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.

Eric Miller’s Comments

Professor Miller begins by observing that the technology choice for Sheppard does not fix forever and for all possible corridors the choice between subway and LRT.  In the context of this study, that is true because there is already a planned LRT network to which the Sheppard route would be added just as there is already an existing subway which could be extended.  The panel’s decision would have been much more complex without the earlier vote by Council confirming LRT for Eglinton, Finch and the SRT conversion.

Demand projections by both the TTC and by Metrolinx do not support the investment required to sustain a subway extension.  These projections rest on current land use plus reasonable projections of future growth in the GTA.  It is worth noting that growth is non-uniform and some areas actually lose population and/or jobs rather than growing.  This is demonstrated in maps later in the presentation.

We hear a lot about travel speed from subway advocates, but this misses a basic fact.  There are many components to a trip including:

  • Access time to and from a line
  • Access time to and from a station
  • Wait time
  • In vehicle time

For a subway, access time to the line may be greater than for LRT because the stops are further apart.  This depends on implementation details for specific proposals.  It could also be affected by LRT and subway proposals taking different routes.

For a subway (or an underground LRT), access time at the station is a function of station design.  Some of Toronto’s subway stations have a fairly short path from the surface entrance (or bus/streetcar loop) down to the platform while others are notoriously roundabout.  This component can particularly affect those with mobility challenges because escalators/elevators may not be placed in ideal locations or may be out of service.

Wait time is a function of the level of service (headway).  In Toronto, people love subways because there is a policy headway of about 5 minutes on most routes whether the demand justifies it or not.  This is not the case in many other cities where headways well over 10 minutes during off-peak periods may be encountered.  If the TTC had a maximum policy headway for key surface routes, it is unlikely that this would be as short as 5 minutes (10 was proposed in the “Transit City Bus Plan”).  Riders in the York University area will benefit from the subway-based headway standard once the Spadina extension opens, but they would never have enjoyed this level of service on any form of surface transit unless the demand justified it.

Passengers typically “feel” access time as more onerous than time spend riding because it is less productive.  A rider is not really “on the way” until they board a vehicle.

In vehicle time is a function of acceleration and speed.  During the AM peak, the SRT operates on a higher performance setting than at other times so that trains can make slightly faster round trips and squeeze more capacity out of the available fleet.  This contributes to the SRT’s ranking as the fastest of the rapid transit lines.  The TTC could operate the subway at a higher performance rate, but chooses not to for a variety of technical, maintenance and institutional reasons.  An LRT line will not operate at the same speed as a subway unless it has comparable characteristics — more widely spaced stations and unimpeded running between them — and the most likely sources of delay will be intersection design (including signals) and stop dwell time.

Toronto streetcars mostly use pay-as-you-enter fare collection and this forces all loading to take place through one set of doors (unless the operator uses the rear doors with or without the assistance of a TTC loader) .  Moreover, the streetcars are high-floor cars and the need for passengers to climb into the cars adds to boarding time.  Subways run with level platforms and all-door loading, an arrangement that will apply eventually to the streetcar system and to all of the new LRT lines as these will use low-floor cars with platforms matched to floor height.

Miller concludes this section with a basic observation:

… people use transit when it is accessible (within easy walking distance), frequent and reliable, and takes them where and when they need to go in reasonable time.

The section on connectivity draws on information from the travel database maintained by UofT on behalf of many planning and operating agencies in the GTA.  The overwhelming majority of travel in Scarborough is not oriented westward across Victoria Park, but is local either within Scarborough or headed to points north and east.  Of those who do travel to the west, the majority are headed downtown, not to Yonge-Eglinton or Yonge-Sheppard.  This is easy to understand given the relative numbers of jobs downtown compared to other locations.  Places like Yonge-Eglinton will always be nodes surrounded by residential neighbourhoods unlike downtown with block after block of office towers and a local toleration for high density development.  The LRT proposal, by providing a spine across Scarborough, is much better suited to the actual demand patterns and the need to link with north-south routes than the subway proposal.

To illustrate the concept of an integrated network, Miller includes the diagrammatic map of Munich’s transit rail system.  This map does not include the tram or bus services.  Although services in Munich may be provided by multiple agencies, they are operated as one network with an integrated fare system.

In a series of population density maps, Miller shows how different Scarborough (and for that matter all of the suburbs) is from downtown.  This is not just a question of density around a few stations, but along entire corridors.  Population gains and losses are interesting because they show that this is not a uniform pattern across the city.  There are small pockets of population loss between 2006-2011 (the demolition of parts of Regent Park shows up particularly strongly), and a major area of growth lies in northeastern Scarborough, the last undeveloped suburban land in the City.  This area is completely ignored by the subway proposal.

Metrolinx Presentations & Reports

February 17, 2012

This presentation begins with a statement of the”five principles” imposed by Queen’s Park on any plan that Toronto might come up with.

  • Projects must support regional planning goals.  By implication, vanity projects do not qualify, but I suspect this depends on who is primping in the mirror.
  • The total cost must remain within the Provincial commitment of $8.4b (2010), be spread out to match (unspecified) cash flow requirements to 2020, and produce assets that the Province can own and depreciate (this is an accounting dodge to make the related Provincial debt vanish off of the books).
  • Any penalties from changes in previous plans are at the City’s cost.  As we are now back to the point we left off at in late 2010, this point is now moot.
  • Any cost due to further delay will be charged to the City.
  • “Any plan should minimize adverse impacts on traffic to the extent reasonably
    possible”.  That could mean just about anything.

Metrolinx goes on to review the Sheppard line’s design in the regional plan, The Big Move, and notes that it was intended to operate largely on the surface.

Next we come to the Benefits Case Analysis of options for the Sheppard corridor of which a version with a continuous Finch-Don Mills-Sheppard line ranked highest.  This happens because there is a high demand on existing bus service on Finch west of Don Mills that would be subsumed into a Finch East LRT, but the proposal ignores the difficulty of LRT construction on the narrow, low-density residential portion of Finch east from Yonge Street.  This scheme never got off the ground, but remains in the plans as a future extension.

The original 5-in-10 plan is summarized both as to cost and schedule.

  • York Viva BRT:  $1.4b  2009-2019
  • Sheppard East LRT:  $1.0b  2009-2014
  • Finch LRT:  $0.94b  2015-2019
  • Scarborough RT:  $1.8b  2015-2020
  • Eglinton-Crosstown LRT:  $5.0b  2010-2020

The Toronto projects here total $8.74b.  Net of the Federal commitment of $333m to Sheppard East, this gives a Provincial total of $8.4b.

Work is already underway on the underpass at Agincourt Station, and some site preparation as been completed at the proposed Conlins Road yard.

Also included in the Metrolinx documents are a May 2010 report on the 5-in-10 plan, The Big Move itself, and a report on a January 2008 study tour to Madrid.

The study tour report goes into some detail about the differences between the Madrid and Toronto environments for planning, design and construction of a rapid transit system.  Ongoing, large-scale commitments allow for efficiencies of scale in construction, even without taking account of factors such as favourable soil conditions.  Those who argue that Toronto can’t build anything without wasting a fortune would do well to consider the scale of transit commitment needed to achieve a comparable level of cost effectiveness.

One cannot help noticing that Madrid had a powerful, popular Mayor who pushed through a large-scale transit program with massive funding support from senior governments.  When the same thing happened in Toronto, this was decried as an example of high-handedness.  One clear difference is that the transit program in all its detail was an integral part of the Mayoral campaign platform in Madrid, and there was no doubt of the “mandate” to proceed with its construction.

(Additional information comparing Madrid and Toronto experiences appears in one of the TTC reports below.)

TTC Presentations

February 8, 2012

This presentation was prepared for the earlier Council meeting where the Rob Ford “MOU” with Queen’s Park was dismissed by Council and replaced with an endorsement of the original 5-in-10 plan except for the Sheppard corridor.  This meeting also created the Expert Panel.

The presentation contrasts the original agreement Council had approved with Metrolinx to the MOU version of March 2011 and concludes that the 5-in-10 version is the better plan.

Projected passenger volumes through Kennedy Station in 2031  are shown with and without  a through-routed service from the SRT to Eglinton.  Where in past (and largely unpublished) reports, Metrolinx had trumpeted the higher volume possible on Eglinton as a reason to put that line entirely underground, the TTC points out that the riding is simply shifted from the BD subway which is then underutilized.

A series of maps shows the gradually disappearing Transit City LRT network as parts are hacked off thanks to funding constraints and political deal-making, and the presentation concludes with a table we have seen elsewhere showing the additional network coverage possible if the $2b that would put Eglinton underground goes instead to the Sheppard and Finch LRT lines.

February 17, 2012

begins with a set of maps building up from the TTC rapid transit network (the subject of so much current debate) to the full regional network, and puts the Sheppard question in a broader context — what exactly does it do for the region?

An overview of transit rider demographics follows together with maps showing targets for service improvements and accessibility under the Miller regime.

Next we have a short lecture in planning followed by maps of various older plans.  Much of what is on these maps is not new, and there are only limited places for new rapid transit lines.  “Intermediate Capacity Transit” in the 1975 refers to the Skytrain technology known here on the SRT.  Very little of that proposed network was actually built.

By the time we reach Network 2011 (1986), much has falled off of the map leaving only the Sheppard subway, the DRL and Eglinton West.  Note that the Downsview and STC extensions of a Sheppard line are priority 4 behind the DRL and part of Eglinton.

One important point to remember is that the idea of a Sheppard connection to Downsview goes back to a scheme to loop the Yonge and Spadina subways and, thereby, avoid terminal congestion problems that limit headways on this route.  However, what was once low-density North York quickly filled with new development, and by 1990 the “loop” had been pushed out to Steeles Avenue at which point the “loop” ceased to have credibility.

An historic footnote:  Many years ago I asked the TTC why the Spadina extension’s EA did not consider LRT as an alternative as a jumping off point for a northern LRT network.  The TTC used the “loop” scheme as a demonstration of why LRT could not work — it would interrupt the loop — even though this scheme was impractical from the day it was proposed.  The TTC’s hands are not clean in the suppression of debate about LRT much as they would have us believe “modern” LRT is a recent, widely accepted transit mode.

Next we see a rather sad set of maps showing the minimal growth of rapid transit in Toronto and the large areas still remove from the subway network.

A graph on page 31 shows the transit modal share and density at all stations in the network.  This is arranged from lowest to highest density.  This chart continues the old TTC myth that density = demand when so many of their stations, especially in the suburbs, depend on bus feeders for their customers.  Kennedy has a low transit share for trips originating near the station, but we would hardly call this stop a failure.  Conversely Dupont has a higher modal share even though its density sits right next to Kennedy and its usage (a variable not included in the chart) is unquestionably much lower.  This is a nice chart, but it only tells part of the story.

Next we turn to the policy shifts of the Miller era and the new Official Plan.  Although there were designated centres at North York and Scarborough, these were not the great successes planners in the 1980s had hoped for.  Sadly, it was a bit early to write about the emperor’s new clothes, and planning continued on the myth that somehow these centres would become major hubs within the city.

The chart on page 37 claims that Light Rail Technology was “unproven” when the earlier plans were done.  I am not sure how I and many others managed to ride on LRT systems elsewhere in the world (including Canada’s first in Edmonton) so long ago if this technology was “unproven”.  This is either an outright lie, or a very creative retelling of history just as the TTC takes credit for “saving” its streetcar system, a feat achieved by citizen activism and Council direction, not by enlightened policy at the TTC.

By 2003, the TTC was looking at surface transit improvements, mainly bus-based, although including the St. Clair line from Yonge to Lansdowne.  Almost none of this proposal was implemented.

Then came Transit City’s LRT and Bus plans.  The latter never got off of the ground due to budget wrangling between the TTC and City (this in the Miller/Giambrone era), but the idea was to guarantee 10-minute service on a grid of bus routes.  There are some odd exceptions notably all of the future LRT corridors even though they might not see LRT service for a decade.  The streetcars were assumed to already be at 10-minutes or better although there are a few exceptions.  The plan is a good idea, but poorly drafted and it needs revision if it surface again in a more enlightened Commission.

In a table of daily ridership figures, we see that several bus routes compete with the streetcar  network for supremacy.  This is not the way such stats should be presented because it assumes that demand characteristics are uniform across all routes.  This is not true.  One simple example — the length of a route will affect how many people it carries presuming similar spatial and temporary patterns of demand.  One simply cannot compare numbers for the short 510 Spadina with the much longer 504 King or the combined 32/34 Eglinton West/East services spanning much of the city.

Page 45 shows a breakdown of riding on the Sheppard subway, the bus service on Sheppard East and the 190 Rocket to STC.  Note the comparatively high ratio of all day demand on the subway to peak hour demand, although neither number is impressive, as against figures on the bus routes.  A great deal of the bus demand does not show up in the peak hour, peak point counts because it does not fit the core-oriented commuter pattern underlying this type of analysis.  Clearly, large numbers of riders use the Sheppard bus, but they don’t do so at times and places caught by core-oriented planning.

This is a fundamental issue with the Transit City network — it considers a variety of demands, not just the most obvious one flowing into a subway terminal.  Whether Rob Ford likes it or not, “Transit City” is very much alive.

The next section traces the evolution of the Sheppard proposals in the context of the last decades evolving plans.  Ridership for a Sheppard LRT is lower than for the proposed subway, but this does not address the underlying questions of which land use and demand pattern will actually evolve over the decades.  Much of the new “subway” riding comes from proposed intensification around STC, and the subway itself does not serve many of the riders who might otherwise be on the LRT line.

The Sheppard Subway, even at its peak point, barely reaches 8k/hour just east of Yonge Street by 2031.  This lies within LRT’s capability, but I am not sure that a retrofit would be cost-effective (I will turn to that question in a separate article).

Page 68 compares the 510 Spadina car with the proposed Sheppard LRT.  It’s worth noting that the TTC claims the Spadina car has signal priority when, in fact, this exists at only a few locations on the route, and the “priority” can do as much to slow transit as it helps with the service.  It would actually make more sense in this context for the TTC so say there is “no” or “little” priority to reinforce known problems with running speeds.

February 24, 2012

This presentation begins with a series of photos of LRT in major cities.  Although many of the shots are attractive, they do not appear to have been selected to illustrate comparable conditions to what would be built on Sheppard.  However, the photos do illustrate that LRT is alive and well in many “world class” cities.

Next comes a discussion of subway construction in Madrid and specifically of the MetroSur.  A chart plots results from a US Federal Transportation Administration study of construction.  The points are arrange from lowest to highest cost/km.  Many, notably the MetroSur, fall below the average while others lie above it including projects in Hong Kong and London (the Jubilee Line extension).  TTC projects at an average of $290m/km lie slightly above the international average of $275m/km (2010).  The most expensive of the TTC’s projects is the Yonge Subway extension from Eglinton to Finch that came in at over $350m/km in 2010$.  The “Finch LRT” is included in this chart at about $300m/km, but I must assume that this would be for a subway alternative as the estimated cost of the LRT itself is only $1b.

The TTC lists several cost drivers affecting underground construction costs including:

  • the frequency/km and length of stations
  • the number of major interchange stations
  • the rate of advance of tunneling depending on conditions
  • the effect of a high water table especially as it may affect settlement of properties above the tunnel work
  • the complexity of underground utilities
  • international competition for tunneling expertise and construction crews

The TTC presents a chart of construction times for projects and claims to be faster than the international average.  However, the values do not appear to be scaled to the length of the projects, and a few outliers from Washington DC skew the average above that of TTC.  This chart is not a meaningful presentation of the information because it tells us nothing about the characteristics of each project nor the source of major delays (or unusually fast construction) that might affect each project.

This is not to say that the TTC is bad at what it does, and peer reviews through the American Public Transit Association (APTA) have validated TTC processes.  One important point the TTC does not mention is that a project’s timing can be affected by non-technical factors some of which apply to the Transit City network:

  • To minimize disruption over a wide area, construction schedules may be extended.  This applies to the Eglinton line where Metrolinx does not want to have every station under construction more or less simultaneously with the resulting massive disruption across the corridor.
  • To manage financing requirements, projects may be artificially stretched out so that spending does not peak in certain years.
  • Projects may be ready to build, but not have committed funding.

Next, the TTC turns to the MetroSur  in Madrid and contrasts it with the Sheppard subway, the most recent large, completed project in Toronto.

Aside from the advantage of being a larger project with economies of scale, the MetroSur was part of an ongoing construction program pursued by the Mayor of Madrid over many years.  The administrative environment including aspects of design (no “EA” process or site permit requirements), ease of property acquisition (the city has strata ownership of land 10 metres below grade), and a simpler project change management environment all contributed to lower costs.

Construction of the MetroSur took place in a very different corridor from Sheppard Avenue:

  • A great deal of the corridor was greenfield with little or no utilities or traffic disruption to worry about.
  • 30% of the line was cut-and-cover as compared to almost 100% tunnel for Sheppard between stations.
  • Soil conditions allowed the tunnel boring to progress in Madrid at over twice the rate on Sheppard.
  • Greenfield construction meant that surface settlement above the tunnel work in Madrid could be accepted.
  • Fire code for Madrid is less restrictive than in North America allowing the use of a single tunnel without escape shafts between stations.
  • Stations on the MetroSur are 130m long versus 200m for Sheppard.
  • Track construction in the tunnel in Madrid does not include the vibration isolation used on all newer Toronto projects beginning with the Spadina subway.

When these factors are taken into account, the cost of the Sheppard subway is still 17% higher than the MetroSur, but not as wildly different as portrayed in other reports, notably those by Dr. Chong and TTIL.

The TTC concludes with a review of changes in conditions since the “Network 2011” plan of 1986.  This covers much of the same ground as in other reports, but wraps up with a major change in the TTC’s outlook — subways do not always generate development contrary to the standard wisdom of past decades.  Any new line is proposed in a complex environment of the GTA development industry and competes with many other locations as an attractive market for new buildings.

60 thoughts on “The Sheppard LRT Report (Part III)

  1. I really don’t think the high-low thing is such a big deal, as there are many instances of both around the world, sometimes within the same vehicle. However you want it done, it can be engineered, especially where you have a lot of length to solve the ramping grades — and full-length subway platforms in the tunnel certainly have excess length.

    The power and height is the bigger issue — I feel that the operation of LRT in the Sheppard tunnel was quickly discounted because people just assumed pantograph operation. Now that I think of it, the Blue Line in Boston also switches from pantograph to third rail, and the previous generation of vehicles there was made by Hawker/Bombardier.

    This really should be considered right away now that LRT will be moving ahead. It’s not at all too late.

    Steve: The Blue Line was originally a streetcar tunnel converted to HRT. It already had a high clearance.


  2. Here are my views:

    1) Wait time is the major issue in my opinion. People are always going to choose the “faster” option. I have seen “off peak” service on the subway seeing decent service, especially on the YUS, and especially in the evening after an event at the ACC. Subways, streetcars, buses, LRT do not all have to be packed in order justify the service level. Sometimes you need to have surplus supply in order to create demand.

    2) I like what Michael stated about Calgary – the LRT has priority at intersections. This should be extended to all streetcar lines. The easiest would be on the ROW portions of the streetcar system. For the rest, a system whereby a streetcar can somehow “trip” the lights to stay green for it would be a good idea. I believe that fire trucks have some kind of system that does this. I could be mistaken. But the idea of moving transit should be a priority.

    3) Mr Ford & Co. should be given a subway – the DRL. Let’s look at the big picture and long term.

    4) For the York U. extension of the Spadina Line, some trains could always be short turned at Wilson in off peak periods if necessary. This also means that less trainsets and operators would be required – so also a cost saver.

    Steve: A short turn operation is already planned. Every train will not run through to Vaughan.

    5) I disagree with Steve’s comment of “the Sheppard subway does not intercept many of the north-south routes that would otherwise feed into the LRT.” These routes could be directed into subway stations. Not necessarily a big deal at the end of the day, especially if they do not stop along Sheppard between the station and the North-South portions of the route. Not as good as the LRT, but workable. That’s my point.


  3. @Rishi Maharaj. Your long commute via TTC is also due to the TTC refusing to provide express bus service via the highways, right to the subway or even right to downtown.

    If your house was a couple KM north in Markham, you would have a direct express bus to the Yonge subway. My co-worker uses the YRT expresses to Finch and just loves them, and she said they are always full.

    That aside, I was wondering if Steve had opening day ridership or even ridership from a year or two after the Bloor subway opened? And for the stretches of the subway east and west of Yonge?

    Steve: The TTC conducted two detailed riding studies of travel on the subway system. The first was done while the integrated BDU subway operation was in effect on June 23, 1966, about 4 months after the BD line opened. Info from this survey is included in an article I wrote in March 2006 in the early days of this blog.

    The BD subway was a success from the day it opened because there was already very heavy surface service and ridership in the BD corridor, and the line grew from there with extensions and with aggressive feeder bus service.


  4. Please let me be a calming voice to the intense debate about a mode transfer, lrt speeds and timing differences of 5 or 10 minutes on a one hour (or more) ride. In my days of long distance commuting I used the following formula: Make sure you have a good book. For transfers, make sure you have a bookmark. (The transfer isn’t good enough if you have to give it in and then you lose your place in the book!!) Relax and enjoy the ride. Just a warning, from experience. P.G. Wodehouse is not really suitable transit fare. If you get to the good parts, giggling and laughter that can’t be repressed makes people think you are weird.


  5. Problem is Michael that people don’t always put up with long commutes.

    Yes there are some like myself who put up with it and still take the TTC.

    But others like my neighbour, gave the TTC a week when their job moved downtown. At the end of the week they got in their car and never looked back, and took their car to work downtown after that. Why? Because TTC involved that needless transfer at Kennedy, and took a good 60 minutes or longer, compared to a 30 minute drive.

    People are very sensitive to needless transfers. Even my mom who used transit the other day to go downtown, wanted to be dropped off at Kennedy Station, even though the SRT is only a couple blocks from our house. Why? Because she did not want to transfer at Kennedy on something she and thousands of others feel should be a one seat ride to Bloor.

    This will be the same issue on Sheppard, because despite a very sketchy study done by Eric Miller, most ridership on Sheppard is not destined within Scarborough, but rather going west into North York and the Yonge subway. I guess he never rode the buses or looked at the TTC stats to really see what goes on in the Sheppard corridor.

    Steve: That “sketchy study” is a major survey of transportation patterns done every five years on behalf of all of the major planning agencies in southern Ontario. UofT co-ordinates it and hosts the data, but it’s not Eric Miller’s study.


  6. @Michael

    The TTC does provide downtown express bus service via highways. The 143 runs on the eastern half of the Gardiner, the 145 runs on the west half and the 144 comes down the DVP.

    Your co-worker’s commute via YRT Markham Express is still taking almost an hour just to get to Finch subway station. It takes about the same amount of time via GO train to get from Markham GO to Union station. Which I think was Rishi’s point – that there already is a long distance commuter rail network so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to force LRT’s to duplicate that type of rail-arm-signal-priority-100-kph service.

    Additionally while I agree that no one likes to transfer, I suspect this is more of a function of the wait times for the next vehicle than it is about having to stand up at all. In other words, I believe that most people don’t have anywhere near as much of a problem transferring from feeder bus to subway as they do the other way around. Your co-worker for example, seems okay with transferring at Finch – probably because she doesn’t have a long wait before continuing her trip (assuming that you don’t work in near Finch). So if the LRT and subway at Don Mills both have five minute headways, then it’s probably not going to be as much of a deal breaker as you’re portraying it to be.


  7. Steve I know he used transportation survey information. But the way he used the stats was to fit an agenda. There are glaring holes in the way he uses the information.

    Steve: I could argue also that there are glaring problems in the survey itself which is too coarsely-grained to pick up details in movements between neighbourhoods. This bias is left over from highway modelling.

    @Ka-Ming Lin. My co-worker does not use the Markham express to get downtown. She uses it to go to work in the Yonge corridor in North York. She used to drive, but the Markham express provides such a competitive trip with driving that she now uses the bus and loves it.

    This is the same issue with Sheppard. Many residents in northeast Scarborough would be well served by express buses which would get them to Yonge Street fast. From there, a whole possibility of destinations from York to NYCC is opened up to these riders, without them having to sit on transit for two hours to get there.

    Anyway buses are a whole other issue, but the fact is the outlying areas need creative transit services to get riders where they need to go.

    As for transferring, the SRT already provides frequent service, and it is still a needless transfer and waste of time.

    People don’t mind transferring where it makes sense. But come on, I think everyone can admit Kennedy is a stupid transfer, and even people not interested in transit understand that the BD subway would have just been extended to STC.

    Again at the end of the day no one suffers except for transit, when people decide not to use it.

    I think it is easy for downtowners or people from other areas of the city to discredit the needless transfers. But for Scarborough residents it is a big deal.

    Has anyone noticed ridership on the SRT has actually declined?

    Wonder why? I don’t. I have noticed an upswing in people who instead ride east-west buses to the Yonge subway in off peak hours to get downtown, instead of riding via the SRT and having to transfer at Kennedy.

    I almost never use the SRT anymore. It is easier to just ride up to York Mills and transfer once to an east-west bus to get home in off peak hours.

    Even during rush hours, I used to often just take the York Mills express to the Yonge subway. It also meant eliminating having to wait at Bloor for 20 minutes to get on a southbound train.


  8. Wait times are a big deal with transfers – at least to me. I prefer using GO over the Bloor line for that reason. Going into downtown Toronto is easier when I take the TTC (because of the frequent service on Bloor), but I almost always seem to just miss the bus on the way home.

    Steve: And it is worth noting that Ford’s budgetary machinations attacked bus services, especially in the off-peak, because they are “unproductive”. We argue at length about transfers between frequent services when the real problem with transfers lies on the surface system that is starved for funding.


  9. It would take a serious effort on TTC’s part to make the Don Mills transfer as bad as the one at Kennedy. You hit all four floors to go from SRT to subway platform at Kennedy, although there is that one really long escalator that skips the ticket collector floor.

    Incidentally, it’s 26 minutes from Agincourt GO to Union.


  10. @Felix

    I agree that something seems wrong with the TTC numbers that it would cost an extra $1.2B to extend the subway to Victoria Park and then continue East with LRT. Previously, the TTC reported that it would only cost $120M extra to extend the subway to Consumers. Therefore, by their numbers the extension from Consumers to Victoria Park would cost $1.1B. I know subways are expensive to build, but $1.1B for 750 metres of tunneling and one station? Something must be wrong with the numbers.

    Steve: It’s worth noting the context in which that number ($120m) is stated. First off, the proposed LRT station at Consumers would have been at the surface, not underground as I believe the Vic Park scheme would be. This reduces the cost of the transfer station.

    As for the subway extension itself, the number reported is the difference between the LRT-to-Don-Mills option and the Subway-to-Consumers option, NOT the full cost of the subway. A tunnel under the 404 is common to both schemes, and the delta between them is for the most part the cost of one more fairly simple underground station.


  11. Michael said: Has anyone noticed ridership on the SRT has actually declined?

    Wonder why? I don’t. I have noticed an upswing in people who instead ride east-west buses to the Yonge subway in off peak hours to get downtown, instead of riding via the SRT and having to transfer at Kennedy.

    The SRT ran out of capacity years ago – it maxes out at only 3,800/hr/dir. The CORRIDOR has continued to grow in demand even if the SRT itself has not (because it can’t). There are around 1,200/hr/dir being carried by supplementary buses whose reason d’etre is to divert people away from the SRT – because there’s no room on the SRT to grow the corridor. Of course, with buses deployed specifically to divert people off of an SRT that can’t carry them, what else but a decline in SRT usage can be expected?


  12. The devil is in the details. Years ago when I was in university, I spent a great deal of time assisting a friend build two vehicles for off road competitions. The first year, our focus was on constructing a robust vehicle, and we succeeded. It weighed 700 pounds. The following year, we focused on finesse, carefully optimizing each part to shed as much weight as was possible. The second vehicle weighed in 200 pounds lighter, and performed vastly better than the first. I feel that this analogy must be intelligently applied to transit with every design decision. The effect of nipping a few seconds here and there seems trivial until you add it up, but this MUST be done intelligently for it to be cost effective, and there are limits.


    I ride the Yonge subway twice a day (weekdays) against traffic from downtown to (and along) the Sheppard line. When in University, I rode the Bloor line (with traffic).


    H series cars (with albeit narrower doors) always seemed to move quickly in contrast to the T1 cars. I realize the T1 doors are wider, but the older doors achieved a higher speed when closing. Enter the TR cars: now, we have a controllable delay between when the chimes sound, message to stand clear of doors is delivered, and the doors themselves close. We also have a controllable delay between the train coming to a full stop and the time that the door interlock is released allowing the doors to be opened. The delays presently programmed into the TR fleet are painfully long. The TTC is investing a pile of money into automatic train control of the Yonge line to achieve a marginal reduction in headways, and are presently dumping a portion of this time into the simple process of opening and closing doors. I have noticed, and perhaps it’s just me, but when a TR train leaves the station, there is almost always a T1 or H5 train following closely. If a TR train is following a T1 or H5, there is almost always a definite wait before it arrives.

    Steve: I agree with this analysis. The TTC on one hand talks about tighter operations, but on the other, probably in the name of “safety”, gives up some of the benefits they might otherwise have obtained. It is particularly amusing that the timing between the start of the cycle when the chime sounds to the “door close” function appears to be fixed with the effect that the exhortation “Please stand clear of doors” is often heard after they have already closed. I do not want to downplay safety concerns, but there are times the TTC trots it out as an unassailable catch-all reason for something they have botched up.

    On a slightly different topic…

    There has rarely been a day, in recent weeks, where there has not been at least one ‘passenger assistance alarm’ activated on a train on the Yonge line. As trains get more crowded, and the frequency of crowded trains increases, it would seem as if those people, claustrophobic, hypoglycemic, or otherwise vulnerable to health problems related to crowding will increasingly suffer from medical problems on trains. Has anyone performed any research into the definition of ‘crush load’ taking into consideration the health implications to riders? Has anyone recently reviewed the ever-increasing number of delays to determine if somehow limiting the number of passengers on trains might mitigate these delays allowing a greater throughput of vehicles?

    Steve: This is a well-known problem on the subway, and I suspect that behind the scenes it is starting to have an effect on the mad schemes to pack more and more of the core-oriented load onto the YUS. It cannot absorb the effect of surges and congestion now, and service reliability suffers as a direct result. This is an important benefit of the DRL — keeping the crush on the YUS (and on its platforms) at a level where passengers are not dropping like flies.


  13. Ka-Ming Lin said:

    Additionally while I agree that no one likes to transfer, I suspect this is more of a function of the wait times for the next vehicle than it is about having to stand up at all. In other words, I believe that most people don’t have anywhere near as much of a problem transferring from feeder bus to subway as they do the other way around.

    While that is true, I personally believe that the reason Scarborough commuters are so strongly against having to transfer from LRT to Subway at Don Mills is the quality of the current transfers rather than the wait time. As you noted in a later post, the Kennedy transfer from SRT to BD is atrocious. The bus-subway transfer at Don Mills is about as bad – possibly worse if one has any problem walking.

    I use these transfers only occasionally, and usually for ‘leisure’ trips where an efficient transfer is not nearly as important. I do, however, transfer more often from the 510 to the University line at Spadina and I personally find this one more annoying, even though I believe that objectively the other two are worse.

    Personally, I believe that the complaints about a Kennedy transfer would lessen significantly even if the SRT replacement ended there rather than running through to Yonge, with the planned improvements in the layout. (Obviously, they would not disappear completely.)


  14. the quality of the current transfers rather than the wait time

    Yes, that’s definitely a part of it. Even Warden station isn’t great with that super long bus bay and all those crazy stairs. But I stand by the argument that short headways for both rail directions out of Don Mills will do a lot to mitigate bad feelings about the “unnecessary” transfer.


  15. I use these transfers only occasionally, and usually for ‘leisure’ trips where an efficient transfer is not nearly as important. I do, however, transfer more often from the 510 to the University line at Spadina and I personally find this one more annoying, even though I believe that objectively the other two are worse.

    It’s worth nothing that that’s the same transfer required going from the YUS to the BD line or vice-versa (unless something’s changed). It’s extremely long and annoying and I find it a bit unnerving to go down that long tunnel when it’s crowded. It’s more pleasant – and probably faster! – to simply go east to St George and transfer there.

    In fact, St George and Spadina offer fairly relevant contrasts for transfers. At Spadina, platform-to-platform requires multiples flights of stairs and a long walk – at least 10 minutes – while at St George it’s simply a matter of going up or down a single flight. Transfers like St George are trivial, not unlike some subway stops where one can board a streetcar almost immediately once on the surface. I remember taking the Yonge line south from Lawrence to College this past Halloween and getting on the Carlton streetcar right away – that kind of transfer is a dream and (very) possible.

    That’s not to say that people won’t take one-seat rides in preference to transfers when the option is available – I have more than a few friends who’d sooner ride around the loop from Finch to Museum to get to UofT rather than transferring (or walking…) from Bloor. It absolutely does not save time, but they did it anyway essentially out of laziness. I don’t think billions should be spent to ensure that people have to occasionally get up and walk for a minute.


  16. Beating a dead horse here, but one last comment I’d like to make regarding the stop spacing. Someone on another blog made a very good point, will not much of the traffic for the line come from people transferring from other north-south routes? I don’t ride the Sheppard East bus often, but is there that much passenger volume mid-block that putting stops every 400m at various side streets really worth it? Yes, some people may have to walk a little further than if the stops were closer, but if the vast majority of riders arrive at stops from other buses (thus no walking required along the avenue to the LRT), it might be worth the little extra walking time for the few in order to improve cross-Scarborough commutes.


  17. Michael S gets it. Individual part specs are one thing but how they combine to form overall performance of a system is crucial. In transit, this would apply to the infrastructure as well as the vehicles. I’m cautiously optimistic that LRT will be accepted in Toronto once the first line opens and people get to see LRT and try it out for themselves rather than hearing wildly different descriptons of it from each end of the political spectrum. However, acceptance of LRT depends entirely on it being built and operated properly. If the streetscape turns into an ugly, over designed repeat of St. Clair with forests of unnecessary poles everywhere, and the LRT cars have Toronto Rocket performance characteristics combined with poor traffic management and signal priority resulting in Sheppard LRT service being slower than the bus it replaced, for example, much like the Spadina streetcar in it’s own right of way being slower than the mixed traffic Bathurst car, then people will justifiably be screaming for subways and LRT will be finished for good. Simply put, the TTC and Metrolinx have to get this right, right out of the gate because they cannot afford to screw up the simple obvious stuff otherwise we can pretty much kiss reasonably priced transit expansion goodbye in the backlash that would result. I hope this is not lost on the people involved.

    With respect to the Toronto Rocket subway cars, service quality on the Yonge subway has deteriorated visibly since they started running in reasonable quantity on the line. They’re supposed to be reasonably fast subway cars given the stated top speed and acceleration/braking rates that are supposed to be comparable to the other cars but they’re very slow in practice because of the dead time between when they stop moving and when the doors begin opening. Then add the dead time between the doors closing and when the brakes can be released and the train started moving, even if all the doors close successfully on the first attempt and repeat this at every station on the line for each trip made. I don’t have hard measurements made with test equipment to back this up but watching the lamp posts going by the side ot the tracks between Rosedale and Summerhill seems to suggest they don’t move as fast as the H5 and T1 cars either. Trains getting bunched up on the subway appears to be a bigger problem now than it was before the TRs came. My concern is that the new streetcars for the existing system and the LRV fleet for the LRT lines might behave similarly with unnecessary dead times at each stop caused by waiting for unnecessarily slow processes to happen that compromise the overall performance of the vehicles and the line as a system, and this needs to be avoided.

    Anybody that’s ever gotten annoyed waiting for a computer that’s marketed as supposed to be blazing fast with a high end CPU grinding slowly through a piece of work because it’s been hamstrung with not enough RAM and a slow hard drive knows exactly what I’m getting at.


  18. Ben Smith writes:

    “I don’t ride the Sheppard East bus often, but is there that much passenger volume mid-block that putting stops every 400m at various side streets really worth it?”

    There isn’t very much mid-block business on Finch East between Seneca and Yonge. I would imagine Sheppard would be similar. However, if you’re looking at the redevelopment strategies in the Avenues plan, this ought to be changed, and one way to change it is to have reasonable stop spacing. Otherwise it will be a cluster of condos around each major intersection, and not much in the way of redevelopment in between.

    TTC Passenger writes,

    “Spadina streetcar in its own right of way being slower than the mixed traffic Bathurst car”

    Bit of apples to oranges, Spadina has a lot more ridership. Granted the traffic signals don’t do much to help, but Spadina is a lot wider and has a lot more pedestrian traffic than Bathurst so the red phases for Spadina are bound to be longer. I can’t imagine what kind of disaster the Spadina car would be if it was running in mixed traffic.


  19. To add to TTC Passenger’s comment: see the rear doors on the Orion VIIs, compared to the Fishbowls/Classics (or existing streetcars). I’ve been on a number of trips where drivers (presumably behind schedule) ask passengers to exit by the front, in an effort to try and make up time.


  20. re: Stop spacing on Sheppard

    I don’t know much about Sheppard east of Agincourt GO, but the proposed stops at Bay Mills and Allanford make sense. There are a couple of high rises, a largish church and a catholic high school all right near the intersection of Sheppard and Bay Mills. The Allanford stop is closer to the non-WalMart end of Agincourt Mall (all the small shops and the No Frills) as well as being better for the tall buildings between there and Carabob Court if they improve the pedestrian access through here.


Comments are closed.