A Few Millimetres

A debate about track gauge on the TTC and Metrolinx systems has broken out in another thread, and I am going to move all of those comments here to keep them separated.

Readers for whom this is a non-issue, or one whose time has come and gone, can just skip over this.

36 thoughts on “A Few Millimetres

  1. One thing about track gauge: opting for standard gauge for Transit City would forever limit the future growth of the legacy network. The dream of having the legacy network expansive and far reaching as it ever was: never going to happen again, because those new lines in the suburbs are the wrong gauge.


  2. The suburban Transit City Bombardier Flexity Freedom vehicles would not be able to use the downtown tracks, even if they were the same track gauge. The Freedom body will 2.65 m wide while the CLRV body is 2.54 m wide, a 11 cm difference. Not counting the sway as any vehicle moves along, the new suburban vehicles are too big for downtown streets without shifting the tracks (like they did when the Peter Witts streetcars came in the 1920’s).

    That is also why Toronto has to get two different models of low-floor vehicles, one narrower for downtown and one wider for suburban.


  3. Fortunately for the future of Southern Ontario, Metrolinx has already chosen standard gauge for Transit City. This will eventually allow appropriate interlining between the KW, Guelph, Hamilton, Burlington, Mississauga, Brampton, Toronto, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, and Oshawa light rail lines. Additionally, all of these lines will be able to interline with freight spurs as needed.

    The only place where gauge mismatch will exist will be on the border of a fairly small area around Downtown Toronto, probably only South of Bloor/Danforth and between Roncesvalles and Victoria Park (St. Clair and Lakeshore/Queensway could be re-gauged to standard gauge on any rebuild if needed without disrupting the rest of the network).

    The dream of the legacy network being expanded out to Guelph and running replica interurban cars is an attractive railfan dream that I would love to see but in truth it has no place in modern transit planning.


  4. @W.K. Lis

    I am not advocating for the Transit City and Legacy fleets to be interchangeable in the immediate future. However, if the suburban network were to be built with TTC gauge, that would allow for the possibility for legacy route rearrangement and expansion into the suburbs, should any future generations of the TTC decide to do so. And at what marginal cost?

    The upcoming generation of Transit City vehicles may not be able to run on Legacy tracks, even with a gauge change, but all legacy vehicles will physically be able to handle a more diverse range of environments of curves and hills, provided the correct gauge. Wait for a future commission to opt for a legacy fleet with double-ended cars, and then inter-operation would not be impossible.


  5. The cost of using TTC gauge for Transit City would be a dramatically expanded area in which gauge differences need to be taken in to account in planning future expansion. The simplest example, and realistically by far the most likely to be an actual issue in the foreseeable future, is Pearson Airport. If Transit City were built to TTC gauge, how would the LRT terminal there be expanded to allow Mississauga LRT to enter the Airport?

    Note also that places like the Airport where there would be two gauges in the near vicinity would then be places where otherwise similar vehicles would meet up. By contrast, if the standard/TTC gauge boundary is around the legacy downtown system, the current plan is for vehicles on either side to be quite different from each other. As has been pointed out before, even if the gauges did match, the likelihood of interlining or otherwise taking advantage of the same gauge is low.

    A similar argument applies with respect to freight track sharing. While right now this isn’t really on the radar screen, all it would take would be an economic shift in favour of freight rail to cause freight track sharing to be economically worthwhile. This would also at some point trigger a re-examination of the applicable rules, which right now as far as I can tell make no distinction between a high-speed mainline on which a good argument can be made that, for safety reasons, LRT vehicles do not belong, and a low-speed spur on which there is absolutely no credible safety problem with track sharing (or at least, no safety problem that isn’t also a problem with level crossings).


  6. How is it that an off-the-shelf standard LRV can’t be regauged to fit the wider TTC gauge? The TTC gauge doesn’t demand an entirely customised LRV to be designed.

    Steve: The problem is that the TTC has very tight curves and this affects how the vehicle “tracks”. The truck position on the TTC car is not exactly the same as on the Metrolinx car, for one thing, and there is some redistribution of weight so that forces on the tight curves will not derail the “TTC” version of the car. Also, the TTC car has more motors so that it can handle the steep grades at various locations including being able to push a dead car up the hill (for example, out of the Harbourfront tunnel). The Metrolinx cars don’t have this ability, but their lines are designed around the characteristics of the cars. The gauge really has little to do with it.


  7. “The problem is that the TTC has very tight curves and this affects how the vehicle “tracks”. The truck position on the TTC car is not exactly the same as on the Metrolinx car, for one thing, and there is some redistribution of weight so that forces on the tight curves will not derail the “TTC” version of the car. Also, the TTC car has more motors so that it can handle the steep grades at various locations including being able to push a dead car up the hill (for example, out of the Harbourfront tunnel). The Metrolinx cars don’t have this ability, but their lines are designed around the characteristics of the cars. The gauge really has little to do with it.”

    Pardon me for continuing the debate on gauge, but I was very aware of everything you’ve mentioned. My point is that most new networks in the suburbs would be designed to avoid the use of 11 m tight curves and steep hills anyhow, and the choice of the wider TTC gauge for suburban networks shouldn’t rule out cheaper off-the-shelf models Metrolinx wants. It does, however, allow for possible future legacy fleets (double-ended cars, of course) to physically be able to run on the outer networks, because they are more versatile than their off-the-shelf cousins. I totally agree with you that gauge has little to do with it: the curves and hills are more important factors.

    Steve: One thing you have forgotten in this whole debate is the origin of the gauge choice. Metrolinx was being lobbied by another manufacturer claiming that the TTC’s “special requirements” had caused their bid for cars to be so out of scale with Bombardier’s. With a difference of half a billion in the bids, that’s a real stretch, but the standard gauge decision originated as much in Metrolinx desire not to be painted as excluding a potential bidder as anything. All the debates about what might or what might not work from a network perspective don’t have anything to do with what was chosen.

    @Isaac Morland

    “If Transit City were built to TTC gauge, how would the LRT terminal there be expanded to allow Mississauga LRT to enter the Airport?”

    Are you saying that Transit City lines and Mississauga LRT lines should be designed for possible interoperability in the future? Not against that, but what makes you think that the likelihood of this happening is higher than interoperating the legacy network and Transit City? If you ask me, it makes more sense to interoperate Transit City with Legacy, than with Mississauga.

    Steve: No, but they could share trackage at the Airport. The Hurontario car is not going to run through to Queen and Yonge, although I am sure some railfans and amateur network planners might love the idea.

    Also, the station spacing of 1 km or less makes Transit City less of a regional service, and more of a local intracity/intra-neighbourhood service. I cannot see Transit City interoperating with other cities at all.

    Steve: VIVA has always talked about upgrading to LRT someday, and we are already talking about Mississauga. No, the St. Clair car is not going to run out to Waterloo.

    “As has been pointed out before, even if the gauges did match, the likelihood of interlining or otherwise taking advantage of the same gauge is low.”

    This is where I disagree, because very preliminary versions of Transit City crept into downtown-pinko territory (Jane and Don Mills LRT lines come to mind), barely a few kilometres from existing legacy lines. Yes, Don Mills south of Eglinton is now advocated as a subway line instead, but this is not set in stone. Also, until we see a clear vision for Jane south of Eglinton, I would not rule out any options yet.

    Steve: Actually, Jane was seen at one point as a way to shift the St. Clair route to operate from Black Creek carhouse. However, with the construction of any Jane route well off into the 2020s at best, this is not an issue for system planning even if the gauge were not a problem. Don Mills is not going to come down to the Danforth. That’s DRL territory. There is no surface path through East York, let alone any reasonable way to build an interchange with the Danforth subway.

    “A similar argument applies with respect to freight track sharing.”

    Sorry, I can’t see this connection having a higher likelihood of happening than a connection with Legacy.

    If only I’ve joined the debate much earlier.

    Steve: Frankly, I think this whole debate is a huge waste of time. It has been done to death here before, and I had to cut it off before because it descended into people arguing over proposals that had vanishingly small probability of happening. The big issue is to start building an LRT net, not postponing it forever as Queen’s Park has done. If they keep pushing off Toronto funding, I hardly see how we will have any lines in other cities to even think about connecting to.

    The decision has been made. Metrolinx will build to standard gauge, and the TTC will remain TTC gauge. The End!


  8. By “interoperate” I mostly mean “meet at terminals”, not share extensive sections of track. One exception might be a LRT version of the Highway 7 service between Brampton and York Region, which if I understand correctly is a shared project of Brampton and York Region (at least, that’s what it looks like on the map).

    Also, while I mentioned cities from Waterloo to Oshawa, I didn’t mean that it would actually make sense to travel from Waterloo to Oshawa entirely on LRT, any more than it makes sense to go from Scarborough to Hamilton by city bus(es) now, even though I believe it is possible to do so. Such a long trip would probably involve a GO train.

    Having said that, one can imagine sections of a future network with longer stop spacing—Cambridge to Hamilton, for example. Or maybe that would end up being a GO service and K-W/Guelph/Cambridge will always be separate from Hamilton/Toronto/Pickering.

    Finally, you already lose the bet on freight sharing, because the proposed Waterloo LRT is now planned to share a track with the Waterloo Spur freight service from Uptown Waterloo to Northfield Drive. Instead of three tracks, only two tracks will be constructed on the current right of way. I believe they are using time separation, which unfortunately means the tourist train needs to be cut back to Northfield Drive, but they are definitely benefiting from the use of standard gauge (side note: there are going to be a lot of anti-LRT people in Waterloo with egg on their faces when our project comes in under budget, not that most of them will ever realize or admit it).


  9. Steve – know you’re just being realistic wrt this gauge issue, but can’t help posting this to show what’s possible. Check out this LRT system in Stuttgart, Germany. Over a period of about thirty years, Stuttgart converted their entire legacy-gauge streetcar network to run standard gauge LRT trains. Admittedly, street-running trams were moved into tunnels in many areas (or at least given dedicated lanes, as opposed to running with mixed traffic). Having been there a few years ago it works brilliantly now, and somehow they were able to do it. Why can’t we do so here (lack of political will and vision notwithstanding). Putting some of the legacy routes in dedicated ROW (i.e. tunnels, exclusive lanes) might even satisfy some of the “subways good, streetcars baaaaaaaad” crowd.

    Steve: There is no question a conversion is possible, although it is simpler if the gauges are far apart (metre to standard gauge) and also if there are few junctions. It is noteworthy that of the photos shown on your link, there is only one piece of special work, and that is not dual gauge. Moving to a much wider gauge would also allow larger cars to operate.

    As you note, this is a a very long period sort of decision. We are just now coming to the end of rebuilding the entire streetcar track infrastructure to correct for the poorly built track that went into the streets up to the early 90s. The streetcar system itself is not as secure as I would like it to be given the political situation, and the lack of support for street running among TTC management. Grade separation is not going to happen. I will be amazed if the DRL, a new subway we actually need, is actually built and open within the next two decades.

    Of all the things we can spend time, effort and political capital on, regauging the streetcar system is very low on the list.


  10. I’ve yet to see any discussion about routes being built with dual gauge track. It would make sense to do so in areas where Transit City and legacy interlining is desired. Perhaps this isn’t a reality with the catenary voltage differences of the networks?


  11. Given the variety of system voltages that Bombardier and company need to accomodate in their vehicle designs, and the flexibility in switching power supplies, I doubt that variations in line voltage (within the 600-750V range) would pose any problems. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same power handling gear could handle that full range without modification.

    However, I believe the TTC stuck with a 600VDC network due to the legal distinction of voltages of 750 and above (as ‘high voltage’) and the implications of requalifying all of its electricians/modifying its infrastructure to comply. The marginal increase in efficiency achieved by increasing by less than 150 V is probably not economically viable, and is therefore not likely a factor in the gauge decision.

    (Note that while the Transit City lines cannot share track gauge, they could make use of expansions to existing traction power substationss at connections with the existing subway network if the voltage was kept the same).


  12. Looks like we’re all doing our best to vindicate Steve’s decision to split this into a separate thread!

    I have thought a little about about what would be involved in double-gauging portions of the legacy network. I think it would be even more difficult than a typical double-gauging operation because of the small difference in gauge — 1495 instead of 1435mm. This is only a 60mm difference, meaning that the inner rail and the space between it and the outer rail on the side with two rails both need to fit in 60mm, which seems too small to me. Maybe the required strength could be obtained by making some fabulously expensive special double-gauge rail (one piece of rail, two running surfaces with a groove between them); maybe one would “simply” need to lay in gauntlet track, where there are four rails with the tracks overlapped.

    Overall, I don’t think double-gauging is likely to be realistic in this case.

    I have also mused about the idea of, at each rebuild, building the tracks 1 or 2mm closer together than they were previously, and likewise for the trucks at each car generation. Then, over a period of centuries, TTC gauge would slowly converge on standard gauge.

    I think it’s safe to say that both of the above will remain the realm of idle speculation.

    Steve: I am trying to imagine the complexity of a dual gauge version of Queen and Spadina.


  13. While the debate of gauge might be moot, the issue of forward thinking is always to be kept in mind. TTC essentially botoxed the St. Clair line with reworked shelters and lane separation, managed to get itself saddled with the perception of costs associated with a concurrent but unrelated project and ended up with catenary which still needed reworking for pantograph compatibility in 2011 leading to early closures.

    Assuming Metrolinx would not be swayed from their decision that characteristics reflecting most new LRT installs was the way to go given the 905, 519 and possibly 613 systems in contemplation, TTC could have relaid St Clair as 2.6m / 1435mm / 750VDC / panto with then available off the shelf 70% LF vehicles from existing (overseas) LRT production lines operated from a rev or non rev connection to the Eglinton LRT yard, experience with which could then have informed the vehicle design needs for the main TC car order (for which the 512 cars would ultimately be traded in, at which point the issue of turn radius at St Clair/St Clair West would have had to have been resolved should 100% LF be the design for the network cars). All-door boarding using TTC media and inspectors (delay has opened the door to Presto and even more delay) would have been necessary from reopening date in late 2009 with consequent saving in dwell time and thus running time, with impacts on seat-kilometres operated and attractiveness of the service.

    Most frustratingly of all – if 70%LF cars were running on St Clair West in 2009, 512 would have become an accessible route eight years (or so) before the projected 2017 entry in service of Flexity, not only adding riders unable to use the HF vehicle but allowing encumbered riders with shopping etc. to board more safely and quickly. Instead such riders should aspire to being night owls and wait for a 312.

    I think the residents of St Clair would have welcomed such a dramatic reopening more warmly – especially those west of Gunns Loop Turnback who might ask their councillor to remove himself from obstructing extension towards Jane. Eglinton West citizens might have begun to ask awkward question like “why can’t we just get an LRT from Eglinton West to Jane or beyond and let the rest of the line come into service later” – an answer which may have gotten an affirmative in 2009 when the full weight of the Ministry of Finance had not yet come to bear on Metrolinx’s light rail planners.

    The whole uptown Transit City project could have been so much further along than it is both physically and in terms of public support, not an issue of a wonkish gauge debate so much as of “quick wins” – once you’ve got a little of something, even if the first bit isn’t *exactly* as you’d like it but pretty close, extending it and doing better the next time is so much easier.

    Yes it would have cost more – cars, yard, tweaks to the loops at the subway stations probably, a little bit saved by converting other loops to turnbacks – but St Clair West was nowhere near a showcase for TC and this has been used as a stick to beat Light Rail so it’s a pretty good case for arguing “penny wise and dollar foolish” when Council was more disposed to light rail than now. Now we are finally getting shovels in the ground on Eglinton, the money tap is dripping rather than flowing and the naysayers have had three more years to spread Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. We must learn from this for future projects, especially when one considers the backsliding unfolding in the east Portlands.

    Steve: You forget that the St. Clair project got started before we were seriously contemplating a new fleet. Transit City did not exist even as a backroom conversation when the St. Clair studies began.

    I think that we have two separate problems here. One is the delay in deciding on a new car design because of the change from 70% to 100% low floor, and further delay thanks to the new anti-streetcar Mayor. The other is the whole gauge/voltage issue. These should not be conflated for the convenience of argument.

    The Eglinton yard (let alone any connection to it) was not even dreamed of at the time, but would have been essential (or some equivalent) for the scheme you propose.


  14. One benefit about using a different gauge is that it can be used in the streetcar vs LRT vs subway debates. “No Mr Ford, it is not a streetcar, it uses a different gauge.”

    Obviously the gauge means very little, but since these debates are already broken with misinformation, a little bit more couldn’t hurt.


  15. Track doesn’t last forever, and with the shift of maintenance of the legacy fleet to Ashbridges, the value of the Hillcrest complex, and the corresponding connecting track on Bathurst may be reduced. If the Jane LRT is ever constructed, it may well coincide with the reconstruction of St. Clair at which time Mark’s proposal could be worthy of consideration. Time shall tell, though I doubt that (aside from St. Clair) there would be any practical merit in converting any legacy lines to standard gauge.


  16. Having two track gauges in a single network will pose problems years down the road. Eventually, the TTC will have to choose a single track gauge to stick with when the time comes for expanding the system (the reason for the short-lived Scarborough RT is partly because the TTC couldn’t expand it or integrate it with the existing network). What Toronto can consider is running variable-gauge version of streetcars on its network while they progressively rebuild its legacy tracks to standard gauge. Of course, the province should fund such project since it insisted on using the different gauge when TTC was the only streetcar/LRT network in the region and had been using the same gauge for over a century.


  17. You may be wondering why I resurrected the gauge issue, two years late and under an unrelated post. Admittedly, I can’t explain the latter.

    Even though the debate exhausted itself a long time ago, I disagree that continuing the debate would have any meaningful impact on the construction schedule, seeing how construction on any track won’t start until at least another 3 years. If by “waste of time” you meant that it’s a waste of your time to rehash the arguments, then I apologize.

    A few things remain on my mind is whether the TTC has formally supported Metrolinx’s decision for standard gauge, given that the TTC is supposed to be the operators. I also wonder if anyone has dug deeper into the claims of the competing vehicle suppliers that a difference in 60 mm would cause the vehicle costs to skyrocket.

    Steve: The question was never formally presented to the Commission. Metrolinx is the owner of the new lines and can build them to any gauge it wants.

    My concern about waste of time stems from two points. First, many of the early comments in this thread included flights of fancy about the structure of a future network which stretch credibility. In effect, this creates a straw man argument — a fantasy network — to which we then “require” a different plan for the gauge of the new or old networks. Second, Metrolinx has made up its mind on the subject, and that’s not going to change.

    As for vendor claims, they are crap, but moving to standard gauge eliminates this as an argument, and provides a car that can be implemented on any new system without design changes.


  18. Forgive me but I don’t understand why Mikey gets so worked up over having one unified TTC gauge for one hypothetical mega network expanding over the GTA and its theoretical issues. Words that come to mind are “Who cares?” and “Why?”

    So what if different routes are on different networks? It’s no different than running specific bus routes out of specific garages. Why does it matter how it affects the legacy network’s growth when standard gauge is what’s used on the rail corridors? Sure the rules forbid running LRT on them today but tomorrow…

    A solution looking for a problem.


  19. I get confused when people argue that the use of standard gauge in off-street rail corridors justifies the use of standard gauge for on-street local LRT service, as if a connection with these off-street rail corridors is more favourable or more likely to a connection with the legacy network. Just admit it: standard gauge has nothing to do with long-term visions of interconnectivity with existing rail corridors.

    Also, it’s awfully hard to predict when Metrolinx chooses to be stiff or flexible. Very flexible when it came to trashing an existing LRT plan for Ford, very stiff when it comes to who manages the projects and their schedule, and now gauge.


  20. Will the new cars be able to make the loop at Gunns Rd. this is a very tight curve from the loop back onto st Clair. Also at Lansdowne & College is there still the turn restriction for clrv’s from the north to east turn, the overhead sign is still there.

    Steve: Gunn’s Loop was rebuilt recently and I hope they made the curve wide enough for the new cars. Curve radius is certainly a known issue these days. As for College and Lansdowne, the problem there is clearance for a car turning north-to-east versus a car proceeding straight west. Whether this is a problem for new cars or not depends on their clearance envelope as compared to CLRVs. Eventually, the intersection can be redesigned.


  21. “Steve: The question was never formally presented to the Commission. Metrolinx is the owner of the new lines and can build them to any gauge it wants”

    I ask because of this message from Brad Ross, a TTC staff.

    Brad Ross’s tone seemed quite supportive and optimistic about the use of TTC gauge for Transit City. Even though the Commissioners themselves haven’t said much on the gauge issue, Ross’s message begs the question of what TTC management and staff think about the gauge, and whether the TTC staff have spoken out for or against standard gauge.

    Not that the TTC has any control over Transit City anymore.


  22. Isn’t it time that we had a hard metric conversion of the track gauge for all future projects? Let’s set the measure at 1.5 metres.

    If we can’t do that, go for a comfortable, established gauge of 7′ 1/4″.


  23. No credible argument was ever put forward to explain why all new lines built would be better as standard gauge. It’s not really about whether or not the legacy system should connect with the TC lines, it’s about whether it would have made any difference economically to build all new systems in the province to either gauge. It’s fine to poke fun at the dreamers, but seriously, if the entire province were outfitted with TTC gauge lines why would this be a joke? All of the vehicles and all of the infrastructure will be new and built to customized specifications. The gauge could have been just about anything and it wouldn’t have made any damned difference. Even if custom bogies were required the sheer volume of vehicles ordered would completely negate the costs in production.

    There will never be such a thing as “off-the-shelf” in this province. There will also never be one standard Metrolinx LRV – lets see one of those TC cars climb Hamilton Mountain without catching on fire (yes I looked up the engineering data so don’t argue with me).


  24. A few days ago I commented on building street-rail in Mississauga, as an extension of comments about diversions on the TTC streetcar network.

    It’s an interesting technical question because it occupies the mind of the streetcar enthusiast. Yes, Toronto was once planning to build an “LRT” (Waterfront West) using “streetcar” technology. Yes, that “LRT” could be extended out to Port Credit one day in the distant future. And yes, if the St. Clair streetcar were ever extended along Dundas to Kipling Station (highly unlikely) it could one day be extended further west to Hurontario St. (even more unlikely)

    But that is all that it should be. As interesting as the technical questions are, the important thing is the quality of service, the completeness of the network, and how both can be made better.

    Cheers, Moaz


  25. Okay, I just have to ask.

    Simple question for those who believe Transit City should be built to TTC gauge: how far out from downtown Toronto should LRT be built to TTC gauge?

    And a follow-up: how did you decide?


  26. Isaac Morland says:

    “Okay, I just have to ask.

    Simple question for those who believe Transit City should be built to TTC gauge: how far out from downtown Toronto should LRT be built to TTC gauge?

    And a follow-up: how did you decide?”

    My answer: If we had the power to influence, I would advocate for the entire TTC system to be one gauge and the already predominant one: TTC gauge.

    My reasons are as follows:

    1) why not? Why have multiple gauges? (Metrolinx aside)
    2) The full Transit City vision has lines that are very close to the existing legacy system. A short extension of a few of the legacy routes would connect the networks. Why rule out the option of interoperation should a future commission decide to do so?

    Perhaps a better question: why should the Transit City network be designed to interoperate with non-Toronto cities? Transit City will not be an intercity regional service.


  27. Mikey asked:

    “Why should the Transit City network be designed to interoperate with non-Toronto cities?”

    One possible reason that comes to mind is the easy ability to borrow or lend rolling stock with other operators, especially for short terms.

    With high-floor rolling stock, it was a (relatively) simple matter to swap the trucks to change the car’s gauge. It is not always as simple with low floor cars. Cars that have full axles can be changed almost as easily, but with independent wheel assemblies, it may not be possible. I believe it is possible to build independent wheel assemblies with the ability to alter gauge, but I have not seen if the Flexities will have this.

    Does anyone know if the Flexities have a full axle, or independent mounting?

    Steve: A full axle. An important difference between CLRV/PCC trucks and Flexity trucks is that the truck does not pivot much relative to the carbody. The three car sections that sit on trucks are centred (front to back) on those trucks and pivot more or less in line with the underlying track geometry. The two sections in between pivot between these.

    Aside from that, and despite originally thinking TTC gauge was the way to go, the thought that the Transit City lines should be kept as distinct as possible from the legacy streetcar system may be more important than many here may realize. The TTC has never been a friend of LRT and a visible aspect of this is the way their maps make no distinction between bus and streetcar routes. Transit City lines are supposed to be a higher order of transit and should appear so in every way possible.

    They should appear on maps the way the subway system does, and not like a bus or streetcar route. Because of Metrolinx, they will likely have a predominantly green livery instead of red (if promotional material is anything to go by). One last distinctive feature would be that their vehicles physically cannot be exchanged with the streetcars.


  28. My answer: If we had the power to influence, I would advocate for the entire TTC system to be one gauge and the already predominant one: TTC gauge.

    Thanks for the answer—I appreciate the effort. So to make sure I understand, it sounds as if you’re saying it’s important that the entire TTC system be a single gauge. And, you didn’t say so, but I’m assuming you would be fine with Pickering, York Region, Mississauga, etc. being standard gauge.

    My concern with this arrangement is that there may end up being numerous points around the border of the City of Toronto where TTC routes need to meet up with other routes, and they can’t share track at all, not even a loop around a platform. Nor can a TTC route simply continue as a route out of the city, in the same way that the North-of-Steeles bus routes now continue. I’m thinking of hypothetical projects like extending a Scarborough LRT route to downtown Pickering, or Don Mills north of Steeles, or a Lakeshore LRT that continues along the Lakeshore past the border (remember I’ve suggested that Lakeshore/Queensway could be re-gauged independently of the rest of the legacy system).

    I don’t know which of these projects will ever become valuable enough to actually build, but surely as the GTA fills in and becomes more dense some of these will become very desireable. It would be a shame if a gauge decision made in 2012 spoiled transit planning in 2040. We don’t know which projects and routes will be needed in 2040, but I personally find it hard to imagine that the City border will be very relevant.

    So I would prefer to have a small border around the downtown, street-running, loop-terminus legacy system separating it from the outside-downtown, mostly separate right-of-way, switchback-terminus LRT system, rather than a large border drawn in an essentially arbitrary location between two otherwise technology-identical systems.

    Steve: I could be really, really peevish here and wonder whether we should be declaring an Ontario standard (TTC) gauge for subways? If there is ever a highway 7 subway, it won’t be able to interoperate with the Spadina (or future Yonge) line because that’s TTC gauge. There’s a point where this argument just gets silly.


  29. @Isaac Morland

    My concern centres around who will ultimately be the operator for Transit City. Metrolinx says the TTC should operate it, but given the TTC’s concerns with Design-Build-Finance-Maintain model (where the operator and maintainer are not the same party), I would not be surprised if the TTC becomes dead set against being the operator. I would think that the multiple gauge issue would further reinforce the TTC’s sentiment as well. Which agency wants to be responsible for two networks that are very difficult to join?

    If Transit City were to not be within TTC’s jurisdiction at all, then I’m prepared to acquiesce to using standard gauge for Transit City.

    On the issue of border-crossing, I’m generally against extending a local-type service too far into another municipality. It’s an ideology that I hold that that is what regional service is for.

    Steve: Oh please! The TTC refusing to operate a line because it’s standard gauge? Can you say SRT?


  30. Here’s what I find really amusing:

    There’s so much despair about the ‘artificial barrier’ between Toronto and the rest of the surrounding GTA with respect to transit systems and route connectivity. There is similar despair about the social and political divide between the old inner city of Toronto and the newer suburban communities surrounding it. Essentially this division will be forever reinforced by the arrangement of completely incompatible surface rail systems roughly contained within each of these areas because there will be little ‘cross-border’ operation. So much for erasing borders.

    Still waiting for someone to provide a legitimate reason for all the smug comments that standard gauge is literally biblical. Even if particular systems or lines in the GTA don’t connect, why is standard gauge automatically preferable to any other when everything will be custom and built new and the scale of the projects negates any potential financial penalties? Bashing TTC gauge for no reason other than to humiliate a few transit geeks undermines everyone’s credibility.

    Steve: We don’t seem to be able to integrate regional systems running with buses of many colours (including green). Often, people claim that if we just painted them all the same colour, our problems would all vanish. This is a far more cogent problem with regional transit than the gauge of transit lines that may not ever be built.


  31. Steve said:

    “We don’t seem to be able to integrate regional systems running with buses of many colours (including green). Often, people claim that if we just painted them all the same colour, our problems would all vanish. This is a far more cogent problem with regional transit than the gauge of transit lines that may not ever be built.”

    Which is exactly why I was trying to point out that gauge is really not the issue. We’re back around to the real problem I firmly agree with you on that transit systems are not being designed with proper networking in mind and that generally this a political construct. Just when we’re finally trying to break down all the old ‘walls’ everything is being planned around them. Perhaps if our governments had a few more millimetres of sense we could ever get past legacy building, territorial grand-standing and fishy dealings with developers. If any point were to cut off this thread it should probably be this.

    Steve: I concur, and will close comments on this thread. Comments on this subject added to other threads will be deleted mercilessly, and with much glee.


  32. Steve: Oh please! The TTC refusing to operate a line because it’s standard gauge? Can you say SRT?

    Note that I didn’t say the TTC has come out refusing to operate standard gauge lines, but I suspect that their preference would be to have all lines TTC gauge. The SRT isn’t a good example because there are other things about it that make it far less than ideal for the TTC to operate, including: the use of orphan technology on a very small part of the system, the obsolescence of the Mark I vehicles and the difficulty of finding its replacement, etc. I would say that the gauge is also a less-dominant problem as well.

    Anyhow, I took it that TTC gauge for Transit City was the preference of the TTC from Brad Ross’s comments made a while back.

    Steve: “Preference” is not the same as “refusal to accept any alternative”, something from which certain authors in this thread seem to suffer.


  33. Also, I know you’re going to say that the TTC recommended the retention of ICTS before Transit City became city policy, which somehow makes the TTC a defacto ICTS or standard gauge advocate. I don’t think it’s fair to jump to that conclusion because the TTC may have been recommending the retention of ICTS as the cheapest solution, not necessarily the best solution.

    It is my understanding that the SRT was supposed to be TTC gauge with streetcar technology. If the TTC had the choice today of choosing standard-gauge versus TTC gauge for new lines, I would not be surprised if they choose TTC gauge.


  34. Steve: I am trying to imagine the complexity of a dual gauge version of Queen and Spadina.

    It’s so much worse that you think too. TTC and Standard gauge are too close together to allow 3 rail dual gauge, it would require 4 rails, you’d need another 1.5″ at least to get enough flange/frog clearance for 3 rail to work through switches etc. Now a grand union with a 4 rail per direction set up would be a sight to see but it’s crazy to contemplate having to drive over one, let alone what dangers it would pose to cyclists.

    I agree with you Steve, the point is pretty much moot, any interchange potential is extremely small to the point of not being worth considering vs simple transfer points if it ever came to that.


  35. @Mikey: Right now the TTC operates three rail systems, two at TTC gauge and one at standard gauge. Once Transit City is built, current plan is that TTC will operate three rail systems, two at TTC gauge and one at standard gauge. Steve alluded to this. You may want to re-consider your argument and/or position.

    @Kristian: I haven’t seen a lot of despair around here, nor smug comments on anything, at least not on this site (now, the Sun comment pages are another story…). It also seems to me that Biblical citations are thin on the ground around here. But I assure you my purpose in arguing against TTC gauge is not to humiliate anybody, and certainly not other members of the elite tribe known as transit geeks.

    I will just say that standard gauge is like metric and TTC gauge is like imperial. It simply doesn’t make sense to build LRT in neighboring jurisdictions to different gauge, without an overriding reason, and it certainly doesn’t make sense to built LRT in a huge swath of Southern Ontario to TTC gauge just because there is a tiny TTC-gauge streetcar system in Toronto. Only a very short-term perspective can ignore the future benefits of integration across the whole city (note: I don’t even mean one-seat ride; just one system, no artificial, pointless, and unchangeable technological barriers). The “whole city” essentially means the entire GTA.

    I’d love to know more about the actual selection process within Metrolinx. I agree with Steve that the stated reasons — being able to buy standard equipment — don’t add up to a conclusive argument for a non-TTC gauge. Did they have this discussion but decide that talking publicly about costs or benefits that are decades out would not be fruitful?

    I should probably explain what would convince me that a new line should be TTC gauge. If the benefits of connecting the new line to the existing on-street system were clear and unambiguous, that would convince me. And this isn’t even hypothetical: if you’ve been reading closely, you’ll notice that I’ve never argued that the Cherry St. line should be anything other than TTC gauge.

    You might consider doing the same. What would convince you that standard gauge is appropriate for a new line?


  36. Possibly we should argue this from empirical evidence.

    TTC gauge streetcars and subways work.

    No Stephenson gauge systems have survived in Ontario, and the SRT is not a good advertisement.

    So TTC gauge all the way — Ottawa to Thunder Bay!


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