The Sheppard LRT Report (Part IV)

Now we come to what I must call “The Chong Dissent”, the reports prepared under the company “Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited” (TTIL), a dormant TTC corporation resurrected for the purpose because it had $160k sitting in its bank account.  All this and more was spent to argue the case for a Sheppard Subway.

Council has already opted for an LRT line on Sheppard, but arguments originating from the TTIL reports continue to haunt the debate.  It’s time to expose their threadbare, self-serving nature.

Continue reading

The Sheppard LRT Report (Part III)

Many background presentations informed the Expert Panel’s review of options for the Sheppard corridor.  This article is the first of two summarizing and commenting on this information.

There are six groups of documents:

  • Professor Eric Miller’s comments
  • Metrolinx presentations and reports
  • TTC presentations and reports
  • Toronto Transit Infrsatructure Ltd. (TTIL) presentations and reports
  • City of Toronto presentations and reports
  • Third Party reports

TTIL is the TTC subsidiary through which Dr. Chong’s pro-subway work reported.  Given the amount of material, I will deal with reports from TTIL, the City and Third Parties in the fourth and final article in this series.

Continue reading

Toronto Council Approves Sheppard East LRT

Toronto Council, after over a day and a half’s debate, has approved the construction of a Sheppard East LRT from Don Mills to Morningside by a vote of 24-19.  This completes the rout of Mayor Ford’s subway plan and returns transit plans more or less to their position when he was elected.  The Mayor vows to fight on, but now sees this as a future campaign issue.

Today’s debate was, for the most part, more civil and organized than what we heard yesterday, except for an outburst from the Mayor and a speech showing his passionate hatred for streetcars.

Now the ball is in Metrolinx’ court to come up with a construction staging plan allowing for the year-plus delay.  During the debate, some members of the pro-subway faction claimed that, according to private conversations with Metrolinx, work would not start on the Sheppard LRT until 2016.  My own sources tell me that this is not true, but we must await a definitive word from the Provincial agency.

The Sheppard LRT decision also ensures that the Scarborough RT extension will be part of the plan with the new LRT line running, initially, to Sheppard Avenue and using Conlins Road carhouse as a base.  A motion by Councillor Cho, which passed as part of the package, seeks funding for extending the SRT/LRT northeast to Malvern Centre and the Sheppard LRT south via Morningside to UTSC campus.  “Streetcars” might reach Malvern only five decades or so after the TTC’s original proposal.

A number of additional motions related to long range planning and funding of transit expansion.  These were referred to the City Manager for future reports.  Strangely absent in the discussion was any mention of the role Metrolinx and  its “Big Move 2.0” might take in these discussions.

The details of the decision are available online.

This is an important day for Toronto.  We are on track for an LRT-based plan and for a more detailed evaluation of our transit future than we have seen for decades.  Talking about one line at once, about fundraising for one project at once, is no longer an accepted way of building the city.  Leaving the debate to a secretive Provincial agency is no longer acceptable, and the City is clearly setting out on its own review.  Co-operation is essential given the funding arrangements, but Queen’s Park must stop hiding from the transit planning and financing files.

Finally, a personal note.  Throughout this debate, I have been gratified by the broad understanding of transit issues displayed by many Councillors, advocates and media.  This blog and my own advocacy have helped, but there is the compound effect of so many people working with an informed sense of the topic.  Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in this victory.

Sheppard East Vote Delayed to March 22, 2012

Council did not finish its debate by 8pm on March 21, and a motion to extend time failed, barely, on a vote of 28-15 (a 2/3 majority was needed because this would be a procedural change).

The pro-subway forces are running the clock, but they are simply wasting everyone’s time.  On a simple majority basis, the LRT option will pass.

Come back at 9:30 am on March 22.

The Sheppard LRT Report (Part II)

In the previous article, I reviewed the three main options under study for Sheppard East as well as the comments of the City Planning and Finance departments on various related issues.

In this article, I turn to the Expert Panel’s evaluation of the options, their scoring system, and the question of bias in the process.

The analysis and scoring begins on page 39 of the Expert Panel Report.  The panel chose three broad areas for analysis, and subdivided each of these into three subcategories.

  • Funding & Economic Development
  • Transit Service
  • Sustainability and Social Impact

In each of the 9 subcategories, the highest possible score is 5 points for an overall raw total of 45.  However, the weights assigned to each group are different with Funding & Economic Development getting a weight of 3x, Transit Service 2x, and Sustainability and Social Impact 1.5x. Once the weights are applied, the total potential score is 95 points.  These values are normalized up to a “perfect” score of 100.

Table 15 on page 41 summarizes these scores.  In order that readers can see how the weights affect the outcome, I have recast these data to show the buildup of the weighted scores to a 100-scale. Continue reading

The Sheppard LRT Report (Part I)

On Wednesday, March 21, Toronto Council will consider a report recommending that the Sheppard rapid transit line be built as an LRT from Don Mills Station east, initially, to Morningside.  This is the same scheme that was on the table in the Metrolinx 5-in-10 plan, and approval of this recommendation will more or less put Transit City back on track where it was before the election of Mayor Ford.

There is a main report and many background documents, including an alternative subway proposal, what might be called the “Chong Dissent” from the otherwise pro-LRT conclusions of the panel.  This article provides a summary of material from many sources.  For the definitive word, please refer to the originals as I am not going to attempt to cover every detail here.

As a general observation, the materials present a review of the situation in considerably more detail than we see for many transit planning decisions, notably those surrounding recent budget debates.  With luck, and with a less transit-hostile TTC board, we might see the same level of interest turned to basic questions like “where’s my bus and why can’t I get on when it shows up”.

The pro-subway folks claim that the report is biased, that it is hogwash, and advance their own dissent purporting to show the superiority of a subway option.  The misinformation and factual errors in this dissent are disconcerting, putting it mildly, considering that billions in provincial spending and the future development of our transit network might have depended on such twaddle.  I will turn to this in detail later in a future article.

Continue reading

Where Should We Go From Here?

Toronto Council’s vote to reconstitute the Toronto Transit Commission may give the new board a better political balance and break Mayor Ford’s stranglehold on transit policy, but that is only the beginning of the work facing our city.

First up will be the March 21 vote on the Sheppard East subway-vs-LRT issue.  Already, the Ford camp claims that it almost has the votes needed to spike the LRT scheme and forge ahead with subway plans.  Even if LRT prevails, a close margin could provide incentive for attempts to derail the project.  The “new” TTC will be in a tenuous position if the momentum of the governance vote does not continue through to the choice of technology.

The future of the TTC, its board and of transit in Toronto is much bigger than the Sheppard decision.  We have a “new” board, and later in 2012 it will grow by the addition of four “citizen” members.  What should this board be doing?

Continue reading

Many Questions for a Pro-LRT Campaign

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous for professional reasons sent me a long series of questions that are the typical thing one might expect in a FAQ, or in the arsenal of someone who was attempting to convince voters that LRT is a good thing.

Although I don’t have time to address the entire list, I wanted it to be “out there” as food for thought among all those who wonder just why those folks in Scarborough (and elsewhere) think so badly of LRT.

To put this into context, I quote the author:

My most important points address Scarborough’s mistrust and resentment.  Why are we saying “yes subways are better but we can only afford to give you light rail” when we could say “light rail is better overall than a subway”?  Why aren’t we proving our promises that LRT is going to be better than SRT?

As I have written at length elsewhere, this is all about advocacy, about making transit truly attractive and desirable, not merely good enough to get by.

Continue reading

Union Station / King Station Update

Union Station

Work at Union Station has progressed to the point where the existing link between the railway and subway stations is affected by construction.

The westernmost door leading onto the moat outside of the GO Bay Street Concourse from the subway has been closed, and space in the subway west mezzanine formerly occupied by rather tired shops has been walled off.  There is a narrow passage from the fare barrier to the westernmost stairway down to the subway platform.  (The escalator to the same space was out of service today, March 11, for repairs, but it should be back in operation for Monday, March 12.)

Of the two stairways leading from the south side of Front Street down to the subway, the western one is now closed.

These arrangements will allow for construction of the western part of the new fare control area under Front Street.


The moat looking west.  The hot dog vendor is still doing business surrounded by construction, but the westmost exit from the subway mezzanine is fenced off.


The moat looking east.


The excavation directly in front of the main doors of Union Railway Station. The large concrete box on the left side of the photo is the subway station, and the deep trench will be the space for the new northbound-to-Yonge platform.

King Station and Crossover

On the weekend of March 23 to 26 starting at midnight on Friday the TTC will close the Yonge subway between Bloor and Union for the first stage of installation of the new crossover at King Station.  Preliminary work is already underway, and there is a slow order through this area.  If past experiences at College and St. Clair are any indication, we can expect two more shutdowns in coming months.

Activation of the three new crossovers will not occur until the signal system replacement project finishes in a few years.  The original crossovers at these locations were never electrified and there is no provision in the existing signal system to manage them.

Also, the power feeds on either side of the crossovers are not set up to allow isolation of the crossover territory as a terminal.  When Bloor crossover was done many years ago, new section gaps were added at the south end of the station and midway north to Rosedale so that power could be maintained on both sides of a crossover even if there were a shutdown further north or south of Bloor.  Changes to the power feeds will be done concurrently with the signal work.