TTC Madness: A Subway for Everyone

Today’s meeting of the transit commission was expected to be a modest affair with approval of the Downtown Relief Line study’s recommendations, and a few other housekeeping items.  What happened was a complete upending of the transit expansion policies we thought were put in place by the Karen Stintz coup d’état that bounced Rob Ford’s crew off of the TTC board back in the spring.  Stintz herself didn’t even have the nerve to stand up to the runaway proposals from her fellow members preferring to keep peace, for now at least.

To make sense of this debacle, I have to recount some of the earlier events.

The main act was a presentation by TTC staff of the DRL Study, and it contained few surprises relative to coverage we have already seen in the press and on this blog.  One comment caused attentive ears to prick up, namely that spending $1-billion expanding Bloor-Yonge station might be less cost-effective than providing additional capacity with a new line.  Would that the TTC would look at all components of its subway plans that way (a topic for another article), but it’s a refreshing point of view.

The study and presentation make explicit reference to potential shortfalls in GO Transit capacity as part of the problem.  Although these will no doubt annoy Metrolinx (is there a TTC meeting that doesn’t anger Metrolinx?), that agency’s basic problem is that long-term secrecy about what it might actually build forces assumptions to be made.  That said, nothing prevented the TTC from modelling improved service on the GO northern corridors just to see what this would do to demand flows on a “what if” basis.  After all, the whole DRL study is a “what if” exercise.

Councillor Parker asked about Main Station as an alternative DRL/Danforth subway connection.  Staff’s position is that there are advantages to a north-south connection further west that would potentially serve Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Parks, and line up with the Don Mills corridor.  (I will address DRL options in a separate article.)  There were humourous remarks about how staff were trying to buy Parker off with a subway to his ward.

Parker moved that the Danforth to Eglinton section of the DRL be included in the next phase of the study, but the motion fell short of actually committing to this segment as a top priority.

Councillor Milczyn asked about eliminating parking on King or Queen Streets.  Staff replied that this would be important for improved surface transit, and the idea would be part of a separate Downtown Traffic Operations Study now underway by the City, but that this would not avoid the need for a DRL.

Milczyn also asked about a Lakeshore West LRT and seemed to be mixing the proposal that was one option in the DRL study (an LRT or subway line in the rail corridor) with the Waterfront West LRT (that would run on Lakeshore Blvd.).

Councillor Colle asked about capacity on the Bloor-Danforth line east of Yonge, and staff replied that with the DRL, this would not be an issue.  However, that remark misses the fact that the Danforth subway regularly passes up riders today east of Pape, the point where capacity would be freed up.  More service will be needed on the BD line even with the DRL in place.

Colle went on to ask whether extending the BD line to Scarborough Town Centre would affect the DRL’s alignment by shifting the logical point for “relief” further east.  Staff replied that the demand model already has the extra ridership that the replaced and extended SRT will bring to Kennedy Station built into projected Danforth subway demand.

Councillor De Baeremaeker observed than an overall city plan needs to include subways, LRT and buses, that the DRL is a “good subway”, and that the problems of inadequate GO service and fare structure forcing riders onto the TTC need to be addressed.  We will hear more from De Baeremaeker later.

The staff recommendations with a few minor amendments were passed, and the meeting turned to other matters including a presentation on Transit Oriented Development.  This was something of a Trojan Horse brought in by Build Toronto.  An L.A. based consultant who has done a lot of work on redevelopments around station sites talked about the importance of putting good development (including attractive amenities) around transit stations.  This is the classic transit model which looks nice, but ignores the degree of neighbourhood upheaval that the level of development implies.  When you have a greenfield site, or your client is a totalitarian government, pesky problems with local activists and zoning are rarely encountered.

The moral was that if we are going to build many new stations, we should ensure that development occurs around them.  On the Spadina Extension, this is easier said than done at some sites, and development plans are already in place at others.  On the Eglinton line, many stations are in existing low density areas, and there would be a challenge on threecounts having them all upzoned for development at the scale shown in the presentation.  First, the locals would get a tad upset, and public meetings featuring a liberal assortment of pitchforks, torches and rotten tomatoes would be on order.  Second, developers have to believe that these sites are a market for development.  Third, the transit line’s role in the network must be strong enough relative to other nearby facilities (notably highways) that the new development would actually feed the transit stations.  See Sheppard Avenue for a counterexample.

The main discussion turned on the issue of taxation and the L.A. experience with Measure “R” passed in 2008, and Measure “J” expected to pass in the upcoming elections.  “R” levied a 30-year, 0.5% sales tax on Los Angeles County to generate dedicated funds for transit.  “J” extends this for a further 30 years.  This funding will be used to underwrite debt that will be undertaken during the early period (the next 10 years or so) to build out many new transit facilities.

Unlike Metrolinx, whose Investment Strategy seems to be discussed on a pay-as-you-play basis, L.A. appears ready to take on long term debt with matching long-term funding.  This is not unlike buying a house — you buy and live in the entire house at one go rather than adding a room at a time for 30 years.

By this time, the Commission clearly had a taste for spending money.  The DRL was not enough, and the suburban councillors needed to jump in with their projects.

The opportunity came unexpectedly by way of a public presentation by Alan Yule who often deputes at TTC meetings.  He proposed that the Scarborough RT/LRT conversion could be shortened as follows:

  • Since most of the traffic is between STC and Kennedy, all other stations would be closed, and SRT service would run express between the two points.
  • The intermediate stations would be boarded off (much like what is now happening at the Union Station 2nd platform project) while their reconstruction for LRT proceeded behind the walls.
  • Eventually, the work would have to turn to the right-of-way itself, and the line would close, but presumably for a shorter period.

I won’t go into details, but believe that the really time-consuming parts of the project would not be affected by this scheme, notably the underground work north of Ellesmere and the changes at Kennedy Station.  Alan does good, entertaining presentations.  The Commission thanked him for his work, and then the wheels came off the debate.

Councillor De Baeremaeker (he of the we need all modes in the network comment above) moved that staff report on the merits of a subway extension from Kennedy to Sheppard & McCowan.  De Baeremaeker’s position, following on from the One City Plan that briefly surfaced in June 2012, is that the difference in construction cost for a subway is only $500m greater than the cost of the LRT project, and this makes the subway option a great deal.  What he misses is that the comparator subway estimate is only for a line to STC, not to Sheppard.

That extra 3.6 km will cost roughly $1b and push the delta for the subway/LRT comparison much further apart.

Correction: The extra 1.7km will cost $700-million more than the LRT project according to a 2010 estimate. Moreover, the LRT runs further going east to Sheppard and Progress where extension to Malvern is possible.

(The question of comparative costs was discussed back in December 2010 in this article.)

De Baeremaeker should know this already, but it suits his role as the Superman of Scarborough transit to continue the charade that we can have a subway replacement for LRT at only a modest additional cost.  He also does not address the much higher operating cost of a subway line, especially given that it would be on a new, underground alignment, not at grade as the RT/LRT would be.

TTC CEO Andy Byford stayed clear of this debate, but recently in an interview on CBC he expressed guarded support for extending the Danforth subway.  This sends a mixed signal to the politicians and suggests that staff are not firm in their support of the LRT network.

Oddly enough, the staff position on the DRL continues to paint this as something for the medium to long term, at least 15 years away, with the option of adding capacity elsewhere in the interim.  This provides a window into which other subway construction projects might try to slip, an idea clearly on de Baeremaeker’s mind.

Not to be outdone, Councillor Milczyn asked that staff also report on looping this extended subway west from Sheppard & McCowan to Don Mills Station.  This is the Sheppard East subway, but reborn at least entirely on Sheppard itself rather than going through an industrial district to STC.  Such a line would obviously replace the Sheppard LRT.

Need I remind Commissioners of a phrase we heard a lot back during the subway/LRT debates:  Council’s will is supreme.  Council has voted, with not a little blood on the floor, for an LRT network which the province is supporting (to the degree that is possible in the current political climate).  Indeed, the Commission voted today to give CEO Andy Byford the authority to sign the operating agreement form the four-line LRT network.

Metrolinx’ hands are not completely clean in this on a few counts.  Most importantly, as recently as two days ago (Oct. 22), a representative presented an LRT project overview at a public meeting that includes a five-year shutdown for the SRT rebuilding.  However, Metrolinx own VP of Rapid Transit Implementation, Jack Collins, has said that during the contracting stage, Metrolinx hopes to get proposals from bidders that will be under 3 years, maybe only 2.5.  However, such a change has not been blessed by a Ministerial statement, and so we still hear “5” which scares the hell out of Scarborough transit users.  Toronto is ill-served by Metrolinx’ lack of accurate details in its public statements, of which this is only one example.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, the Commission has asked for these analyses to be available for its January 2013 meeting even though staff will be pre-occupied with major work on the 2013 budget for the next few months.  The date may slip, but what is clearly going on is that somebody wants information for use in a coming provincial election campaign.

What we see here is a Commission that claims to understand the limits of spending, that claims it should focus on subways where they are really needed, but which insists on revisiting LRT proposals over and over in the hope that they can be upgraded.  Saying “no” is very hard for a politician to do, especially when constituents have been convinced that LRT is a distant second class option.

The Star reports Councillor Parker’s reaction to the vote:

TTC commissioner John Parker, who was out of the room praising the decision on a downtown relief line, confronted his commission colleagues afterwards, telling them that voting in favour of subway studies was “a stupid, stupid, irresponsible thing.”

“Irresponsible” does not begin to describe my feeling about this vote, one which proved that the current Commission, given half a chance, will be just as irresponsible about the subway/LRT debate as the Ford-friendly crew they replaced.  It is not enough to say that we are getting more information for a better debate.  We have had this debate, and only people with a distaste for the hard truths about subway costs can pretend that this option is viable.

59 thoughts on “TTC Madness: A Subway for Everyone

  1. Steve: I am kind of offended by Moaz’s last comment

    “some are “white” and a few are presumably – though the jury is still out – intellectual) are selling the lower-class immigrant folks on a bill of goods that will leave the people with nothing…”

    In my opinion his comment was way off base, in extreme poor taste, and disgusting! Everyone has called Ford every name in the book, along with some of the other councillors but I don’t think you could label any of them “Racist” as Moaz did with his “white” and “Lower-class Immigrants” (which implies non-white) statements. I don’t think this kind of comment has a place here.

    Steve: Actually I started the thread quoting the epithet “downtown intellectuals” and noting that this was generally code for well-to-do and probably not immigrants. This name has been used by a few suburban councillors to denigrate proponents of LRT, and it misleads their constituents by implying that a second-class system is being foisted on the suburbs. We can debate the relative merits of technologies in various corridors, but I find being labelled a “downtown intellectual” (among other dismissive epithets used by Ford’s supporters) very distasteful. The debates should be on the merits without dismissing either side based on personal traits of any kind.


  2. William Paul

    I understand the roots of your taking offense, but do you understand what I am offended by, and what I was referring to in my comments?

    I didn’t accuse Mayor Ford or any councillor of racism. My issue is with councillors who will pander in whatever way they feel will work – even if that means implying racism or class distinction – in order to sell (really, shill for) subways that cannot be built with the funding formula Toronto currently operates with.

    I’m also irritated by councillors who reopen debates that are closed, for no particular reason, in order to preserve their own political skins.

    I know what realpolitik is. It should come as no surprise that the motions to revisit subways showed up just around the halfway point of the existing term of office. This means that unofficially, the re-election campaign has begun … and if you find my comments offensive, wait until you see what our Mayor, Councillors and their supporters and detractors are going to produce for this campaign.

    As for comments about racism … well, it would be wrong to suggest or assume that racism does not exist in Toronto. There are more than enough reports suggesting that racial prejudice & racial & economic divisions exist throughout our diverse, multicultural community, to make it clear that work needs to be done.

    Cheers, Moaz


  3. I have a friend who lives east of Sheppard/Neilson and by Google Maps’ estimate it’s a 1 hour 26 minute commute each way (she claims 1 hour 45 minutes). Extending the Sheppard subway from Don Mills to Morningside would shave off a walk/transfer for her to Don Mills (6 minutes) and the Sheppard subway would be blazing fast (the Stubway can do 5.5 km in 8 minutes during rush hour, 41.75 km) compared to the 17 kph Sheppard East bus. But a full Sheppard East subway won’t be as fast as the Stubway (higher ridership and shorter spacing would mean slower travel). And while ridership would increase, it wouldn’t come anywhere close to recouping expenses to justify construction.

    And let’s face it, 30 km+ is a lot of ground to cover by subway. It really is. Even if the Sheppard subway is undoubtedly going to be faster than Bloor-Danforth’s 32 kph. That should be a job for commuter rail but GO Transit isn’t interested in making intra-416 a priority.

    The best option from a fiscally responsible perspective would be LRT for Sheppard. I can understand why it angers so many people. The LRT in the studies was estimated to be 22-25 kph (depending on stop spacing in the final design). The bus is 17 kph (LRT is 29-47% faster). Meanwhile the full Sheppard East subway would probably be twice as fast (34 kph+) as the bus because of the low ridership relative to Bloor-Danforth. But on the flip side, peak frequency won’t be 2-3 minutes like Bloor-Danforth.

    Honestly I can’t believe that the TTC hasn’t even experimented with BRT yet on Sheppard East during peak hours (I can say the same about Eglinton West and other corridors more popular than Sheppard East). The Sheppard East bus has like 40+ stops from Meadowvale to Don Mills. If they ran an Express bus (with complimentary local bus service to fill in the gaps) that stopped at roughly every arterial intersection, there would only be 12 stops (14.7 km). No more than 16-17 stops or else it can hardly be considered BRT. The kph bus rate should improve significantly. Even the local bus kph would improve.

    Steve: Definitely GO is a problem here because they refuse to look at inside 416 service, something they could be providing from northeastern Scarborough on the CPR line. With Metrolinx taking over the LRT lines from the TTC, any pretence that they “don’t do” 416 transit went out the window. However, they seem to prefer planning on the assumption they will get peanuts rather than showing what could be done and at what cost. A bit of advocacy wouldn’t hurt, but it might damage a few egos at Queen’s Park to be painted as the Scrooge who wouldn’t fund better transit for Scarborough. Oddly, we don’t hear anything about “elites” when it comes to GO Transit funding or service.


  4. Until recently I lived downtown, and the population there, especially in condos, is FAR from intellectual … closer to borderline retarded I’d say. If you don’t believe me, go sit in any condo’s Annual General Meeting and soak up the intellectualism.

    Downtown Toronto is a textbook example of what goes wrong when you let market forces dictate urban planning and development. Now we have all these condos downtown, and no families. Families don’t want to live in them. Over the last 30 years, downtown has transformed itself into nothing more but a youth monoculture. Bloor Street looks like a scene from Logan’s Run, and every time I walk it I wonder where these kids will all be in 20 years … in the suburbs they currently ridicule raising families?


  5. Moaz, I understand racism exists, but it has no place in a transit blog. I understand your ‘passion & zeal” in these matters but there is no point in getting all wound up because a councillor reopens a debate for no reason. I don’t really care what our Mayor or anyone else comes up with for the next election campaign.

    I don’t even think Ford’s waste of a year changed anything. We gave up ANY kind of input in ANY LRT/Subway project when our City Council accepted 100% funding by the Province. We gave up any say in whether it will be LRT/Subway/Bus or even nothing. The Province and Metrolinx have always had their schedule which is obviously to spread out payments for as long as possible and I still believe that even if Ford hadn’t meddled, the current timeline would be the same.

    What bothers me is that

    1) Dalton has had what, ten years and not restored ANY of the subsidy that Harris cancelled and

    2) the nerve of the guy to prorogue which means his government can do whatever they like for the next 2 months without debate or opposition input and all current bills are now null and void including the fact that Mr Bentley is now magically in no trouble at all.

    Hopefully until a new premier is installed and then another new premier next summer no one will tamper with our transit plans.

    My own feeling is that whatever happens we will still get our LRT, but I would bet any money that again, whoever is elected, they will cry poor and the LRT construction timeline will be stretched even later.


  6. “Hopefully until a new premier is installed and then another new premier next summer no one will tamper with our transit plans.”

    Almost guaranteed someone will mess with our transit plans. McGuinty himself has messed with his own transit plans 3 times since he announced them, if I’ve kept count. Hudak has already promised to cancel Eglinton and the other the LRT projects – and not to start building subways until he has balanced the budget – which of course won’t happen given his other promise to cut taxes.

    … though if we get a new premier in the new year, I don’t know why we’d have another new one in the summer – the next election is due in 2015, and the current government only needs to find a single vote to survive.

    Steve: Presuming that the NDP doesn’t have a fit of hubris and force an election rather than waiting to see whether they can work with the new Premier, and that Premier has the good sense not to provoke the NDP but rather to accept and understand what minority government is all about.


  7. As for GO’s attitude towards the 416, is it just me or does GO always tell the 416 customers to take TTC, but they will provide a GO bus for everyone else. I have encountered people having to walk from the Long Branch GO station to the Long Branch Loop to take the TTC if a train is cancelled. But a passenger from Port Credit gets a GO bus. Talk about a double standard.


  8. “Until recently I lived downtown, and the population there, especially in condos, is FAR from intellectual … closer to borderline retarded I’d say. If you don’t believe me, go sit in any condo’s Annual General Meeting and soak up the intellectualism.

    Downtown Toronto is a textbook example of what goes wrong when you let market forces dictate urban planning and development. Now we have all these condos downtown, and no families. Families don’t want to live in them. Over the last 30 years, downtown has transformed itself into nothing more but a youth monoculture. Bloor Street looks like a scene from Logan’s Run, and every time I walk it I wonder where these kids will all be in 20 years … in the suburbs they currently ridicule raising families?”

    I agree with you that condo dwellers do not tend to be the intellectual crowd, but what does any of that have to do with Bloor Street? Bloor has one condo right now that I can think of off the top of my head, and it is a rich Yorkville building, not full of young people.

    When you say “Bloor” do you mean the Annex? The Annex has been like that for years, and it has nothing to do with poor planning. Almost none of those people you see live in condos. Most are U of T students living in the apartment buildings and basements around there. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Bloor Street is full of young families starting at Christie Pits and to the west.

    Steve: All of which goes to show that typecasting based on location (e.g. Scarberia, “downtown”) misses all the details and variations throughout the city.


  9. @Chris

    Unfortunately you didn’t mention where your friend commutes to – from your description here I presume that the route she takes is straight west to Don Mills Station then onwards through Yonge-Sheppard. If I’m correct, this is not a bad place to begin thinking about our network, after all it consists of the myriad of individual trips that each of us takes on a daily basis. Apparently, reflecting on your friend’s commute helped concretize what the different infrastructure options would mean for people who live where she lives and go where she goes. That being the case, I do want to review a few points from your message, made more personally relevant through her experiences no doubt, related to transit infrastructure development that you may or may not be aware of:

    -That the Sheppard subway would venture into the territory that you discuss is one of the greatest mistruths rarely corrected by it proponents. The Network 2011 routing, recently backed by Mayor Ford et al. only follows Sheppard as far as Kennedy and heads east as far as Scarborough Town Centre. Regardless of the speed involved, a Sheppard subway extension (as proposed) would only slightly shorten the mixed-traffic bus component of your friend’s commute.

    -By “BRT at peak hours” I presume you mean some form of HOV lanes. I often bike down the equivalent lanes on Don Mills Road during rush hour as single-occupant vehicles blaze by me in what drivers seem to conceptualize as their personal queue jump lane. There has been regular talk about the lack of enforcement in these lanes on this blog that render their utility questionable at best. In addition, remember that most of Sheppard E is only 2 lanes wide in each direction (not counting the turning lane), so unless the road is widened (as it is slated to be with the LRT) adding an HOV lane would leave only 1 “normal” driving lane – imagine trying to implement that change in 2012 Toronto!

    -Express service on Sheppard already exists between Don Mills and Kennedy through the 190 Rocket. Although I’ve never seen a route analysis for the 190 I imagine that it is a good option for travel to major stops over the distance that it runs (as long as it’s not stuck in traffic). I don’t believe a longer express route has ever been proposed as a) there is already a plan to develop higher-order transit in this corridor, and b) the vision of our current municipal leadership towards surface transit is clearly one of mediocrity, which essentially prevents the possibility of route expansion. After all, the Transit City Bus Plan proposed the exact type of route upgrade you mention in multiple corridors (not Sheppard E for reason (a) above) yet remains neglected and ignored.

    -Referring to BRT, I mean real BRT with private right-of-ways and stations, not unenforced signage, it’s funny that you mention Eglinton W since, most simply stated, that was the original plan for that corridor in the 1985 iteration of Network 2011. The Eglinton W busway was upgraded by the Rae NDP into a subway before it was downgraded to an expensive back-filled hole by the Harris Tories.

    I mention all of this because I think your analysis is mostly solid and your network development ideas are reasonable. The problem is that here in Toronto we don’t lack for either of those entities: our Achilles Heel is moving beyond the announcement phase to the building (to completion!) phase.

    At it’s base this should not be surprising: after all, in our current era it’s politically dangerous to support realistic and established plans that are most passionately followed by their opponents. Meanwhile, ridiculous gestures and new announcements of lines on maps earn political capital. Any ideas and analysis you can provide to change THIS situation would be very helpful.

    Steve: Just for clarity: The Sheppard Subway extension to be studied by the TTC would run straight east on Sheppard to connect with the extended Danforth subway at McCowan. But, yes, the version touted by Ford and his consultant Gordon Chong goes to STC via Progress. In either case, extension further east and north is extremely unlikely.


  10. @TorontoStreetCars

    Port Credit is a good example. Port Credit GO station is actually the same distance from Union as Agincourt GO station is. Why is Port Credit-Union worthy of more priority than Agincourt-Union? If my friend were to take the GO from her residence (near Sheppard/Neilson) to Union and she had to say make it to work by 9am, she would have to take the Sheppard East TTC bus to either Agincourt GO or Rogue Hill GO. And she’d have to leave home by 7:17 am to catch the 7:52 Stouffville train (heading to Union) at Agincourt, arriving at 8:21 am. The 8:21 am arrival is rather early but the next Stouffville train won’t arrive for another 35 mins. 8:56 am would be cutting it close if she has to walk to work from Union and has an unforgiving boss. Or she can leave home at 7:23, catch the 7:53 Lakeshore East train (Union-bound) at Rogue Hill, arriving at 8:35 am. If she wanted to leave home 8 minutes later to give herself more sleep in the morning, she’d have to catch the Lakeshore East towards Oshawa at 7:58 am, then get off at Pickering GO station and take another Lakeshore East train at 8:14 am (GO transfer = larger fare) towards Union. Arriving at 8:43.

    When you break it down, my friend would have to leave home 1 hour 43 mins to 1 hour 29 mins before work start time (9am) to catch the GO. And she’d be paying anywhere from $5.05-$6.25 each way (with PRESTO discount) for the GO fare in addition to her TTC token ($2.60) to bus there. That’s $15.30-$17.70/day. Or $180.20-223.00/month for the GO “monthly pass” (GO is phasing out the actual physical pass. But if you have a PRESTO card, the equivalent of a “monthly pass” is integrated into PRESTO if you take 40+ trips/month) plus the TTC Metropass ($126/month). You might as well just take the TTC straight through. You’ll get roughly equivalent commute times and save yourself $10.10-$12.50/day or $180.20-223.00/month. Metrolinx is washing their hands of this and telling TTC that intra-416 is their concern unless it’s LRT.

    Commuter rail should be the job of long-haul intra-city travel. If you went from a more suburban area in Tokyo like say Akitsu station (Northern Tokyo, just south of the Tokyo-Saitama border) to Shibuya (central location in Tokyo), a roughly 27-28 km commute, you would have to take Japan Rail (commuter rail) and then finish your commute with a subway transfer (Metro Tokyo). Even the so-called “world-class city” subways can’t do the job straight through. Metro Tokyo is too inefficient for a 27-28 km commute. Subways are for medium distance commutes. Even as a Mississauga resident (inter-city), if I’m not driving directly to downtown Toronto, I find myself parking and riding at Kipling/Islington station and taking the TTC over park n riding at Cooksville/Erindale/Port Credit GO in Mississauga and taking the GO train even though the subway is slower than the commuter rail. Because during off-peak hours the trains come only every 30 minutes and only every hour after 7:43 pm. Meanwhile I can just hop on a subway in 6 minutes max and I can have my car parked at a TTC lot until 2 am and the subways run until like 1:30-1:50 AM depending on the station.

    Steve: The fundamental problem is the headway on GO Transit and the absence of off-peak service on many lines. However, Metrolinx talks a good line in The Big Move about better GO service. Until they actually deliver (that is to say, ridings with poor service need votes fast), people think of GO as it is today, not as it might be tomorrow. For someone in northeast Scarborough, GO should be running service on the CPR line direct to downtown. As to fares, GO loves to crow about its high cost recovery ratio, but that’s because it’s charging premium fares to a clientele who would face more hassles and cost if they drove. Meanwhile GO depends on the TTC as a collector/distributor within Toronto and offers no co-fare for multi-system trips. We hear endlessly about the need for regional service and cross-border problems, but GO is the single biggest offender in that regard.


  11. Please let’s not start insulting condo dwellers – I find it personally offensive as I have lived in one, and know many intelligent people who do.

    The issue is how condos are built – nowadays condos are built for either a single working person or a couple, not for families. I know of condos built for families in the Toronto area, so it is possible – but the high cost of properties downtown are likely a large reason why condos are not built for families.


  12. “Steve: My guarded support was only for a subway to STC, and then on the basis that if we must have a subway, it wasn’t the worst of choices”.

    Any transit solution that does not solve the massive deficiency in commuter rail service will constantly lead to significant political polarization and massive social tension. Without a solution to the commuter rail problem it is likely that the inner suburban electorate will force everyone else to love the STC subway extension.

    The STC subway is an imperative only when our planning makes it an imperative.


  13. As a downtown condo dweller I watch the market with some interest. While I live on my own in a 2 bedroom, in a community with only a small handful of 2+ bedroom condos, I too am concerned about the lack of family housing. The reason, as I understand it, is that small and relatively cheap units are attractive to investors. Investors means rich people who buy to rent and eventually sell at a profit as well as out of towners who buy a space for when they visit (or their kids go to U of T). I do believe that you can raise kids in the City and I wish condo builders were more far reaching in their target markets.

    As for whether the “downtown elite” means intelligence – especially as displayed at Annual General Meetings, I am afraid that all grassroots democracy has an element of nut bars – whether downtown or in Orillia. You see the same phenomenon at All Candidates Meetings or any social event where a politician is present. The fact that there are some idiots present does not mean that everyone – downtown or in Orillia (or elsewhere) is equally vapid. One condo (College and Bathurst) has seen the property value of all residents eroded by the constant nuisance lawsuits from one individual who won’t stop suing the Board and won’t move. Fortunately or unfortunately, it is part of the human condition that we have people with strong opinions not particularly anchored by facts. These individuals do not represent all residents.


  14. @Shaun

    I was thinking that Sheppard East (and other corridors) could at the very least have a “limited stop” (express) BRT from Don Mills to Meadowvale operating under mixed traffic (BRT-lite) as a temporary solution until the LRT thing is underway. So that those who live far from Sheppard/Don Mills can have some sort of alternative to the slow local service that they currently have. Ideally BRT should have dedicated lanes or failing that, HOV lanes. But if not (you make a good point about some parts of the corridor having only 2 lanes each way and people disobeying the HOV restriction), having some sort of express service to complement local service would be better than local-only service.

    Here in Mississauga, the 103 Hurontario Express has pretty good ridership. It can do Port Credit GO near the Lake to Shoppers World in Brampton at a respectable 22.5-23.5 kph (46-48 mins) during AM rush hour. 21-21.5 kph (50-51 mins) PM rush hour. The route is roughly 18 km, 20 stops. Considering that Hurontario is usually pretty backed up during rush hour, 21 kph for a bus ain’t bad. The car would probably take 40 mins at least (I probably am being generous with that estimate). When traffic is moving well (non-peak), a car can do the 18 km in 30 mins (36 kph) and the bus can do it in 37 mins (29 kph). So the bus is only roughly 23% slower than the car. Not bad. Miway’s public transit largely sucks though but that’s another topic. lol.

    The Sheppard East LRT was estimated to be anywhere from 22-25 kph depending on the final stop design (they’re aiming for an average of 460 metres/stop). The stop spacing for Sheppard will be much smaller than the 900 metre spacing of the Hurontario Express bus though. That’s the thing. In the Sheppard LRT study, the researchers found that spacing the stops every 800-1000m didn’t really produce a benefit for the riders. Whatever savings they’d get from a faster ride would be negated by the extra walking to their stops and destinations.

    This is why sometimes the Express buses here in Mississauga and Brampton can be rather useless at times depending on how far you have to walk to the stop or destination. From my experience having used public transit here, it can be faster for me to just take the local bus if the express stop is too far or if the destination is quite a walk from the stop you get off at. Sometimes it’s best to get on a local bus and transfer later in your trip to an express bus for the greatest effect (or vice versa). The idea though is that the rapid transit service is not supposed to replace the local bus service. They’re supposed to complement each other and perform different jobs.


  15. @ Chris

    Thanks for the perspective on the MiWay Express routes – I have yet to have a trip that requires me to use them, but noticed their implementation. Living in Toronto I am somewhat envious to see the implementation of express service in York and Peel Regions in that there is AT LEAST progress, while here we unveil exciting new maps and reports before subsequently lighting them on fire as the backhoes sit out back gathering dust. Then again, in the GTA outside of Toronto we’re talking about progress from transit largely sucking to transit becoming useful in limited ways. By contrast, I think most of us will agree that the progress we want should be gauged against transit rivaling automobiles, or in the case of a dense and vibrant city, surpassing them.

    The impediment between our current situation and the latter understandings of progress strikes me as being far more political than logistical (or whatever other term is appropriate for “planning useful routes”). For better or worse I too am drawn to imagining new lines; and I think that there is at least some utility in doing so in that it leaves one in a better position to voice a reasoned opinion when the voicing can have an impact. What I’m finding, however, is that almost any idea that I propose has already been developed by someone whose job it is to do so – yet the ideas are subsequently ignored due to the political phenomenon previously described.

    What to do about this? I’m not exactly sure; but I am confident that my contribution is better made by thinking less about network design and more about trying to have some small influence on the cyclical and destructive political dynamic.


  16. The latest column from Marcus Gee in the Globe and Mail (Tuesday Oct 30) has a positive take on Councillor De Baermaeker’s proposal to replace the SRT with a subway, stating this is not a new proposal but something considered in the past and raised by at least two of the 2010 mayoral candidates. Given the development that have been going near Scarborough TC and that the SRT is already over capacity, the current and future ridership could certainly justify a BD extension to STC, though I really wish all of this had been settled years ago. As for the DRL, I’m glad to see that the TTC CEO is taking that seriously and it seems the Mayor respects Byford’s decision on that being a priority. Given the current crunch at Yonge and Bloor, it almost makes sense to do both the DRL and an extension of BD to STC, since the latter could only add to the crunch. Interesting in the latest Grid, there was an argument that the DRL would primarily benefit suburban residents, since that are the ones making those long trips downtown using the subway.

    Now, the question is how will we pay for it? (fairy dust I think not).


    Steve: Marcus Gee errs in saying De Baeremaeker wants to take the BD subway only to STC. In fact, he has asked for a study of going all the way to Sheppard and McCowan, but still clings to the relatively small delta between SRT/LRT conversion costs and subway costs that applies only to a line ending at STC. In case any reader clings to the idea that the proposed subway would only go to STC, please refer to the TTC’s “Highlights” page for the Commission meeting.


  17. Chris said: I was thinking that Sheppard East (and other corridors) could at the very least have a “limited stop” (express) BRT from Don Mills to Meadowvale operating under mixed traffic (BRT-lite) as a temporary solution until the LRT thing is underway.

    Moaz: There is the Scarborough Rocket from Don Mills to Scarborough Town Centre, which apparently runs quickly & frequently enough. I think that once the improvements at Agincourt GO station are done, (and ideally, if GO service is improved) there is an opportunity to better link TTC with GO service here. As for extending the Rocket bus to Meadowvale, that would be another story. As for bus lanes & queue-jump lanes, Steve mentioned a few months ago that the city had more or less rejected any special bus lanes on roads that could not be expanded. That pretty would pretty much be a knockout punch for what was left of the Transit City Bus Plan.

    Chris said: Here in Mississauga, the 103 Hurontario Express has pretty good ridership. It can do Port Credit GO near the Lake to Shoppers World in Brampton at a respectable 22.5-23.5 kph (46-48 mins) during AM rush hour. 21-21.5 kph (50-51 mins) PM rush hour. The route is roughly 18 km, 20 stops. Considering that Hurontario is usually pretty backed up during rush hour, 21 kph for a bus ain’t bad. The car would probably take 40 mins at least (I probably am being generous with that estimate). When traffic is moving well (non-peak), a car can do the 18 km in 30 mins (36 kph) and the bus can do it in 37 mins (29 kph). So the bus is only roughly 23% slower than the car. Not bad.

    Like many passengers on the Hurontario Corridor, I am glad to see the 103 (and the 102 that it replaced). Service on Hurontario has always been slow and congestion is only increasing. The construction south of the 403 interchange (for the Mississauga Transitway / BRT) and at the 401 interchange (to extend the collector-express lane system from the 401/403/410 interchange to Hurontario St) have not helped either.

    For those who aren’t aware the MiExpress 103 runs from Port Credit GO station to Shopper’s World at Steeles & Hurontario. There is also the Brampton Transit ZUM 502 bus which runs from north Brampton (Sandalwood Parkway, if I recall correctly) down to Square One. Together these buses are catering to existing demand and paving the way for the future Hurontario Main LRT (the first phase of which will run from Square One to Shopper’s World).

    I find it interesting that, unlike Brampton (with ZUM) and York Region (with VIVA), Mississauga has maintained a ‘low-key’ approach to their express bus services. VIVA buses and stations are distinctive, with route colours instead of route numbers, and the emphasis seems to be on building a BRT as soon as possible. ZUM buses and stations are distinctive, and ZUM has queue-jump lanes at every intersection on Highway 7 (and on Steeles).

    But the main distinction between MiExpress and the regular MiLocal services are the colours of the buses .. blue for MiExpress and orange for MiLocal. There are no distinctive bus stops, no LED signs tracking bus arrivals etc. This puts the MiExpress buses much closer to the TTC Rocket service and Downtown Express service than the VIVA & ZUM services. MiWay also runs a regular express services (200 series, formerly the 80 series), which I guess is more or less like the TTC “E” buses.

    Chris said: Miway’s public transit largely sucks though but that’s another topic. lol.

    Well, they have improved a great deal since 1996 when I first moved to Mississauga. Main bus routes have been streamlined, express services have been added, and more community bus service has been implemented. The big problem is getting to the terminals or main roads where you can pick up one of those faster main-line buses. I’m lucky that I lived on Dundas, very close to a ‘minor’ transit hub, so I can get to the subway in 45 minutes.

    Cheers, Moaz


  18. Hello,

    I’ve only recently come across your site so I apologise if my question seems redundant, but I have to ask, why are all the lines with an end date in the 2020-1 range? It seems to me that the Finch West being all surface rail would take less time to build and would the gridlock created during construction there, would end before the gridlock created by the Crosstown line would commence? In fact the one can make the same argument for the Scarborough lines.

    Steve: The late opening dates are entirely a function of Queen’s Park’s decision about spending priorities and timing. They have pushed as much of the projects back to the latter part of this decade as possible. Moreover, there are still conflicting statements about how long it will take to rebuilt the Scarborough RT, a problem complicated by the fact that the Minister of Transportation was “badly advised” and claimed it could be five years. Metrolinx intends to put performance incentives in its contracts to encourage bidders to come up with ways to complete work quickly. How this will mesh with the rate at which Queen’s Park wants to spend money remains to be seen. [For more information about “badly advised” Ministers, please see the BBC series “Yes, Minister”.]


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