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.

Eglinton

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.

Finch

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.

Vehicles

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

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.

Complaints

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. Here is my proposal for funding Wheel Trans:

    End the free car parking by car drivers with handicapped placards and use the money raised to fund Wheel Trans.

    Right now, car drivers get free city car parking if they have a handicapped placard. This is rife with fraud and abuse. A while back, The Toronto Star investigated this and ran a series of articles detailing the fraud and abuse. Serious estimates are that an absolute majority of handicapped placard use by car drivers is fraudulent.

    Certainly, well over 95% of the handicapped placard using car drivers that I have seen look perfectly able-bodied to my eyes. This includes those who I have seen loading their cars with very heavy items while benefiting from free car parking because of their handicapped placards.

    I believe that this fraud should be ended and the funds used to finance Wheel Trans.

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  2. Instead of extracting and reinstalling the TBMs at Eglinton and Eglinton West, was there thought given to building the rough station boxes before the TBMs arrive and simply driving through? This is done all the time in other countries. There will still be some surface disruption to build the box but surely this is less disruptive than a box, an extraction portal and an insertion portal. Is this purely schedule driven?

    Steve: I don’t know, but will pass this question on to the TTC and Metrolinx to see what they have to say about it.

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  3. For the Finch West Station underground platform for the LRT, would it be wide enough for use by buses, in case of future LRT track maintenance? Or even to be used for Finch West bus use, east of the station?

    Steve: There is a question of ventillation, and there certainly won’t be a loop available for buses to turn around.

    The Kodak lands were purchased back in February, 2012 for the Eglinton line’s Maintenance and Storage Facility. Personally, I would like to name it the “Kodak Maintenance and Storage Facility” and even keep the remaining Kodak building (if possible) as a historical remembrance of the Kodak history in the area.

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  4. Regarding the Richmond Hill extension, I do not recall any funding commitments for it by any level of government. It also, does not seem to be starting earlier than 2020. Is it because it is tightly coupled to DRL discussions?

    Steve: The line has no funding, and the need to couple this with provision of alternative capacity into the core both via a DRL and some GO upgrades makes the total cost of the project bundle quite large. This won’t even get onto the table until the “Investment Strategy” is in place, and then it threatens to soak up every nickle for years. (I was going to say “penny” but they won’t be in circulation by then.)

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  5. At the CodeRedTO meeting in Agincourt last Thursday, one of the presenters mentioned that starting construction on Sheppard too soon would result in a surge in design/construction activity and cash flow from Metrolinx, since work on Sheppard would have to take place simultaneously with work on Eglinton.

    This reason makes a lot of sense to me, but I’m still puzzled why this point has hardly ever been mentioned. Furthermore, would it still be possible to barrel forward with Sheppard anyhow, despite the potential surge in cash flow?

    Steve: I have heard both the cash flow issue and the AFP/IO delay raised and frankly wish that Metrolinx would be more open with their plans. When they published 5-in-10, they included a cash flow chart showing how the money would be spread out. One thing to note, however, is that the elapsed time of some projects has grown suggesting a contribution by AFP lead times and/or artificially stretched out construction staging (a factor which, I believe, affects Eglinton).

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  6. A few comments on Eglinton LRT construction:

    1) I don’t think closing the south end of Allen is such a big deal. The southbound segment south of Lawrence is disfunctional anyway, the traffic is backed up even in off-peak hours.

    The new traffic situation might even provide a hint whether a redesigned Allen /Lawrence interchange can reduce the jams in the area.

    2) If they drop the scheme to through-route Scarborough and Eglinton trains at Kennedy, how can the Conlins yard (or McCowan yard) store Eglinton trains? Will a non-revenue connection be retained?

    Steve: Yes.

    3) I wonder whether the new design of Eglinton terminus at Kennedy will allow for eventual through-routing with the “Scarborough-Malvern” LRT line. The demand west and east of Kennedy is likely to be fairly similar.

    Steve: At this point, I wonder about whether Metrolinx thinks that far ahead.

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  7. Steeve, this is at least the second time you have reported that there is no mention of a schedule for starting work to replace the rails on Harbourfront and Spadina south of King. I presume this project also includes the re-location of the tracks as a part of the re-design of the Harbourfront corridor itself. Have you any idea why there is this delay?

    Steve: There was a lot of screwing around by Hydro about the timing of work planned for Queen’s Quay, and this was only recently sorted out (Shades of St. Clair). I expect to see some of the Harbourfront folks this week and get an update. They have been supposed to be holding a public meeting and talking about a construction schedule for some time now, but it never quite happens. However, utility work on Queen’s Quay is supposed to get underway this month.

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  8. Have you given further consideration to the idea of you making yourself available to be one of the new non-elected Commissioners? We seem to at a critical juncture here in our transit history when knowledgeable people will be required and I know I am not alone in believing that you should be one of these. It would be only too easy to end up with well meaning but mis-inflormed people who favour “futuristic” transit modes (e.g. monorails) or scuttling the LRT’s in favour of trolley coaches. I doubt they would prevail but they could tie things up.

    Steve: It is no secret that I do not agree with the appointment of citizen members to the TTC given that all of the major decisions are actually taken at Council and at Queen’s Park. The last thing we need is the sort of political hacks who formerly occupied that role, and “experts”, myself included, could get into difficult public battles with the professional staff who are supposed to run the place.

    I am not yet decided on whether to stand for this appointment because it would, to some degree, compromise my ability to speak independently. The selection process will not start until later this year, and the appointments will be made by Council at the end of October.

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  9. Curious, for the Eglinton / Sheppard LRT … are there any plans to work with developers (commercial or residential) in an effort to essentially pay for all the stations, or some portion of their cost ? Moreover add the density these lines require.

    Instead of the typical standalone stations we’re seeing.

    Steve: This was discussed in part at the recent TTC meeting. The Commission would like to see integrated development at stations if possible. Three caveats, however. First, developers build where there is a market, and several of the stations on the Eglinton line are not exactly in prime territory for new development. Second, the cost of the station is not the little building at street level, but the huge box underground which, because Eglinton is a deep bore tunnel, is particularly large. A typical station will cost about $100m, and the contribution from any surface-level development will be peanuts beside that. Third, density at stations alone is not enough especially when it is only a few buildings surrounded by otherwise low-rise development. Other factors, notably connecting feeder services, contribute to a line’s success — I offer the BD subway which runs through neighbourhoods much like those along Eglinton as a prime example.

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  10. Has Metrolinx bought the entire Kodak site? If so, that ends the redevelopment that was intended to bring jobs to the area. Where will this be relocated to? Can’t think of any similar large tract of land anywhere else now that the old Swift’s property (Keele & St.Clair) is underway for a massive big box development.

    Steve: Yes, they bought the whole thing. There are discussions underway with local politicians about stacking development on top of the carhouse, but I am not holding my breath even though this is supposed to be a “Mobility Hub”.

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  11. Funny, but if you read one particular paper this week, you coulda swore the only important issue facing the TTC was a couple of audit reports that made the TTC look bad financially.

    Then of course soon after all the media wanted to talk about was cinder blocks, Blackberries, parkland and a raised fist.

    Thanks Steve for getting into the details on some real news of how the city works. I understand why you might choose to join the commission. But, I for one think you do better outside then in.

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  12. If Ellesmere is dropped instead of Midland, serious renovations need to take place at the Midland station. I hate to sound like a NIMBY, but having the station right next to a recycling plant – with its waste scents blowing directly into the elevated station – is one of the worst planning decisions the city has ever made. I would even argue it is a case of environmental racism – if the route transported wealthier citizens instead of low income Scarborough residents, such a design would have never been tolerated.

    Though Ellesmere does have fewer passenger boardings than Midland, I wonder how much of this can be contributed to the poor bus connection which would make city GO stations blush. Operate the York Mills bus directly into the station, and see how the ridership changes before making a decision as to which stations to keep.

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  13. I was wondering whether the Finch West LRT station is funded from the subway pot or the LRT pot?

    Steve: I suspect that the accounting will work something like this: the subway project will build the station box (just the structure, nothing more) and the cost of this will be charged to the Finch LRT project.

    The next question that comes from this is whether they will consider a DRL connection to the Eglinton LRT at Don Mills. Since the DRL is unfunded (not even developed), will there be little to no consideration of building the interchange station all at once. Even if this area is only constructed 4 or 5 years in the future, could they integrate the station if the DRL preliminary design is farther along, but still not funded.

    Steve: Metrolinx and the TTC have not yet arrived at the design work for the Eglinton & Don Mills station. I know that when the Don Mills LRT was still under active consideration, it was going to be on the surface. However, now that Metrolinx is taking the DRL more seriously, we might see a different approach. At a minimum, they are going to have to explain why they wouldn’t pre-build a short section of a north-south station if only to avoid the problem they are facing where the Eglinton tunnel crosses existing subway lines.

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  14. Steve, if Metrolinx has the DRL seriously on it’s mind, then what is the reason why the TTC isn’t up to speed on it as well? I mean, all this talk about amdending the Yonge subway Richmond Hill extension and you’ve just got to wonder if the TTC is just being the ‘TTC,’ considering City Council’s conditional approval in January 2009.

    Steve: Two things are going here, I think. First, Metrolinx has had little interest in the DRL until quite recently when it became the saviour of at least two of their key projects — the second Union Station, and any thought of building the Richmond Hill subway. Second, the TTC has for years downplayed the DRL as a waste of money preferring to concentrate on a collection of ever more challenging schemes to increase capacity on the Yonge line. I believe that the TTC finally realizes that there schemes are at best short-term fixes, and are an expensive way to create less additional capacity then they originally thought possible.

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  15. The Kodak/Mount Dennis “Mobility Hub” (another stupid name) looks like another screw up. They already blew it with the planned GO/TTC terminal where No Frills is now was cancelled. Then they add a new GO/ARL station in Weston which likely eliminates the Mount Dennis station since you cannot have too many stops for GO yet that is where the LRT will be with just a bunch of TTC buses in Weston. It would seem Eglinton would be the better choice to interconnect. They can’t even get a weather protected link at Bloor with the Dundas West subway station! What a joke!

    I wonder if the LRT carbarn will have roof mounted solar panels or is that too much to ask? They stupidly left this off the huge new Mount Dennis bus garage. A chance to reduce energy costs and have bragging rights. What a bunch of loosers.

    BTW they missed buying land where the new Canada Post facility is next door so, they HAD to buy the Kodak property. I never felt the redevelopment would be successful anyway since it was to be all-commercial. Too big for a rundown area.

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  16. Raymond Kennedy says:
    May 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    “I wonder if the LRT car-barn will have roof mounted solar panels or is that too much to ask? They stupidly left this off the huge new Mount Dennis bus garage. A chance to reduce energy costs and have bragging rights. What a bunch of losers.”

    Since Environment Canada says that on average there are 4 hours per day of time when the sun will provide enough energy for photo cells to work and since there is no way to effectively store electrical energy on a large scale unless you use pumped water storage facilities why would you want to spend the money to install what are effectively useless devices. Photocells are great at providing energy to charge batteries to run small electrical devices such as crossing gates and flashing lights but to make a significant reduction in REAL energy costs, it ain’t going to happen. Just because Dalton is dumb enough to pay 40 to 80 cents per kWh for off peak “GREEN” electricity don’t bank on that price lasting any change in government.

    Wind turbines are about the only form of green energy that can make energy in useful periods but they will not survive NIMBYism. I am not saying that their complaints are valid or not but they exist as a political reality so don’t bank on any reasonable useful source of green electrical energy.

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  17. 80%? — I thought the SRT was the TTC’s most reliable service — at least that’s what they claimed when they opposed the idea of extending it as an LRT conversion in a semi-exclusive RoW, or on the street.

    Subway performance — YUS underperforms (relative to BD) because it has more riders, and that leads to more passenger incidents (illness, held doors, etc.). Having said that, the TTC has *always* measured the subway’s performance by timetable adherence — not headway uniformity.

    For instance, look at IPHC (and the old 35mm ATD “time control” devices). They dispatch based on a prerecorded timetable by simply holding trains that are early, and immediately releasing trains that are late — even if the late ones are irregularly spaced. So why does the TTC do this? … to give trains a chance to make up lost time and catch up to the schedule. In their view, the schedule is always the bible, not the headway, and headway uniformity is a “side benefit” of strict schedule adherence. So, if an entire subway line is 10 minutes behind schedule, the TTC sees this as a catastrophe, even if the headways are evenly spaced and the passengers don’t see the initial delay that threw the line off. On paper, the stats make these delays look a lot worse than they actually were.

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  18. Steve,

    Just a clarification, the through-routing of the Eglinton-Crosstown into the SRT alignment has been cancelled?

    This would mean that Kennedy is the terminus for the subway, the “new SRT” and the Eglinton-Crosstown?

    Perhaps I’ve misinterpreted what you’ve written.

    Steve: Yes, that is correct. Until we see the revised design for Kennedy, we won’t know whether they have retained an easy method to through route Eglinton with the SRT or with a future Scarborough-Malvern line (the Eglinton route east from Kennedy to Morningside).

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  19. It seems so obvious to me — a KPI is not “customer-focused” when it measures the subway’s adherence to a schedule to which no customer has access! Headway consistency is clearly the better way to measure subway riders’ experience (and arguably that’s also true for surface routes when the printed schedules say simply “FS”).

    What I’d also love to see: an average travel time metric that would measure how long it takes to get from, say, Sheppard to Union factoring in two “hidden” types of delays: having to wait for a second (or third) train to squeeze onto, and the routine but frustrating waits at Eglinton and other IPHC stations. And although it may be harder to address, vehicle overcrowding is an important metric that probably has a much greater impact on customer impressions than cleanliness or announcements.

    Steve: I agree. To much of what is being reported is “old data” in the sense that it’s the way the TTC has always measured itself. They really need to set some goals for improving the metrics rather than patting themselves on the back for reporting the same old info.

    As for headways, they are inconsistent for the surface routes in whether they are “on time” relative to headway or to schedule. The importance differs for frequent and infrequent services, and somehow this needs to be distinguished. Equally the “can I get on” problem you cite is a big issue for many surface routes, and an on time bus is useless if it’s full.

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  20. Steve

    In a past article you mentioned that TTC planned to extend the St Clair West subway short turn to Glencairn in 2011. Clearly that deadline was missed, but is there any word on it happening and what caused it to be deferred?

    Steve: Budget cuts. No date yet for implementation.

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  21. I know this site has never promoted “1 seat” as a reason for any transit expansion plan, but considering there will no longer be a change in the technology being used between the Eglinton and Scarborough lines, it really makes sense to through-route these lines, with short turns on 50% or so of the service. Otherwise it will really add fuel to the fire that Scarborough transit users are being treated as second class citizens.

    I also don’t understand why TTC is still working on Yonge line extension details when Council has declared the DRL to be the top priority for Subway expansion.

    Steve: I believe that the TTC’s DRL study is actually completed, but nobody quite knows what to do with it. A related problem is that there has never been any public consultation, and we don’t know the extent of what they looked at or any biases that might have been built into the work.

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  22. Steve:

    If through-routing at Kennedy Station is cancelled, will the Eglinton trains still access the Conlins Rd carhouse?

    Steve: Maybe. See the discussion about whether or not to maintain a storage yard at McCowan. This would be used for east-end Eglinton trains, but it’s just an idea so far.

    If there is an imbalance in project demand (and I’m assuming that this is due to the large number of passengers transferring to/from the BD line instead of continuing on/from Eglinton), couldn’t this be handled by short-turning some trains at Kennedy? I know it’s a long stretch of track, but I’m not sure I see the benefit of splitting it in two.

    Steve: The other issue is train length. If the “SRT” has to run with three-car trains for capacity, and Eglinton runs with two-car trains, I can just hear the TTC wailing that it will be confusing for passengers. People would queue on the platform expecting a three-car train, but only a two-car train would show up.

    However, the TTC seems dead set against through running and has taken this attitude for quite some time (back into the Miller / Transit City era).

    Finally, has the TTC released their plan for handling passenger traffic along the SRT line during the reconstruction period? It’s a long construction period to rely on buses given the rush-hour volume, so I’m keen to see what they have in mind.

    Steve: No. Originally, the Sheppard line would have been completed before the SRT shutdown and would have diverted some of the traffic originating north of the 401 west to the subway at Don Mills. Now that Rob Ford and Metrolinx have screwed up the schedule, life will be decidedly unpleasant out in Scarborough for some time.

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  23. I have looked through the last available drawings of the Kennedy redesign thoroughly. The SRT would have a single-track loop and platform and Eglinton would have a subway-style two-track/double-crossover platform with a full two-track direct run-through connection into the SRT ROW. The functional capacities of these terminating arrangements seem to be at odds with the projected passenger loads and headways on each line segment. In other words, the lines really should actually terminate in the exact opposite manner of what had been planned or the SRT loop needs to be upgraded to the same two-track stub-terminal format. I hope they still retain run-through ability, but that remains to be seen. The original plan protected for, but did not physically connect initially, run-through ability between the Eglinton and Scarborough-Malvern lines. This forced the Eglinton platform to be at a fixed, deeper level such that the tunnel rough-in could pass under the GO line.

    In summary it looks like the Kennedy ‘bottleneck’ on the SRT may finally be fixed instead of permanently choked. Some SRT plaforms had been roughed-in long enough for six-car ICTS trains but fleet size/reliability, some short stations, the messed-up Kennedy streetcar loop and the final-insult conversion to a single-track four-car stub terminal all held-up any hope of ever expanding the capacity of the original line. The great irony is that McCowan Station at the lowest-draw end of line was closest to what should have been in place at Kennedy from the beginning (although it would have suffered the same ‘running-up/down-the-stairs’ for the next train problem that was in effect when Keele and Woodbine were operating as side-platform terminals). In both cases the crossover should have been AFTER the platform, however this is sort of a case of operational/engineering ‘religion’ that the TTC is finally just beginning to see the light on as the subway terminals hit capacity.

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  24. I’ve been trying to find information and drawings of the Kennedy station redevelopment, but I can’t find any on any of the TTC sites. A google search turns up nothing. Do you happen to know where they can be found? Maybe I’m just missing it…

    Steve: It’s on the City’s website although you have to do a search within that site to find it. (Warning 4.6M pdf.)

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  25. @ Robert Wightman

    I am not talking about solar panels to generate electricity for sale to Hydro. I am simply referring to roof panels to supply power to the TTC building itself sufficient to reduce or replace purchases from Hydro. Save operating costs and brag about how “green” the TTC is.

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  26. Kristian said …

    “although it would have suffered the same ‘running-up/down-the-stairs’ for the next train problem that was in effect when Keele and Woodbine were operating as side-platform terminals”.

    We never ran up and down the stairs — we just swore. There were “NEXT TRAIN” signs at Keele and Woodbine at the mezzanine levels marked PLATFORM 1 & PLATFORM 2, but they could only indicate where the train on each platform was going before you went up (or down) the stairs — not which train was actually leaving NEXT.

    At one point the TTC actually wanted to scrap them all because the “NEXT TRAIN” text was static. When the train was at the platform, the TTC wanted the display to dynamically change to “THIS TRAIN”, because passengers thought the destination it was referring to was for the following train.

    At Bay and St. George they had a different type of sign when eastbound (or westbound) trains operated out of both levels. These signs were controlled by an ATD “train sequence machine” (which knew ahead of time where the next scheduled train was supposed to show up).

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  27. After a quick look at the Kennedy station drawings, I can’t help but think that any thought of through-routing the SRT and ECLRT (even if it’s every 2nd train) would cause much confusion for northbound passengers waiting at Kennedy Station, given that the two lines are on separate levels. I suppose that’s another reason why the TTC is against any idea of through-routing, unless the SRT platform would be closed during off-peak hours.

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  28. Steve:

    I had an interesting ride twice over the last couple of days, both of which anecdotally reflect comments and issues raised in this forum.

    First I rode the Spadina Car on Sunday. I was not sure if the current (somewhat inexplicable) changes had actually been implemented and I asked the Operator if any cars went to Union. (His was going to Queen’s Quay). “No” he answered, “all cars go to Queen’s Quay” I asked if that meant no short turns at King and he replied, “No, all scheduled cars go to Queens Quay” When I got off, he addressed me again. “Actually”, he said, “You will see many cars short turning at King. The TTC has allocated 20 minutes for the trip from Spadina Station to Queen’s Quay and it actually takes 24 minutes. You can’t meet the schedule and there will be chaos. That means lots of short turns”

    I don’t have to repeat all the previous analysis about the advantages of regulating headway vs. schedules, but this sounds like a textbook example of the issues under discussion. In addition, this, clearly frustrated, Operator was otherwise highly professional and polite. I think this discussion also speaks to the management/labour divide at the TTC and in this case reflects poorly on the Commission. If they ignore the advice of dedicated employees in favour of those who don’t do the job – who can expect a good result. Perhaps those who do set the schedules need to ride a few times with a stopwatch.

    Today I had an appointment at the Toronto Western Hospital and was going home to King and Shaw at about 11:00 a.m. I got a St. Clair car bound for Roncesvalles and got a “one seat” ride home. (Not only that, exclusive service just for me – no other passengers.) The Operator and I had a good laugh as I was getting off when I told him how this premium service had raised my expectations and I wanted to get the TTC to give me this “one seat” ride every time. Clearly this is impractical – though not as impractical as wasting billions on an unnecessary subway to prevent a short interchange walk and wait.

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  29. Steve said …

    “People would queue on the platform expecting a three-car train, but only a two-car train would show up.”

    BART solves this problem elegantly. Their information display system tells passengers how many cars long the next train will be. The problem is the thru-routed Eglinton trains must all be 3-car, so that they’ll have the capacity to soak up the larger crowds on the SRT. The TTC won’t operate it this way because they don’t want to rack up unnecessary mileage on that 3rd car.

    This is the weakness of branched LRT systems that are exclusive in one section, but run on the street in another. The exclusive section will attract higher ridership because of speed and reliability, but the thru operation of those same longer trains on the street is uneconomical.

    Steve: The train length problem could be dealt with by using longer headways for the 3-car trains. The SRT portion of the line will use ATO, after all, and all of the Metrolinx cars will be equipped for it. Of course we could be spending millions on a signal system we won’t use, and have ragged service provided manually rather than with the elegance of a computer.

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  30. Steve,

    You mentioned that the DRL study may already be completed. I wonder if there was a timeframe for the study to extend the B-D line to STC – or was that just thrown on the table to ensure the LRT vote passed and there is no interest in seeing it through.

    If Scarborough wants, or can tolerate the appearance, it appears much less expensive to elevate the Eglinton line between Don Mills and Kennedy and allow the SRT passengers transfer to the top of the DRL. The existing station could be modified and re-used, since the number of transferring passengers would be a lot less. Elevated over the DVP would also improve the operation of the interchange. Aside from the DRL portion, this is so much less expensive than the B-D extension to STC that you could probably extend the B-D to Eglinton GO, or even Kingston Road, and still wind up ahead. This does hinge on the DRL being built to Eglinton otherwise all these passengers will just flood the Yonge line.

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  31. Steve said …

    “The SRT portion of the line will use ATO, after all, and all of the Metrolinx cars will be equipped for it. Of course we could be spending millions on a signal system we won’t use, and have ragged service provided manually rather than with the elegance of a computer.”

    Ragged service via computer … BART does that well. At their junctions, trains just creep along at a steady crawl speed under ATO until they get the desired route ahead, and then … ZOOM! At that point, you’re pushed back in your seat by G forces that could flatten your face, while you stare straight ahead at your feet … which are now in the air.

    On some “unrecoverable” delays which are equal to the headway, ATO cheats and just shifts the train run IDs forward to get the system back on schedule. The TTC would love that feature.

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  32. M. Briganti said:

    “At one point the TTC actually wanted to scrap them all because the “NEXT TRAIN” text was static. When the train was at the platform, the TTC wanted the display to dynamically change to “THIS TRAIN”, because passengers thought the destination it was referring to was for the following train.”

    Actually there is one such sign out there, on the westbound platform at Castle Frank, it obviously started life elsewhere.

    I think we’re misreading the objective of these KPIs – they are not for the customers’ benefit, but internally focused on adherence to schedules. A headway KPI would be customer-focused, but wouldn’t tell anything about schedule adherence. Schedule adherence is clearly an internal goal, otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing all those crew changeovers happening throughout the day. Keeping regular headways when all trains are a half-hour late doesn’t matter to the riders, but certainly matters internally when all the crews are running late, which could incur overtime costs. I think different KPIs with different objectives would be useful, but would need to be clearly presented as having different objectives for different users.

    Steve: I agree, but there are problems. On the surface, the numbers are cited relative to schedule and relative to headway interchangeably for the same data. It cannot be both of them. Also, if we’re talking about headway adherence as being “ok” if it is plus/minus three minutes, then for a line running on a close headway, say 3 minutes, a parade of cars one minute apart are all “on time” except for the one at the front which, presumably, is carrying a huge gap. It would be easy to reach a 90% “ok” rating with appallingly bad service. Meanwhile, the on time performance relative to the schedule would not be quite so pretty.

    Constructing a meaningful metric is not as easy as it looks, but the targets the TTC is aiming for are far too low, especially considering that they are all day averages. Indeed the goal may be different during the peak period (regular headway and even vehicle loadings) versus the off-peak (reliably on time and, by implication, on a regular headway).

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  33. Clarification: the sign at Castle Frank is not dynamically activated, it just reads “THIS TRAIN” instead of “NEXT TRAIN”.

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  34. M. Briganti said:

    “On some “unrecoverable” delays which are equal to the headway, ATO cheats and just shifts the train run IDs forward to get the system back on schedule. The TTC would love that feature.”

    This is my DREAM! It will never happen at the TTC though because it is the operators themselves being late/out-of-sync with the schedule that they are concerned about. This is also why we will never see headway-based line management.

    Steve: Actually I can report one positive sign, although it’s a case of one Route Supervisor using his initiative. Spadina station used to have a display of the line map showing all of the cars’ locations, and it also had a list of times to the next cars. Both of these have vanished. However, what remains is the text-based crawl just over the platform. The Supervisor in question looks at this to see where the next car might be and dispatches the one on the platform when the next car is nearby.

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  35. This made me think: is Metrolinx fully committed to replacing the SRT with LRT? If Ellesmere disappears and Kennedy will be partly closed while it is reorganized for the Eglinton LRT, does this not give them a chance to argue in favor of retrofitting the line for Mark2’s (which would probably receive quite a bit of opposition)?

    Steve: The real prize for Metrolinx and Bombardier would have been an “extension” of the SRT west to the airport. That won’t be an option now, and they would have to justify retention of an “odd man out” technology for a short line on a system where they would have a direct track connection to not one, but two maintenance facilities (Black Creek and Conlins Road) for LRVs. I still don’t trust Metrolinx on this, but think we’re past the point of no return, or will be before the SRT shuts down.

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  36. I’m confused by this talk of 2-car EC trains and 3-car SRT trains as being the reason for a lack of interlining. I thought EC was supposed to have 3-car trains?

    Thanks for the link to the Kennedy station plans. If I’m reading them correctly, then they imply Scarborough-Malven will not be connected to Eglinton! Is this right? If so, why???

    Steve: EC was 3-car trains when it was all underground and had a higher projected demand. Now it’s 2-car trains. This also makes the surface stations a bit smaller, at least initially (60m rather than 90m).

    Because the plans had been to through-route the SRT and EC, the design for Kennedy left the Scarborough Malvern line on its own. It will be interesting to see what happens in the new design.

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  37. “Actually there is one such sign out there, on the westbound platform at Castle Frank, it obviously started life elsewhere.”

    That sign was originally installed at Islington Stn. in 1968 when it was a terminal, and quickly became redundant when the 1st train/2nd train flipdot displays were put in. Because trains usually sat there for a few minutes, THIS made more sense.

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  38. There have been suggestions that the stations should be tunneled underground just like the main tunnel. There are a few examples in the current system, but there was still a lot of surface excavation required.

    Queen’s Park and St. Patrick stations were built this way using a larger tunnel machine for the platform area of the station. This reduced the interference (and was quieter for the hospitals nearby), but there still needed to be extraction pits dug at each station and the upper area of the station was built using open cut processes.

    Bessarion (Shepherd subway) was constructed by tunneling straight through, building the station around the tunnel, then removing the tunnel. The station was still constructed by digging a partial hole, adding a temporary road above, then finishing the construction while the traffic flowed overhead.

    Conclusion: Subway stations cannot be built without major interference to the area around them.

    On another subject: Vaughan appears to have developed a method of building a reserved right of way in the center of the street while minimizing the effect on other users of the street. Hopefully this is transportable to the surface LRT construction process.

    Steve: The real questions are “what was there already” and “what additional work was ladled onto the LRT construction”. Some of the messier construction projects in Toronto came not from the track construction itself, but from the extra work needed for utility relocations and upgrades, and for other street improvements done concurrently. Roncesvalles Avenue was a particular problem because the main work was not the streetcar track reconstruction, but the replacement of the century-old watermain under the tracks.

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  39. Do you think that the TTC and/or Metrolinx should look into converting the Sheppard Subway to LRT and extend it to Downsview? Also should consider extending the Finch LRT to Dufferin and south to Downsview for one seamless travel.

    Steve: I think that we need a reasonable estimate of the cost and complexity of an LRT conversion of the subway line if only to settle the question of whether this option should stay on the table. Then the question becomes where this project and a Sheppard West LRT would fit in the priority list for transit improvements. As for taking the Finch LRT to Downsview so that Sheppard/Finch trains can be through routed, I am not convinced that this line should be operated as one continuous line from Humber College to UofT Scarborough.

    This fetish for “seamless” travel cannot be provided for every trip in the city.

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  40. I believe that taking Finch LRT south to Downsview is not a good idea; it should continue to Yonge / Finch.

    Taking it to Downsview will inconvenience riders who want to reach the Yonge / Finch cluster, or transfer to Finch East bus, or travel north on VIVA / YRT. In addition, trip generators located on Finch between Dufferin and Bathurst (several highrises, a school, and a hospital) will not have access to LRT.

    And all we gain with such diversion is a long cross-town LRT line that looks great on the map. But it won’t be really effective for long-haul crosstown trips, since it will be slow (a one way trip from the eastern parts of Sheppard to Humber College will take more than 1.5 hours).

    If we want a northern cross-town LRT, then it should be Finch West plus Finch East. Still not great for long-haul trips, but at least it will serve the existing travel patterns, and will not create pockets of substandard service.

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