Spadina Extension Opening Pushed Back to Late 2016

A report before the TTC meeting this week advises that the opening date for the Spadina Subway Extension is now fall 2016.

The report includes a long history of the Spadina project as well as a comparison of the bureaucratic environments of Toronto and Madrid, a city that manages to build subways much faster than most other cities in the world.

For some time, the TTC has been evasive about the actual opening date citing mid-2015 (for the Pan Am Games), then late 2015, and now 2016.  The fact that parts of the project were behind schedule has been reported in the monthly CEO’s report for some time.  Now, formally, the TTC is resigning itself that the lost time cannot be made up.

This will, no doubt, raise questions about why a staged opening to, say, York University then later to Vaughan, was not planned from the outset.  It is doubtful this would be possible because some of the systems contracts such as signalling have been set up on the basis of doing the whole line at one go.  All of the station construction contracts are scheduled to complete in 2015 with York U being the last.

If a staged opening had been desired, the decision to proceed that way would have been made some years ago, and design and construction would have focussed on the south end of the line.  This would have delayed photo ops north of Steeles and chances for various politicians to show what they were doing for York Region.  It might even have left the northern part of the line vulnerable to changing government priorities.

“The other shoe” that has not dropped yet is the question of the project’s budget.  So far, the claim as been “on time, on budget”, but half of that boast just went up in smoke.  Will the project come in on budget given the many delays and design changes it has seen?

One point of note is that when the TTC put together the project plan for this extension, they had not yet committed to ATC (Automatic Train Cperation) on the Yonge-University line, and didn’t include money for ATC signalling in the Spadina project.  That’s an add-on that is not funded as part of the four-partner package for the extension itself.

Another future add-on would be platform doors, although I doubt we will ever see this applied to stations so far away from downtown, if anywhere.  Indeed, one station’s design underwent major changes because the platform door wall had been designed as part of the support structure of the station.  No doors, no wall, no support.

The project budget does include provision for more subway trains, but only at the currently planned level of service.  Every other peak period train heading north on Spadina will go to Vaughan with a scheduled short turn at the station now called Downsview, but to be renamed Sheppard West.  Any trains for improved service are an extra unbudgeted order, and of course they would require storage space somewhere.

27 thoughts on “Spadina Extension Opening Pushed Back to Late 2016

  1. With respect to late delivery and being over-budget, Metrolinx is probably saying, “told you so”. The project was set back months by that unfortunate accident though.

    You should head up there and take some shots of the construction. The station excavations are enormous.

    Steve: There are a lot of construction shots on Urban Toronto which is why I haven’t been covering this. The holes for the stations are definitely enormous because the tunnels are quite deep. That’s a side effect of using bored rather than cut-and-cover construction.


  2. I have a very simple idea, and something that can actually work, given what has been completed so far: open the TYSSE to Finch West Station first. The tunnels have been built from Downsview Park to Finch West, and are underway from Downsview Park to Sheppard West (current Downsview Station). Laying down tracks, hydro, and signals can be pushed up, and the 2 stations (Finch West & Downsview Park) can be prioritized. By speeding this section up, “Holey” and “Moley” can be used (?) to complete at least one section of the Northern tunnels (VMC to 407 or 407 to Steeles West).

    Finch West is supposed to have a crossover, I don’t see why it can’t be done (save for some politician’s egos).


  3. If Metrolinx was in charge of this project, the project will still be behind and Metrolinx would host numerous public meetings to tell residents the benefits of the subway opening a year late.


  4. Forgot to add that I can see now why the TTC wants to stage Eglinton LRT station construction in small chunks. The Keele-Finch intersection is a complete disaster zone. There is a turnback provision at the Steeles W. station (which they’re now calling Black Creek Pioneer Village), but I’m curious as to whether the Finch W. station will have a roughed-in LRT platform and ramp from the get-go. My understanding is that two signal systems will be installed — one fallback system of the current fixed-block NX/UR type, and another computerized moving-block system.

    Steve: Yes, the TTC is installing two signal systems. Among other things this allows non-ATC trains such as work cars and the remaining T1 fleet to move through the line without having retrofits. I would hate to think what this will do to headways given that a conventional system has longer fixed blocks. Something tells me this decision has more to do with inadequate funding than with technical best practices, but as I am not a signals engineer I can’t say for sure. It’s just that the fog surrounding details whenever the new signal system comes up makes me suspicious.


  5. They could have done it the way the Chinese do it. Ignore the environment, ignore safety, ignore workers’ rights (odd, in a “workers’ paradise”), ignore protests, pay low, expropriate as needed, no appeals, etc.

    Steve: Don’t forget building on the cheap and hoping it doesn’t fall down.


  6. I wonder how Metrolinx is going to do on keeping to their schedule for their LRT lines across Toronto. If they actually get built, I bet that they will cost more and take longer than they would have if the TTC had been responsible. Metrolinx may think that the “Private Sector” will absorb any cost over runs but those contingencies will be built into the bid.

    Steve: The problem is that “schedule” is an elastic concept for Metrolinx and Queen’s Park. I’m sure that by the time they are doing tender evaluations, if we even get that far, they will have found some way to stretch out the projects even further.


  7. I don’t understand why the TTC won’t open the subway to Finch West station ASAP. (I’m not sure if there’s a crossover planned at Finch West.) If the TTC really wants to relieve the 36 Finch West bus route, this would be a good opportunity for better service Finch West.


  8. Those who take the 196 know that this extension cannot come soon enough. One of the smarter things the TTC’s done was to get the busway completed before starting construction. Though even with that in place, it quickly becomes clear that medium capacity transit like BRT and LRT cannot adequately handle this load. Perhaps once the 60′ articulated buses hit the route it will help, but unlikely enough for the long term.


  9. On the issue of opening to Finch West, if there is not to be a cross-over there, it should be possible to run a limited-frequency service using a single track. Whatever signaling system is installed, it should be as modern or better than that on the Sheppard line, which I understand can support bi-directional running on a single track.

    Given the station spacing, single track operation beyond Downsview (Sheppard West) could likely only support something like every fourth train at rush hours, but this would represent a step up in transit service that isn’t there now until the line opens further north and supports full two-track operation.

    On the issue of the renaming of Downsview to Sheppard West, is there any time frame for this yet? Ideally, it should be done a year or two before the new Downsview Park station opens for use in order for the public to begin to get used to the new name.

    Steve: The plan is to do this sometime in the year before the extension opens.

    M. Briganti wrote,

    …I’m curious as to whether the Finch W. station will have a roughed-in LRT platform and ramp from the get-go.

    I had wondered this as well, and Steve had said, “The intent is to build the LRT station as part of the Finch West Station project, not as a separate work afterwards.” Hopefully, that is still the case. I was concerned about this, because within a couple of weeks of Rob Ford announcing that Transit City was dead, an expenditure of $1.45 million was approved to redesign the Finch West station bus terminal to be able to handle Finch West buses and add an entrance/exit directly onto Finch. How much more the redesigned bus terminal would cost, and how much the land acquisition for the Finch driveway would cost may or may not be known by now, but I wondered if the underground LRT platform could be used by Finch West buses before the LRT was built.

    Steve: Nope. Two problems. The full station is not being built at this time, only the part that is integral with the Finch West Station structure. In particular, no portals. Second, no ventilation for diesel fumes.


  10. Ben Smith wrote about the Downsview-York U busway,

    “Perhaps once the 60′ articulated buses hit the route it will help, but unlikely enough for the long term.”

    Ah, last time I checked, there were already 60′ articulated buses on this run. They are blue in colour and sport the VIVA logo and your TTC fare is good on them between Downsview and York University.

    It has been this way since August 22, 2010. If you’re not using a pass, just make sure you grab a transfer for proof of payment at Downsview station before boarding.


  11. Given how much we hear about the breathtaking speed of subway construction in Madrid, it’s ironic that the Spanish consortium building the northern tunnels is one of the furthest behind schedule.

    Steve: One might argue that there are both fast and slow, good and bad, Canadian construction firms as well. Anyone watching the difference in the pace of construction on condos around town can see who really knows what they are doing.

    As the report says, the situation in Madrid is much different from the one in Toronto, and the continuity of a large ongoing construction project makes for experienced teams.


  12. It’s probably cheaper and faster to build it all at once, rather than staged opening.

    While this delay may be disappointing, at least the project is getting done. I would rather they take the time to build it well, rather than rush the job and have repairs needed sooner than expected.


  13. The reason for the two signal systems stems from the fact that the communication link to the new control centre’s software-based screens failed on several occasions, resulting in a complete subway system shutdown. The software itself has also crashed a couple of times, forcing them to send staff out to the individual towers (which are normally unmanned). I’m not sure if the new system and the old one can operate at the same time though. Possible I suppose, but very complicated.

    Steve: Yes, I had wondered about that too. If a fixed block system with wider train spacings “sees” trains ignoring that spacing because the ATC moves them closer together, what happens? What about trip cocks? Will they be turned off on TR trains running under ATC? What would happen during the changeover period when part of the line is still on old style signals (the Spadina Extension will be the last part to get ATC)?

    This is one of several problems I have with TTC subway planning and the way they claim that capacity can be increased on the line. They still have not explained how they will manage 100 second headways at Finch Station where the crossover would be challenged by 120. Yes, tail tracks can be built north of the station, but that’s more money, and an operational complexity the TTC is notoriously unable to support. Then there’s the small matter of crew changes that tend to introduce random gaps and bunching.


  14. Why does the Wilson Yards modifications and commissioning need to be pushed so late? I can understand certain aspects of it not being able to be completed until track and signal work of the extension is complete, but I would have thought most of it could be done in parallel.

    Steve: I am not sure that it is physically needed earlier and has probably been pushed out for convenience of the overall project. When I get a look at the detailed budget books, things may become clearer.


  15. @Calvin Henry-Cotnam

    The VIVA buses running between Downsview and York are part of the VIVA Orange line, which does not use articulated buses.

    Also, while getting to York is hardly a picnic, the real choke is getting back to the subway. First, the VIVA buses are located on the other side of York Lanes from where the TTC buses are, so you cannot simply take the first bus which comes. Second, for those who don’t have a pass (myself included, only have class 3 days per week so it doesn’t make sense to even get a YRT pass at the moment) are stuck with the 196. Thanks in part to the single door boarding, the lineup to get on one of these buses can stretch the entire length of the York Lanes and Student Centre complex. Passengers will usually have to wait 3-5 buses before being lucky enough to be crammed into one.

    Finally, the lack of promotion about this integration is abysmal at best. If I’m not mistaken, there is no mention of it on the TTC’s website and it is hidden on the YRT one. I do recall seeing a poster mentioning it at Downsview by the 196 loading platform, but I’ve talked to several students and teachers who use the route regularly and they are all unfamiliar with the program. There is nothing to indicate it at the York U end to the best of my knowledge as well.

    On a related topic, I’m guessing one of the concerns about only running to Finch West is because a large chunk of the passengers are going to York University. Thus ending the line at Finch would leave them high and dry.

    That said, they could consider running it to FW while still having the 196 operate along the busway to accommodate these students. This way it can still act as a western relief line for Yonge and still meet the needs of York University students. Another option could be to improve the presence of the 196 by having BRT station facilities (off board payment machines, high quality shelters, etc) and its promotion by having the line drawn as a rapid transit route on maps rather than a regular express bus route.

    Finally, a pet peeve: How come the TTC shows portions of streetcar routes with their own lanes as red and white lines as “streetcar rapid transit,” but they don’t do the 196 as the same as “bus rapid transit?”


  16. Okay two quick points:

    1) Is it just me or are a lot of these completion dates more for political reason rather than actual construction times? It seems that a lot of government funded projects always come in late (and usually over budget as well.) Could part of the problem be with agencies like the TTC making grand statements about completion dates more to allow the powers that be (either at City Hall or Queen’s Park – or both) to tell people “Look at what we are doing, now give us another four years!”

    Steve: The Spadina subway was originally touted as a Pan Am Games project because some events were to be at York U. That was always a stretch, and the TTC was cautious when talking about a mid-2015 opening. December was the date often cited even though some politicians seemed not to have received that memo.

    2) Why does Downsview have to be renamed to Sheppard West? Orfinallym the first station north of the current Downsview was supposed to be “Sheppard West” – now it’s a flip-flop of names for those to stations. I see no reason to do this – anyone know the real reason?

    Steve: Politics. Be happy that the proposal to call the station where the line crosses the GO tracks “Chesswood” didn’t make it through the Commission, nor did “University Heights” for Finch & Keele. We’re stuck with “Black Creek Pioneer Village” (and people made fun of the name of the terminal at Vaughan) even though that’s (a) a minor attraction compared to sites like York U. and (b) isn’t immediately near the station. These are times when arguments against having pols on bodies like the TTC gain traction.


  17. I know of at least one case where ATC and traditional lineside signals are mixed. On the former KCRC East Rail Line in Hong Kong, the local commuter service operates under ATC, while long distance trains to Mainland China operate under standard fixed block lineside signals. Of course this a different case than what the TTC seems to be proposing, as there are only 13 long distance trains per direction per day, as opposed to hundreds of commuter trains.


  18. I wonder how many Pan Am Games visitors, told that we would have trains to York University in time for the Games, will try to take the GO train up to York University Station.

    Who knows, maybe, just maybe there will be a limited train service with a bus link along Canarctic & York Blvd.

    And speaking of renaming … when the subway’s York University station actually opens, is there a plan to rename GO’s York University Station? How about “Downsview North” or “Chesswood North” or “York University East”?

    Cheers, Moaz


  19. @Ben Smith

    You actually don’t need a YRT pass or Presto to take viva orange between Downsview station and YorkU. You can even board and get off at any stop in between. TTC passes and transfers are all that’s needed.

    YRT Site (at the bottom)
    York U Site (click on the “Click here” link, which leads to this pdf about the fare integration.

    Strangely, even with a search of the TTC’s website, there is no information about this. Last time I was at Downsview station, they still had a few placards and posters about this. And I do know what you mean, hardly anyone knows about it because the TTC doesn’t want people to know about it, even though it costs them 1/2 the cost per passenger to take viva orange over the 196.

    Although if you do have to take the 196 Monday-Friday, try getting on at The Pond Road (in front of Atkinson or Seneca@York), you’ll usually get a seat.

    The good news is the two Northern TBMs have finally cleared YorkU, so slowly things are moving ahead in that regard.


  20. Ben Smith wrote,

    The VIVA buses running between Downsview and York are part of the VIVA Orange line, which does not use articulated buses.

    You are correct. For some reason, I was mixing that up with the use of the articulated buses on Purple (only between York University and Richmond Hill Centre).

    Moaz Yusuf Ahmad said,

    And speaking of renaming … when the subway’s York University station actually opens, is there a plan to rename GO’s York University Station?

    Probably not, if existing examples are an indication. GO’s Eglinton station and TTC’s Eglinton station as well as GO’s Bloor station and TTC’s Bloor station to name a couple.

    Also, if the Yonge subway extension is built, there would be a TTC station named “Langstaff/Longbridge”, but this would not be next to GO’s Langstaff station. GO’s Langstaff station would be next to the TTC/YRT “Richmond Hill Centre” station, not to be confused with GO’s Richmond Hill station, which is 3-4 km north of there!

    Clear as mud?


  21. With all due respect, I don’t recall the TTC *ever* stating that this project would be completed before December 2015. If they did, it must have been stated more than 4 years ago… And at no time was it ever touted by the TTC as being a Pan-Am-ready project. (if someone cares to contradict me with documentation, I’ll gladly reverse this statement, though)

    Schedule completion date was negotiated as part of the funding agreement with the senior governments, and as such was always pretty aggressive as a “2015 complete” timeline.

    On the Finch West configuration, not only is there a crossover at the south end, but there is a double-ended pocket track at the north end (to store short turned trains).

    Steve: I believe the “TTC” statements were made by Commissioners who were not always called on this by staff. If I can find a hard copy report with the earlier date in it, I will post a link to it.


  22. It’s like I’m being strangled by incompetence in interminable slow motion.

    Seriously – who announces they are going be an entire year late – FOUR YEARS IN ADVANCE? They still have three years to make up the time! Can they NOT? Is that inconceivable?

    Where is the pride in this organization? Please, let’s have the lost utility of NOT having a subway for an entire year be quantified and charged to this organization as a fine.

    Guess what. In mid-2014, we are going to hear that’s going to be pushed back to 2017.

    And in 2016, we will hear it’s going to be 2018.

    Do you see the pattern forming?


  23. Let’s define ATO and ATC first. ATC is a control system that sets the distance and speed between trains. ATO works with ATC to control the train’s propulsion and brakes so that it matches the regulations set by ATC. ATC provides paramenters like schedules, distance and speed limits to ATO, ATO uses that information and compares to it the train’s characteristic. It then select the right application of propulsion or brakes to complete the task.

    Steve: The TTC has been a bit vague at times about whether they are implementing full ATO, or if the operators would still drive the trains subject to limitations placed on them by ATC. They seem to use the two terms interchangeably which, as you note, they are not.

    ATC determines train positions by using sensors on the track (possibly speed too). This information is relayed to head office so that the computers can calculate how fast each train should be moving. In the case of the Toronto metro system, there are signal lights on track to tell the driver when to proceed, proceed at half speed etc.. So a driver operating a Bombardier T1 can respond to the signal. When ATO is installed, there will be radios on track side. These radios will be able to push that information (and receive data) from a T35A08 train. The ATO takes that signal and operates the train as oppose to the driver.

    In short, both T1 and T35A08 can operate together on ATO enabled segments. Nothing is free in this world. Since it takes a human at least 1000 ms to respond to a visual signal and put their hand on the controls, there is a significant latency there. This is not even including the time to actually use the control. By the time the brake pads hit the wheels, 2500 ms could have past. An ATO enabled T35A08 can respond to a brake signal in less than 250 ms. This means that on the same segment and same conditions, a ATO T35A08 can operate at 65 km/h, a human operated T1 may only able to operate at 55 km/h for this reason. So, efficiency is reduced.

    At the end of Sheppard West Station, the driver of the T35A08 will need to switch off ATO before proceeding towards VMC. Whether this is done manually or not depends on the system. If 2 out of 3 trains are short turn at Sheppard West, most train will remain in the ATO area. When a southbound train coming from VMC approaches Sheppard West Station, ATO will need to be switched on. This is not an elegant solution, but it will work. When a train enters an ATO area, it might need to slow down or even stop completely so that the computer can guide it into the ATO area with consideration to other trains.

    For crying out loud, the TTC should just install ATO everywhere. With computerized control, we can even run single track operation at night allowing for 24 hour service. Sure, the service level will be reduced to a train every 12 to 15 minutes, but it is still cheaper than running the buses. Not all commuter lines are fully computer control even with ATO installed. The best example would be the JR East’s Keihin Tohoku Line . ATO is only installed in the central secion of the line.

    Steve: The TTC plans to complete conversion to ATO on Yonge by 2016. It is not an overnight process. Bloor-Danforth would follow later. All that said, the claims for increased capacity with ATO are overstated, I believe, because the physical limitations (crossover length, switch movements, maximum G forces due to curves and speed changes) determine the lower bound on the headway through a double-crossover. The TTC claims they can get from about 144 seconds down to 105. I don’t believe them, and have yet to see any calculations, simulation or field experiment to prove otherwise.


  24. PSC says:

    On the Finch West configuration, not only is there a crossover at the south end, but there is a double-ended pocket track at the north end (to store short turned trains).

    Moaz: If the extension up to Finch West can be opened sooner than waiting for the whole line to be finished, that would be great for just about everyone.

    PSC Says: I’ve found a 2009 reference to revenue service starting November 2015… So a wee bit off.

    Moaz: November 2015 would put the start of revenue service after the Pan Am Games, so any one who implied that the line could be open for the Games was lying to the public. I doubt that too many among the public were in the ‘want to believe’ crowd.

    A delay isn’t terribly unexpected given what happened. It would just be nice if the focus can be on recovering as quickly as possible. Opening at Finch West seems like the best option for the line as well as the buses on the Finch West corridor. I presume that, with Finch West open, more buses can be turned back to serve the area west of Keele, and this will lead to better, more frequent service.

    Cheers, Moaz


  25. With respect to ATO/ATC on Bloor. If I am not mistaken the ATO replaces the operator as the control system on the train so would the TTC not be able to equip only 1/3 of the T1 cars for complete ATO operation?. Only the cars at the ends of the train need ATO. If they ran the cars in semi permanently coupled 6 car sets the entire fleet would be ATO compatible. The TTC did this with the 5200 series G trains which had guard cabs but no motor controllers. The fleet would still have the ability to switch 2 car units in the shops. They might want to paint the ATO cabs a different colour so they would easily see if a consist were correct.


  26. Moaz commented:

    “It would just be nice if the focus can be on recovering as quickly as possible. Opening at Finch West seems like the best option for the line as well as the buses on the Finch West corridor.”

    Recall, I said that the reference to November 2015 was from a 2009 document. By the time the station contract was tendered (late), that date was pushed back to EOY – and even then the timing was tight. Trying to stage commissioning of the system to allow you to run to Finch in early 2016 presumes that the full tunnelling work to the south is done on time, and that the station at Downsview Park is complete as well.

    The delays cited in the report specifically reference the tunnelling efforts south of Finch, to wit: “tunnelling has not proceeded well and continues to fall further behind schedule. Efforts by TYSSE to have improved performance on the tunnelling have intensified, but at this time tunnelling progress remains slow.” (page 9, under “Contractor Performance”)

    This implies that the southern portion is unlikely to be able to be accelerated either, so throwing more re$ource$ at a portion of the project won’t get you any more active track in 2016 than just sticking to the plan.


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