TTC 2013 Capital Budget Part I: Subway Fleet Plan

This is the first article in a series examining various aspects of the TTC’s Capital Budget for 2013 and the 10-year plan running through 2022.  The report linked here gives an overview, but I have now reviewed the roughly 1,300 pages of supporting information in the “Blue Books” which detail each capital project.

Those books are not available on line, but contain much valuable information.  When the Commission considered its Capital Budget, this material had not yet been assembled.

To avoid creating a post as long as the Blue Books, I will break this into separate articles for major topics.

The Subway Fleet Plan

Subway Fleet Plan 2012.10

This plan provides for additional trains on the Yonge-University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth subways, but only on a limited basis.  The fleet of Toronto Rocket (TR) trains will be used exclusively on YUS and the T1 trains (now split between both major lines) will operate on BD and, in four-car sets, on Sheppard.

The TR fleet is just large enough to accommodate the extension to Vaughan with a short-turn operation to Wilson Station, but only at the current level of service.  The T1 fleet is larger than required for current schedules on the BD and Sheppard lines, and so the surplus is used up at the rate of about 2 trains every 3 years on BD with no additional service on Sheppard.

The projection presumes that the spare factor for TR trains can be held at 13%, and it is unclear today whether this can be achieved and maintained over the life of this fleet.

Those extra T1 trains have been counted as “free” on more than one occasion for subway expansions proposed for the near future, but obviously they can only be used once be it for extra BD service, or on extended Sheppard or Danforth subways, or on the first phase of a Downtown Relief Line (DRL).

Line and Yard Capacity

Adding service triggers problems with the limitations of signal systems, terminal operations and yard capacity.

On the BD line, extra storage space for the T1 fleet will be provided by reopening Keele Yard, adding a storage track at Kipling, converting a dual-gauge delivery track at Greenwood to a storage track, and consolidating the Track & Structures fleet of work cars at Davisville.  (Some tracks at Davisville are too short for TR trainsets limiting that site’s usefulness for that equipment.)

Adding T1 trains to the peak service will reduce headways from the current 141 seconds (2’21”) to 119 seconds (1’59”), although terminal layouts could be a problem below 130 seconds as discussed earlier on this site.  The Fleet Plan notes that BD will be signal constrained in the period 2014-16, and a study regarding this is in progress.  Cutover to ATC on BD is planned for about 2024-5 with design to start in 2014, but this project has no funding.

On the YUS line, extra storage will be provided at Wilson for the Spadina extension’s 10 new trainsets.  At one time, the TTC had an additional 10 trains for growing demand in the budget, but these were cut to trim future spending projections within the limitations of available funding.  They could well reappear, but this will trigger a need for more storage space.

Two major options for storage have been considered:

  • An underground yard north of Finch Station:  This would involve the pre-building of the Yonge north extension to Cummer Station with a three-track section (basically an extension of the existing tail track structure at Finch).
  • An underground yard in Richmond Hill north of the proposed subway terminal.

The Fleet Plan notes that after 2015, the YUS is capacity constrained pending full implementation of ATC, but “significant delay mitigation will be required”.  In other words, the number and length of delays to service must be reduced so that capacity is not lost to interruptions.

More trainsets are needed to handle the combined effect of shorter headways and the line’s extension.  For example, the PM peak fleet of 47 trains provides a 151 second (2’31”) headway on YUS between Finch and Downsview with no short turn.  (There are 2 gap trains which count toward peak requirements but which do not affect the headway.)  Adding 20% capacity through headway reduction to about 126 seconds (2’06”) would require 11 more trainsets (10 for service plus 1 spare) and storage to hold them.

The shorter headway is also challenging because of geometric limitations at terminals if all service operates to the end of the line.  A 126 second headway is probably below what Finch or Downsview crossovers can handle, and the geometry at Vaughan is likely to be similar.  A short turn point is viable only if demand beyond that point can be handled by less than full service, and if the short turn itself can be operated without seriously delaying trains on close headways.

The AM Peak has the added complexity of already operating on a 141 second headway (2’21”) albeit with a short turn at St. Clair West.  A 20% capacity increase would require the headway to fall below two minutes, something that the terminal at Finch cannot handle, and which, I suspect, would be difficult for the short-turn operation at St. Clair West (or any extension of this).

A further problem related to the location of storage is the movement of trains from yards into service.  The YUS is already a two-hour round trip, and this will grow with extensions to Vaughan and to Richmond Hill.  The line must be “loaded” with trains from the yards for the start of service and this takes quite a while especially if most trains are stored at one location (Wilson).  A similar problem affects the BD line with almost all of its storage capacity at Greenwood Yard.  This affects the maintenance window for overnight repairs, and the TTC has even considered an earlier closing time for the subway to compensate for the lost maintenance time.

We hear a lot about how Automatic Train Control (ATC) will allow for shorter headways, but nobody at the TTC has explained how this will get around the constraints at turnbacks.  The TTC hopes to gain 35% in capacity by getting headways down to 105 seconds (1’45”) or so, but this may not be practical.  If so, the headroom for additional capacity on YUS may be less than commonly thought, and the need for new downtown capacity even more pressing.  There has been far too much “we don’t need the Downtown Relief Line yet” coming out of the TTC, most recently in the DRL study, and this could dangerously compromise future network growth.

The Cost of Better Service

The Capital Budget does not contain any provision for additional trains, not even in the list of unfunded projects (last page of the budget report), nor does it allow for the storage these trains would require.  The second-last page shows a number of projects cut to make the 2012 Capital Budget fit with available funding, and these projects have not reappeared either in the main budget or in the unfunded list.  These include:

  • 10 TR trainsets, $161m
  • Wilson Yard expansion, $182m
  • ATC for BD line, $150m

The subway projects related to capacity on the unfunded list are:

  • Upgrade Bloor-Yonge Station, $205m
  • Further study of the DRL, $5m
  • Yonge North extension, $4.2-billion
  • Platform Edge Doors (PEDs), $550m for YUS, $614m for BD

These are “gross” costs, and with most of the Yonge extension being north of Steeles, the net cost to Toronto will likely be small.

As for PEDs, this project is contingent on implementation of ATC to allow precise train positioning.  Another consideration is the proposed future use of 7-car trains on YUS which could change the geometry of door layouts if there is one “short” car added to train consists.

There are several questions to be answered about the actual need for additional facilities related to subway capacity including detailed study of the dynamics of terminals and turnbacks to determine the minimum headway these can support with ATC in place.  This will determine a realistic upper bound on subway capacity and, in turn, the additional fleet required to achieve that capacity.

Projections for riding growth, including the effects of opening the Vaughan extension and potential improvements to GO Transit service that could offload the Yonge line must also be included.  Alternate scenarios should be considered including weak or robust growth as a sensitivity measure for the range of effects and the “drop dead” dates for addressing capacity problems.

The Capital Budget and projections for future spending must adopt a realistic view of what is needed and practical to achieve improved subway capacity.  Whether funding is available is immaterial.  Any debate about funding must be informed by a complete view so that the scope and urgency of requirements are well-understood.

52 thoughts on “TTC 2013 Capital Budget Part I: Subway Fleet Plan

  1. I suppose they could use the existing tail tracks at Finch, but they’d have to back into them very slowly. If anyone here remembers Islington when it was a terminal, it had no tail tracks at all. As a result, westbound trains crawled into the station at an extremely slow speed and stopped just short of sand bags and a plywood wall. That slowed the turnaround times even more. I don’t know exactly what route locking rules are in effect at the terminals these days, but NX/UR always protects against the worst possible case, at the expense of train turnaround times of course. It’s really a dumb system that locks switches longer than necessary and relies on a lot of safety timers to expire. We stayed with that 1940s NX/UR crap for backward compatibility and integration (because that’s what the original Yonge line had), even when more intelligent signal systems were available in the 60s.


  2. I while ago I heard that there was a rail yard that was being put up for sale just south of Kipling station, near the hydro corridor. I heard rumors that the TTC could use this location as a rail yard (although there was never confirmation that the TTC was even interested in doing this). Sorry I can’t describe it better as I am unaware of the name of that rail yard. Do you know that status of this yard Steve, or even what I am talking about?

    Steve: Yes, I know the yard you mean, but don’t know if the TTC or Metrolinx (more likely) has their eye on it.


  3. The same principle described by M. Briganti above for Islington Station in the 70s can be seen working in all its splendor at Don Mills Station. The tail tracks are too short because the Ministry of Transportation apparently refused to allow tunnelling under the 404 at the time the Sheppard line was built. As a result, at Don Mills the blind trips on both tracks remain activated (in the “up” position”) even after the route for an incoming train is set up through the interlocking, resulting in trains slowly crawling into the station and the crossover being occupied for a longer period of time. However, given the wide headway on which the Sheppard line operates, this of course has no effect on service reliability, but I guess it might become a problem in the (distant?) future should service be significantly increased.

    An identical problem occurs at any other terminal when a train is routed onto a platform and there is another train occupying the tailtrack beyond the station on the same side. I guess the 1940’s technology is here to stay.

    Steve: Yes, thank you for reminding us of that foolish design which I have seen add substantially to the queue at Kennedy. It’s not just a case of stashing a train out of the way, but of keeping the terminal operating at full capacity.


  4. By adding a 75′ car into the middle of a TR train and stopping the trains with each end in the tunnels, we would also save money by eliminating the guard position and DWA!

    Steve: The DWA is already problematic because the guards are riding at the back of the TR trains, not in the middle. Stopping with both ends in the tunnel would leave the operator unable to look at the platform other than on video cameras.


  5. Hey there Steve they should have planned for the early H5 subway car farewell charter in December 2012 so Torontonians can say good bye to those trains, after serving the city of Toronto after more than 30 years on the job like they did with the old H4 subway cars. As for the H6’s they will start retiring shortly sometime after the H5 cars are retired with the first H6’s to leave service starting August 2013 or so when the second batch of TR orders come in with the last H6 subway cars going in early-mid 2014.

    Steve: Subway charters are prohibitively expensive, and even if a group is willing to pay, the TTC throws up roadblocks that make them next to impossible to organize. The general public won’t care, although they may notice the absence of cars whose AC units smell like they haven’t been cleaned since the cars arrived.


  6. Steve: The DWA is already problematic because the guards are riding at the back of the TR trains, not in the middle. Stopping with both ends in the tunnel would leave the operator unable to look at the platform other than on video cameras.

    Actually the guards are riding at the rear of all trains on Yonge, H6, T1 or TR. I asked a guard about this and he said they were instructed to do this for consistency of operation.


  7. Hi Steve,

    I just started reading over your series on the capital budget. Thank you for summarizing a lot of the information. You mentioned that this was based off of the Blue Books; I was wondering if that is available to the general public and if so, how I could get a copy or a glimpse of it if it is not available online.


    Steve: You can arrange to view them through Brad Ross at the TTC or via a member of Council who sits on the TTC as they all have copies.


  8. Robert Wightman said: Actually the guards are riding at the rear of all trains on Yonge, H6, T1 or TR. I asked a guard about this and he said they were instructed to do this for consistency of operation.

    Could that become an issue? The DWA was placed opposite of where the guard’s car would stop. The lighting, benches and cameras are still there, but one safety component (the guard’s presence) has been moved some 100+ feet away.

    Does the TTC eventually plan to move the DWA to the end of the platform as they move the guard to the end of the train?

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: No. The premise is that on a TR train, someone who wants to be near a staff member can walk to that part of the train. Of course if we ever go to one-man crews, that will be a long walk for some people.


  9. As you mentioned Robert Wightman, the guards are at the very last car on all trains on the YUS line such as the H5, T1 and the new TR trains. H6 trains DO NOT operate on the YUS line, they only run on the Bloor Danforth.


  10. Alex and Robert are both right – H6 trains do operate on the YUS but only during that ‘creative’ weekend diversion service witnessed in recent times. This raises questions regarding moves toward differing line standards and operating practices – What is the effect of the two lines running with different guard locations if the TTC ever does the diversion service through the wye again? If ATC went into use would they even bother despite having the replacement fixed-block system in place? How might PEDs and longer trains factor into this?

    Steve: You are asking about a detailed level of planning far exceeding what is typical at the TTC. I don’t think they fully understand the implications of having two lines with different operating fleets and cultures.


  11. Has anyone at the TTC considered filling the void between Downsview and Sheppard and rather than adding the extension running into Vaughan as part of the YUS adding it to the Sheppard line? It would make Sheppard a true line rather than the stub it is now. I would think you could get more riders on a line like that and be able run full length train sets. Plus you’d link the two side of the YUS without having to travel all the way down to BD or making a the loop.

    Steve: It’s not going to happen. The construction is already well underway, and the design is intended to get people to/from downtown without going through the Yonge leg of the line. Extending Sheppard west to become the bottom end of the “York U” subway would add a billion dollars to the pricetag and defeat the idea of diverting some load from the north end of Yonge onto Spadina.


  12. The recent meeting of the minds between the TTC and Bombardier to discuss the Toronto Lemon cars raises a lot of questions. Mainly how did so many of these flaws get past the design and test stage.

    The lack of hand holds in and immediately adjacent to the gangways was painfully apparent the first time I stepped on to one. The door issue is one that should never have gotten past testing and the same goes for the poor located PAA’s. The un-level boarding problem is one I can understand but it’s still something that should have been caught earlier. I myself have tripped over the edge of the train during one boarding adventure.

    That warranty better be airtight.


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