here. I give you Cleveland’s Shaker Heights (not all that far away for pity sake), Boston’s Green lines (over 80 years old in 1980), Newark, New Jersey’s one route, the Philly Suburban’s three routes and the ‘streetcar’ (dare I call it that) subway in Philadelphia. All decades old, all upgraded with modern LRT cars, all able to carry more riders per hour per direction than a bus and each one highly successful. And guess what, they all operate in the snow, oh my!

    And this is without mentioning the scores of systems, of what we now know as light rail, which had been scrapped. Many of these having served their owners and riders well for over a half century. Notable here are the North Shore and Roarin’ Elgin lines in Chicago, the Pacific Electric in the LA area, the far flung Pittsburgh Railways (a small percentage of which has been upgraded and is still operating), Ottawa’s Britannia line, many suburban lines operated by the Montreal Tramways and even the lowly, down on its heels Rochester, NY subway (with the term subway being a euphemism here, but that’s how it was known).

    Sadly, I can understand a modern author of this report not being aware of the history of light rail public transport, but I am maybe making an incorrect assumption in thinking that the original document, that this one is based on, was in itself quite remiss in not having included research that should have impartially noted the merits of LRT lines that still are and once had been out there. Could this have been an earlier example of a ‘subway or else’ stance that our beloved, unbiased ‘Best in the World’ TTC had once espoused? Can this jaded, flawed, biased and unreasonable 1980s reporting be what an ill informed, uncompromising and non-transit using Mayor might be basing his outdated, ham-fisted opinions on? Of course the rest of the 2011 report pointing to the reasons to change opinions is irrelevant to Hizzzonour.

    Ignore history and one well might be ignoring worthwhile examples of former ideas and technologies that have merit in today’s environment!

    Dennis Rankin

    Steve: Streetcars for Toronto published its pro-LRT brief in 1973 as an alternative to Queen’s Park’s ICTS proposals, but we were ignored. TTC’s revisionist history claims that an enlightened Commission embraced streetcar retention when in fact they fought it, and papers over the TTC’s collusion in converting the Scarborough LRT to an RT line. It’s no surprise to see that they have convinced themselves that “real LRT” didn’t exist until the mid-80s, comfortably after the SRT was in operation. Meanwhile, they continue to push subway-only plans right up to the point where Transit City was announced.


  4. Richard: At 2 minute headways, a modern LRT line can transport 15,000 ppdph. I hardly call that low capacity. The ridership projections on Sheppard East fall well below 15,000 ppdph. Likewise, ridership of 15,000 ppdph is needed to justify a subway.

    These figures are flawed for application to Sheppard. At-grade LRT would max out slightly shy of 8,000 for a 3-car LRV operation, and in Sheppard’s case (designed to accommodate 2-car LRVs), would be about 5,400. That’s fine for Sheppard, as even the current Sheppard subway doesn’t see demand quite that high. Remember that at-grade operations become unreliable on frequencies more aggressive than 3 minutes (resulting in bunching and associated complications).

    Underground 3-car LRV operations, which can run at sustained frequencies of 1′:45″, can carry a little over 13,000. Except for limited surge loads or recovering from a peak hour service disruption (this is what crush loads come in handy for), 3-car/90m LRV operations cannot handle 15,000.

    TTC’s threshold for subway has traditionally been 10,000, although my view is that it should be 8,000 depending on context (for example, if the 8,000 demand is only encountered for a kilometre or two, and then drops sharply outside that band, subway wouldn’t be worth the investment). 8,000 would be the point where a decision needs to be taken about a corridor’s future, which may include a parallel route if space can be made available, or undergrounding, or alternative traffic reconfigurations and reprioritizations (which might save a lot of money depending on context). If undergrounding, the cost is the same as subway regardless (LRT tunnels are actually a bit more expensive due to wider tunnel diametre), so subway should be evaluated at that point – it depends a lot on the shape of the network, and LRT may still make sense in a more dispersed network if a capacity of 13,000 or so is a limit planners are comfortable with.

    The LRV loading standard is 130 per car.


  5. Steve wrote,

    “It was a marriage of convenience with Layton supporting the Sheppard subway rather than new transit capacity into the core.”

    On Thursday, NewsTalk 1010 announced that the Ford Brothers (aka “Mayor RoDo”) will begin hosting their Sunday show called “The City” this weekend. There was a pseudo-preview on the mid-morning show with the brothers taking calls and promoting their point of view on things, especially transit.

    At one point it was said, I believe by Doug, that even Jack Layton supported the Sheppard Subway by seconding the motion for it (or something similar to that). It will be important to spread the word as to WHY Layton did this.

    On another note about the new Ford Brothers Propaganda-fest, at one point Rob was quoted as saying, “We’re going to educate the public.” That line was a huge red flag for me since a wise man once told me that using a word like educate/education when talking about providing information on a point of view is received as a form of condescension. ‘Nuff said!


  6. @Michael:

    One of the reasons why so many people go to Scarborough Town Centre (STC) is because it is the main terminal for many Scarborough bus routes. If commuters want to get home, they often don’t have a choice other than go to STC.

    Personally, I do not see the usefulness of the 199 at all. Very few people take it to STC. The demand is on Finch. If people want to go to STC they can transfer onto one of the many north-south routes that terminate at the mall. Scarborough needs better (read: more reliable and faster) east-west connections.


  7. Michael:

    “I can not believe people are saying there is no demand or need for travel between NYCC and STC. “

    No, just that the need for a subway linking the two is far from obvious. And that it’s not likely the top transit need for the city.

    “There are plenty of reasons to go to NYCC, including a pretty good food scene and authentic Korean restaurants, etc. NYCC is actually turning into a pretty cool uptown district. “

    Are all their customers coming from Scarborough Town Centre? Or from all over northern Toronto? The first may justify a higher-order link between the two. The latter points to the need for a network of lines in northern Toronto. Kind of like downtown Toronto is served by heavily-used surface routes in addition to the subways.

    “Part of the success of the TTC has come from making malls major transportation destinations for transit. “

    Nonsense. They are not destinations (with the likely exception of the Eaton Centre), they are hubs for people passing through. Finch station is not busy because everyone wants to go to Yonge and Finch; Finch station is busy because it’s a major transfer point. Finch station could be located just about anywhere in a fairly large radius, and if all the connecting routes still ran to it, it would be busy. The success of suburban malls has much more to do with the huge parking lots than with transit access. The patrons of Sherway Gardens don’t all arrive on the 123 Shorncliffe and 15 Evans and 80 Queensway buses; they drive and park.

    If STC is actually a transit destination, it’s much more to do with the fact that many routes in that part of Scarbourough actually run to STC station, so it’s easy to get to from anywhere. Again, a network is what’s needed. A subway to the STC won’t suddenly motivate hordes of people to get on at Runnymede or Coxwell or even Eglinton and make their way to STC.

    Now, OC Transpo makes every middling-sized mall a “transit hub”, and in my experience that just made their network harder to understand and certainly increased travel time.

    “Secondly the comments that there is nothing to commute to totally ignores the success of the 190 Sheppard Rocket. “

    So? The Finch East bus carries way more people as I recall. So we should put the subway on Finch East….where there don’t actually appear to be any malls worth making into a transit hub. The King car carries way more people than the Sheppard bus, and there’s not much in the way of malls there either.

    And the Yonge line is utterly overcrowded. My past few experiences at trying to catch a train northbound at Queen at 5 PM have been so frustrating I have been trying to find an elusive 97 Yonge bus instead.

    “You guys may not be into exploring the city or shopping. But the fact is Scarborough Town Centre is a large destination which attracts people in the Sheppard corridor, as well as the Finch corridor. “

    Last month I wandered out of the STC bus terminal to walk over to McCowan Station. I can tell you that it wasn’t a pleasant walk. STC is designed for cars. Transit users coming into STC are most likely leaving on another transit vehicle. There might be some people walking to the mall. As for the rest, it’s all extremely pedestrian-hostile.

    By the way, for eight months in 2009-2010 I commuted via TTC pretty much every weekday from Long Branch to Seneca’s Finch/404 campus. I occasionally took the Sheppard subway and the 139, but it wasn’t as good as the 39C/E/F/G out of Finch. The only reason I would bail to Sheppard was if there was a big backup of trains heading into Finch.

    More recently, less than a month ago, I did a lap of Toronto, from Long Branch to Starspray loop to Morningside Heights to Martin Grove and Steeles to Long Branch via TTC. What surprised me was “FS” on the 116 Morningside even though it was Sunday. Maybe we should give those riders a subway too….


  8. Steve, something funny happened to the order of things in my previous reply.

    Steve: Fixed. Yes, it certainly makes more sense in that order.


  9. I asked Royson for the report and he just said “I only have a hard copy.” I guess he found a scanner.

    Steve: His hard copy. My scanner.


  10. Rob Ford is a panderer, and that is it. No leadership, no insight, just a puppet of people that obviously demonstrate Toronto envy. He thinks the concept of the position of Mayor of Toronto is to do whatever misinformed and uneducated voters demand. Given the 905 “ring” around the true City, is it a surprise that 905’s bickering bought the position and resulting ignorant force?

    I see de-amalgamation in the future.


  11. So it looks like the lesson from this is to build subway lines only where demand currently is close to or above the minimum subway capacity. Other than the aforementioned DRL, are there any other potential subway routes that make sense?

    Steve: As totally new routes, no. There is a proposal to extend the Yonge subway further north, but for this to be viable, we need substantial additional all-day capacity on GO to drain the long-haul trips to downtown off of the subway system. However, the fare penalty one pays for using GO may deter riders who might otherwise use that line rather than a single fare TTC trip from Richmond Hill to the core area.


  12. The problem with Sheppard is “What do we do with the existing Sheppard subway?”. Building a Sheppard LRT will essentially condemn Sheppard to its current form forever. Sheppard, as it currently exists, was meant to be the first phase of a full line, and leaving it as is will mean that it will remain a “stubway” and a money-losing white elephant, not to mention an unnecessary transfer at Don Mills.

    So what do we do with the Sheppard Subway besides leaving it as is? Mothball it? Convert the tunnel to run LRTs? Turn it into a branch of YUS and run trains from Downsview to Don Mills? Or build the Sheppard West extension and run trains from Finch to Don Mills via the Spadina line?

    Steve: The track layout at Yonge and Sheppard will not support a Don Mills to Downtown service as there is no west-to-south curve. Over at Downsview, the connection track, if built, was originally planned I believe as a level crossing with the Spadina line for yard movements only, not for regular branching service. Then there’s the small matter of four and six car trains.

    I really do get tired of people wanting to integrate Sheppard and YUS operations. Big costs to eliminate a transfer when the money could be spent on more necessary works elsewhere. To put it another way, do you want to keep spending money to prop up the Sheppard line, or do you want to switch the focus to some other part of the network?


  13. Regarding the passenger capacity of a Sheppard LRT:
    We know that it is cheaper to build a Km of surface LRT vs. underground rapid transit (whether subway or LRT.)
    What is the cost to build 2 Km of surface LRT vs 1 km of subway (underground)?
    I pose this question because if we did approach effective capacity on a surface LRT you could go to the next corridor and build another surface LRT there? (Thus you might have an LRT on both Sheppard and Finch as opposed to a subway underground on Sheppard.)


  14. So Steve, are we doomed to have the Sheppard line as a monument to short-sighted, piecemeal transit policy?

    Steve: I’m not sure which of the Sheppard lines you mean, but the answer is probably “yes” in all cases.


  15. I’ve also taken 190 to STC a few times when I lived in Scarborough, and I recall the bus being fairly full at Fairview (never had to stand for long), yet fairly empty by the time you get to Kennedy Rd, with a decent travel time. Most of the traffic seems to get off at the major streets to transfer west of Kennedy. I wonder if Sheppard would not be a better candidate for BRT (thus saving the money for a busier route).


  16. Steve said: “Over at Downsview, the connection track, if built, was originally planned I believe as a level crossing with the Spadina line for yard movements only, not for regular branching service.”

    Would that be the reason why the TTC is using a double-slip switch arrangement for the new Wilson yard access at Downsview?

    Steve: Possibly, although there is also the question of trains entering service northbound to Vaughan to consider. Slip switches are normally used to save space.


  17. I think the best option to make Sheppard more useful would be to connect to Spadina line to enable easier access to York and Humber for people coming from the east end or Seneca and Centennial for Westenders. I don’t know if it would be cheaper to do as Light or Heavy Rail, but I believe it would generate some better numbers.

    As far as Yonge extension, I’d love to see it, but believe the DRL should be the most important subway project for the TTC.


  18. Andrew says:

    “LRT cannot reliably carry 15,000/hour. This would require 3 car trains and 2 minute headways.”

    Your above statement are the exact figures I used to get 15,000 ppdph. However, it has been brought to my attention that 2 minute headways are not possible when an LRT operates in the middle of a roadway.

    Andrew says:

    “I strongly suspect that increased ridership caused by a subway extension to Scarborough Centre and Downsview would even under the most pessimistic ridership projections, result in ridership at the absolute high end of LRT capacity (especially between Don Mills and Victoria Park), which means that a LRT would experience severe overcrowding problems on opening day.”

    I agree with this assessment but the problem with having the Sheppard subway run to STC is that it takes rapid transit off of Sheppard at either Kennedy Road or Agincourt GO station. Most of the demand along this route is on Sheppard – and it is primarily local demand not long distance commuters. Forcing commuters to go to STC forces them to transfer to a bus at that terminal. One of your primary arguments for extending the Sheppard subway is to eliminate transfers but this scheme merely pushes it from Don Mills station to STC.

    Again, the transfer from LRT to subway at Don Mills is designed to be quick and easy. I don’t think the transfer will be a big deal and won’t add a lot of time to the average commute. The transfer won’t be a repeat of Kennedy station.

    Steve: Nor, for that matter, the long walk from the bus loop down to the train at Don Mills.

    I contend that extending the Sheppard line to Markham and Sheppard with a large bus bay makes more sense than gerrymandering the line to STC, especially considering the fact that the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown (formerly Scarborough RT) will be extended to Markham in Sheppard in the new transit plans.

    However, we are left with one major problem. Cost. The province will not commit more than $8.4 billion to Toronto’s transit projects. Where will the money come from for a Sheppard subway? That’s why I’d prefer the Sheppard East LRT. I don’t want to end up with no transit improvements on Sheppard.


  19. About the 190 Rocket.

    I don’t know when you used to ride, Luc Mallet, but I have used the 190, and it often has standing room only loads from Fairview to STC and STC to Fairview, particularly during rush hours. In addition, it always picks up people along the way going to either Fairview or STC.

    As for your comment Steve that the 190 does not move a ton of people to warrant subway service:

    As we all know, transit has to build and attract people. This is not 1950’s Toronto, where people rode transit because cars were not popular yet, and therefore the TTC could wait to build rapid transit until a corridor got so busy, a subway was needed.

    Today we have to build attractive service to attract people, because the loads are never going to come if you wait for buses to fill up, because by that time people will have switched to cars.

    In terms of the 190, it carries very healthy loads. However that being said, there is no doubt that the route not having bus lanes or any other priority for transit, means that it is not attracting as many people as it could.

    Also Luc, about your comment of using BRT on Sheppard. I think the demand on Sheppard shows that we can do better than BRT on Sheppard.
    The Sheppard subway already shows the large ridership potential the Sheppard corridor has. The 6.5 km of the Sheppard subway carries more people per km than any of the Transit City LRT lines will. Or to put it another way, it is going to take 13 km of Transit City LRT on Sheppard East, to equal the ridership that only 6.5 km of subway carries on Sheppard today.

    The ridership is there. But it will not come unless we build rapid transit.


  20. “The Sheppard Line is a monument to short sighted piece-meal transit policy.”

    Actually from what I have read and understand is that the Sheppard Line was part of the RTEP program which was, as I have read, was a result of a much more thorough process than what Transit City went through.

    Maybe the Sheppard Line will recover. Check out what is happening between Yonge and Don Mills, and in the Don Mills/Sheppard intersection.
    The 401 is close by and convenient, but.

    In 2010 I (we) drove down Sheppard East from Don Mills, and really wondered why anyone would put a LRT in this area.

    Last weekend we drove to Rouge Park to see what was there. Not much actually in February.

    A second look. Lots of density in Scarborough. Where do these people travel to? Who knows.

    Forecasting three years in advance is a problem. You have to update every 4 to 6 months.

    Forecasting over larger time frames is a gamble.

    The subway line that should have been built in the early 90’s was the one to York University.
    The Sheppard Line survived because of Mel Lastman’s anticts.


  21. Michael wrote:

    “As we all know, transit has to build and attract people. This is not 1950′s Toronto, where people rode transit because cars were not popular yet, and therefore the TTC could wait to build rapid transit until a corridor got so busy, a subway was needed.”

    But, do we know that transit attracts people? The article we are commenting upon seems to refute this. Growth through subways has not worked in most of the city, as the lack of people using most of our subway lines attests to, so why should things be different along Sheppard?

    I use the Yonge corridor from Steeles to Sheppard everyday, be it going to work or shopping or having fun. I go to STC at least twice a month, usually on a rocket bus line. I eat breakfast at Ikea and have watched the condos go up around the Canadian Tire site (and still wonder why I rarely see people walk out of one of them). For a man of my age, I know far too much about which stores are going into Fairview Mall. I too see growth in ridership along those routes.

    But, until there is proof of enough ridership to meet demand, the justification to, among other things, spend 30 years of development fees from all over the city, to build a subway line connecting the two … it just doesn’t seem fiscally prudent.

    I’d like to experience, just for once, transit built on something more then “Well, this is what I see…..”


  22. Kevin Reidy asked,

    “I pose this question because if we did approach effective capacity on a surface LRT you could go to the next corridor and build another surface LRT there?”

    THAT is a major benefit to LRT implementation in corridors that do not justify a full subway now nor in the next 35 years, because there is always someone who asks, “what about in 50 or 75 years?”

    If the demand for full subway looked feasible even in the next 25 years, one must look at where that demand is coming from. In many cases, particularly in the suburbs, such long term numbers come from a very wide catchment area on each side of the line, often extending out 4-6 kilometres. Now, if we could spend the money right now to build such a subway line now in order to meet that demand 25 years in the future, is that really the best use of the money?

    For the same money, we could build two or even three parallel LRT lines (perhaps even more in some cases), but it would not be necessary to do so all right now. One line meets our needs now and for the next decade or two and can be built now. As demand increases and new funding becomes available, another parallel line can be built.

    There is a nice bonus of doing this: network enhancement. This means providing additional choices to get to where you are going. Remember that the next time a subway line is shut down for a few hours and a couple of dozen shuttle buses are brought in to take up the load.


  23. I know that the question I’m asking below doesn’t directly relate to your discussion of the report on the Sheppard Subway project, but the impact of its publication may well strengthen the argument for LRT versus building “subways at all cost” as Council strategize their next move.

    If the Stintz Plan is ratified by council and agreed to by the Province and the funds are released so work can begin, I see those adamantly opposed to LRT (at the very least, the Mayor and his brother and the rogue five TTC Councillors who voted to sack Gary Webster) resorting to any and every legal trick they can find in the books to pull off what they’ll undoubtedly call the “St. Clair Disaster, Part Two”.

    I can just see these folks at this very moment gleefully racking one another’s brains to find any and every lawsuit they can possibly conjure up against the Province, Metrolinx and the TTC so as to impede and/or halt work on Finch, Eglinton and Sheppard. I can see them succeeding at delaying progress for months, even years, on end while their lawsuits wend their slower-the-better way through the court system, just as the merchants and residents who were so diametrically opposed to the St. Clair project did everything they could to halt it, run up its costs astronomically, and add years of disruption and delay to its work.

    Predictably, when these same Mayor-and-Councillor-imposed delays and cost overruns impact the Metrolinx Plan’s new lines, these seven fine gentlemen will proclaim to the rest of the world, “We told you so!”

    My question is: Given the near-absolute certainty that these well-known obstructionists will do everything they can to prevent the building of anything with “LRT” written on it, what chances are there that anything can or will actually be built without the community and the Metrolinx project suffering through years, even decades, of court-imposed delays brought on by lawsuits? Is there anything that can be done to prevent this kind of obstructionism?

    It seems to me that everyone from the Province and Metrolinx to the TTC and the public had best brace themselves for years of court-imposed delays. Lawsuits will spring up all over the place like so many weeds. It’s hard to imagine how anything constructive can be accomplished, given the very poisonous and litigious (lawsuit-happy) society we live in today. Too many people go to any lengths to defend to the death THEIR turf regardless of how much it costs their constituencies, their society, even themselves; too many insist that only THEIR version of how things should be done be given the go-ahead.

    Heaven forbid that any of them should consider compromise – that forbidden and noble concept whereby people work out their disagreements to find common ground where together they can give the most benefit to the greatest number of people for a given sum of dollars. We are living in a ME, not a WE, society.

    It’ll be interesting to see if, how or when these lines are built and opened to the public.


  24. Ogthedim says:

    “But, do we know that transit attracts people?”

    The Ridership Growth Strategy may have shown that transit attracts people. It’s hard to tell if the TTC’s increased ridership was a result of the Ridership Growth Strategy or population growth. I would like to believe the former but it’s hard to ignore the latter.

    During the 1990’s recession and in the face of TTC service cuts ridership plummeted. During the current recession and in the face of TTC service cuts ridership is still growing. Is that because more people cannot afford to drive and rely on transit as their sole means of mobility or is it because the Ridership Growth Strategy was successful?

    Steve: “Transit” is too vague a word in this context. A bus that comes once an hour, and then may be off by 5 minutes either way, is not “transit” as most people would define it. Service that shows up reliably, preferably without the need for a printed timetable, and which someone can get on and possibly even have a seat is a lot different. Service that comes every five minutes, but runs empty most of the time is called “gravy” when it’s a bus route in Etobicoke, but not when it’s a subway line whose high service quality will attract more riding, someday, eventually. One is a waste of taxpayer dollars, while the other is an investment in the future.

    The whole point about RGS was to make service good enough that people didn’t have to wonder if it would ever show up or be full when it arrived. That’s an attitude change akin to the type of service people associate with subways, and one of the big reasons many don’t trust the TTC on anything else. Don’t forget that original TTC claims for St. Clair were not that they could run better service, but that they could save money by running fewer cars. That’s not what happened in the end, but it’s always a possibility when the worth of a service is measured by how many riders are on the roof, not by how reliably and comfortably people can travel.


  25. @ OgtheDim and everyone else who keeps saying the following :

    “Growth through subways has not worked in most of the city, as the lack of people using most of our subway lines attests to, so why should things be different along Sheppard?”

    I would love to know why people think the Toronto subway is underused?

    I find Toronto’s so called transit advocates think if a subway does not go packed to the end station, that it somehow has failed. The truth is that Toronto is one of the only cities which does have large loads of riders right to the end of the line (due to our feeder bus network).
    Go ride subways in NYC, or in Europe, and most times you will be lucky to see 5 or 6 people on the trains at the end station.

    Not having a full train to the end of the line does not mean the subway line is not well used.

    If our subway is so under used, why does it have the 4th highest ridership in North America (This includes Mexico) and the fourth highest passengers per km in North America?

    People talk about the Spadina subway being underused. Could it have more riders? Yes it could. But the ridership is not low or bad by any degree. The subway stations north of Eglinton West carry similar passenger loads to subway stations on other parts of the subway, and transport over 100,000 riders a day. Not bad at all.

    The Sheppard subway carries almost 50,000 riders on a 6.5 km subway which is only half built. Again this is strong ridership, and many subway systems carry this kind of ridership on subway lines double or triple the length.

    I would love to know what subway OgtheDim and others here in Toronto ride, because the Toronto subway I ride is far from underused. In fact it is overcrowded.

    Next time I am stuck standing in a crowded train at 10 pm (which is routine for me), I will be sure to think of just how underused our subway network is.

    The next time my subway train leaves Kennedy Station with every seat taken and people standing (which is routine) I will remember that we have a subway system that so underused that we can’t build subways under Eglinton, because it will divert people from the underused Bloor-Danforth subway. If underused is a subway train leaving the first station full, I wonder what a well used subway looks like.

    Steve: You are overgeneralizing in the other direction. I don’t think that most of the commentators here would argue that “most of the city” has not seen growth through subways, but they would distinguish between demand on the subway and growth at the stations it serves. The Danforth subway carries lots of riders (it can be hard to board at Broadview and points east in the height of the AM peak), but there is little development around stations from Chester to Woodbine. Even the Yonge line has stations that remain in low-rise communities because of the neighbourhood they are in (e.g. Lawrence), and what development has occurred is a function of the overall growth of the city (e.g. condos in the strip from Eglinton south to Summerhill) decades after the subway opened.


  26. @Steve.

    I am happy no development happened on Danforth from Chester to Woodbine.

    The Danforth is one of the most interesting and unique places in the city, with a great streetlife and attractions. Why should that be knocked down for high-rises, just because a subway is there? If the subway is well used which it is, then it does not matter.

    Further, there has been development on the subway. Some of it came latter. But a lot of happened earlier and as the city grew, and the fact of the matter is Toronto is a great example of TOD, and Toronto was doing TOD decades before other cities even though of it.

    Is all our TOD high-rise? No. but it is well done, such as the office building over York Mills Station.

    The development in NYCC, is almost unparalleled anywhere else in North America for TOD. Even Sheppard, is seeing billions of development next to the subway.

    Until the 90’s, 95% of office development in the metro area was built on the subway system.

    Again show me a North American city which was able to accomplish that feat (except for maybe NYC).

    It does not have to happen at every single station or overnight. But what Toronto has accomplished is great.

    Even the new homes at Warden Station are nice. Not everyone wants to live in a condo, and the homes built next to Warden Station allow people to live near the subway and still have a house, just like on the Danforth.

    Steve: Two points here.

    I think we are starting to lose focus on what this thread is all about. The premise behind the 1986 plan was a set of land use projections related to office development and the kind of demand it generates. In fact, a great deal of what actually happened was residential development that has a different effect on transit. The flight of office space to the 905 is well known and I won’t belabour it here.

    It is also important to recognize that in some corridors, notably Sheppard, the subway has a very large expressway beside it, and sorting out which of these had the greatest effect on development may be tricky. The subway may have brought the change in zoning of old residential neighbourhoods, but the people living in the new buildings may not make much use of the transit line. This is especially the case for the buildings that are further from the subway stations (e.g. the development “near” Bayview that is actually along the 401 quite a distance south and east of the station).

    Second, the premise for financing the Sheppard line is that all development revenues from not just the Sheppard corridor, but the Eglinton and SRT corridors for years to come, plus possibly other areas of the city, would go to pay for the line. This means we have to finance it with borrowing by somebody and hope that the development and associated revenue actually shows up. My point in flagging the comments in the report about changing land use is that what we expect and plan for may not happen. If a financial model is based on faulty planning, we are in big trouble. Moreover, nobody has talked about the cost of carrying the capital cost of building the line in anticipation of demand and development that may be decades in the future.


  27. Michael said: But the ridership [on the Spadina subway] is not low or bad by any degree. The subway stations north of Eglinton West carry similar passenger loads to subway stations on other parts of the subway, and transport over 100,000 riders a day. Not bad at all.

    The Sheppard subway carries almost 50,000 riders on a 6.5 km subway which is only half built. Again this is strong ridership

    Honestly, reporting of daily ridership statistics for any transit route of any mode should be a banned practice, because it doesn’t actually mean anything since the detail it depicts is far too thin, and worse, it can even distort reality when applied out of context. People who rely on daily ridership figures instead of peak hour ridership figures are not supporting their argument in objective terms, because they are missing the most important considerations.

    The fact is that the Spadina subway’s peak point, between the Spadina and St George stations, is only around 13,000 passengers per hour per direction in the AM peak hour. That’s half the capacity of a subway line, although it at least exceeds minimum thresholds for that technology. The University line, by contrast, is using 75-80% of its capacity at its peak point, while Yonge is using 105% of its capacity at its peak point (all these percentages would fall a little when capacity-boosting measures come online for Y-U-S operations).

    Sheppard is only using about one quarter of its capacity, and that’s based on 4-car trains. If based on 6-car trains (which the infrastructure is designed with provision for), Sheppard is only using 17.5% of its capacity.

    So yes, it is accurate to say the Spadina and Sheppard subways are underused when the proper metric is applied. This is only measured at the peak points, not the ends of the lines.

    Bloor-Danforth, many don’t fully appreciate unless they ride it themselves, is actually running above 95% capacity at its peak points (there are two peak points, between Christie and Bathurst in the west, and between Sherbourne and Yonge in the east).

    The TTC could do a world of good in advancing informed debate and discussion by actually publishing average peak hour peak point passenger per hour per direction figures for each route on an annual basis. These figures currently only make the odd cameo appearance in special reports and is really a needle in a haystack – and that’s just for the subway. I’ve never seen such figures for the surface network, although people who are savvy with this stuff can calculate the approximate figure by interpreting the service summary data (it takes a good chunk of work though). TTC obviously has these figures, else they wouldn’t be able to design service schedules, but they don’t published them.


  28. I can’t think of the last time I was on a crowded train with standing room only at 10pm (outside of some special event – maybe), but then anecdotes mean nothing. However, subways are not the only solution to transit, particularly from places like Scarborough to downtown where GO is arguably more sensible over long distances. The assumption being made is that this is an immutable LRT vs. subway debate, which it is not, but rather about what is more appropriate now and where.

    Something like the DRL is needed to deal with the insufficient capacity of many existing streetcar lines and the overcrowding of transfers like Bloor-Yonge. As a new line it would be less of an operational loss than Lastman’s Sheppard line. It’s all well and good to suggest that subways are more “visionary” or “better”, but there are neither the riders to warrant them on Eglinton or Sheppard nor the money to build either.

    How do you suggest, Michael, that you’re call for subways be financed – both for the capital expenses of construction and maintenance and operating expenses? What tax instruments do you suggest or are you buying into Ford’s fantasy of “private money”?


  29. From what I read, and I may be wrong, this “Secret Sheppard Subway Report” was published in 1986, no details are given regarding methodology/criteria, etc, and probably the data was 1984 data.

    Steve: You couldn’t be more wrong. The “secret” report was written about one year ago by the TTC, and it was answering a basic question: why are the assumptions and conclusions of the 1986 Network 2011 study no longer valid? The reply uses actual changes in land use over the past 25 years compared to what the plan anticipated, as well as very large differences in employment numbers in the North York and Scarborough nodes. The report also talks about the fact that the ownership cost of subways is now acknowledged to be much higher than thought in 1986, a time before major subsystems in the subway had started to wear out and need replacement. As for the 1986 study, there are reams of info in its background reports, but as with any planning study, you have to be very familiar with the issues to critique projections 25 years into the future. The real problem is that the study was not updated to reflect changes from what had been anticipated, but which was clearly incorrect, long before 2011.

    Who knows.

    Surely there was some report or analysis after 1986. There had to be or,

    “what was the criteria that determined what was to be built for Transit City program which showed up in say 2007 (+/- or what ever.).”

    Did Transit City have a Report, that set criteria, and that we can all see, dated about say 2004?

    Steve: No. Transit City built off of the Official Plan of the City of Toronto which established the concept of “Avenues” of medium density development served mainly by surface transit. It also grew from the “Priority Neighbourhoods” identified by the City where a higher than average need for better services, including public transit, would produce improvements in the well-being of inhabitants. That led to the proposed route structure for Transit City. Some of the TC lines have been around in older plans for quite some time (notably, but not only, Eglinton). Transit City pulled all of this together in an LRT network that had a fighting chance of being built in our lifetimes without bankrupting the City.

    1986 is a long time ago.

    Steve: It certainly is, and the assumptions of planning at that time have been demonstrated to be (a) wildly optimistic, (b) erroneous and possibly (c) too supportive of the development dreams of suburban politicians. The similarity to our current environment where everyone is supposed to salute the Mayor is striking.


  30. Building an underground electric railway is one thing, but then there are operating costs to run it. While LED lights may eventually will get cheap enough to replace fluorescent lights, they will still have to remain on during the day because they are underground. Then there are staff needed to collect or verify fares, cleaning costs, maintenance costs, someone to turn the escalator back on because someone else wanted some fun by pressing the emergency off button, security costs, etc.

    Steve: And that’s only the beginning. When systems start to wear out (and they last nowhere near the century some subway advocates claim), the expenses mount up.


  31. So the Spadina line is underused. Doesn’t anyone remember what the Yonge subway was like when Spadina was closed for a week after Russell Hill? Spadina does what it’s supposed to do — intercept passengers who would otherwise use the Yonge subway. You cannot have it running at capacity into St. George. If it did, how would the line absorb the transfer loads from BD?

    Also, you can’t realistically expect towers next to every BD station. First, the line cuts through a residential area. Second, there is strong neighbourhood opposition along Bloor and Danforth to increased density. B.Streets condos near Honest Ed’s and 11 Christie St. are examples of condo projects that were downsized because of zoning, neighbourhood opposition, etc.

    As for Sheppard, I think the line’s ridership is OK. The Danforth stretch of BD from Yonge to Woodbine had the same level of ridership when it first opened. Mind you, it took Sheppard ten years for passenger volumes to reach their current levels.

    Finally, it’s a stretch to say that any of the development along Sheppard was triggered by the 401. The 401 has been there for ages, but nothing got built until Sheppard opened.

    Steve: I will take your Sheppard point first. I was not saying that the 401 created the towers, but that by the time the zoning was changed to develop “downtown North York”, both the 401 and the subway were there, and indeed approval of the subway was used to justify some of the zoning changes.

    As for developments at every station, I agree that we should not expect that, and the subway works with segments not at full capacity because everything builds to the peak points at the centre of the network.

    My argument is simply that any subway plan that requires or presumes massive development and demand at every station would be running contrary to how Toronto has developed over the past six decades. Developers build where there is a market, and an expressway is a powerful attractor. Because motorists can drive to the expressway, the corridor of development influenced by it is fairly wide by comparison with a transit route that must be accessed by walking or by a connecting bus ride.

    It’s the causality in claims about planning schemes I challenge.


  32. Instead of asking whether transit attracts people, perhaps asking what kind of people does transit attract? A subway that runs past the million dollar homes in Willowdale not busy? Shocking. I agree that the students of York U, people of Jane & Finch, and commuters from the burbs would have been much better served. It doesn’t do much to establish adequate cross-town routes, but at least it’d be busy.


  33. Another way to gauge the success of subway lines: If peak volumes on a subway is within the capacity of a much more affordable surface mode, and there’s no reason for it to be underground, that’s sunk costs and wasted money for the TTC and City.

    Regarding ownership and operating costs, I am very confident that the operating/maintenance costs of surface LRT line would be considerably lower than that of subways during the first 25 years of operation (the lifespan of the most short-lived infrastructure component, the rails). After 25 years, costs for both modes should rise, such that the costs of subways is still higher than that of surface LRT.

    Steve: More to the point, a subway tunnel and stations have a whole set of infrastructure to wear out that has no equivalent for surface lines: escalators and elevators, ventillation and drainage, signals, lighting and power.


  34. @Michael & others

    I strongly dispute the notion that Toronto is a successful model of Transit Oriented Development (TOD), unless your benchmark is Tulsa. In a similar vein to Steve’s earlier response about the financing, not necessarily the usage numbers or development possibilities, re: the Sheppard Subway, I think the discussion has to start at the humble zoning bylaw.

    No matter what you build (or where), Toronto requires you to build parking spots. Underlying this assumption is that you will always have customers wanting to drive to your destination and park (probably for free) and when you challenge this assumption, local residents or existing lot owners get huffy and say “well we don’t want them parking on MY street/lot!” (The solution to this is to allow neighbourhoods to charge non-residents for parking and then spend the revenue on neighbourhood improvements; but I digress.)

    You can formally apply for a parking exemption from the city; my favourite one is this. A developer wanted to build a three-storey Shoppers Drug Mart & medical clinic at Yonge & Lawrence. In order to build it without parking, they made an application to do so, got rejected, appealed to the OMB, did parking studies, and are asking the city to PAY $720 000 for the privilege of building no on-site parking.

    Chapter 200 of our zoning bylaw gives detailed minimum parking requirements for every possible land-use. Halfway down the table is multiple-dwelling unit: minimum 1.0 parking spots per dwelling unit (no max) plus 0.5 spots per unit for visitor parking. Ie, we assume every family has a car and this is a mandatory cost of residential development. Don’t even get me started on the free(-for-all) parking at GO stations. In Japan, you need a permit to park your BICYCLE at a train station.

    I’ve seen how this works on a neighbourhood scale: Liberty village, I weep for thee. Prime real estate, trendy, close to downtown, and zoned for density. Prime candidate for a new rapid transit line, you would think. Nope. Better service on the King streetcar? Oops, we delayed the vehicle order. Completion of the planned West Toronto Railtrail bike path, completely separated right into downtown? Stalled. The neighbourhood is bisected by a major rail corridor for Pete’s sake, and all we get is an extension of the Ossington bus. Don’t worry though, all those buildings have plenty of parking spaces… Congestion is already a huge problem. This at a time when two thirds of the planned development (and all the accompanying parking spots) isn’t even built yet.

    Toronto isn’t going to change situations like these by building lots of subways (with whose money anyway?) and somehow hoping people will then clamour for a bylaw change. No, we first have to take the bold decision to make driving an automobile bear its true costs. THEN we could afford and justify subways.


  35. Michael said:

    “I am happy no development happened on Danforth from Chester to Woodbine.

    The Danforth is one of the most interesting and unique places in the city, with a great streetlife and attractions. Why should that be knocked down for high-rises, just because a subway is there? If the subway is well used which it is, then it does not matter.”

    I take it that you’ve never walked between Donlands and Woodbine along Danforth. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be so happy and understand why people in the community are cautiously optimistic about the new condo project going up near Woodbine station.


  36. @Nerves. One of the success points of the TTC is that it is not just a system that carries poor people. So attracting those Willowdale people is important to. And sadly it seems the TTC is losing ground with attracting choice riders, because we are not trying innovate approaches to bus service, and other services to attract people.

    That being said, most of the richest areas of the city are near the subway, and these areas have transit usage rates close to middle class areas of the city. In fact transit usage rates across Toronto regardless of income, is pretty equal.

    @Karl Junkin. Why should we use peak point ridership? The 30,000 people per peak direction ridership number is the max capacity a subway can achieve. No one has ever said a subway is a failure if it carries under that number (except for Toronto transit advocates).

    Who cares if Spadina has a peak point ridership of 13,000 in the peak direction. That is still a ton of people, and that still warrants rapid transit service.

    Toronto transit advocates and planner would be shocked with peak period ridership numbers from European and other world subway systems, where overcrowding subway lines is not the objective of public transit.

    My friend was living in Berlin, and you can get a seat at rush hour, they put so much service out.

    NYC is all excited and trying to figure out how to handle passenger loads at the Bedford subway station, because it is now handling 20,000 riders a day. About equal to the daily usage rate of Wilson Station, or actually slightly less.

    Toronto has very weird expectations when it comes to transit usage rates. It is good we have such high expectations, but it is getting a little weird now to see people trying to discredit the Spadina subway line, suburban transit expansion, etc.


  37. It’s worth pointing out that the high-rise apartments around Fairview have been there for decades, probably because of the proximity of not only the 401 but the 401 too. That kind of development is common along Bathurst too from Steeles to Sheppard. On the other hand, such development is lacking along the YUS north of Eglinton West, and it’s taken many years to put even a handful of low-to-mid-rise buildings near Downsview or Wilson. Indeed, the area around Wilson has added big box shopping but hardly any other development in the past 20 years. Yorkdale station serves the mall, but the surrounding area is nothing but detached housing which is essentially unchanged from the post-war subdivision it started out as.

    To be honest, I’m quite happy not to see high-rises popping up near every subway station.


  38. David Gunn had a very practical approach. Put buses where needed. When the road can’t accommodate more, put in light rail. When light rail can’t meet the demand, then build a subway. In short, ridership determines the mode, in contrast to “build it and they will come.”


  39. Steve, I find that I learn as much about urban development from your blog as I do about transit. I read the paper that Glen noted in his post and thought it interesting. The idea that job density, rather than residential density, is the more significant factor in transit ridership makes an impression. You can have all kinds of fun with it (e.g. if the distribution of job and residential density were swapped in Toronto, would we still have the same transit ridership?).

    The more troubling matter for urban planners, it would seem, is their inability to plan the economy. If indeed job density determines commuting patterns more greatly than residential development, then we should be very careful with expensive projects. No subway could have kept the Portlands an industrial hub. No subway will keep call centre jobs at STC from migrating to Arizona or India.

    Sometimes I wonder whether politicians and planners dream-up “grand plans” to avoid addressing our present circumstances, whose address would actually require a grand plan.


  40. While I don’t know of LRTs that run at 15,000 an hour I’ve ridden on lines that run at 10,000 hour in the middle of the street. These lines run with tram of about 50m in length down major city boulevards and easily run at 2 minute intervals or less. I don’t why it’s taken as gospel that such frequency is impossible in Toronto. It certainly is and does not seem to make any difference to traffic.

    The low profile platform that run with these lines handle passenger numbers easily and passengers manage to cross the road to get to them. At interchanges with subways the may have underground passageways to cope with higher numbers.

    Frequent stations in downtown areas means that few stations are uncomfortable to use.


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