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this material only covers one big question: why are the assumptions from the Network 2011 study done back in 1986 no longer valid?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. If we had the same degree of user/abuser pay for the cars/trucks/mobile furnaces as we have for our transit, it wouldn’t matter a bit that some subways don’t run quite as full as others etc. But we have willful blindness from many politicians and most of the public and newspapers etc. about car subsidies, so we need to be careful about where we put our scarce billions.

    And to put Mr. Webster’s severance change in perspective, the F*s killed off an EA study with a signed contract last summer to explore putting in a good bikeway parallel to the massive daily demand of the Bloor/Danforth subway, which thanks to Karl’s keen observations, is at 95% capacity, if not moreso. That contract was for $500,000 and I think could have had the effect of expanding the subway for the price of paint as I’m reasonably sure there are more than a few riders who would bike to save money, avoid crowds, and get to places – if it were safer and maintained.

    Meanwhile, the Star had a lot of transit content yesterday, and this Secret Sheppard report was mentioned. Scroll through it all and enjoy some Schadenforde… and think of sharing it widely too.


  2. 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?

    Nerves, I believe states it best. Why would people use transit? and What kind of people use transit? In answering this question, this is obvious, would be the case for many people do not have a car, or users are people who cannot afford running their present car due to high gas prices. The real question after that is, how do we attract regular car drivers out of the cars, and into transit. One other person mentioned about parking lots. Transit i feel can only be used “by drivers” if they have good parking accessibility and affordable cost. Drivers will use Transit. NEW DRIVERS, converting to using Transit WILL NOT WALK FROM THEIR HOUSE, for 1 to 2 kilometers to an LRT STATION, but they will drive to their local subway stations, with cost effective parking available and now Transit is Fast, Useable and Accessible.

    The reason people drive, is mostly since they tend to “lazy” in nature, and even don’t wish to walk, or don’t have the time to walk. So the real question is how is Transit made useable for attracting New Riders. The present LRT Plan does not attract new riders, since people have to walk twice as far, than if they took the regular bus.

    Steve: Most subway stations do not have parking, certainly not in the quantity needed to generate sufficient demand to justify a subway. As for a walk to an LRT station, considering that the widest station spacing on Eglinton is 1km, it will be hard for someone to face a 2km walk to get to one of them. If we were so concerned about walking distances, why did we build the North Yonge and Sheppard lines with stations 2km apart? Probably because the assumption was that these were designed to be fed from the terminals, not from people living along the way.


  3. This is off topic, but has the TTC mentioned how they intend to handle shutdowns on the surface sections of the Finch and Eglinton LRTs when the tracks need replacement in 20 years? Are they using just ballast on these RoWs?

    Steve: No they have not, but it should be noted that current track construction techniques require only the removal of the top (of three) layers of concrete (the lower two are the road base and the anchor for the ties, respectively). All of the construction you see around town, weeks at a time, is rebuilding streetcar track (and the road itself) right down to the base. Of course, there’s the small matter of subway shutdowns for major trackwork and structural repairs, but I suppose they don’t count.


  4. Michael, you said:

    “Toronto transit advocates and planners 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 reply to this would be

    “Subway advocates in Toronto, especially those who swallow Ford’s story about subways at little or no cost to the taxpayer, would be shocked at the subsidies received from state and national governments in Europe and even the U.S. (and by extension, the higher income tax and sales tax rates necessary to fund them).”

    Here’s a study showing the source of financing for public transport in six of the largest metro areas in Western Europe, including Berlin.

    The money quote:

    “In all the areas analysed there is a strong component of public financing (subventions) in the cost structure of the public transport system. The operational costs covered by the fare revenue amount to less than 50% in all metropolitan areas.”

    If we could get operational funding (not the money to build, but to run the system daily) on a level like that, then maybe we can talk about a more extensive subway building project.


  5. The quality of public services and infrastructure in countries like Austria and Germany frankly makes Canada’s seem shabby in comparison. Even a small city like Innsbruck (~150,000) has trams and a level of bus service that is unheard of in most Canadian cities; peak frequencies on some routes are sometimes under five minutes. Of course, Innsbruck is also served by rail to an extent that exceeds by an order of magnitude all Via and GO services at Union Station combined. It’s true that it’s a fairly compact city, but not dramatically so. Austria has about the population of Southern Ontario (a bit less really) over a comparable area.

    What’s the difference then? Simple – higher taxes – and a manufacturing industry that focuses on value-added quality. It applies to hospitals and health care too (a higher proportion is public whatever rhetoric about “mixed public-private systems” you hear).


  6. re: subway rehabilitation compared with streetcar/LRT rehabilitation: one important difference is that the subway work can be done overnight. I would suspect surface track work would need to be done during the day due to noise by-law requirements.

    On the other hand, if the LRVs operate on tracks in a ROW rather than in mixed traffic, presumably they would be able to operate for at least part of the construction period (when rails are in place but concrete has been removed)?

    Steve: A lot depends on how the LRT trackbed is constructed.


  7. The Toronto Sun had an interesting set of stories about the non-starter topic of getting the province to upload control of the TTC to Metrolinx.

    What was quite interesting was that Doug Ford seems to be grudgingly in favour of the idea … though he also says that the TTC can be a “new and improved” organization when the commission is changed beginning in 1 week.

    What had me laughing out loud was Christina Blizzard’s column, on the third page, where she attempts to quote the well-known (and oft-quoted) Simpsons episode “Marge vs. the Monorail”, using the approach that the LRT is being sold to us just as the monorail was sold to the people of Springfield … by a shameless huckster.

    The irony (which may have escaped Blizzard’s notice) was that Doug Ford was the one who brought the idea of a real monorail to the waterfront, while the Provincial Government (Queen’s Park is Blizzard’s ‘beat’) is the one responsible for the pseudo “monorail” (also operating under the aliases “LRT”, “RT” and “ICTS”) that runs in Scarborough.

    With such a “track record” (pardon the pun) how can we be confident that Doug Ford or the Provincial Government have any idea how public transport works.

    Or have things sunk so low that subway supporters are attempting to blur the lines between anything that is “not a subway” (monorail or LRT) or “is a subway” (anything underground) to get support for their “people want subways” agenda … one that conveniently ignores the second part which is “but they don’t want to pay for them.”

    Oh and on the note of paying for the subway, Norm Kelly recently talked about a 0.5% tax on goods and services sold within Toronto to pay for … well, it would probably raise enough money to pay for subway operations …

    But wasn’t former Mayor Miller talking about 1% of the GST for Toronto just a few years ago? How much different was that from what Councillor Kelly is talking about now?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: The right wing seems to be tripping over each other catching up to Ford’s embrace of new revenue streams. The fact that they can go from being a “no new taxes” slash and burn brigade to answering the siren’s call when it will fund their pet project shows just how inconsistent politicians can be. I am waiting for the “Save Our Subway” meeting where they serious pitch the idea of the new taxes once they see just how much they will need to raise.

    Of course, Rob may have been misquoted, in which case they will all have to be fired next week when he figures out what’s been going on 😉


  8. “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.”

    I don’t believe that the plans should be considered to have been “wildly optimistic”. They were extrapolated from the period that preceded it. They could not have predicted the move to CVA taxes and absence of the needed rebalancing between residential and commercial property taxes.

    Compare this to the time when Transit City and the Avenue plans were made. Those plans ignored, in wholesale fashion, the plausibility of the predicted development occurring. Those areas, like most in the city, had declining demand for commercial / office space. This was ignored. Making those plans wildly optimistic.

    The only thing worse than spending great sums of money on LRT’S based on unrealistic assumptions is spending even more on Subways based on the same.

    Steve: Which begs the question of which “realistic” set of expectations will keep everyone happy? The Avenue plans, by the way, for suburban areas had a lot of residential along transit streets, not commercial.


  9. The 1986 [report] was realistic at one point. The other, never. As for your second point, as this recent report shows the added residential density would not stimulate ridership. So long as the city loses office development to the 905 region the only large scale transit expansion that should be considered is the DRL.


  10. For me, the lower than projected ridership is another proof that the city failed to build the rapid transit as needed. People would rather driving than taking slow and unreliable transit and businesses would prefer investing in downtown rather than other areas without subways. It is a mission of the government to build the infrastructure for the next 50 and 100 years. I am very interesting in seeing the ridership projection of the Yonge line when they decided to build.

    Steve: Except that businesses invested in the 905, and for quite some time, downtown construction was overwhelmingly residential. Even at North York Centre, where many subway-induced buildings went up in decades past, commercial occupancy fell. I believe that the fundamental flaw in “subway” development schemes from years past is that they ignored the fact that a large proportion of people bound for places like North York Centre come from a direction not served by the subway. If anything, this emphasizes the importance of a network (of whatever technology), not just radial expansion of downtown-focused lines.


  11. A Sheppard Subway will become the “gravy train” for Rob Ford and his followers. If it is built, the operating subsidizes will be high. Unless the TTC gets increased operating subsidizes from the city, province, AND federal governments, which other jurisdictions in the world get to operate their underground electric railways (if there is no other revenue coming in from real estate holdings like in some Asian cities), we can expect losses in operating the line without ignoring the NIMBY’s and history the TTC has experienced with its current suburban stations.


  12. Toronto seems to have subway envy of the systems in older cities such as New York, London, Chicago, etc. One thing that most of these subways and undergrounds have in common is that, except in the CBD, most aren’t underground. Why does everything built in Toronto have to be in a subway? Granted there are sections that need to be underground, but Danforth from Warden to Kennedy, Yonge across Hogg’s Hollow, Spadina from Wilson Yard to Vaughan, possible Yonge Extension to Wherever?

    The city has wasted billions putting lines underground to pander to locals, like the Ford brothers, who did not want their view ruined by having to see the lower class hordes crammed into their transit system.

    Chicago has third rail powered 8 car trains making level crossing with public streets protected only be flashing lights and gates; Toronto went under the Don River so the good burgers of North York wouldn’t have to look at a covered bridge crossing the valley. It would ruin their view, as if the towers that go up won’t. I talked to a TTC electrician who just retired and he said he had spent 3 1/2 days a week in the sump room of York Mills Station since it opened keeping the pumps working. I hope they have an auxiliary generator.

    If Toronto ever builds the DRL then only tunnel that which is necessary, under some downtown streets from some point on the Kingston sub to some point on the Weston sub. Follow the rails lines as much as possible, especially in the the west. In the east you would probably have to tunnel again from near Greenwood yard to the Don Valley then use it to get to the CP Belleville sub and follow it as much as possible. You might have to expropriate to widen the right of way but it would be cheaper than tunnelling.

    Stop this fixation with putting everything in a tunnel; it makes for a boring ride.


  13. M. Briganti said: 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?

    Partially agree; the University line was supposed to intercept Yonge subway users – originally from both directions, but mainly from the west. The Spadina subway was Toronto’s first purely political subway play in its trumping of the DRL (then known as the Queen subway). The DRL has a roughly 33% higher ridership projection than what Spadina currently carries – that’s some serious perspective in my view.

    As I said, Spadina carries 13,000 at its peak point. However, in the AM peak hour at Finch station, the demand heading south is also 13,000. Finch and Sheppard stations are only 4 years older than the Spadina line (excluding Downsview). How is it after 34 years of revenue service that the Spadina line is barely pulling its weight? North of Eglinton West, the hourly ridership is far lower than at the peak point (big jumps in demand occur both at Eglinton and at St Clair).

    M. Briganti said: 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.

    When BD was built, the streetcars the subway would replace were already meeting a demand of 7,000/hr, and projected to rise to 9,000 in the medium term. The latter figure is double what Sheppard is pulling today – not exactly comparable.

    Michael said: @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.

    We should use peak point ridership to determine what technology we need. All transit technologies’ passenger-carrying capability is measured by it (the metric of pphpd).

    The max capacity of the subway currently is 30,000, true, on paper (Yonge line struggles to meet 28,000 because of Bloor-Yonge dwells), and it can, in theory, be increased to 37,500. Yonge is maxed out. Bloor-Danforth runs at 24,500. University is around 20,500. These are all healthy figures, although Yonge’s situation is precarious.

    Nobody is suggesting that a subway is a failure if it doesn’t have a demand equal to its maximum capacity, but a subway is generally considered a failure if it can’t meet 10,000/hr at peak. Bloor-Danforth exceeds 9,000 for its entirely length except between Kipling and Islington. Yonge and University never fall below 10,000. Spadina is below 10,000 north of Eglinton. Only Spadina and Sheppard are the laggards.

    The 13,000 for Spadina is significant because, after 34 years, it is still within a ridership band that could, albeit barely, be met by LRT in a grade-separated setting. Yes, rapid transit is warranted, no question, but not as far north as it runs; the portion running along the expressway is not carrying enough people for that kind of technology, and if it didn’t link to a major yard it would be a genuine white elephant.

    Toronto planners would be shocked if they could get the level of subsidies for the transit system as is provided by European governments. Actually, on the flip side, conservatives at City Hall and Queen’s Park would be shocked to see how much money the operating budget would need to stay afloat if it was built and run like a European system. There’s a topic I haven’t heard much time given to in the recent transit debates, as they tend to focus only on the capital cost. How much are you willing to pay for a one-way fare and how much are you prepared to see you property taxes rise by for a European-style subway network? That’s the real kind of questions that should be being asked. The DRL can meet this stress test, but other subway proposals, except possibly Eglinton, couldn’t.


  14. The lack of growth in business in Toronto can be connected to many factors including:

    -Tax rates which are higher than the surrounding 905

    -A Toronto economic development office which is not that interested in retaining or attracting business, the way our 905 suburbs are. When asked a question about business flight to the 905, Toronto economic development said there is not really anything they can do, and that it might be better to have business leave. Clearly, the economic development office needs help, as any other city would be screaming to retain jobs.

    -A transportation system which did not keep up with growth. Yes offices were built in the 905, along highways. However for the most part, offices were kept in more central areas like Highway 407/404 and near the airport. Most other business development in the 905 was warehousing.

    -Lack of metropolitan planning to stop job sprawl.

    Places like Scarborough Centre did not take off as much as say NYCC, because it is not really central, and is hard to get to without proper transport connections.

    @steve: Some would argue that providing more downtown centric transit would help limit job sprawl, as business will not move to suburban locations if their workers can’t get to their offices easily. And given the pent up demand for downtown bound transit, maybe we should focus on that first, instead of making it easy to get to Meadowvale Business Park, which alone is responsible for thousands of extra car trips each day, as a large number of workers in that business park used to work in downtown Toronto, before their jobs were moved out.


  15. @Michael

    Another reason why peak volumes, rather than daily ridership, is used: 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 a lot of wasted money from the TTC and City.

    @Karl Junkin and Michael

    I could understand the confusion about the use of peak ridership versus daily ridership, particularly when Transit City’s own presentations and EA’s show daily ridership, rather than peak ridership, for the busiest bus routes as a justification for selecting these routes for LRT.


  16. Jacob Louy said: I could understand the confusion about the use of peak ridership versus daily ridership, particularly when Transit City’s own presentations and EA’s show daily ridership, rather than peak ridership, for the busiest bus routes as a justification for selecting these routes for LRT.

    Good point. I remember being a little baffled when I was wondering around the PICs, because if you actually work out how much capacity is being provided on paper, Eglinton East is pushing near or above 3,000 an hour – a figure that is generally agreed to be unrealistic to carry by bus (some would argue by a 50% margin (!!!) unless artics are used (which TTC doesn’t)). Eglinton East obviously wouldn’t really be providing that capacity since it is operationally impossible, but it is an astounding existing condition nonetheless.

    Steve: The actual AM peak services operated on Eglinton between Mt. Pleasant and Laird total 55 buses/hour. East of Brentcliffe (a short distance east of Laird), the character of the street changes, Eglinton becomes almost an express route over to Don Mills, and two frequent services (the 54 Lawrence East and 100 Flemingdon Park) peel off before we are left with the 34 Eglinton East on a 4’30” headway.

    At a service design capacity of 55 (which is a tad generous), that works out to 3,025 passengers per hour on a combined headway of about 65 seconds. What would be really interesting would be the comparison figures for road traffic. Note, by the way, that eastbound there is a transit-only lane that is “usually” not blocked by parked vehicles.


  17. You know, deep down I actually hope that the Sheppard advisory panel recommends a short subway extension, just so that the Finch LRT can fall into an earlier timeslot.

    Now, hopes for an early implementation of LRT on Finch may be dashed by the Sheppard LRT. And I feel that the decision to push the advisory panel to come forward sooner (now March 15th), makes an all-LRT on Sheppard more likely.

    Mixed feelings right now.

    Steve: Media reports have the panel recommending all LRT. There’s a timing issue nobody has talked about yet with the LRT tunnel under the DVP — there won’t be a free boring machine for a while if all of the equipment is tied up on Eglinton.


  18. The Star is reporting that the meeting of Council to consider the Sheppard Report will be March 15. It’s on City website but, of course, no details to date. (March 15, 2012 – 9:30 AM – Meeting 20 (Special) – Scheduled )


  19. In the United States, the Republicans are just plain loony in their opposition to all taxes – no matter how beneficial. Canadians seem to be able to understand the looniness of the Republicans, but we have been captured by some of their truisms. We seem to be hesitant about assessing taxes adequate to get the job done and we have elected our own loony as Mayor. As has been pointed out by others, European style transit requires European style taxes – and we (wrongly my view) are unwilling to pay the levy. The TTC operated for a long time at 83% (or so) cost recovery from fares and only lately, with the RGS has slipped by 10% or a bit more. Historically, even its glory days, the TTC recovered 66% or so.

    By all means build – and pay for – subways to everywhere and LRTs into even less dense areas. However, that means embracing the whole equation – including paying for it, which contains not just capital costs, but also operating subsidies. For a subway such as Sheppard that means moving the TTC much closer to 50% subsidy – or even more. I can’t even imagine the subsidy required for a Finch subway. In any case – with an understanding of the true facts – if that is our society’s goal I would not be fundamentally opposed. Transit is good.

    However, that is not the choice that our Buffoon is offering “the taxpayers”. He wants to offer these subways with American style (not even Canadian style) taxes. How can we magically afford the required operating subsidies? If we are not prepared to offer a 50% subsidy on our existing system, the only source of funding is shrinking the system and spending the available subsidies on big money losing subways. This means less and poorer service for the bus network which is a key component of the current TTC. Ironically, the success of the subways that we have – especially the BD – is predicated on an excellent feeder bus network. Destroying the feeder bus network would be a great way to ensure a terrible transit future – no one riding and expensive empty subways.

    The “private sector” does not actually invest in money losing transit unless they are well paid by way of subsidies. Furthermore, the “private sector” only engages in building public amenities if they are guaranteed a strong cash flow until they are paid in full – along with a generous ongoing profit margin. There is not magic bullet – in order to attract investors we have to offer guaranteed access to future cash flows at a profit margin in excess of other investment opportunities such as, for example, Municipal Debentures. (It should be remembered that Cities are forbidden to run a deficit on Operations. The “Debt” that the Fordites refer to is for infrastructure and is in the form of Municipal Debentures which bear an attractive interest rate. “Private Sector” development will bear an implicit interest rate that is higher. This is a fact that our Mayor would like to obscure.)

    Transit City was about as much as our last Mayor thought he could “get away with” given our collective reluctance to pay proper taxes. It balances the service level to the demand and the available subsidy. I have nothing in principal against underused subways and would hope they advance the campaign to attract drivers from cars. However, they cannot be built in the current environment where taxes have become anathema. There is no free ride.

    The divisive message that B&B (Buffoon and Brother) are delivering in suburban forums is not worthy of a “Mayor of all the people” or even his spokesperson. The idea that this stuff can be built for free is just a lie. Pledging future tax revenue to a private sector consortium is more expensive than issuing bonds.

    What is being proposed is similar to the “death spiral” of department stores. Changes in society have lead to a decline in department store shopping. It came to a point where the only profitable part of the operation was the credit card. Store after store sold its credit cards for a one time gain – foregoing any future profit from that source. Selling our future tax revenues to the “private sector” would be similar folly.


  20. Steve said: There’s a timing issue nobody has talked about yet with the LRT tunnel under the DVP — there won’t be a free boring machine for a while if all of the equipment is tied up on Eglinton.

    Nobody’s talked about it because there is nothing to talk about; that tunnel will be too shallow for a TBM and would be constructed by cut-and-cover. For geotechnical reasons, bored TTC tunnels would have to have their top-of-rail level at least 9-10m below the road surface (a little deeper preferred).

    Steve: Yes, looking at the designs in the EA, the box section for the LRT station goes far enough east that boring the tunnel would not work. I look forward to seeing the construction plans for digging under the expressway.


  21. DavidC said: “It’s on City website but, of course, no details to date.”

    Other than a subtle reference to a Roman Emperor who also had a ‘career altering experience’ on the Ides of March.


  22. Regarding the LRT/Subway between Don Mills Sta. and say Victoria Park.

    A tunnel has to be bored under the Don Valley. That’s a fixed cost, LRT or Subway. Very little cost savings in running the LRT to Don Mills. It’s time to fix a mistake.

    There are four TBM’s on the Spadina Extension. They even have names : Holey, Moley, Yorkie & Torkie. Surely two of them will be in running order by 2013. Not a big cost saving but what did they do in Madrid?

    Steve: The LRT would surface west of Consumers Road, while the subway will go all the way to Vic Park and will almost certainly have tail tracks beyond the station. That’s two more underground stations costing at least $125-million each, plus the longer tunnel. As Karl Junkin has pointed out in an earlier comment, the tunnel (regardless of technology) will be too shallow to build with a boring machine and will have to be cut-and-cover.


  23. I thought everyone agreed it made sense to take the subway to Vic. Park and start the LRT there, since it’s going to be underground anyway.

    Steve: The extra cost of subway stations at Consumers and Victoria Park, plus the extra tunnel (and no doubt tail tracks beyond) could not be justified by the ridership.


  24. As Karl Junkin has pointed out in an earlier comment, the tunnel (regardless of technology) will be too shallow to build with a boring machine and will have to be cut-and-cover.

    Oh, I have confused corridors in the previous comment (I automatically think Eglinton when you say DVP because I’m used to instinctively thinking of Sheppard as crossing the 404, even though they’re the same highway except with different ownership). I thought you were talking about the reported design change (the status of which I remain unclear on) to stay under at the DVP along Eglinton and what that tunnel would entail – sorry, my mistake (that’s what I get for commenting late at night). I haven’t seen any profile drawings for Sheppard’s LRT tunnel as no vertical alignment drawings were published in the EA, only horizontal alignment, except at the GO Uxbridge crossing. I’ve always found that kind of curious since it is in stark contrast to other Transit City EAs that all had vertical alignments published.


  25. Cut and cover across 404/DVP should be interesting and expensive.

    For cut and cover you need a work zone on top for vehicle access. The work zone has to be more than 20 ft long (2 lanes).

    The standard decking for cut and cover (12″ x 12″ timbers and a wear surface) is OK for vehicles travelling 50 kph. For cars travelling 120 kph something else will be needed.

    At the Airport they built a tunnel under a runway (cut and cover, no TBM). The runway was shut down for the work.

    Anyway let the designers figure it out.


  26. Dear Steve:

    General-Specific re: modes & application:

    How viable would a monorail or gondola system or Wuppertal or mag lev solution be for GTA usage?

    Would LRT be best system for Highway 7 in York Region?

    Steve: All elevated systems share a common problem: their effect on the streets over which they run. If a route can go “cross country” and interact with streets only where it crosses them, then the structure is less detrimental. However, many routes people want to travel align with streets, not with the few available rights-of-way. Elevated systems require stations that occupy a considerable amount of space. Where this can be integrated with new development, the effect can be reduced, but this presumes new or redeveloped land along a route.

    Gondola systems do not have high capacity on a par with the sort of rapid transit lines we need in the GTA, and their application is far more appropriate to locations with geographic constraints notably absent in our area.

    I note that you don’t mention Skytrain technology which, at least, has the advantage of being a developed mode used in rapid transit configurations.

    The common issue through all of this is that we can put transit on the surface with BRT or LRT, or we can move it above or below grade. That move has a big effect on the cost of implementation and operation. LRT has the advantage that it can be at grade where room is available, but can run in tunnel where space is tight.

    I cannot help thinking of Yonge Street in Richmond Hill where even VIVA cannot get a right-of-way to avoid road widening. How would an elevated look in the middle of that street, or in any of the other former small towns around York Region?


  27. Being a Richmond Hill resident, I can’t see anyway for LRT to run up Yonge without tunneling between Harding and Crosby unless they were to remove the parking lane which seems even less likely than a Yonge LRT.

    Originally York considered turning the Highway 7 BRT into a LRT once demand justified it, but they seem to have dropped all mention of this from their VivaNext proposals, with only future LRT appearing as a possible extensions of the Don Mills and Jane TC routes up to Highway 7. They do have a disclaimer saying BRT routes are being designed with ability for conversion to LRT as ridership increases.

    Steve: I never had much faith in York’s commitment to LRT because it would require a recognition that street space should be taken on a wider basis than just those locations where it was already easy to drop in a BRT lane and platforms.


  28. My impression is that the plan for Viva is to build what’s currently planned and then have sell itself to the public so that people clamour for expansion.

    One nice thing about tunnelling between Harding and Crosby basically involves going straight into the side of a steep hill, so the portal would be very small.

    I’m more worried about the Highway 7 section under the 404. Right now, the plan seems to be to build a single-lane median, so eastbound buses and westbound buses would have to take turns.


  29. Peter said, “I can’t see anyway for LRT to run up Yonge without tunneling between Harding and Crosby unless they were to remove the parking lane which seems even less likely than a Yonge LRT. “

    On my York Region Options page on my site, I outline what could be built with the $1.4 billion expected cost of a subway extension north of Steeles if LRT were to be used instead. LRT on Yonge would have to be in a tunnel from about half way between Harding and Major Mac to a couple of blocks north of Crosby.

    Peter also said, “Originally York considered turning the Highway 7 BRT into a LRT once demand justified it, but they seem to have dropped all mention of this from their VivaNext proposals.”

    While not mentioned on the VIVAnext site, I believe that when the EAs were done on the busways, the phrase “protect for future conversion to LRT” was used frequently. With rapidways now under construction, it is not necessary to make mention of this as the focus is on the current work. That does not mean that it is off the table.


  30. Leo said about Highway 7 at the 404, “Right now, the plan seems to be to build a single-lane median, so eastbound buses and westbound buses would have to take turns.”

    That is true, however it is a far cry better than what a number of the display boards at the open houses showed: the rapidway lane for each direction would merge into traffic just on the 404-side of the off-ramp traffic lights on each side of the 404. I knew at that time that there was only space to add one lane through the underpass and wondered why they were not even considering doing that. At least that one lane will be added.

    There has been no indication if they may have transit signals to help guide the buses through this gauntlet. Another idea might be to use the rapidway lane for only one direction during peak times, if it weren’t for the fact that Highway 7 tends to be almost equally busy in both directions at both peak times. Perhaps that may change a little when the Beaver Creek-Allstate Parkway mid-block crossing over the 404 is complete.


  31. Calvin Henry-Cotnam said: LRT on Yonge would have to be in a tunnel from about half way between Harding and Major Mac to a couple of blocks north of Crosby.

    I’m intrigued by this. What forces the portal south of Major Mac and north of Crosby (as opposed to portals immediately north of Major Mac and immediately south of Crosby)?


  32. “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.”

    And if we followed David Gunn’s view, our transit ridership would be dismal. David Gunn’s management style is good for one thing, and that is operating transit under a tight budget, and with the goal of only carrying people who have no choice, by cramming them into the most crowded buses you can put out.

    I find this really concerning that transit advocates in this day and age don’t understand we are not in 1950’s Toronto anymore. If you wait for demand to build on a bus or LRT train, you will never get it today. Because people today have options (cars). They are not going to crowd onto buses, and then onto LRT, and then wait for subways to be built.

    If the bus or LRT service is slow and can’t compete withe car, then they will just drive, and the demand will never be there.

    We see this in a number of places.

    Demand for Vancouver rapid transit projects were cut in half when Transit City LRT was explored, instead of Skytrain technology. Vancouver could have built LRT, but the additional ridership would never have come, because the LRT was too slow to attract car drivers in large numbers.

    The GO Train here is a great example of not creating demand. Many would say to run the trains once a hour until demand warrants more service. But this ignores the fact that people are not riding the GO Train now, because they don’t want to wait an hour for a train if they get out of a show early, or something.

    Transit must compete. It can not rely on just having riders like it did in the past.

    Toronto’s transit system competed with the car well into the 1980’s, and this showed with massive ridership gains.

    But waiting for demand to rise is not going to happen in the modern society. You have to create the demand to an extent by building an attractive service. I don’t care if it is busways, lrt, or subways. But the service has to be fast and compete with the car, as well as offer frequent service, and service at most times of the day and night seven days a week.

    Steve: The massive gains of the 80s came from population and job growth within the 416. You are confusing “competing with the car” with “good transit”. They are not the same thing.

    I could believe some of the pro-subway rants if only I had a sense that the Ford Faction believed in providing good surface transit on routes that don’t have their precious subways. Instead, they cut service because it isn’t “efficient” enough. We can’t decry the bean-counters when talking about LRT, but act just like them when looking at day-to-day operations.

    Transit competes when a bus I need to get to a subway station actually runs often enough that I don’t need a timetable, and with a reasonable expectation that I will be able to get on.


  33. If they go this route, I honestly hope they spend the extra bit and just convert Sheppard LRT. What most Scarborough riders are tired off is transferring. You can sugarcoat it all you want, with same platform transfers and the like. But it just plain sucks.

    If they go LRT, convert Sheppard and build LRT from Weston to the zoo.


  34. Honestly, this historical report kinda feels like failure. So they planned and built a subway and do everything else that was required to get ridership on the subway. No serious matching increases in density. No promotion of Scarborough and North York City Centres as centres of employment (and only limited effort at residential density in STC over the last few years). Given this history, would even LRT get the success that Miller and his ilk imagined? Seems like development plans never support the transit plans.


  35. Steve, given that everyone (except Rob Ford) says a Sheppard subway is unfeasible, why not try to integrate the Sheppard LRT rather than forcing yet another transfer on the TTC ridership. I was in Pittsburgh last summer and they run an LRT/Subway lite in their city. The vehicles are very similar to the proposed LRT vehicles. However they have one unique difference, they have two sets of doors. One set of high floor doors for stations that are underground in the core (subway portion) and other major stations along the route. And one set of low floor doors for stations that are located beside or in the median of the street.

    Using this type of vehicle we could build the Sheppard East LRT run the vehicles through the Sheppard subway tunnels and all would be, hopefully, happy no?

    Steve: Pittsburgh’s door arrangement is left over from an era when low floor cars were uncommon, and the old fleet consisted of cars for loading at street-level platforms. The door arrangement is primarily for high-platform stations and this constrains capacity when loading through the “low” door of which there is only a single narrow one per side per car. Another possible arrangement is the high/low scheme used in San Francisco with movable steps in the stairwells. In either case, this would require a special fleet of non-standard cars just for the Sheppard line. All of the new maintenance facilities are designed for low floor cars with equipment on the roof, but a high floor car has underfloor gear for which shops must have pits for access.

    It’s worth noting that the height of subway platforms is considerably greater than the existing “high floor” of a CLRV/ALRV streetcar and, by implication, of any “high floor” LRV we might procure. There would still be a mismatch between a “high floor” LRV and the subway platforms.

    I really think we should concentrate our efforts and our available capital on getting the Sheppard LRT built rather than spending a lot of time thinking about conversion of the subway. That may be a project for another day, but it is quite some distance in the future.


  36. I do concur with John about Sheppard. If Sheppard is to be an LRT, then make it all an LRT. Otherwise you are talking about least two transfers to get downtown: one at Yonge and one at Don Mills. And if it were all an LRT line, it would make it easier if the TTC ever wanted to head west along Sheppard with an LRT.

    I would like to see Transit City built. The only new subway line we need at the moment is the DRL. But the issue I see with transit is that people will use their cars if it is more practical for them, so yes a good transit system has to be able to compete with the car.

    Steve: Making conversion of the existing subway to LRT part of the package almost guarantees that an LRT won’t be built. Double transfers are commonplace for all who get downtown by taking a bus to the BD subway and then transfer at Yonge or St. George. The idea that we should eliminate a transfer at Don Mills as a high priority in the network plans begs the question of whether this is more important than other improvements including the DRL.


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