Senior College Symposium at the University of Toronto

On April 12, 2012, I spoke as part of a panel at the seventh annual Senior College Symposium.  The topic for 2012 was “Toronto, A World City:  Meeting the Challenges”.

For the benefit of attendees, my speaking notes (somewhat elaborated and including references to some comments made by other speakers) are available here.  Much of this is in point form as I find that making a completely “fair copy” with sentences and paragraphs has its limits — one always changes a presentation on the fly anyhow.

For those readers (most of you) who were not at the symposium, this gives an overview of my feelings on the role of transit and the many unanswered questions we face in the GTA.

2012.04.12 UofT Senior College Symposium Notes

22 thoughts on “Senior College Symposium at the University of Toronto

  1. I read your musings and can’t help but wonder about York Region with their grandiose Subway and BRT plans when they can’t keep the system running without a 6 week strike. They seem to want to solve their transit plans with mega projects whereas they need to do a lot of mini projects to improve their base levels of service. Their busway will be of little use unless it connects other lines together and provides a useful backbone.

    Mississauga is building a massive BRT line that, from what I have seen, appears to be totally grade separated and very heavily built. It runs alongside the 403 and Eglinton Av. to near the airport. I imagine that this is is the result of careful OD surveys and not from looking where a line can be drawn on a map.

    Meanwhile Brampton is implementing its ZUM service with little fanfare and only moderate expenditures. They provide Queue jump lanes at most intersection with radio controlled traffic signal optimization that actually appear to benefit the buses plus emergency service vehicles. The 501 Queen ZUM was carrying over 18 000 ppd last October. It will be interesting to see its stats when the next survey is done near May. It is running at 15 minute headway base and 7.5 minutes rush with extras. In September it goes to 10 base and 5 rush with 60′ articulated. Brampton has 3 other bus lines that carry over 11 000 ppd so their top 4 lines out draw the Sheppard Subway.

    Brampton has the 502 Main ZUM which runs from Square One to the North end of Brampton. Next September the 511 Steeles ZUM will start from From Highway 10 to York U. The existing route carryies 11 000 ppd so it will be interesting to see what the improved service does.

    The 501 ZUM goes to York U so Brampton expected a 25 to 40% drop in ridership last May. Instead the ridership kept growing which means that most of its ridership is not university students. Brampton is not investing millions that they don’t have just to build show piece lines; instead, they are investing in service improvements and quick efficient changes that will result in improved service now. They are also improving service on all their north south lines to provide a grid that will connect with the east wast 501 and 511 ZUM service.

    I am actually glad that I live in Brampton and not York or Mississauga.


  2. One thing I’ve always been confused about: Why go with BRT if the line is to be grade-separated anyhow? I thought the premise of going with a bus-related technology was cost-savings over rail-borne transit.


  3. Mississauga’s BRT is for both GO and MT services and both of their various routes using the BRT corridor (each will have a number of routes converging on it) will originate and/or terminate beyond the limits of the BRT corridor itself, for long distances in GO’s case and more local distances in MT’s case. LRT would be a pretty hard sell for this objective.


  4. Karl;

    I think that I saw a map that had up to 19 different routes on it in the rush hour and about 2 in base service. This was a couple of years ago. Nothing like having a good base service in a grid system to build up off peak loading,


  5. Is it safe to say that the BRT being built will be used along a corridor that is NOT a destination. At least, not yet? Buses will enter and egress from it and just continue on past. Are there no shopping, doctors offices, or recreation destinations along it at this time or being planned?


  6. Are the plans for the infrastructure being built in Mississauga for the BRT being designed for future use with an LRT line?

    I understand that there are numerous bus routes that will be using this to connect with points beyond the corridor, but future LRT use does not negate that function. In Pittsburgh, the south busway shares the Palm Garden Bridge and part of the LRT infrastructure just north of there, and the Mount Washington tunnel is also used by both buses and LRT.

    Steve: I would not count on it. This project has been around long enough that it dates to a period when an anti-LRT culture pervaded planning in these parts. If someone can prove differently, please do, but we have to remember that even Metrolinx used to make comments about a BRT on Eglinton West being all that corridor would need. Mind you, they don’t want any competition for their precious Air Rail Link these days.


  7. Here is a link to the Mississauga Busway site. I exaggerated, it only has 9 not 19 routes that will use it. It runs along 403 from Winston Churchill to Renforth and Eglinton near the airport. From there most buses will go down the 427 to Kipling. Its routes will connect Clarkson GO, UTM, Meadowvale Town Centre, Erin Mills GO, Mississauga City Centre (Square One), Westwood Mall and Kipling Station. It sounds like a shoppers special.

    It will be interesting to see how much demand there is in the 403 corridor rather than in the Dundas or Burnhamthorpe corridors. There was land reserved on the North side of Burnhamthorpe to provide a transit right of way.


  8. It always struck me that the BRT “corridor” is being built because it is cheap. It really ignores the existent corridors on Dundas, Burnhamthorpe and Eglinton with relatively high demand and some pockets of dense development in favour of shoulder lanes on the 403. While these will get commuters quickly to and from the city centre, they won’t build any kind of urban fabric along the way.

    Steve: Such is the problem with a lot of BRT proposals that piggy-back on highways and other “easy” rights-of-way that correspond to places motorists (and hence most planners) think they would like to go, not to where transit riders need to go.


  9. The Mississauga BRT seems like a giant kluge (software programming term of bandaiding something together without looking at the underlying capacity, usage, or robustness issues). Hopefully they’ve designed the BRT stations to be upgradable to LRT stations, as Ottawa’s Transitway was supposedly designed.

    Having taken MT buses for years, the big problem is the supporting transit routes in Mississauga. The non-arterial streets are so curly & convoluted so as to make transit service impossibly long & frustrating. Hence the massive park & ride Churchill & Erin Mills BRT lots.

    Too many BRT stations at east end of the line, slowing down service, & only service office parks, unless the buses do a wave stop like on the Transitway.

    No network intermodal connection to the Erindale GO train station off Creditview Road as there’s no BRT access to Creditview. If and when this GO train line gets daytime service, this’ll be more important.

    The Square 1 bus terminal will be busier & slower than ever with all the BRT buses, with annoying stop lights every block.


  10. Steven, are you going to write anything about the I-METRO-E proposal?

    Steve: I just received a copy of it today, and a preliminary perusal suggests that I will be dropping a load of very uncomplimentary remarks from a great height. I actually have more important topics to cover that I have not gotten to yet, and regard this proposal as a diversion from serious discussion of many transit problems. It’s the sort of thing that arises because nobody else, notably Metrolinx, is doing anything publicly, and nature abhors a vacuum.


  11. RE: I-Metro-E

    Technical merit and shortcomings aside, I am very glad to see politicians considering making use of existing infrastructure rather than jumping to “build-another-megaproject” to solve every problem.

    I have always thought that to some degree, the DRL would would compete for some regional peak-hour travel with the existing downtown-bound GO rail lines. However, I do see a few problems with making I-Metro-E a complete substitute for the DRL:

    -The existing Stouffville line is single-track north of Kennedy, thereby precluding frequent all-day service (i.e. 5 min headways) that a new DRL can provide. Whether it’d be cost-effective to double-track the Stouffville line is another question.

    -I feel that the fact that it feeds into Union Station can also preclude frequent service that a new DRL on another route can provide.


  12. The Mississauga Transitway is an obvious place to build a future extension of the Eglinton LRT to Square One in the future.

    If this possibility is seriously considered in the future than the Eglinton LRT through the Richview corridor, if this extension is built, must be grade separated, because this would create a branching line, with half of the trains going to the airport and half to Square One, requiring 2 minute frequencies through the Richview Corridor in rush hour, and also the reverse commute flow from Toronto to Mississauga is very large. Building at grade LRT through this section would be a huge mistake given that there is a massive amount of land to build a trenched line (like the Yonge line between Bloor and Eglinton) for very low cost.


  13. @Andrew

    That assumes that people need to travel from Square One to anywhere along Eglinton within Toronto. Is there any data showing demand for that route? I happen to live on Eglinton and work in Mississauga, but my job is nowhere near Square One, so that spur would be useless to me – to say nothing of the many other residents who work in Mississauga’s far-flung business parks.

    Steve, what’s the data on how many people travel between Toronto and Mississauga, their origin points and destinations? Is there any one transit line you’d like to see cross the municipal divide? From my casual observation, I think that building a transfer hub at Renforth for the Eglinton LRT and numerous MiWay routes that hit Renforth makes sense more than one line (Eglinton LRT, Bloor subway or otherwise) extending all the way to Square One.

    Steve: I have not seen any fine-grained maps of transit demand across the Toronto-Mississauga border. Part of the problem (and this applies to suburban 416 as well) is that the further out one goes from the core, the larger the grid of travel zones becomes in the standard travel database for the GTA. This sort of thing works for car trips which tend to flow to the nearest large capacity road, or for commuter rail which depends on car trips at the origin to funnel people into rail stations. For transit, however, much more finely-grained information is needed to determine how likely it would be for people to actually use the transit network for their trip given the access problems at both ends.

    One basic point is quite obvious, however. There are few (and that’s being generous) major destinations on Eglinton itself all the way from the western border across to almost Yonge Street. It is a residential and small-scale commercial street, and someone from Mississauga is far more likely to be using it to reach another transit route such as the Spadina subway.

    I agree that in Mississauga, at least initially, a number of bus routes feeding into the BRT corridor will give better coverage. Eventually, there may be enough demand to a cluster of locations on a potential LRT line for an upgrade, but I am not holding my breath.


  14. @Michael S:

    The main purpose of extending the Eglinton LRT to Square One would be to connect to the Square One bus terminal, and the future Hurontario LRT. It would not connect directly to the employment areas at 401/Hurontario and Meadowvale but connections would be provided by buses. It would however connect directly to the Airport Corporate Centre business park area.

    I don’t know exactly the origin destination data for trips to employment areas in Mississauga but the 2006 census shows 58,145 people commuting from Toronto and 55,375 from Brampton and the numbers have no doubt increased since then. The traffic congestion problems on Highway 401, Highway 403 east of Hurontario, Highway 410, Eglinton Avenue, Hurontario St and Dixie Rd are severe. Highway 401 just east of the 409 interchange has the dubious distinction of being the busiest section of road in North America and this is largely caused by reverse commute flow to Mississauga. Transit improvements in this area are desperately needed and this includes Milton GO train, Eglinton LRT to the airport (needs to be grade separated, given this can be done cheaply), Hurontario LRT, and various improvements to bus service (such as higher frequencies on the buses to Meadowvale Business Park, and extending the Dixie Rd bus to Bramalea Town Centre).


  15. RE: I-METRO-E

    According to, Jim Jones (identified as a councillor and “author of the above-ground-electric-subway vision”) says that “the ‘I’ stands for innovative, integrated, iconic, intelligent and immediate.”

    So far it gets 10/10 for use of buzzwords.

    Apparently it will be ready by 2015, in time for Expo 67 – oops, I mean the Pan Am Games. I suppose the town of Markham is planning on coughing up that $2 billion for their “Yonge street of the East?”

    Hey while we’re at it, why not go for a bona fide, electrified monorail instead?


  16. The 401 sees well over 400,000 vehicles on its busiest segment (Highway 400 to Weston Road.) There is no way that this is caused by just under 60,000 people commuting to Mississauga, even assuming they all drove on the 401 through that point. The traffic volume on the 401 is largely caused by an absence of a highway grid that can be found in similarly-sized cities such as Montreal or Detroit, which isn’t a bad thing. Brampton commuters have no use for an LRT on Eglinton, and the only way to justify a grade-separated LRT from Toronto would be once again to assume that every single commuter from Toronto would use it, which is untrue.


  17. Jonathon said:

    “The traffic volume on the 401 is largely caused by an absence of a highway grid that can be found in similarly-sized cities such as Montreal or Detroit, which isn’t a bad thing.”

    If we believe that the absence of a highway grid is a good thing, than we have to provide alternative means of transportation. Isn’t that logical?

    Traffic congestion is definitely a bad thing.


  18. One interesting fact that may add something to this debate, two-thirds of Mississauga’s jobs are filled by people who live in Mississauga. This is significant insofar as it suggests that there is a very substantial amount of traffic passing into Toronto via Mississauga but not originating in Mississauga. Mississauga has obviously had some success in getting its population to have shorter commutes in terms of distance traveled, although it needs a much better mode split.

    As an aside, I find a lot the discussion taking place in this thread really underlines GO’s potential role if it could evolve beyond its current model.


  19. Steve when the Mississauga BRT is complete how will it interface with the TTC since the western stretch of the Crosstown is far beyond the horizon? Will there be any route changes, BRT light etc? I haven’t seen anything related to it and wondered if you were in the loop on this.

    Also I was curious if the TTC would revisit the design of the Crosstown on it’s surface section? Correct me if I’m wrong but the finalized design had median u-turns which I really wish they would revisit.

    Steve: The Service Plan for the Mississauga BRT clearly shows the routes heading down to Kipling Station. It’s a bit odd to have everything go north to Renforth terminal, and then back south to Kipling, but that’s what they are planning. As for a future connection to Eglinton, even the initial build won’t open for 8 years, and I don’t think anyone knows what the lay of the land will be by then.

    I agree that the LRT design west of Jane needs to be rethought. Those screwy U-turn/right-turn arrangements simply add more traffic crossing the LRT right-of-way (almost certainly at traffic signals that nobody will ever get around to co-ordinating properly with the LRT service), and they are an easy target for criticism about bad design, notably for large vehicles.

    Another design that needs rethinking is the interchange between the busway itself and the LRT line which, as designed, would see everyone make the connection as on-street pedestrians more like Yonge and Dundas than a major “mobility hub”.


  20. Regarding comments on the Mississauga BRT, consider that the BRT is actually Mississauga’s section of the “403+Finch Hydro Corridor” transit corridor proposals which have been proposed, filed, revived, and circular filed, over the past 40 years.

    The Mississauga BRT was originally meant to be the “Transitway” and was modeled in some part after the Ottawa Transitway and was supposed to be built 30 years ago. My guess is that the plan for bus service came out after the GO Alrt plans didn’t take off (little joke there). All that was built over 40 years was 4km of bus bypass lanes on the 403 between Erin Mills Parkway and Mavis Road.

    So the Mississauga BRT is very much an outgrowth of that 30 year old plan where that someone has decided it “must be built” so it looks like the city is doing something substantial. Hopefully they have learned from Ottawa and will do their best to make the Transitway/BRT effective.

    Regarding questions about slowdowns at the City Centre Transit Terminal, I believe there are plans for a more direct routing at Square One so the delays will be reduced.

    I agree that Brampton has done a great deal with the ZUM service, and other cities in the GTA should take a look at their example. Mississauga has a couple of MiExpress routes on major corridors (Dundas, Hurontario) but most of the other routes are point-to-point express buses.

    Mississauga & Brampton are very keen on LRT along Hurontario to replace ZUM 502/MiExpress 103 and they are looking at 2013/2014 for construction dates pending funding. Dundas may be LRT from Hurontario to Kipling Station, with BRT out to Trafalgar Road in Oakville.

    Also interesting is that there might be an LRT on Lakeshore to Hurontario if the Lakeview redevelopment happens successfully – reviving the Port Credit Radial railway. I wonder if there will be an issue with rail gauge though since I expect the Hurontario LRT will be standard gauge.

    Cheers, Moaz


  21. With respect to Moaz’ comment:

    “Mississauga & Brampton are very keen on LRT along Hurontario to replace ZUM 502/MiExpress 103 and they are looking at 2013/2014 for construction dates pending funding. Dundas may be LRT from Hurontario to Kipling Station, with BRT out to Trafalgar Road in Oakville.”

    I went to the Brampton City Hall meeting on the Hurontario LRT line Thursday 26 April 2012. It was the second most useless meeting I have been to in my life. They said nothing about the route, the stops, the maintenance storage facility, how they were going to get through downtown Brampton or Port Credit south of the QEW. One alternative is to run in mixed traffic with 3 car trains, 30 m long. I want to see that go through downtown Brampton in mixed traffic.

    The Project consultant is SNC Lavalin, Say Nothing Concrete. The Talking head’s answers were, “that is up for discussion”, “it hasn’t been determined yet” or “that is one of the possibilities under consideration.” He could not tell me what time zone we were in.

    The only answer I got was that they WANT to start construction in 2014 for service in 2019. The only problem is money. They don’t have funding. Say Nothing Concrete said they were looking at Brampton and Mississauga funding, possibly Provincial and/or federal funding and other sources. I asked if that included the tooth fairy.

    The 2 guys from Brampton transit at least knew what they were talking about and how their bus system would connect into the system. Brampton is moving the Shopper’s World Terminal to the corner of Hurontario (Main) St. and Steeles Ave. so the LRT won’t have to divert off route to connect with it. Mississauga wants the cars to do a circuit of Square One so the cars can serve Square One Terminal, City Hall and The Living Arts Centre. This is at least a 5 minute waste of time for any through passengers. I pointed this out to the Brampton Transit guys and they said “Please tell it to The Mississauga people, we don’t want it.”

    I sent the above comment to the Hurontario LRT website and their server refused it. They must have a checker for caustic comments. I will resend it again and again until it gets accepted.

    This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.



    Delivery to the following recipients has been delayed.

    Steve: It could also be that their mailbox is overflowing.


  22. Robert

    Councillors in Mississauga especially the one responsible for Cooksville (and the guy who wants to be the next mayor of Mississauga post-haste … I mean, “post-Hazel”) have expressed their support for the LRT, and both city councils have given full approval … quite a different situation from Toronto.

    I agree that there are elements of the project that deserve more questions – and with 100% agreement, and lack of press coverage (agreement isn’t as newsworthy as rancor and shouting matches in City Hall), those issues may not be dealt with properly.

    From what I’ve read of the project, the plan is to run the majority of service between Shoppers World and Square One, with less service down to Port Credit and up to Downtown Brampton. Downtown Brampton is supposed to be a 1-way loop past City Hall and up to the GO station. As for Mississauga City Centre, there will apparently be 2 branches – both off Hurontario. One will loop around the city centre via Burnhamthorpe, Living Arts Drive and Rathburn Road, and the other will travel up City Centre Drive to Centreview Boulevard (where it would meet the other branch). What isn’t clear to me is if both branches will be 2-way or 1-way.

    The LRT line will also apparently have its own crossing of the 403. I agree that the detour will delay service and it basically resurrects a very old problem that Mississauga Transit always had.

    Down in Port Credit the plan is to take the LRT down Hurontario in mixed traffic south of the QEW, where Hurontario is 4 lanes plus a median lane. I don’t know what residents and property owners along that segment of Hurontario will say. The LRT will also go across Lakeshore to Port St. and terminate at Elizabeth St.

    In any case, I think that you are right…there are still many unasked questions and unanswered questions … one reason why I hope the project gets more public awareness and scrutiny

    Cheers, Moaz


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