TTC Meeting Wrapup: May 1, 2012

The TTC board met on May 1.  This was a quiet affair without the political drama of the “old” Ford-stacked Commission, and I almost missed the bumbling antics of the old crew.  The agenda was on the thin side, and everything wrapped up in a few hours.

Major items included:

  • a status report on the LRT projects,
  • proposed changes to the Richmond Hill extension of the Yonge Subway,
  • the Framework Agreement with Metrolinx for implementation of the Presto farecard,
  • the Customer Satisfaction Survey, and
  • the CEO’s report.

LRT Project Status Report

With both Metrolinx and City Council approvals in hand for the four previously-approved LRT projects, work on the network is ramping up again although formally this still awaits Cabinet approval at Queen’s Park.  For reasons best known to the provincial government, this is unlikely to appear on their agenda until the summer, possibly July.


Construction continues at the tunnel launch site at Black Creek.  The tunnel boring machines will be delivered and begin work in fall 2012.  Early thoughts on tunneling strategy presumed concurrent work east from Black Creek and west from Brentcliffe to a common extraction point at Chaplin Station.  This appears to have changed due to issues with tunneling under Eglinton West and Eglinton stations.

It is not safe to tunnel close to an existing structure because there  must be enough headroom between the tunneling equipment and any structure above for the earth to provide support.  However, the Eglinton line’s stations must be close to the subway structure for easy of pedestrian connections between the two.  At Eglinton West station, the TBMs will be extracted west of the station, a new launch site will be built to the east, and tunneling to Yonge will resume from that point.

This will require an extended shutdown of the south end of the Allen Road, a prospect that I am sure will cause much anti-LRT sentiment even though the same process would have been required for a subway line.

The tunnel east of Yonge will be built under a separate contract.

For a short time after the meeting, there was some confusion about the effect of station construction on local neighbourhoods.  Erroneously, Karen Stintz remarked at one point that there would be no concern as the TBMs would just dig through the station area.  Of course this is not true because the station structures require cut-and-cover construction.  Some, but not all, of this can take placed under a decked road.  Stintz corrected herself, but the remark set off a media discussion about the effect of construction at station sites.

Although Oakwood station still appears on TTC maps of the Eglinton line, and Metrolinx (according to the TTC report) awarded a design contract for it in February, there have been no public meetings for this site.  TTC staff advised the Commission that Metrolinx may drop this station from the plan due to low projected use.  Commissioner Josh Colle commented that he has received inquiries from developers about the station, and there is some confusion about who, if anyone, is co-ordinating the LRT project and potential development activity.

Metrolinx purchased the Kodak lands near Eglinton and Weston Road in February 2012 for the Eglinton line’s Maintenance and Storage Facility (MSF).  Preliminary work for an EA for this site is underway, and public consultation should occur in fall 2012.

Kennedy Station

Recently Metrolinx confirmed that the scheme to through-route Scarborough and Eglinton trains had been dropped from their plans due to an inbalance in projected demand for the two lines and concerns about service reliability.  Aside from what this may say about the TTC’s hopes for operating surface LRT in street medians, this also triggers a change in the operation of the revised Kennedy Station.

A new design will be presented for public comment in fall 2012.

Scarborough RT

Although the Scarborough line will use the new yard at Conlins Road as its primary carhouse, the TTC and Metrolinx are still reviewing the land at the existing McCowan carhouse and yard.  This might be recycled as a storage yard to increase east-end capacity for the fleet and better balance the process of loading service onto the Eglinton line from both ends of the route.

TTC staff advised the Commission that Metrolinx may drop the lightly-used Ellesmere Station from the route.


Although the Finch route will not begin construction for several years, a section of the underground station at Keele (Finch West Station on the Spadina subway extension) will be pre-built as part of the subway work to reduce costs and avoid the need to tear up the intersection again for the LRT line.

The underground segment is short, just long enough to contain the station platforms.  Its design is a good example of the minimum requirements for the space needed to dip under an intersection, a scheme often proposed as a way of reducing traffic effects at major intersections.  Although the station box structure shown here is only 60m long, the gradient of the line is kept at 0.3% for a longer stretch in case an expansion to handle 90m trains were necessary.

Finch West Station EPR Drawings

The turnback tracks for Finch West will be located on the surface east of Keele.  The TTC has not yet decided whether to include the stop east of Keele in the project, or simply to end the line with the turnback tracks east of the station portal.

Land for a Finch MSF west of Jane Street was purchase by Metrolinx in 2011.


A mock-up of the Metrolinx LRV may be available according to the TTC report this summer.

The Effect of Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP)

Metrolinx’ desire (and provincial policy) to route all major projects through Infrastructure Ontario and an AFP process has triggered a debate about unnecessary delay to the affected projects.  TTC staff advised that under AFP, the entire process of taking a project to completed design and construction is bundled as one piece of work for a private sector consortium.  This means that preliminary design (typically to 30%) must be complete for an entire project before it can be farmed out via AFP, and work that might otherwise have taken place in parallel with construction must happen up front.  This will typically add one to two years to the projects.

TTC staff will report back further on questions relating to AFP and overall project management at the May 30, 2012 meeting.

At the Metrolinx meeting last week, there were veiled references to potential problems with AFP and project delivery, and I had the sense of an “AFP if necessary, but not necessarily AFP” sentiment among some present.  The question, of course, is whether the up-front delay will be offset by a robust, cheaper and possibly faster design and construction process.

Originally, AFP was to be used only for the Conlins Road MSF and for the Scarborough project, but now all parts of the LRT plan are subject to this methodology and this has contributed to the extended project timelines.

Yonge Subway Extension Amendments

The TTC will launch an amendment to the Transit Project Assessment for the Richmond Hill subway extension for the following changes:

  • modifying Cummer station to add a substation, and to eliminate a conflict between a ventillation shaft and an existing sewer;
  • reducing the size of the underground bus loop at Steeles station and eliminating one of its access ramps;
  • adding a bus loop at Clark station to remove some traffic from Steeles;
  • removing Royal Orchard station from the project as there is minimal development potential at this site;
  • adding a storage and maintenance area for 14 trainsets north of Richmond Hill station and adjacent to the CN rail corridor.

The proposed storage and light maintenance area will be three tracks wide and over 800m long.  An earlier scheme that had been mentioned at TTC meetings involving a new carhouse on property to be acquired in York Region appears to have been dropped.

The report includes a history of this proposed extension and the text of City Council’s conditional approval in January 2009.  The “Downtown Relief Line” figures prominently in this approval, but the TTC has so far been silent on options for this project.

Presto Framework

The primary function of this report is to recommend that the Commission delegate authority to CEO Andy Byford to negotiate and execute agreements with Metrolinx for the implementation of Presto according to a previously approved framework.  The report includes a recitation of the history of this project and a description of the division of responsibility for various aspects of the design, implementation and operation of the system.

Although there is a reference to functional requirements including the “fare policies and products” to be supported, we have still not seen any public discussion of what these might be.  We do not know what fare models the TTC is contemplating, or if any options have been “designed out” of the system.  I have sent a query to the TTC for further information about this.

In its negotiations with Metrolinx, the TTC has been quite firm about capping its portion of the system implementation costs at $47-million.  This is based on an original estimate of $140m total for a new fare collection system, an amount that is at least a decade out of date.  Metrolinx will finance anything beyond the level of available funding and will, in theory, recoup the investment out of efficiencies in their part of the operation and fees (at a rate of 5.25% of Presto revenues).  To what degree this actually happens will almost certainly be buried in Metrolinx general financial statements.

Customer Satisfaction Survey

The presentation made by Chris Upfold at the meeting is not available online.  The information in it is guardedly optimistic about customer attitudes, although there are some noticeable areas such as service quality where riders are less than pleased.

The survey is conducted on a rolling basis so that it is not subject to the distortion of a large point-in-time sample that might be skewed by a single major event, and to allow for tracking of evolving attitudes.  As the collection of data expands, the information will also give reliable indications of differences between various populations such as suburban/downtown residents, time-of-day effects, and the sex and age of riders.

I hope to get more information about this survey in the near future, and will publish a separate article when this is available.

CEO’s Report

The new format of the CEO’s Report (formerly the Chief General Manager’s Report) was introduced at the March TTC meeting.  This is the second report in this format, and the first covering operations for 2012.

When I first learned that the new CEO, Andy Byford, planned to introduce KPIs (“Key Performance Indicators) as a reporting tool, I cringed.  In my previous professional life at another large public sector agency, this type of reporting occurred at so consolidated and averaged a level that meaningful information was hidden within broad averages.  Indeed, management reporting tools can turn into an exercise in “gaming the system” to produce results that reflect well in the metrics.

The current set of KPIs and the information in the CEO’s report is intended as a work in progress to evolve with more detail and a better understanding of the system’s operation.  That, in turn, will bring the ability to track performance at a detailed level.  We shall see.


Ridership for 2012 is running ahead of 2011 by 4% and above budget by 2.3%.  This, coupled with changes to the loading standards that eliminated some of the spare capacity used to absorb growth, creates a need for more service beyond what was originally planned.   The projected ridership for 2012 is now 512-million up from the budgeted 503-million, a number that was not credible when the budget was passed as it was only marginally higher than the 2011 actual.

A report detailing these requirements was intended to be presented as a companion to the CEO’s report, but it was not completed in time.  This report is expected to be on the May 30th meeting’s agenda.

Thanks to the machinations of the Ford-dominated Commission and actions taken by Council, we have been through two budgets where sacrifice took precedence over service.  Any report on expanding system capacity must not simply address the effect of ridership growth, but also the question of whether a return to the Miller-era standards should be considered to give better resiliency to the service.  Crowded buses and streetcars load more slowly, and passengers are not happy being left at stops.  Among the topics I hope to see in a report on future service requirements are:

  • A realistic review and projection of riding growth showing where (routes, network segments) and when (peak, offpeak, weekend) this is expected, and the effects this will have on service requirements.  Too many TTC budgets have low-balled riding projections resulting in budgeted service levels that cannot address actual demand.  Past efforts to improve service have been hamstrung by constraints on fleet size, garage space and operator workforce.  All of these need to be addressed in any co-ordinated program of service expansion.
  • Codification of the ad hoc Service Standards that were implemented as part of the 2011 and 2012 budget processes, and a discussion of the effect of rolling back to the 2010 standard on service quality, attractiveness and budgets.
  • Review of services actually operated to ensure that they meet whatever standards are in place, especially as this relates to maximum headways and walking distances.
  • Review of the process for adding or reintroducing services.  Under the Ridership Growth Strategy, the need to consider extending services to additional periods (e.g. providing evening or weekend service on a route) was not an issue because the standard called for full service.  In an era of budget cuts, the thought of actually adding back some service has not been on the table.
  • Review of the proposed Transit City Bus Plan and other schemes for an enhanced network of major surface routes.

Once again, Toronto has a political environment ripe for a discussion of service quality, and the TTC should provide a detailed menu of options, benefits and costs for Council’s consideration in budget for 2013 and future years.

Service Quality

In this area, the KPIs are very much a reflection of what the TTC has managed to achieve historically rather than a demonstration of ongoing improvement.  I understand from TTC staff that the intent is to refine the measures and revise the targets upward so that merely doing as well as could be hoped is no longer the standard of service quality.

Subway reliability is defined relative to schedule, not to headway, but despite this measure, the reliability numbers are in the mid to high 90 percent range.  Yonge underperforms Bloor, and this is put down to problems with the new TR trains including a misuse/misunderstanding by passengers of the appropriate use of the new assistance alarms.  However, the data for 2011 shows that the YUS has consistently underperformed the BD and Sheppard subways (albeit by a few percent), and this explanation does not really hold water.

The TTC has a long history of blaming its problems on external factors, and while there may be some problem with passenger alarms and door delays (no doubt caused by overcrowding), the TTC’s tendency to blame the customer runs counter to a supposedly new, friendlier approach to service.

On the SRT, reliability is measured as percentage pf scheduled trips operated, with a target of 80%.  This is an astonishing situation and speaks to the unreliability of the fleet and control system on the line.  How it will survive until late 2015 when rebuilding will finally start is a mystery.  It is worth noting that the past winter was quite mild, and the SRT was generally not affected by snow-related problems that have plagued its operation in other years.

The measure of bus and streetcar reliability is stated in two different ways depending on which chart one reads.  In the summary on  page 2, the measure is “headway ±3 minutes” while in the detail charts on page 8, the measure is “on time”.  These are two quite different values, and this discrepancy should be resolved.

Although the details are not published in this report, this type of measure is provided internally at the division and route level so that problem areas can be identified.  Commissioner Cho asked whether local breakdowns are available for review, and he was told that these are available online.  Presumably this is only within the TTC’s Intranet, although this sort of information would be useful if published externally as well.  (Council members, City staff and members of the public do not have access to the internal network and websites at the TTC.)

Elevators and Escalators

The target availability for both elevators and escalators is 97%.  Although numbers are up from 2011 very slightly, the goal is not quite met for escalators.

However, the larger problem is with the metric itself.  I have been told that the numbers represent the status of the devices at 9:00 am each day, and breakdowns over the course of a day do not show up in the stats.  Unfortunately, riders use these machines at all hours, and a common problem is that they go out of service and await repair (or simply an inspection and manual restart).

This is an example of how a “KPI” can look good because it reports on a snapshot that may not be representative of the day’s operation as a whole.


Discourtesy is the largest single category of complaints, and it is one area that shows a marked improvement (a reduction of about 20%) over 2011.  However, there is a category of “other complaints” responsible for over one third of the total even though each of the constituent categories (over 70) represents a small number.  This begs the question of whether there are too many categories and if there are collections of those “small” ones that should be addressed and reported on as a group.

Major Planned Closures

This is a useful report, although it is incomplete.  Moreover, this sort of information belongs on the public website as a summary of upcoming disruptions.

The BD line will be closed between Warden and Kennedy on May 12/13 for trackwork, and the third stage of the King Crossover installation will occur on the weekend of May 26/27.

Track replacement on the streetcar system is scheduled for:

  • Queen from Greenwood to Coxwell: May 7 to October 8
  • Dufferin from Queen to Dufferin Loop: May 14 to Nov 17
  • Queen & Spadina intersection: June 23 to 30
  • Adelaide & Spadina intersection: July 1 to 7

Platform upgrades are planned at various locations on Spadina from June 17 to Nov 17.  What is not mentioned here is that the Spadina streetcar will be replaced by buses running in mixed traffic for at least part of this time.

There is no mention of track replacement on Queen’s Quay nor on Spadina, both of which have been in the long-term plans for some years, nor is pending work on McCaul and on York streets listed.

This section of the report will be more useful if it includes track and road construction projects affecting transit service, and if the list is complete.

Financial Data

Fare revenue is up for 2012 relative to budget due to strong ridership numbers, although the percentage increase for revenue is lower than the absolute number of rides.  The reason for this is a continuing trend of passengers shifting to Metropasses and pass holders increasing their monthly trip count.  Sadly, the TTC does not publish detailed information about this, nor about the breakdown in time of day or type of fare used.

Expenses for 2012 are running  below budget because of lower than expected fuel costs and the warm winter.

In the short term, the subsidy requirements are running well below budget, but the TTC plans to increase service in response to ridership growth.  The projected year-end expenses are $5.5-million above the budgeted level.  Oddly enough, this is roughly the amount of extra subsidy Council tried to give the TTC, but the funds were diverted to Wheel Trans.  Unbudgeted service improvements will come from the farebox and will be less than might have been possible had Council’s funding been used for regular operations as intended.

There is a broader issue of Wheel Trans funding to address because its farebox recovery rate is so low.  Council and the Commission must decide what its goal for Wheel Trans actually is, and provide funding appropriate to that goal.  If there is a funding problem for this service, we should know what the pressures and options are, not hide the problem by raiding the regular operating budget for a  cross-subsidy.

56 thoughts on “TTC Meeting Wrapup: May 1, 2012

  1. Apparently some supervisors are using TransSee. It is also popular among drivers to find out when the vehicle are taking over is arriving, because it can show the run number.

    I recently added a feature to TransSee (enabled in the settings) to show the gap in predicted arrival time between each vehicle. The number is colour coded so it is black if the gap is close to the average headway, it gets more and more green if it less then average and more red if it is greater then the average. Unfortunately, the result is usually very… Chistmasy.

    Steve: Isn’t it wonderful how the TTC waits forever to embrace technology, and then someone else does it for them. So sad.


  2. Robert Lubinski said:

    I think we’re misreading the objective of these KPIs – they are not for the customers’ benefit, but internally focused on adherence to schedules…

    I have to disagree with this. KPIs, especially at the CEO Report level, should represent what the organization _wants_ to achieve, not _how_ it’s achieved. Turning a KPI from “red” to “green” should achieve something truly worthwhile — you don’t want a lot of wasted effort in just making the report look better.

    Schedule adherence to an unpublished schedule has no intrinsic value. It’s valuable because, if you had 100% schedule adherence, you’d have great headway consistency and, as mentioned, low overtime costs. So schedule adherence is one way to achieve consistent headways, but not the only way. By all means track it as an internal metric, and if a line supervisor decides that their technique for meeting headway goals is to stick rigidly to the schedule, that’s their perogative. But schedule and headway can’t both be goals, because they aren’t always compatible. Unlike e.g. a KPI tracking the percentage of operators who arrive on-time for their shift (hard to see how higher on-time numbers would hurt), trying too hard to keep to the schedule can have negative impacts on headway consistency.

    With the exception of first/last trains, subway passengers only care that trains are evenly spaced, and that’s what the commission should see in the CEO report. If overtime costs are a concern, then those could be a KPI as well.


  3. Starting to wonder what the hold-up is on awarding the construction contract for the Ashbridges Bay LRV facility. The Commission has already voted to do so, but the latest CEO’s Report indicates site plan approval is still not in hand, meaning no contract can be issued. Given that the new streetcars are supposed to enter revenue service next year, this seems to be cutting it very close. Do you have a sense of what’s holding things up, Steve?

    Steve: I believe that there are details about the site being negotiated with the City and the local Councillor. I am not impressed.


  4. Regarding the need to redesign Kennedy since Metrolinx has given up on the idea of through routing, has Metrolinx ever looked into the idea of using a single level station for both LRT lines at Kennedy?

    The idea would be to use a 2 island platforms – 3 tracks arrangement with the Scarborough line on the centre track and the Eglinton line on the two outer tracks. The loop for the Scarborough line would pass either over or under the Eglinton line with the tracks to the east of the platforms laid out to allow for future through routing.

    The idea is to make transfers between the two lines as painless as possible. The only thing that I’m not sure about is whether there is enough land available around Kennedy station for such a large station and the track layout needed to make it work.


  5. @Nick L

    I think that would just encourage more people to travel along Eglinton rather than the BD subway. If there is a transfer we need to make as painless as possible, it should be between BD and the SLRT, but that would require rebuilding the BD platform which wouldn’t be feasible.

    Steve, you (or others) cite the capacity problems that would merely shift further north on the Yonge subway at Eglinton, instead of Bloor, if the SRT and Eglinton LRT is through-routed (with complete grade-separation). But would this even be a concern if the DRL goes up to Eglinton and Don Mills?

    Steve: That’s one of the reasons I believe the DRL should go up to Eglinton — intercept that traffic east of Yonge Street with an attractive alternate route to downtown.


  6. “That’s one of the reasons I believe the DRL should go up to Eglinton — intercept that traffic east of Yonge Street with an attractive alternate route to downtown.”

    Then the case to keep the Eglinton LRT on surface east of Laird isn’t strong at all, since:

    -Metrolinx has got the numbers that prove the peak ridership would justify grade-separation, and
    -funneling BD subway riders to Eglinton wouldn’t pose a major capacity problem southbound on Yonge around downtown, with a DRL to Eglinton.

    I suppose we can demand the TTC/Metrolinx to run their simulation again with every single line in The Big Move (including the Agincourt Crosstown line), and hopefully once-and-for-all disprove the need for a fully underground line. Until that happens, the LRT versus subway on Eglinton debate will not conclude.

    Steve: The question is whether the demand on Eglinton at a point east of Laird builds to a level sufficient to overwhelm surface operation. The Metrolinx numbers only “prove” that if you force feed the line in a way that encourages the demand model to stuff everyone on Eglinton, you get a higher simulated demand. Metrolinx has always wanted a completely grade separated Eglinton in aid of a Skytrain project, and this was a major problem between Metrolinx and the City during the Transit City years. There are certain parallels here to the demand projections for Sheppard’s subway line.

    It’s worth noting that Metrolinx demand projections in general tended to be quite high and included levels of ridership that the infrastructure simply could not handle, notably on GO but also on parts of the subway system. This didn’t stop them from including the numbers in their projections of trips diverted from auto to transit and the associated “green” savings in pollution and congestion.


  7. Why not instead of a Jane LRT make a Keele LRT north of Eglinton to Steeles. Then Run the west side DRL from here to wherever it connects with the east portion?

    I will also be extremely frustrated if stations on the Crosstown like Oakwood and Chaplain crescent get cancelled for financial reasons making the tunnel portions increasingly wider spacing but then keeping the above ground stops which are between major intersections.

    If they ran the LRT above ground portion east of Don mills with the same stop spacing that they would have used if it had remained all underground, could it not produce the speed and frequencies desired to run one continuous route with the SRT?

    Steve: It’s not the stop spacing or speed that are at issue. The Scarborough leg will have much higher demand than the Eglinton leg, and through routing presents operational problems the TTC does not want to address.


  8. “It’s worth noting that Metrolinx demand projections in general tended to be quite high and included levels of ridership that the infrastructure simply could not handle, notably on GO but also on parts of the subway system. This didn’t stop them from including the numbers in their projections of trips diverted from auto to transit and the associated “green” savings in pollution and congestion.”

    So the big question is: are the network and land-use assumptions behind Metrolinx’s modelling incorrect?

    Steve: It’s a combination of factors. First, the model does not appear to be capacity constrained and some of the numbers in the background report on demand exceed the actual or likely capacity of various routes. Taking the five “express rail” corridors (Lakeshore west and east, Brampton, Mississauga (Milton line) and Richmond Hill), the peak hour peak point demands range from 17k to 26k on trains running at a 5-minute headway. GO Transit is showing no signs of coming close to aiming at this sort of operation. Between them, these five corridors would bring about 100k trips into Union during the peak hour. How will all of these people get to the trains? Certainly not by parking.

    Meanwhile, the projected demands on the BD and YUS subways downtown are well below current levels. It is unclear to what extent this is due to reassignment of trips to other routes, notably the DRL which has a modelled peak hour demand of 17.5k. This is quite respectable, but it does not fully explain the drop in demand on the YUS to 25.4k, or the BD line to 16.4k. Put it another way, the total number of subway-based trips into the core is, if anything, low.

    On the bus corridors, the projected demands are quite respectable and in many cases above the level of major bus routes on the TTC today. This implies a substantial change in the way bus services will be used in the 905.

    In general, and the background paper acknowledges this, there is no sensitivity to the effect of fare structure. This is of particular importance when we look at shifting demand from the subway network (as it will be in the future) to GO.

    A major problem with the model is that we don’t build networks all at once, but they evolve over time as we add various components. Where are the most critical additions that are needed in the short and medium term? Presuming that we get a revenue stream of $x-billion per year, are the actual needs front-end loaded to make up for years of disinvestment, or can system expansion actually take place over 25 years? This brings us to a model where the revenue stream pays off big up-front borrowing rather than providing pay-as-you-play construction funding directly.

    Metrolinx owes us a much more detailed study of network buildout and the evolution of demand over a 25-year period including alternate scenarios. This is essential to “selling” the new revenue tools because people who are asked to tax themselves more need to know what they might get for their investment in the reasonable future, not 25 years out.


  9. If the slowdown by street running on Eglinton is only ten minutes or so (vs. Metrolinx’s preferred underground route), it seems reasonable that riders will eventually see that the time saved by switching to the Danforth subway is really not that much, and demand on the Eglinton leg will slowly build. Instead, what this really says is they don’t have confidence that street-median LRT can attract riders. Now that we are reverting back to the surface Eglinton plan, the TTC needs to embrace the idea that street-median LRT, if implemented correctly, can be almost as fast and reliable as a fully grade separated service. Breaking the lines apart simply sends out the wrong message.


  10. If it is predicted that interlining Eglinton and the SRT would create capacity problems on the light rail section of Eglinton, this is a strong argument for spending the extra money to grade separate Eglinton. I think that with Eglinton as the main crosstown line north of downtown, the demand will be high.

    Also not all the demand on Eglinton will be going downtown. Eglinton will be the main access to Pearson Airport so I would expect to see a fair number of long commutes (e.g. Scarborough to Mississauga). By providing an alternative to the severely congested 401, there will be a lot of induced demand (i.e. by making long east west commutes across the top of the city easier and allowing people to avoid the 401, more people who live in Scarborough will accept jobs in Mississauga). Although current travel patterns show relatively few people from Scarborough working in the western GTA, this is really misleading because the 401 has a limited capacity (about 15000/hour, so 60000/direction in a 4 hour rush hour period) and is severely congested (one section of it is the busiest highway in the world) so many people actively avoid it, and if you provided an alternative then it would be heavily used due to the massive latent demand. A grade separated Eglinton line could easily save 10-15 minutes going from Scarborough Centre to Don Mills, from eliminating the transfer at Kennedy and speeding up the trip between Don Mills and Kennedy. Of course, if a subway is ever built along Don Mills, this would increase overcrowding on Eglinton east of Don Mills.

    For the same reason, I think it is worth spending the extra money to build subway, not light rail, on Sheppard. Subway will cut the trip from STC to Sheppard/Yonge in half compared to light rail, which provides zero (or slightly negative) time savings compared to buses on this trip. Although it won’t go east of STC there is lower demand in this section. This means that it will be more effective in providing an alternative to the traffic jams on 401 west of Morningside in rush hour. Also there are a lot of new condos on Sheppard, e.g. at Sheppard/Victoria Park, Allen/Sheppard and the Metrogate complex at Sheppard/Kennedy. Although a subway going downtown (downtown relief line/Don Mills line) is desperately needed, it is far from the only place in the GTA where subways are needed. Highway 401 carries far more people than the DVP and Gardiner going downtown combined and an alternative is urgently needed.


  11. How does one decide whether to go underground to avoid property impacts, or to stay on-street and expropriate properties? I’m asking for several reasons, including:

    -that Eglinton is going underground not because the forecasted ridership require grade-separation, but because very many properties would have to be expropriated to maintain 2+ lanes/direction for general traffic,

    -Finch between Yonge and Bathurst (especially as one gets closer to Yonge) has a right-of-way width of less than 36 metres, creating the same situation as central Eglinton for several blocks. Yet underground is not being considered at all except for at Yonge Street itself,

    -Sheppard, around Kennedy and Midland, has a handful of properties that would need to be expropriated for road-widening. I would understand that going underground just to avoid expropriation for a small number of properties may not be justifiable, which is why I imagine they’re following through with an all-surface alignment around that section.

    I generally agree with what Transit City proposed, but am rather confused about what standard they use to make these decisions.

    Steve: The section of Finch from Bathurst to Yonge is wider than Eglinton in the “old” parts of the city. Many of the properties are set back from the street while on Eglinton they come out to the lot line. It would be interesting to know exactly how much of the lawns in front of some of those houses actually belong to the city. There is also the option of swinging north to the Hydro corridor, although this would not be convenient for people who now have local service on Finch itself.

    An important distinction is between partial expropriation of parking space or lawns for a wider road as against widening that requires building demolition. This is a big issue through Mount Dennis at Weston Road.


  12. Andrew mentioned his desire for a subway or grade separated LRT on Sheppard and Eglinton respectively. I am of the camp that I would want grade-separated transit everywhere – but it has to be reasonably economical.

    1. Sheppard LRT is about $1B, while the subway to STC is about $3B – a 200% increase in cost.
    2. Finch West, which Ford somehow mentioned as being a possibility for subway, cost about $1B as LRT and possibly about $5B or $6B for subway – a 500% increase.
    3. Eglinton is already grade separated for good portions. The LRT cost for Eglinton and the Malvern Extension is about $6B. I would guess that an elevated portion on Eglinton would cost about $0.5B. Thus, to make Eglinton a fully grade separated line, it would increase the cost by about 10%. Phase 2 of Eglinton would also become costlier, but still not that difficult using the Richview corridor.

    How about cancelling the SELRT from Don Mills to Agincourt (Kennedy) – since they do not even want it. Then use the money to grade-separate Eglinton. It would also be a great way for Scarborough to get behind a DRL (that goes up to Don Mills and Eglinton).

    The act of elevating a transit line really only affects the residents along that 5 or 6km section, due to visual intrusion – aside from the marginal extra cost which is borne by all. It’s a shame that this was never proposed with a choice between elevated or median – no option for underground. Things like stop spacing, running through at Kennedy, and frequency of service – all which improve with grade separation – are a benefit to all who use the corridor, not just those who live directly the short segment in question.


  13. @Jacob Louy:

    Something that I’ve always been puzzled by staff’s silence on is that there are portions of Eglinton between Keele and Leslie that have slopes of 6%-8%, which the Transit City cars will not be designed to handle (5% is supposed to be their maximum). Finch West had one instance of a slope steeper than 5%, although still less than 6%, but the built form in this part of Finch, or more specifically the lack of a built form along the descent into a valley, allows relatively easy re-grading so that that part of Finch becomes 5.0% when they build the LRT. So there is a valid engineering reason for Eglinton to be underground besides ridership: Difficult terrain.


  14. I noticed that the TTC was proposing to run the Finch LRT at 10 minute headways during non-rush hour periods on weekdays and weekends. This would probably be seen as a substantial deterioration in service quality from the existing 5 minute headway provided by buses today during off-peak times.

    Do you know what the passenger volumes are on the 36 Finch bus during off-peak hours? Do the off-peak volumes today actually demand a 5 minute headway in order to maintain whatever the TTC’s off-peak crowding standard per bus is? Or is the 5 minute headway provided to reduce wait times and not really needed to accommodate the passenger loads?

    My final question: would it hurt to keep the same off-peak headways at 5 minutes when the LRT opens? Just how much more expensive would that be to operate?

    Steve: Where does the TTC say it will run 10 minute off-peak headways? There are times when what passes for planning leaves me scratching my head. It reminds me of their original claims that the St. Clair right-of-way would allow them to cut the number of cars operating on the line rather than providing better service with what they had. That mad scheme died a quick death, but not before being just one more reason for people to hate the project as proposed.

    This raises a more general question about service levels on “rapid transit” lines — will the TTC operate a policy headway on the LRT routes as they do on the subway? Maybe not quite 5 minutes, but not much worse. We have talked a lot here about the contribution of access and waiting times to trip times, and the “saving” from LRT operation could easily be offset by longer waits, and that’s assuming they manage a reliable service (pause here for wild laughter).

    With the current focus on vehicle productivity, I would find it hard to think the 5 minute headway isn’t well-used. The route has certainly been busy any time I have used it, but that’s not a frequent event for me. However, one full bus translates to a lot less than one full LFLRV (let alone a 2-car train). Some bright spark no doubt sees the possibilities of running less service (with one-man crews) as a big saving while forgetting the effect on service. Shades of the Queen car whose ridership was destroyed by poor service after the ALRVs were used to widen headways rather than provide more capacity.

    If we take the demand projection from the EPR of 2,300-2,800, this contrasts with the current scheduled peak service of 23 buses/hour or a planned capacity of around 1,250. In effect, the EPR expects the peak demand to double or more, and we can expect a similar change for the off-peak especially considering the benefits of an LRT corridor connecting to a subway station.

    It would be sad, putting it mildly, if the TTC were to operate service on Finch West every 10 minutes while continuing to send trains through the Sheppard Subway nearly empty on a much better headway. If we are going to build a surface “rapid transit” network, we have to take it seriously and make the service attractive. This includes frequent off-peak service.


  15. I forgot to mention, the 10 minute headway during off-peak hours is stated in the “Frequently Asked Questions” of the Finch West LRT Environmental Assessment website. I think that this was also proposed for the Jane LRT as well.

    I too hope that the introduction of LRT in this corridor would be used as an opportunity to increase capacity, rather than merely reducing operating costs. In my opinion, the only case where it is acceptable to increase headways (decrease frequencies) would be if the headways were already very tight, and the new headway would actually make the line more manageable and make transit signal priority more feasible, while keeping wait times at acceptable levels. For example, if today’s headway during rush hour is at 2.5 minutes, it would be acceptable for me if they increased it to 3.5 to 5 minutes, given the substantial increase in capacity that comes with conversion to LRT.

    It is absolutely a double standard that the maximum allowable headway for all heavy rail is 5 or so minutes. It always pains me to see that subways are never candidates for service cuts, while the much more cost-effective surface routes are always vulnerable.


  16. Steve said:

    “TTC staff advised the Commission that Metrolinx may drop the lightly-used Ellesmere Station from the route.”

    Something occurred to me when riding the RT today. Has Metrolinx taken into consideration the impact of the new townhouse project that is being constructed next to Ellesmere station when deciding if it should be abandoned or not?

    Steve: I don’t think a bunch of town houses will have much effect on their decision. I suspect part of the problem is that the replacement tunnel may have to be deeper as it needs more headroom for the LRVs, and this may mean starting the ramp further south into space now occupied by the station. The lack of a good connection for the York Mills bus was a lousy decision years ago when the RT was built, probably one of many cost-saving measures on a project that cost more than double the original LRT estimate.

    Jacob Louy said:

    “I think that would just encourage more people to travel along Eglinton rather than the BD subway.”

    To be honest, would that happen in numbers that are worthwhile to be concerned about? I mean, when a rider is forced to switch to another route to continue their trip downtown, will they always take the option that is across the platform from them or take the “better” subway option? All I’m suggesting with my idea is that we should look at an old problem (transfers) and consider designing it from the perspective of customer service to take advantage of both lines being constructed at the same time. If the TTC is in such poor shape that they need to permanently discourage people from taking one route over another rather than it being the side effect of cost control and/or space limitations, then the TTC has no business building the Eglinton line until the DRL is finished.


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