Metrolinx Resurrects Transit City (Updated)

Updated April 26, 2012 at 1:10pm:  This article has been updated to reflect discussions at the Metrolinx Board meeting of April 25, the press scrum following that meeting, and correspondence between me and Metrolinx to clarify some issues.

Notes from the Board Meeting and Press Scrum:

Chair Rob Prichard asked about the status of unrecoverable losses due to the diversion of Metrolinx effort from the original Transit City plan to the Ford transit Memorandum of Understanding.  Less that $10-million has been spent on preliminary engineering for the Eglinton tunnel east from Laird Station.  Potential extra costs from Bombardier for the vehicle supply contract are not yet known.  If these were simply inflationary increases, then the Metrolinx funding (which includes inflation) should cover this.  However, Bombardier may also claim additional expenses related to the delay.  Prichard urged staff to “negotiate” away as much of such claims as possible.

This issue came up again in the press scrum.  Metrolinx has always said that “others” must bear any extra costs due to the Ford delay, but the identity of this party is unclear.  Elizabeth Church from the Globe noted that Karen Stintz has pointed out that since the Ford MOU was never approved by City Council, the city can hardly be held responsible for the delay.

Both Rob Prichard and CEO Bruce McCuaig dodged around this and other questions related to Metrolinx’ role in pursuing the Ford plan in the absence of Council support, especially considering that Metrolinx hangs its return to LRT on Council’s clear vote for the original Transit City plan as the City’s definitive policy statement.  The Star’s Royson James described Prichard as being good at “ragging the puck”, but never managed to pin him down to an answer.

Prichard hopes that the value of the “extra cost” will be reduced to zero making this a moot point, or at least one small enough to fit under any nearby rug without most people noticing the lump.

Director Lee Parsons asked about the possible funding from P3 Canada and what this might enable.  Bruce McCuaig suggested that it might be possible to add to the scope of work with the additional money available through this federal program, but the dollar value is not large and Metrolinx must still pitch their projects to the P3C board.

Director Richard Koroscil asked what the differences were between the plan proposed here and the previously approved 5-in-10 scheme.

Jack Collins (Vice President, Rapid Transit Implementation) replied that these are mainly the slippage of Sheppard’s completion out to 2018 and the shift of the SRT completion back from 2020 to 2019.  The design team and project manager for the Sheppard project were disbanded when work stopped just over a year ago and a new team must be assembled.  Moreover, the project will now be delivered through Infrastructure Ontario (IO) as an Alternate Finance and Procurement (AFP) scheme, and this adds time for production of the contracts related to managing this process.

In the case of the SRT, the section of the route north of McCowan Station will be built while the existing SRT is still operating and this allows work to start sooner than planned on that line.

Director Rahul Bhardwaj asked about the requirement that the TTC implement the Presto smart card as a precondition of having these projects funded by Queen’s Park.  Bruce McCuaig replied that a proposal from TTC staff for an agreement with Metrolinx and the rollout of Presto will be going to the TTC board at its meeting of May 1.

Director Joe Halstead asked about the roles of three agencies — Metrolinx, the TTC and IO — in these projects.  Metrolinx will be the project owner.  IO will be the procurement agency.  The TTC will provide the design criteria, manage the design consultants and technical details of the projects, and will eventually operate the lines.

Halstead also asked about lessons learned from the St. Clair project.  Collins replied that Metrolinx will maintain a presence in communities to keep them informed as the projects evolve, and noted that the neighbourhood office for the Sheppard LRT that had been closed because of the Ford MOU would have to be reopened.

Director Doug Turnbull asked where Metrolinx stands on the role of subways.  Bruce McCuaig replied that Metrolinx supports subways such as the Spadina extension now under construction, and noted that “The Big Move 2.0” includes both the Richmond Hill extension of the Yonge line and the Downtown Relief Line.  Metrolinx will continue to support subways in this context.  Rob Prichard noted that Toronto Council had asked city planning staff for studies of a Sheppard West connection to Downsview and a Bloor West extension to Sherway.

Turnbull asked whether TBM 2.0 affects any of the four LRT lines up for approval.  Bruce McCuaig replied that the 2.0 document will review progress to date and incorporate new initiatives such as the GO electrification.

During the press scrum, Metrolinx clarified that The Big Move 2.0 will be published at the end of 2012.

Director Stephen Smith asked for a clarification of the AFP bidding process and the meaning of the term “Financial Close” in the project chart.  Jack Collins explained that the procurement would have several stages.  First, bidders would be invited to qualify to bid on the work.  Based on this, three would be chosen, and they would be given funding to prepare a more detailed proposal.  From that work, IO would make its evaluation and select a winner.  At that point, the overall contract and financing details would have to be nailed down, and this would be the “financial close”.  IO will rely on Metrolinx, the TTC and technical consultants for evaluation of the proposals.

Smith asked whether pricing would be affected by the level of activity in the construction market.  Collins replied that preliminary indications from the international market are good because work is drying up overseas.  Also, experienced resources now committed to the Spadina extension will be freed up starting in late 2015.

The report was approved by the Board, and most of us adjourned to the press scrum which was attended by Rob Prichard, Bruce McCuaig, Jack Collins and the usual bevy of Metrolinx communications staff.

After the discussion about “extra costs” noted above, questions turned to the location of the Eglinton tunnel.  It will definitely not go under the Don River because this would involve tunneling through bedrock.  The tunnel boring machines are designed for softer conditions (soil, clay, etc), not for hard rock, and this work would be very expensive.  The line will go under Don Mills Road and will provide for a future connection to a north-south route.

Questions returned to the role of Metrolinx and “the need for a clear and supportive partner” as they put it.  Elizabeth Church asked about the Mayor’s opposition to the LRT scheme.  Bruce McCuaig noted that Council had voted, and had delegated authority to the City Manager to execute contracts for these projects.  Rob Prichard observed that the Mayor and his brother speak for themselves, and that there is a broad consensus for the LRT plan.  Metrolinx won’t stand in the way of debate, but they have lots of room for working with the city.

John Lorinc asked whether Metrolinx is concerned about being “the meat in the sandwich” in the 2014 election?  Prichard replied “no”.  He observed that political actors have strong ideas, and we shouldn’t try to take politics out of transit.  However, we should keep our eyes on the main goal of better transit and less congestion rather than just fixating on four projects.  There will be a contract with the city for these four, and other projects may come.  Metrolinx should be steady in its execution of the projects and although there will be elections along the way, the recommendation is that these projects should be completed.

A few questions on the vehicle contract came up.

Would other cities outside the Metrolinx planning area be able to procure LRVs through the Metrolinx contract?  Jack Collins replied that this decision would be up to the local municipality (e.g. Kitchener-Waterloo or Ottawa).

Given the extended period between vehicle delivery and start of service on the first line (Sheppard), what will Metrolinx do about the warranty that could expire before the cars begin revenue operations?  Bruce McCuaig replied that this would form part of the discussions with Bombardier and final approval of the terms would come from Queen’s Park.  There will be two pilot cars built for Metrolinx but no dates are set yet for their delivery.

Royson James asked about Metrolinx’ role — are they simply following the political path of least resistance, or can we “take their recommendations to the bank”?  Bruce McCuaig replied that Metrolinx would give its best advice regarding regional transportation systems, and that they are the keeper of the long term view.

James asked why Metrolinx keeps changing its mind.  McCuaig replied that there are choices between technologies, and it’s not always a black and white decision.

Rob Prichard chimed in saying that there had also been changes in preference on the City’s side for Eglinton’s technology.  The Ford MOU had tradeoffs — a longer Eglinton tunnel was a gain at the expense of losing the Finch LRT (and the eastern part of a Sheppard line).  Metrolinx need to build projects that make sense, and they are “respecting democracy”.

Elizabeth Church noted that Metrolinx has changed its “expert opinion” especially on Eglinton, and this is frustrating to those who seek technical advice.  Prichard replied that between 2006-08, the original vision for Eglinton was all underground, a faster line attracting more riders.  However, the tradeoffs between costs and benefits led to a subway-surface arrangement.

This exchange led me to write for clarification because at no time did the City of Toronto endorse an all-underground Eglinton line, particularly not once Transit City was announced.  Even before, Eglinton was flagged as a corridor for improved transit and surface priority treatment, but not for a subway.  Prichard is mixing the Metrolinx planners’ fantasies of an all-underground Eglinton with official city and TTC policy decisions, and Metrolinx can hardly claim to be following the City’s changes in policy when in fact the drive for an Eglinton subway came from Metrolinx itself.

I wrote to Metrolinx:

At the media scrum, Rob Prichard talked about the to-and-fro of the city’s position on an Eglinton all-underground line.

It’s worth noting that several reports dating from 2005-6 including the City’s Official Plan and the TTC’s “Building a Transit City” showed Eglinton as a potential transit corridor, but talked much more of surface transit priority than of a subway. ‪

Yes, there was an older proposal for a subway west from Mt. Dennis to Renforth, but the projected demand was quite low and it was not taken seriously.

Therefore to suggest that there was any serious support for an Eglinton line completely underground … is stretching the point.

Metrolinx replied:

As The Big Move was being developed between 2006 and 2008, a variety of transit lines and technologies were modeled and considered in developing the full integrated GTHA system of the future, including Eglinton as a fully-separated rapid transit corridor. The Big Move does not specify whether sections are below ground or above ground.

Also, as Metrolinx worked with the City of Toronto and the Toronto Transit Commission, and a more detailed Benefits Case Analysis was undertaken, Eglinton was confirmed as grade-separated through the central section, and at surface, east of Laird Ave.

It should be noted that the benefits of a totally grade-separated Eglinton were weighed against all other rapid transit projects across the GTHA on a range of issues, including future land use, location of employment, integration with local transit, GHG reductions, the ability to serve communities of higher social need, and travel time.

You can judge for yourself whether there was a city position on the vertical alignment of Eglinton that would support Metrolinx’ claim.

John Lorinc got in a good last word with the question “Will you still support this plan in 2014?”

To assist readers in keeping track of the shifting completion dates for the projects, here is a consolidated chart of the original plans, the revised “5-in-10” plan, and the new 2012 version.

2012.04.25_Project Staging Chart

The original article from April 24 follows below.  Note that some route-specific information has been updated on April 26.

At its meeting of April 25, 2012, the Metrolinx Board will consider a recommendation from staff that sets out how work will proceed with Toronto’s rapid transit projects in light of recent decisions by Toronto Council.  Once this receives formal approval from Queen’s Park, we will be back more or less to the position just before the election of Mayor Rob Ford, but with projects needlessly delayed.

When Ford declared that Transit City was dead, Metrolinx couldn’t wait to negotiate a new transit plan even though Ford had no legal authority to replace an agreement by the previous Council without authorization from the new one.  Now that Council spoke so forcefully in support of the LRT plans for Eglinton, Finch, Sheppard and Scarborough, Metrolinx is ever so eager to fall in line with Council’s wishes.  With luck, the new plans may last long enough that we will actually build something.

A media briefing today (April 24) covered the main issues in the staff report and accompanying presentation.

Although the phrase “Transit City” has officially vanished from Toronto’s lexicon, Metrolinx conceded that, yes, we are more or less back to the Transit City plan with a few minor adjustments.

Eglinton LRT

This line will be built from an indeterminate point at or west of Black Creek to Kennedy Station and will open in 2020.  The western terminus and the alignment of the segment from Black Creek to Jane (or wherever) has not yet been decided.  This will be the subject of a report to the Metrolinx Board in June.

Although a line of this length cries out for a staged opening, this will not actually happen.  This is bound up in the procurement strategy and probably some of the cash flow planning.  The main tunnel project will be a conventional job of tendering for a specified job, letting the contractor build the tunnel, and then taking it over.  However, the stations will be separate jobs to be parceled out possibly as AFP (Alternate Financing and Procurement) with more of the design and project management left to the winning bidder.  Finally, major system contracts such as signalling will be let for the entire line fairly late in the project and, therefore, they won’t be available for a partial opening as far east as the Spadina or Yonge subway.

The line will open in late 2020.

Updated April 26:  Metrolinx has confirmed that the original plan for through service from the SRT to the Eglinton line has been dropped.  Here is their statement on the subject:

The previous plan for a totally grade-separated Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown was a seamless 25 km one-seat ride from Scarborough City Centre all the way to the Weston/Jane area. With the change back to an 8 km surface section east of Laird Station to Kennedy, TTC Service Planning are concerned that they will no longer be able to balance the headways between the heavier passenger loads on the Scarborough Rapid Transit with the non-grade separated portion and the lower loading on the Eglinton Crosstown.

The TTC operating preference is to revert back to the old plan by separating the two lines at Kennedy station. The SRT will remain automated, and the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will have an operator. There will be a non-revenue connection at Kennedy, but its purpose is more for shuttling trains between heavy and light maintenance facilities and the maintenance-of-way.

Scarborough RT

Construction will begin on the northern part of the LRT project (McCowan Station to Sheppard) in mid 2014 while the SRT is still in operation.  Following the Pan Am Games in 2015, the SRT will close for reconstruction as an LRT line with reopening targeted for late 2019.  I asked why this is a four-year window even though the shutdown is planned for only three.  Metrolinx replied that the shutdown is only three years, but they are not certain exactly when it might occur.  Also, they hope that through the AFP process they will encourage the bidders to find ways to shave time off of the process.  However, it is too soon to make detailed projections and they are leaving room in the overall plan.

Conlins Road Maintenance Facility

The joint carhouse for the Sheppard and Scarborough lines will be at Conlins Road east of Morningside and Sheppard.  Some site preparation work has already been done here, but actual construction was put on hold pending the resolution of Toronto’s preferred plans for Sheppard.  This will be an AFP project with the builder responsible for maintenance of the building, at least for the initial decades of its existence.  It is unclear how we will get a 100-year structure out of a company whose responsibility will run barely a third of this, presuming they don’t sell that part of the contract after the building is up and running.

Corrected April 26:  Because the new Metrolinx LRVs will begin to arrive in 2013 2015, this project will be done in two stages so that preliminary facilities are available to receive and test the equipment before there is actually a line to run it on.  An eastern section of the Sheppard line will probably be built before the main project so that there will be some test track outside of the limits of the yard for the early cars.

Sheppard LRT

Construction of the Sheppard line will not get underway until mid 2014, although the pre-award period for this AFP will begin in early 2013.  Metrolinx acknowledges that there is a longer up-front period for the AFP process, but hopes that this will pay off in a faster project.  The fact that the opening date for Sheppard has now stretched out to late 2018 suggests that these hopes may be misplaced, and shows just how badly our first surface LRT project has been sandbagged by Ford’s opposition and Metrolinx foot-dragging.

The report includes no mention of a possible extension to the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

Updated April 26:  At the Metrolinx Board meeting, chair Rob Prichard (who has strong connections to UofT) encouraged staff to find a way to include the “Morningside Hook” taking the Sheppard line south to UofT Scarborough campus if project savings free up any more for extras.  UofT should hope that Prichard stays at Metrolinx long enough to ensure that this actually happens.

The Toronto Star included an article about this line complete with a drawing showing an across-the-platform transfer between an LRT train and a subway train at Don Mills Station.  This is different from the nose-to-nose connection commonly discussed where passengers would make the connection by walking east-west along a common platform.  In response to my query about which design they actually planned to use, Metrolinx responded:

The slide is a rendering of a side-by-side transfer, as you indicated. The presentation from the TTC open house in 2010 … had an end-to-end transfer arrangement. We will need to re-start the design process with the design consultants and finalize the transfer arrangement.

In other words, they have not made up their minds yet.

Finch LRT

The Finch line’s construction will start in mid-2015, not quite a year before the Spadina subway extension opens.  As on Sheppard, there is an extended advance period for bidder qualification and selection, and an four-year construction period.

Infrastructure Ontario and the Mysteries of Provincial Financial Reporting

Ontario policy dictates that all large projects funded from Queen’s Park be run through Infrastructure Ontario allegedly

“to maximize value and increase certainty of on-time, on-budget delivery and a cooperative design process”.

This doesn’t give the TTC or any of the existing project management handled by many private companies who have worked on transit in Toronto much credit.  Whether IO (as the agency is known) will actually achieve its goals remains to be seen.

The financial side has a particular twist in that the actual, as spent budget for the lines is an unknown quantity.  There is an overall budget of $8.4-billion, but these are 2010 dollars and already two years of inflation have pushed up the number.  The actual dollars will continue to rise from now to 2020, but there is no projection of what the final number will be, or reference information someone outside of the government might use to track whether “on budget” performance is really achieved.  (By contrast, TTC and city projects must show their spending projections including escalation factors out to completion, and authorized spending levels must be adjusted to deal with unexpected overages.)

In effect, simple inflation does not count as being “over budget” although it is well known that the cost of some items will rise faster than overall price indices.

One variant on this scheme is the vehicle contract.  It is possible that Bombardier may claim costs beyond inflation due to the delay in starting production.  If so, that’s a potential “cost of delay” which might be to the City’s account.  However, one might point out that the decision to delay was not taken or authorized by City Council.  This is an area where Metrolinx would do well not to encourage a debate about their complicity in whatever delay and associated cost the projects face.

Finally, Ontario hopes to obtain some funding from the Federal “3P” fund which is used to encourage AFP projects.  At this point, the amount they hope to receive is under $100-million, not a big contribution to the $8.4b, but every bit helps.

Election Complications

With so much of the work planned to start in 2014 or beyond, the effect of the next municipal election cannot be ignored.

If we presume that the left-centre political groups can agree on one candidate, then there is a reasonable chance that Mayor Ford will be dispatched from the scene.  However, if the opposition is split, and Ford manages to win re-election, we will be back to the question of his “mandate”, and strong opposition at both Council and Queen’s Park will be needed to counter his anti-LRT-streetcar bias.

In a few years, I hope that Toronto will not just be debating the fine points of these LRT projects, but of a wider menu through Metrolinx’ “Big Move 2.0” which has yet to make its appearance, and through financing options that will move us away from dependence on either the generosity of provincial budgets or the mystical powers of “private sector” investment in transit.

83 thoughts on “Metrolinx Resurrects Transit City (Updated)

  1. @Raymond Lawlor:

    Those are H5s. Raises another question though – are they really being scrapped so soon? Were they not to be part of the re-sale to Nigeria or whatever? Were these two cars in particular retired for other reasons? (Their numbers are not a matched pair.)


  2. @Kristian:

    You’re right now that I look carefully, I had assumed they were H4s given their planned retirement. There were more TTC subway cars in the same scrap yard, but the pair pictured are the only ones I could get a clear shot of from the road. As to what they were doing there, your guess is as good as mine.


  3. Can they use the same digging machines from the YUS extension for Eglinton, Sheppard and Finch? Both Eglinton and Sheppard will have underground parts, I am thinking Finch’s terminus will be underground at Finch West station.

    Could they use the boring machines for the Eglinton line for a DRL. That is assuming that it gets funding? By the time they finish the bored section for the Eglinton LRT line, they could be repurposed to start a DRL. That is assuming that they start all the necessary studies now.

    Steve: The tunnel for the Vaughan extension is smaller than the one for Eglinton because of the extra clearance for overhead power supply on Eglinton. As I have already said in a reply to a similar post, the TBMs for Eglinton are already ordered and will arrive this fall. The connection at Finch West Station will be cut and cover, not deep bore tunnel, and it is possible that the tunnel under the DVP will also be built cut and cover. A lot of it is too close to the surface for tunnel boring anyhow. As for the DRL, we are unlikely to see work on it until at least 2020. It’s a bit early to be worrying about how we might repurpose equipment from one project to another.


  4. Andrew said:

    “It will be impossible to run trains more frequently than they do now which means that the Sheppard subway (which is full with 4 car trains every 5 minutes in rush hour) will not be able to handle additional passengers transferring from the Sheppard LRT plus passengers entering at Don Mills station.”

    Or the TTC could just upgrade the Sheppard line to handle six car operations/TR trains during rush hour if it’s more cost effective than extending the Don Mills platform for the LRT line.

    Steve: As I said in an earlier reply, Metrolinx has not settled on the design for Don Mills Station yet. Somehow, I think that extending the existing Sheppard line platforms out to 6-car trains will be more expensive than building Don Mills so that it does not compromise line capacity. Let’s just hope that they actually have some public discussion about this rather than just presenting it as a fait accompli.


  5. There was a funny moment at the Chaplin open house yesterday when someone asked a TTC communications official about the Eglinton line tunnelling under the DVP. His answer was a very definitive “No, that would be prohibitively expensive,” like the idea was laughable. Not that it isn’t, but I wonder how that same guy would have phrased his response if RoFo’s dream had come true… “The expense is there now, but think of the long-term dollars saved in reduced congestion!”

    Steve: I’m not sure “prohibitive” is the appropriate word — it’s more applicable to tunelling under the Don River than the DVP. More to the point, the LRT will be in the middle lanes of Eglinton, and it is unclear how it will interfere with operation of the interchange.


  6. Steve, if I were to understand the issue behind the 2014 start-date correctly, Metrolinx needs that much time to rehire the entire design team and project manager, as well as rewrite the contracts for IO.

    The big question on everyone’s mind is whether Metrolinx deliberately chose not to begin construction earlier if they could have (say 2013), or if 2014 really is the earliest possible start date due to the above administrative work required to be performed first.

    So is the latter scenario correct?

    If so, then there was no cause for my earlier criticisms.

    Steve: I think that part of this is foot-dragging, but the more I hear about IO and AFP, the more I suspect that it’s a boondoggle. The intriguing bit in the presentation was a hint of “AFP if necessary but not necessarily AFP” on the basis that it may turn out to be cheaper to build the lines the “conventional” way because of the overhead of managing the bidders. How much extra delay it will cost us just to get to the point of finding out that AFP is a crock remains to be seen.


  7. Steve, I saw this image on a Toronto Star article. It has a subway train on the left side of the platform and the Sheppard LRT train on the right side. Platform seems same level on both sides.

    I thought LRT was supposed to be low-floor, a subway is higher due to the wheelbase underneath the car trains. Here is the article.

    That image seems impossible. How can a subway train and an low-floor LRT be at the same level? Unless I am missing something. The whole Transit City’s LRTs were going to be low floor thing…

    Steve: Aside from the fact that, as I have mentioned in a few other comments, this illustration may not be the design Metrolinx will use, it is easy for both cars to be at the same height. The track for the “low floor” LRV has to be higher than the track for the subway train relative to the platform. This would require that the “LRV” side of Don Mills station be opened up so that the LRV would fit vertically. I don’t think Metrolinx has thought this through in much detail yet.


  8. I suppose then that had the Sheppard LRT not been delayed at all that it would have been financed in the “conventional” way then.

    Actually, I had thought that some parts of the Sheppard LRT and Scarborough LRT projects were already supposed to be financed under AFP anyhow (carhouses, etc.). If that’s the case, would the delay in construction then be a result of more aspects of the projects being outsourced for design as well?

    Steve: You are correct about both the carhouse and the SRT project. Both were always going to be AFP. However, the Sheppard line was not, and now all of the extra work to set this up as an AFP must be added to the project plan. I am sure someone at IO will explain how this is saving us money.


  9. Ugh…..I just read the Star article detailing how James Pasternak is trying to sell his “North York Relief Line” by packaging it with the DRL. Is this guy serious? I note that the DRL pictured runs Pape to Union, which I think would add to congestion by ramming more people into Union during peak periods. Steve do you feel that there is no clearly defined idea behind what the DRL is supposed to do?

    My wife already has to wait for the second or third train at St. Clair when she boards there rather than St. Clair West so I can’t imagine how a line from Pape to Union, or even Pape to Osgoode will relieve that congestion. Add in all the TC lines and Pasternak’s beloved NYRL and it will only get worse.

    Do you think the “mighty middle” would buy into this nonsense in order to reach a “compromise”?

    Steve: I think it is essential that the DRL be studied on a wider scale than just Pape to Union. Pasternak is trying to keep alive his dream of a Sheppard west line by linking it with something more credible, the DRL. We can study Sheppard west, but building it is quite another matter.


  10. It’s interesting that Metrolinx mentioned that they will continue the construction on the Eglinton LRT central tunnel but didn’t mention they would start the design of east part of the line, which is supposed to be on grade as City Councils voted. Are they seeking alternative financial tools?

    Steve: I think that the eastern part of Eglinton is far enough out that only the major works such as the Don River crossings will get much attention in the near future.


  11. Steve wrote:

    “…The connection at Finch West Station will be cut and cover, not deep bore tunnel, and it is possible that the tunnel under the DVP will also be built cut and cover….”

    Cut and cover under the 404 would make for interesting pictures. If the Finch West LRT cut and cover is started just after the Finch West subway station work is done that could mean 7 years of construction work fowling up that intersection.

    Steve: The intent is to build the LRT station as part of the Finch West Station project, not as a separate work afterwards.

    On another point, TTC links for LRT work goes to city pages which have the following notice still on them “This project is no longer active. The following information is provided for archival purposes.” Not sure how long it takes to change web copy on the city site but I would have thought somebody at TTC would have at least asked for that to be changed.


  12. Metrolinx said …

    “TTC Service Planning are concerned that they will no longer be able to balance the headways between the heavier passenger loads …”

    A reinstated artificial transfer at Kennedy and another one to get on the Sheppard LRT … terrific. Remember how I said the TTC would not thru-route unless the entire thing was grade-separated? This sort of kills your theory that the SRT would have branched out all over the place beyond STC if it had been originally built in the 80s as LRT. While Eglinton may not be a logical extension of the SRT, the Sheppard E. LRT definitely is.

    It’s not really an issue of merging the headways or the uneven passenger loads. The issue is service reliability from the surface section of Eglinton compromising the integrity of the SRT, and this is where the whole “LRT is flexible” argument falls apart. If the entire STC-to-Jane route were grade-separated, the unbalanced loads/headways could still be effectively, and reliably, managed. For instance, passenger loads on BD were much lighter than Yonge-University when the two routes were interlined, and if memory serves me right we had irregular alternating headways (wide short wide short) on the Keele – St. George segment while the rest of the system had a uniform tighter headway.

    Headways and service frequencies on the three LRT routes (Eglinton, SRT, Sheppard) don’t have to be even multiples of each other to make this work.

    Steve: I find it hilarious that the TTC which always complains that they cannot run reliable surface routes because of traffic congestion is now admitting that they cannot even run reliable service with a reserved lane. This is a huge joke. Nothing prevents them interlining a service from Eglinton to the SRT but the fact they have been fighting this idea for years.

    In any event, I would not hold my breath for a through-routed service even if Eglinton were underground, and the extra cost of doing this has to be weighed against the benefit, such as it might be.


  13. Hi Steve, in the AFP model isn’t the private sector putting up the financing? What are they getting in return for this? Will a private company be operating the lines? I thought the TTC would be the operator.

    Steve: What they are getting is a return on their investment. This is simply another way to borrow money to build the lines, but with the assumption that a private owner would “build smart” and minimize their costs so that they could maximize the return. Of course there is always the question of whether they are simply “building cheap” and hoping that the asset lasts to the end of the lease period (typically far shorter than the full life of a transit asset).

    In some cases, the private partner will be responsible for maintaining the asset. This is the case with the Conlins Road carhouse building where, in effect, they will be a landlord responsible for the property and building while Metrolinx/TTC will be responsible for what they install in it.


  14. “This would require that the “LRV” side of Don Mills station be opened up so that the LRV would fit vertically.”

    Last time I was in Don Mills station, I looked at the space above where the tracks are and I believe the headroom in the station is quite substantial (in particular, higher than the ceiling above the platform). Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo so I might simply be wrong, but my recollection is that I would have thought there was enough space for the low floor of an LRT to be at existing platform height within the existing height. Any existing tunnel east of the station I wouldn’t expect to be tall enough of course. I’d be interested if anybody has some numbers (i.e., actual height from track to platform for subway and LRT, and height from Don Mills platform to ceiling above the tracks).

    Since the Sheppard line already runs with only one terminal track at the West end (the south track), it seems reasonable that the subways could similarly use only the north track at Don Mills, meaning the space currently occupied by the south track could be used for LRT. This would give a true cross-platform transfer.


  15. You’re correct regarding my previous post – I meant the Don Valley, not the DVP. Seriously, what would the TTC’s rationale for digging that tunnel been if their line now is that tunneling is laughably expensive?

    As to through-routing, I understand that they expect the heavier loads to be on the SRT portion rather than the Kennedy-Jane portion. Couldn’t they run a combination of 3- and 2-car trains, with the majority of 3-car configurations short-turning between Sheppard and Kennedy? Assuming most Scarborough traffic is bound for downtown, it makes enough sense to transfer to BD at Kennedy anyway. For the odd Eglinton-bound folk, they can wait for a through-routed trainset. Similarly, most 2-car trains can operate between Jane and Kennedy, with the odd few slated for the SRT portion to service those who need it. There’s no way this is a simple job, but there’s also no way it’s impossible or even impractical.

    What are the odds they’re just trying to save money on a complete rebuild of Kennedy station? Is it at all cheaper to build a transfer point over a through-route?

    Steve: The information we learn about the ease or difficulty of construction seems to change depending on the political mood of the day. I don’t think the TTC ever wanted to dig all of Eglinton as a tunnel, but the problems were downplayed to suit Ford’s agenda.

    I agree that a combination of trains could run on the SRT and Eglinton lines and in the off-peak one might see everything through-routed. Although there will be a track connection between the two lines, it is now intended only for carhouse and maintenance moves. I agree that Metrolinx may be trying to save money on the layout of Kennedy station.


  16. Based on Gary Webster’s answers at the February 8th meeting, I thought that the TTC and Metrolinx had already decided what should be covered by AFP and what shouldn’t.

    Steve: A lot has happened in a few months, and this whole AFP scheme is a moving target, I think.


  17. Miroslav Glavic asked, “How can a subway train and an low-floor LRT be at the same level?”

    In London, Wimbledon station is served by National Rail, the Underground, the Overground, and Tramlink.

    Tramlink is low floor and the rest are all high floor. Tramlink shares a platform, at opposite ends, with a non-low floor service in a way that may be used at Don Mills station. See this photo to see a real life example.


  18. Steve, I’d like to get your take on the whole “transfer” issue and as to why it is such a big deal to have a “one seat ride” and minimal connections. The reason I ask is because personally, I’m not bothered by it so I’m looking to get into the shoes of someone who might be. I’ve never had to make the transfer at Kennedy (well once, but it was 17 years ago!) and at Don Mills, but I’ve had to make make them at other stations (Wilson, Downsview, Kipling, Union, Bloor/Yonge and Spadina). So maybe I’m missing something when I think to myself, “Seriously, what’s the big deal about transferring? It’s the nature of taking public transit!”

    Also – with regards to the Don Mills/SELRT connection, is it mandated to be a “same platform” connection? I guess something that’s “Spadina like” is way out of the question where one may have to walk up a flight of stairs or walk a little further to reach the LRT?

    Also, if anyone has an issue with walking between modes of transport, I suggest you go to Boston and transfer from the Green Line to the Orange line at Park Street Station.. it makes the Spadina transfer feel like nothing!

    Steve: Ah yes … those transfers between lines in Boston can be challenging! Riders on some parts of the system, notably through Kennedy and Don Mills Stations, have been sensitized to this issue by the poor station designs that impose a long walk and multiple changes of level (on escalators and elevators that may or may not be working or conveniently located). An “along the platform” transfer at Don Mills from the subway to the LRT will be much simpler than the one now required to the bus services.

    During the original planning, there was an option for same-level platforms and one for the LRT platform to come in at the mezzanine level of the station (one up from the subway). Going with a same-level platform keeps those who hope that the subway might eventually be extended to Kingston or beyond faith that the tunnel under the DVP might be repurposed some day, not to mention those who advocate converting the existing subway to LRT. A mezzanine level connection would pretty much seal the fate of any future combination of the two routes.


  19. Minor follow-up on the H5s – The two pictured appear to have no major reason for retirement other than that they are nearly the oldest in the series and are releasing their fleet numbers for use on the TRs. Cars that will survive to go to Nigeria are being shipped to a refurbisher in the US.


  20. “One white elephant is no excuse for another — we are not stocking a transit zoo.”

    The intention is to make the existing Sheppard subway less of a white elephant and something more useful.

    Sending the Sheppard Subway to STC? Fine, but ensure Sheppard East LRT continues beyond McCowan. The whole point is that many people are dissatisfied with the present state of the Sheppard Subway. Either we expand it, or trash it. Keeping it as is, to me, is not a viable option.

    Steve: Do you mean the Sheppard LRT or the SRT “beyond McCowan”? As for “viable” options, much depends on how much we are prepared to spend to convert a white elephant to, at least, a light pink one.


  21. What is AFP the acronym for? I know it refers to having private investors pay for construction.

    Steve: The acronym’s meaning is buried in the article somewhere — Alternative Finance and Procurement. Basically it means that instead of having the public sector completely design a project, tender it, handle a good chunk of the project management, and pay for it as it is built, you farm much of this out to a private contractor who also arranges financing and some sort of operation or lease-back scheme. Through the magic of the private sector, this will come out cheaper and better than the standard way of doing things. We shall see.


  22. I read somewhere that the LRVs for Transit City are going to be wider than the new cars for the local city lines. I understood that the only difference (Other than having pantographs) was going to be that the LRV’s would be bi-directional with the differences in seating and doors on both sides that this would entail. Could you clarify that Steve?

    Also will there be differences in HP and gear ratios for speed?

    Steve: I don’t know about gear ratios, but the “city” cars will have more motors than the “suburban” cars to deal with the steeper grades. Both sets of cars will have pantographs, although the city cars will also have trolley poles. Whether these will have been abandoned before the order is completely delivered (and hence our getting a subset of the new fleet that has only pantographs) will depend a lot on when the TTC finishes converting all of the overhead to be pan-compliant.


  23. Steve said …

    “I agree that Metrolinx may be trying to save money on the layout of Kennedy station.”

    I don’t think segregating the SRT and Eglinton LRT will save them money in construction costs.

    A double-decker St. George style layout at Kennedy for the SRT and Eglinton will be required under segregated or integrated operation. I also imagine that interconnection ramps will be required in both directions (think of the ones between Spadina and Upper St. George as an example).

    Steve: According to Metrolinx project status info, a revised Kennedy Station design should appear later this year, and I will be intrigued about (a) its flexibility for potential through-routing, if any and (b) whether they claim that the new design will save money. This seems to be a common theme in a lot of Metrolinx comments these days.

    Also, look at Sheppard E. LRT stop. That looks like it will be a real terminal station above the street for SRT trains, with half a wye (think Museum to Lower Bay), for the connection to the Sheppard LRT and Conlins. Full grade separation of the SRT all the way to Sheppard is going to cost them much more than they anticipated. I take it the entire route will be elevated? Do you know more on this?

    Steve: The link at Sheppard was originally to be on the surface via a road running parallel to the SRT right-of-way. However, the locals went ballistic over the terrible intrusion (and don’t forget this was at the height of the anti-LRT rhetoric), and the design was changed to the half-wye. It’s amazing how money can be found for this sort of thing when Metrolinx refuses to entertain changes elsewhere on the line. North of Sheppard, the original design (based then on ICTS, not LRT) was to stay underground until north of the parkland and then rise onto an elevated station at Malvern Town Centre. I don’t think there is an updated design for this segment of the line since the decision to go with LRT.


  24. David O’Rourke says:
    April 27, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    “I read somewhere that the LRVs for Transit City are going to be wider than the new cars for the local city lines. I understood that the only difference (Other than having pantographs) was going to be that the LRV’s would be bi-directional with the differences in seating and doors on both sides that this would entail. Could you clarify that Steve?

    “Also will there be differences in HP and gear ratios for speed?”

    I believe that the maximum grade on the legacy system is just over 7% while on the suburban lines it is around 5%. The TTC needs all axles powered to push another car up a 7% grade while for the suburban car at 5% grade 4 out 6 axles powered will do. I don’t believe that the total power will be much different, the 4 motors on the TC cars will be each of higher hp than on the Legacy cars.

    From the spec sheets that I have seen the suburban cars appear to be 20 to 30 mm wider than the city cars. I would like to see then 150 to 200 mm wider because adding width is not as expensive as adding length and it would increase capacity. I also think that the TC cars are going to have more length and perhaps wider doors in the overhang at either end of the car as they do not need to negotiate such tight turns.

    The Legacy cars are 30.78 m long, 2.65 m wide and have 2 single doors in the end sections and 2 double doors in the suspended section between the trucks. I can’t find the TC cars but I believe they were 2 m longer and 15 cm wider.


  25. Steve: What they are getting is a return on their investment. This is simply another way to borrow money to build the lines, but with the assumption that a private owner would “build smart” and minimize their costs so that they could maximize the return. Of course there is always the question of whether they are simply “building cheap” and hoping that the asset lasts to the end of the lease period (typically far shorter than the full life of a transit asset).

    Someone at the TTC and Metrolinx needs to stop and look at the Canada Line PPP debacle in Vancouver and just drop the idea of bringing in private partners. I can’t imagine a more stupid transit decision given such a recent and disappointing “made-in-Canada” example.


  26. There’s a difference between “using private partners” and using AFP/PPP (same thing).

    It should also be highlighted that there are both good and bad PPP applications, but Ontario’s recent history hasn’t been very kind on this front thanks to high-publicity PPP-related scandals that seem to crop up on an at least annual basis of late, especially in healthcare.

    Prior to its 99-year sell-off by then-Premier Harris, the construction of the 407 was a successful PPP, ironically enough arranged by Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP. 407 construction saved 20% via PPP while it was still publicly owned.

    That said, there will always be private partners involved in major infrastructure projects like transit, highways, large sewers, and high-capacity electricity generation, PPP or no, because these larger projects tend to require specialized skills that aren’t available in-house at the transit agency, roads department, or hydro/water utility. Even compliance with EA requirements on large projects is a private sector specialty.

    It’s not the method itself that’s the problem, it’s all in the details of how said method is applied. However, there [are] some issues with the current political culture (however one defines it) that makes such discussions difficult, or at least impractical.


  27. Steve, if I can pick your brain for a bit and compare our understandings on AFP:

    What is the basis for determining whether an aspect of a project should be designed by the public sector versus the private sector?

    I keep thinking that because the LRT line itself is to be built in a public right-of-way that the City would rather have the line be designed by the public sector, since the public sector could be more accountable to any stakeholders affected by whatever happens on public property. Furthermore, the operating characteristics of the route itself (eg. number of stations, station/intersection configuration, station design, etc.) can make the line a valuable asset or a money-losing liability for the public agency that runs it (i.e. the TTC).

    Conversely, the carhouses are not in the public right-of-way, so any design that goes wrong there would only affect the occupants and the public in the immediate vicinity. Which is why I’m guessing that the TTC is ok if the carhouses are designed and built by the private sector.

    Steve: Generally you are correct. It’s not just a matter of design but also who builds the project and is responsible for management and quality control. Reading between the lines of statements at Metrolinx, even some of the staff seem unclear on whether the AFP route will actually save money or time on these projects, but I am not sure how they will determine this in advance.


  28. Steve, you said “the LRT will be in the middle lanes of Eglinton, and it is unclear how it will interfere with operation of the interchange (at DVP)”.

    Does this mean that there are some other options that could be considered at this location? If not buried than what? It seems odd that SELRT could not be at grade at Hwy 404 due to the freeway interchange, but no such concerns existed at Eglinton/DVP or Finch/400 – perhaps it is a much busier interchange at Sheppard.

    Steve: The difference between Eglinton’s crossing of the DVP and the situation with Scarborough is that Eglinton already goes under the DVP while the Scarborough line will require a new bridge.

    On Eglinton, there have been proposals to stay underground from Don Mills Station to east of the DVP, which effectively also puts Wynford station underground and could result in its being dropped from the plan. The question is whether there will be any serious capacity problems with Eglinton losing its middle two lanes and having a restructured intersection at Wynford as proposed in the EA.

    As for Finch, the issue at the 400 is that there are two ramps whose traffic would cross the LRT right of way. These are for the south-to-east and north-to-west moves.


  29. Are the stops for the Sheppard LRT finalized, or are they still proposals? I still think there are way too many stops to call this rapid transit. The LRT should only stop at major intersections. Are the Sheppard buses (i.e. the 85 bus) still going to run? Can’t they just run the local buses at less frequency, while using the LRT as an ‘Express’ bus?

    Also, is there a real possibility that the Sheppard LRT will eventually go down to U of T Scarborough? Won’t this make much more sense than running it to Meadowvale? They can certainly gain more buy-in. What are the chances of U of T pitching in to pay for such an extension?

    Steve: It depends on what you call “major” intersections. The whole idea of an LRT line is that people can walk to it, and running a parallel bus service really defeats the purpose of encouraging development to occur at more than a few intersections along the way. Just look at what passes for bus service on Yonge north of Eglinton or Sheppard west of Don Mills. That’s second class service, at best.

    As for UofT Scarborough campus, yes there is a proposal to, in effect, prebuild the northern part of the “Scarborough Malvern” line south from Sheppard to UTSC. Once upon a time it might have served the Pan Am Games, but there has been enough foot dragging that this won’t happen. I agree that this should be an integral part of the Sheppard project.


  30. Nelson Hui wrote,

    “I still think there are way too many stops to call this rapid transit. The LRT should only stop at major intersections.”

    When the TTC was considering either 400 or 800 metre average stop distances, the modeling showed that the speed difference was not as great as one would initially expect – something like 23-24 km/h for 400 metres versus 27-28 km/h for 800.

    One main cause of this is that with farther distances between stops, more people need to board and exit at each stop, increasing the dwell time at each of the fewer stops. Another main cause gets to what Steve said with, ‘It depends on what you call “major” intersections.’ Assuming that Nelson meant roads that were once upon a time called Sideroads (Pharmacy, Warden, Birchmount, Kennedy, etc.), then the LRT speed would be slowed down by the occasional need to stop at a signaled intersection between those “major” intersections (Bay Mills and Allenford for example). Placing a stop at these points essentially “shares” the “need to stop” time and ends up having little effect on the overall average speed.


  31. I guess my definition of major intersections/stops mirror that of the Eglinton Cross Town; the surface stops include Victoria Park, Pharmacy, Warden, Birchmount, Kennedy etc.

    Looking at the map for the Sheppard LRT, they should cut:

    – Palemdale Rd. (between Pharmacy and Warden; really close to Warden Ave stop, though they do have a few apartments and a Red Lobster nearby)
    – Massie Street (really close to Shorting rd, which has a plaza and some industrial buildings. This street has mainly detached residential homes)
    – Burrows Hall (this is not the community center but a stop where there are mainly detached houses). They can get on at Neilson.
    – Murrison Rd. (again, small street mainly for residential homes, they can get on at Neilson).

    Really hope Metrolinx and TTC will revisit the stops one more time.

    PS; love your site Steve. Keep up the great work!


  32. I heard that TTC staff are against the downstream left-turn scheme proposed for Eglinton, and are advocating for the traditional left-turn configuration to be used instead (similar to St Clair, Spadina, Queensway, etc.).

    Steve: That’s nice to hear, but they need to speak up loudly to ensure that any resurrected study of the Eglinton West plan does not include that ridiculous design. It was a major annoyance to the folks in Etobicoke, not to mention to the trucking industry.


  33. @Nelson

    Do you live work along Sheppard in the affected areas where you propose to cut stops?

    Also, the complete station listing for the surface portion of Eglinton is Ferrand, Wynford, Bermondsey, Victoria Park, Pharmacy, Lebovic, Warden, Birchmount, Ionview, and Kennedy.

    “Extra” stops are the result of many factors, such as community demands.


  34. @ Jacob

    Well I do live near Palmdale (but not at the stop). As someone who does plan to take the Sheppard LRT though, I do feel there are quite a bit too many stops on the line. It is resembling more like a right-of-way streetcar route like St. Clair or Spadina, rather than a true rapid line. 23km/h to 24km/h is a bit slow for an LRT; aren’t LRTs suppose to go more like 30 km/h?

    In regards to traffic lights, Palmdale currently does not have a traffic light, nor does Brownspring, White Haven, Massie, Burrows Hall. Apart from Brownsping (which has a condo), the other stops are more to service detached homes on a very quiet part of Sheppard.

    My opinion is to save as much as we can so that the LRT can extend down on Morningside (stops at Military Trail which is a high needs area, and maybe at the Cineplex plaza), and to U of T Scarborough; maybe partner with the School to help fund for this extension.


  35. Calvin Henry-Cotnam wrote,

    When the TTC was considering either 400 or 800 metre average stop distances, the modeling showed that the speed difference was not as great as one would initially expect – something like 23-24 km/h for 400 metres versus 27-28 km/h for 800.

    The TTC’s modelling assumes nobody transfers to the Sheppard LRT from a bus:

    Further, 800 metre spacing did not achieve as great a speed advantage as expected – while the LRT stopped less often, the time for customers to board took twice as long per stop (same number of passengers collecting at half the stops)

    Compare three existing adjacent stations on the Danforth subway with similar walk-up characteristics:

    * Broadview – 30,390 customer-trips/day
    * Chester – 6,980 customer-trips/day
    * Pape – 27,080 customer-trips/day

    If the transfer-less Chester station were moth-balled tomorrow, let’s say half of the current walk-up population would go to Broadview, the other half to Pape:

    * Broadview – 33,880 customer-trips/day
    * Pape – 30,570 customer-trips/day

    The dwell times at Broadview and Pape stations wouldn’t double–they would increase by 10% and 11% respectively.

    The model’s assumption of a 100% increase in dwell time is absurd.


  36. Regarding the stops, it really is important that the riders FEEL that this is a fast operation, not simply a streetcar line on a centre reservation. Otherwise they will feel betrayed and Light Rail will have an insumountably bad reputation affecting any consideration of future lines. However, it has to have stops close enough that it relates to the community, which a subway would not do. It’s a balancing act in which there should probably be some community input. People can’t complain if they are part of the decision making process.


  37. Nelson said: 23km/h to 24km/h is a bit slow for an LRT

    Between Donlands and Jane, the Bloor-Danforth subway has an average speed of about 25-26km/h. 23-24km/h average speed is not “slow,” if it were any faster it would be in full subway territory.


  38. Not sure if this was covered in the reports, but does the LRT have to stop at every single stop (like a subway) or does it have a ringer that passengers can press to request a stop (like a bus/streetcars). If it has a ringer, then I guess having closer stops will make sense (especially during night time when there may not be as many people taking the LRT).

    Steve: I believe it will be like other surface routes — stop on request, not just because there’s a station — at least on the surface parts of the routes.


  39. When will high-speed transit advocates realise how slow the Yonge subway is south of Bloor?

    On another topic, Peter Milczyn seemed pretty unhappy that the underground stations along the Eglinton LRT aren’t incorporating development. I say his concerns would be perfectly valid if the affected stretch of Eglinton is zoned for major growth at nodes in the foreseeable future.

    Steve: But the point was also made by Josh Colle that he is being approached by a developer for land at Oakwood where there station may be dropped from the line due to low projected usage. While it will be useful to keep development in mind, there’s a point where the station designs have to be nailed down because this affects the layout of the station box and the links between track level and the surface. I’m not sure that every landowner is ready to leap into a detailed proposal today.


  40. Chad said, “The model’s assumption of a 100% increase in dwell time is absurd.”

    You are correct. I mistakenly said the dwell time was ‘double’ with longer stop spacing, when I meant to say ‘longer’. If it were double, the average speeds would be way closer than the 16% difference shown in the modeling.

    That said, a the analogy of Chester station on the Bloor-Danforth line has a few problems. First, I would suggest that has a significantly lower use relative to Pape and Broadview compared to examples along Sheppard, Finch, and Eglinton. Even so, if the 800 metre-spaced stops had a 10% increase in passenger boardings and disembarkings, this will have a greater time effect on a two-car LRT with eight loading doors on a 60-metre long platform than it does on a six-car subway train with 24 doors on a 500-foot long platform.

    Most importantly, in the case of the few stops that are near-side, an increase of 10-20% to the dwell time can translate into more of a delay when this results in missing a light phase, which is something the subway does not have to contend with. Fortunately, most stops are far-side.

    All this helps explain why the 800 metre stop spacing only increased average speed by about 16% instead of something that many would assume would be higher. Given that a limited bus operation would be needed with 800 metre spacing, but not with 400 metre spacing, the small increase in average speed is simply not worth it.

    Steve: A few other points to note re “dwell times”. Most stops lose a standard, minimum amount of time just due to the fact that a train slows, stops, cycles its doors, and then leaves. The elapsed time added to the trip is considerably more that the “door open” time. For moderate numbers of passengers, the door open time is more or less constant unless there is bunching on the platform, or friction between boarding and alighting streams. With the new TRs, the standard dwell time is even longer because of the pause before doors open, and again after they close.

    The calculation is not just a question of X, 2X, 3X riders using a station.


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