Metrolinx Meeting Preview: February 14, 2013 (Update 2)

The Metrolinx Board meets on February 14 with an agenda that, as usual, features a rather long private session followed by a shorter public one.  There will be brief updates on GO Transit and the PRESTO farecard project, a Customer Service Committee update, and one substantive item – updates to the regional plan, The Big Move, and feedback from the public consultation sessions now in progress.

Updated February 15, 2013 at 9:10 am:  Notes from discussions at and after the Board meeting have been added to this article.

Update 2 at 12:45 pm:  The date for Board approval of the Investment Strategy has been clarified.

GO Transit Update

This report is largely a rehash of 2012 changes and improvements with no indication of plans for the coming year.  Metrolinx is hamstrung in part by the change in government at Queen’s Park and the impending budget.  Until they know how much additional subsidy they will receive for the fiscal year starting April 1, they will not be able to commit to service improvements.  Moreover, this sort of announcement often involves someone at the Ministerial level.

Although the GO 2020 plan provides some indication of where the system would like to be, this document is getting a bit dogeared as it originates from late 2008 in the era before GO/Metrolinx amalgamation.  A later item on the agenda formally brings GO 2020 and The Big Move into alignment, but it also pushes some projects out into the longer timelines (15 and 25 years counting from today) of the regional plan.  There is no real sense of which services, beyond a few for which construction is underway, will actually materialize.  In turn, that is tied up in the Metrolinx Investment Strategy and new ongoing revenues that may or may not be implemented, and the degree to which these fund operating rather than capital costs.

The current year-by-year arrangement is an inevitable result of the way Queen’s Park operates, but this stifles advocacy and leaves current and would-be riders with no sense of when the system will improve.  Always transit tomorrow, not transit today.

With a six percent growth rate, GO obviously has a market.  Packed conditions on some trains indicate that latent demand could push this rate higher if only more service were operated.  As GO grows, its ability to achieve a high farebox recovery ratio will decline especially when services expand on a policy basis – e.g. all-day two-way service or opening/expansion of routes – rather than simply the addition of trains in already busy peak periods.  This requires a financial plan and the will to increase operating subsidies completely separate from capital construction projects and their ribbon-cutting opportunities.

Metrolinx has not published any projections of what its future might look like or the scale of spending required under various scenarios.  The new Minister of Transportation, Glen Murray, could do worse than encouraging a more activist role from Metrolinx and a frank discussion not just of lines on a map, but of what services will be provided and how we will pay for them.

Updated:  During his presentation of the report, GO President Gary McNeil observed that as long as the region continues to grow, GO will never have enough capacity.  Expansion of service beyond the peak period is essential to handle this challenge by shifting some demand to the shoulders and allowing commuters to change their work hours.  However, new train capacity is generally consumed within 6 months.

I spoke with McNeil after the meeting, and he confirmed that the constraint on capacity expansion is track time both on the corridors and at Union Station.

Train operations during the snow storm on February 8 achieved 85% “on time” performance.  GO’s storm plan was used and this includes the conversion of all express trains to local service.  Because trains do not need to pass each other, the amount of switching is reduced and the possibility of delays due to frozen switches is reduced.

In reply to a question about the gap in capacity and the degree of service integration with local transit systems,  McNeil replied that local systems are not at capacity, but are trying to increase service to GO.  At Oakville Station, 35% of passengers arrive by transit, but service design is complicated by the “wave” nature of demand meeting trains.

During a later discussion of updates to The Big Move, a question arose about charging for parking at GO lots.  A tax on commercial parking spaces around the GTHA has been proposed as one of the future “revenue tools”, but this discussion turns onto the lots GO already owns.  Metrolinx is open to the idea, but CEO Bruce McCuaig cautioned that motorists will expect better service in return for their payments.

“Service” requires a combination of capital and operating funding to expand track capacity, buy more trains and pay the net cost of carrying more passengers.  These improvements won’t happen overnight, and might not specifically benefit locations where large parking lots exist.

To put this idea into context, assuming that all spaces are occupied on every business day, the 65,000 spaces represent 16.25-million space-days per year.  Every dollar of parking fee would generate about $16m annually, not a large amount on the scale of Metrolinx spending plans.


The farecard uptake by riders of GO and local systems in the GTHA continues with January 2013 totals of 470-thousand active cards in January 2013, 58-million “taps” and $238m in fare revenue collected.  These figures are reported at every Board Meeting, but they would be more meaningful if expressed as a percentage of market with trending information to show where and why the growth happens.

Today, the growth rate is high with the “tap count” rising from about 10m to nearly 60m in less than a year.  However, that is mainly caused by the conversion of GO riders from legacy fare media, a “bump” that cannot be replicated on the GO system next year.  Similarly, as new transit systems like Ottawa and Toronto come online, they will contribute large increases to PRESTO activity, but this will mask information at the detailed level with one-time growth numbers.  What proportion of fare revenue, for example, is collected with PRESTO on the GTHA local systems, how fast is this growing, and what barriers exist to greater market penetration?

PRESTO’s next major step will be the rollout of its “Next Generation” technology in Ottawa.  This is beginning to ramp up with a full rollout planned for April.  After a failed attempt in 2012, this is a crucial test for PRESTO’s credibility going into much larger markets than its home system, GO, notably a planned TTC implementation in 2014-15.

For its part, the TTC has been silent on changes to its fare system, and this discussion needs to come out into the open as soon as possible.  Implementation of the TTC’s byzantine transfer rules is impractical with a new fare payment system, but there is no sense of what alternative might be used such as distance or time-based fares.

A related policy discussion at Metrolinx and Queen’s Park must focus on truly regional fare integration.  This is more than simply having one card a rider can use on multiple systems, but a real integration of revenue streams across multiple operations including GO Transit.  PRESTO is only a tool, but there has been little public discussion of revenue and cost sharing models, fare structures, and the goal of providing a “seamless, integrated” structure that does not penalize riders and distort travel patterns with fare boundaries.

Updated:  Ottawa is in the early stages of their PRESTO rollout with 17k “taps” per day on a base of 13k issued cards, a ratio suggesting that more people have cards than use them for round trips by transit on a daily basis.  There are “no problems” with the rollout (press reports from Ottawa may tell a different story), and 98% of transactions are successful on a “first tap” basis according to the newly appointed VP of the PRESTO division, Robert Hollis.

Plans are underway to improve the card registration process, an area of annoyance to new users, and to simplify operation of the PRESTO website.

PRESTO has achieved an 80% market share for GO riders, and the number is up to 50% in Brampton.  Figures for other systems using PRESTO were not cited.

In Toronto, PRESTO plans to begin rolling out on the surface system when the new streetcars begin revenue operation in April 2014.  (I have been advised by the TTC that a report on fare policies will come to the Commission sometime in spring 2013.)  Detailed planning for the TTC rollout is in progress with the first phase targeted at the streetcar lines and intersecting subway stations.  Pan Am Games support will focus on routes serving venues for that event.  (Whether this is actually practical given the integrated  nature of the TTC network and its fares remains to be seen.)

Customer Service Update

GO continues to have strong support among its riders with an “overall satisfaction” rating of 78%, and 80% of riders would recommend the service to friends.  While these are good numbers, like so much else at Metrolinx they need context.  What level of service quality will be needed to sustain this level of satisfaction?  What challenges will GO face as its corridors bump into capacity limitations, and the drive-park-ride model runs out of room for more commuters?

Parking is becoming a problem at GO stations, and this is flagged by the Customer Service report.  Schemes to increase utilization now underway include reserved parking for car pools, shuttle services to remote lots and support for car sharing.  What is missing here is the local transit component, an issue flagged by participants in the Big Move consultations.

On January 6, there was a two-hour power outage at Union Station that uncovered shortcomings in emergency power distribution notably to fare machines and elevators.  The station is under construction raising problems of ad hoc changes, but these things must be planned for.  GO is working to ensure reliable power for operations at this critical station in the future.

The Big Move Update

This report requests that the Metrolinx Board formally approve changes to the Big Move plan proposed in December 2012.  Some of these are intended to bring GO 2020 and TBM into alignment while others recognize shifting priorities and/or implementation constraints for various routes and services.

Feedback from affected municipalities has been mixed but generally positive.  Of particular note is the discussion of constraints to service expansion in some corridors, an item notably absent in the line-drawing exercises of some planning.  Some of the requested changes fall outside the review now underway, but will be incorporated in the mandatory 2016 update of TBM on which work will start in 2014.

Milton Corridor

Originally, provision of all-day service to Milton was in the Metrolinx 15-year plan, but the updates propose shifting this to the 25-year timeframe.

For the Milton corridor there are significant infrastructure and operational challenges that mean it will not be possible to deliver two-way, all-day service all the way to Milton in the 15-year time horizon.

Additional tracks and potentially numerous grade separations are necessary are a pre-requisite to the expansion of service to Milton. The construction is especially challenging through built-up areas. This rail corridor is largely owned by CPR, a private third party operating freight rail. Their approval is required for any service and infrastructure expansion. Metrolinx continues to assess impacts, and negotiate with CPR, on ways to build the required infrastructure, recognizing the need to protect the natural and urban environment.

Two-way, all-day service can be delivered to Meadowvale in the 15-year timeframe, but the full extension to Milton can only be delivered over the 25-year horizon.

If the issue is corridor improvements, any physical constraints now in place will still exist regardless of the timelines, and care will be required to avoid encroachment that could impede future expansion.  An obvious question is whether this is a matter of construction difficulties or of the project’s cost and its effect on the overall financial plans.

Deferred Implementation of Other Corridor Services

The proposed services to Bolton and Havelock have been shifted to the 25-year plan as has two-way all-day service for the outer portions of the Kitchener and Barrie corridors.

Both would require infrastructure upgrades, especially the Havelock service where, despite political support from Ottawa, we are unlikely to see trains in the near future.  Track time is constrained on the inner part of this line between the CPR yard and downtown.

A more detailed review of the Havelock corridor will be included in the 2016 update.

Subway Changes

A major change in priorities is the shift of the Downtown Relief Line from the 25-year plan to the 15-year plan.  This project is also part of the “Next Wave” of projects competing for funding through any new revenue tools.

The City of Vaughan has asked that Metrolinx consider a further extension of the Spadina subway north to Major Mackenzie.  This will be reviewed in the 2016 update.

Financing and Construction Industry Constraints

Buried in a proposed TBM describing the Investment Strategy is the following text:

The RTP capital and operating program is one of the most ambitious transportation programs in Canadian history. To see this program through, construction costs must be spread out using responsible long-term debt. Metrolinx will use debt appropriately and responsibly. Like a mortgage on a house, using long-term debt to finance major infrastructure enables the financial burden of that project to be paid by present and future beneficiaries, meaning people can benefit from the facility sooner. Additional revenues required will increase over time to better match the improved service people will experience.

Capital expenditures are also subject to the capacity of construction contractors and engineering firms to meet the labour and expertise needs entailed by the different projects. Labour and equipment shortages or the lack of enough engineering and design firms can raise construction costs and delay project completion dates, ultimately pushing the full realization of the RTP further down the road. Market readiness and the availability of skilled labour will therefore be an important consideration in the investment profile and system expansion will have to be scheduled accordingly. Metrolinx is already working closely with Infrastructure Ontario, in particular, to manage the capacity of the market to deliver this historic infrastructure build program. Metrolinx will continue to plan for and advance all projects, taking into consideration that implementation timelines for some projects are significantly longer than others.

Aside from upfront capital expenditures, the Investment Strategy will be implemented taking into consideration the need to support the ongoing operations, maintenance and rehabilitation costs of new and existing infrastructure. Furthermore, the benefits and costs of infrastructure and service improvements will be traded off to maximize efficiency in getting the best transportation system for each dollar invested.

This text raises important issues and deserves more prominence in ongoing debates.

First off we have a recognition that debt will be required to finance some of Metrolinx’ projects.  This may always have been the intent, but the explicit statement gives a different context for new revenue tools and a $2-billion per year income stream.  Pay-as-you-play is not the intent for the capital program, a quite reasonable position given the lifespan of the assets to be built.  The question, then, is the scale of upfront construction so that services can be provided in the medium rather than the long term.

This brings us to the question of whether the plan is too big to build and the concerns about industry capabilities raised above.  When the Transit City LRT plan was put on the back burner by the McGuinty government, one stated reason was that the industry couldn’t absorb all of the work.  For the comparatively simple Finch West and Sheppard East projects, that is a troubling argument – if we can’t get $1-billion LRT lines built for want of industry capacity, how can we possibly undertake a 25-year plan of multi-billion dollar projects?  The real goal, of course, was to defer the spending on these lines into the latter part of the decade.

Metrolinx needs to review the rationale for its project timelines in light of new revenue streams and of a government that may be more supportive of building sooner rather than later.  Indeed, that is another question for the new Minister and a chance to undo some of the damage to the credibility of transit plans brought on by the McGuinty regime.

The Big Conversation Update

Consultation about The Big Move is underway across the region under the rubric of The Big Conversation.  These sessions will end on February 19, 2013.  A download is available of the kit used for these sessions.  It includes brief descriptions of technologies, projects in the first and second waves of TBM, and an overview of funding tools used in other major cities.  The purpose of the kit is to allow “home brew” discussions among interested groups outside of the formally facilitated workshops.  The information is similar to the content of the main site for TBM, but it is organized to support specific discussions.

Metrolinx has a big problem going into a year where voters will be asked to support new revenue tools that will generate at least $2b annually for new and improved transit.  As an agency, Metrolinx and its plans are almost unknown.  Many projects have been announced, but few have actually been launched, let alone completed for revenue service.  The danger of being ignored as background noise must give Metrolinx execs sleepless nights.

The feedback from participants has been supportive, but with a sense of urgency, of getting on with improvements people can see and use.  Local transit and system integration are important issues, as is off-peak, weekend, two-way service so that GO is supporting a transit lifestyle, not just commuters.  A telling quote was:

”The lack of integration has created a system that is not worth my time to use.”

The “integration” talked of here is much more than having one green card with which to pay fares.  It is full service integration so that local and regional services operate as one system regardless of the colour of the buses or who drives them.  The key word is “time”, a commodity motorists prize, something badly co-ordinated transit services can waste with infrequent service and ineffective transfer connections.

Update 2:  The date for Board approval of the Investment Strategy has been clarified.

Feedback from these session will be summarized in a report to be posted online, and Metrolinx will continue to seek input from various groups across the GTHA.  In April, a final report will be presented to the Board with the intent of going to a public session on May 27 for formal approval before the June 1, 2013, legislated deadline.   (although the next public meeting is not scheduled until May 27).

By that time, the Investment Strategy should be substantially completed in draft aiming at publication for the June 27 Board Meeting.

Updated:  Various issues came up during the press scrum after the meeting including:

  • Does Metrolinx have plans to take over the TTC, or at least its rapid transit system?  CEO Bruce McCuaig replied that Metrolinx has an obligation to integrate regional transit, but that this refers to service and fares.  A takeover is only one way to achieve integration, and this can also be one through collaboration among multiple system operators.  McCuaig noted that the travelling public wants outcomes and they are not concerned with governance structures or political boundaries.  Chair Rob Prichard stated that any discussion about system amalgamation lies elsewhere in government.  Metrolinx needs to be able to respond if asked about the implications, but they are  not “advocates” for such changes.
  • Will Metrolinx ensure “efficiency” in its current spending as part of its plan to seek new funding?  Bruce McCuaig spoke of the cost recovery ratio for GO mistakenly equating high fare revenues with efficiency.  He then turned to the procurement process for capital projects, and cited Alternative Financing and Procurement through Infrastructure Ontario as an example of how Metrolinx would seek good value.  Rob Prichard observed that the scale of investment required for The Big Move is much larger than the level of savings that could be achieved by trimming existing spending.
  • What will be the effect of new revenue tools on non-users of the transit network?  Bruce McCuaig replied with the commonly cited benefits of redirecting travel flow off of the road network, increasing land values, and better capacity for goods movement.  (My own feeling about this question is that those answers are becoming shopworn, especially considering that Metrolinx itself has argued that The Big Move will only prevent congestion from getting worse, on average, not that it will actually improve conditions.)
  • What are the least popular of proposed new revenue sources?  McCuaig dodged this question saying that feedback varies among different groups and he did not want to prejudge the outcome of the consultations now underway.  He noted that there was a lot of support for the general principles, but that Metrolinx needs to publish more information about how the tools are used elsewhere and how they might be implemented in the GTHA.
  • What will be the fare for the Union Pearson Express?  Discussions are underway, and there will be a firm proposal on this in late 2014.  (That’s quite a non-answer considering the provincial Auditor General’s less-than-complimentary remarks on the UPX project.)

80 thoughts on “Metrolinx Meeting Preview: February 14, 2013 (Update 2)

  1. Pushing GO projects into the 25 year timeframe – from today – really took my breath away when I thought about it. I was 28 when when McGuinty announced MoveOntario 2020… I will probally be approaching 60 or more before anything like all day bidirectional GO service is operating…..maybe. So basically, I’m being told, we did nothing from the time you were born, and probally won’t for most of your working life……..speaks volumes about the quality of leaders we select.

    As you mentioned in regards to the Milton line, has anyone at Metrolinx said anything about, I don’t know – safeguarding rights-of-way for future use. Here in Toronto I’m thinking about the DRL. I know that your favoured route is following the former frieght leads off King or Wellington, but I’m working on condo projects in the area between King and Wellington, that will likely block access off King south to Front soon. At the very least I wish we could do what Edmonton did when I lived there. When the EPCOR tower started construction they voted to construct a portion of the running tunnels concurrent with this for the North LRT so that future access was not blocked on the preferred right-of-way.

    I only use the DRL as an example as it seems the most pressing, condos are growing up like weeds in the area.


  2. Is there any centralized source showing what debt Ontario carries, to whom it is owed, and the timeline to pay off each tab? While I’m (in principle) in favor of new taxes and borrowing to fund new transit, I’d really like to see a fine breakdown of the province’s current debts, the projects funded by those debts, when each one will be paid off, etc… context is helpful when giving feedback to officials.

    Steve: I don’t think there is a consolidated list of where the billions of dollars in debt is owed that is publicly visible. It would be a very long list. As for what it was borrowed for, that’s not generally how government financing works. The overall budget says “we need $x to make up the deficit”. Don’t forget that a lot of what looks like capital to you and me is actually treated as a current expenditure by Queen’s Park because it involves a funding transfer to a municipality or agency. This is at the heart of the whole business of Metrolinx owning the Transit City projects so that it can show them as assets on the books. Otherwise, it would be considered a current expenditure in the payments to the City of Toronto as the lines were built.

    Also, this is a complete sidebar and I really have no idea where else to put it on the site: why don’t TTC buses have garbage bins? MiWay buses all have a small bin up on the front dashboard and many YRT buses have bags at the front, so why can’t the TTC spend $5 per vehicle and get on that? If people had a place to put their trash, buses would be a lot cleaner. For my money (and if they bought garbage bins, it kind of would be), a lot of bus litter exists for lack of a place to put it. And a lack of manners, but those aside, bins are still a good idea.

    Steve: The TTC tried putting garbage bags on buses for a trial many years ago, but they filled up very quickly. Operators refuse to handle them because of the possible contents, and I don’t blame them. The biggest litter, newspapers, won’t fit in any modestly sized bin or bag beyond the first one or two pieces.


  3. I would like to know if GO Metrolinx has had a conversation with CN and CP about electrifying their lines. AMT in Montreal was told by CN and CP in Montreal that they would not install electric overhead as it would impose unacceptable restrictions on the size of loads that they, the railways, could carry.

    AMT has a pile of very expensive dual power locomotives that have been embargoed from all CN lines because the derail in Windsor Station by pushing the rails apart. They are banned from the Deux Montagnes tunnel because they carry diesel fuel and the safety features of the tunnel need improvement. They are being used on the CP lines to St-Jerome and Vaudreuil, but they require 2 locomotives to power a 9 car train because the prime movers also supply head end power. If you want to get a photograph of a GO F59PH pulling single level GO cars take a trip to Montreal.

    I really doubt that we will see any electrification on GO any time soon because there is no money available for it and CN and CP will probably not allow it on their tracks. Cynic that I am I believe Metrolinx know this but are going ahead with the plans to placate their critics and then at the last minute they will say those big bad railways won’t let us electrify.

    GO Metrolinx is trying to solve the 21st century transportation problems with 19th century operating rules and it will not work. Perhaps it is time to return to a 20th century proposal: GO ALRT. This system would provide faster service than what we have now; it would operate on better head ways and would probably cost less to construct and run. Read about it on Transit Toronto’s web site.

    It would be the perfect technology to run on the Union Pearson UP yours line.

    Steve: The situation probably varies by corridor because GO owns some of the tracks, but it certainly would be worthwhile for Metrolinx to get a definitive statement out of the railways. As for the Bombardier locos, well, they’re not the best option for our lines anyhow, and if they have technical problems with their effect on the track or their ability to pull large trains, they may simply drop off the option list. The problem then becomes getting trains with the capacity equivalent to a 12-car bilevel at a headway that still leaves room for capacity growth over existing service levels.


  4. The one thing that had crossed my mind reading the Presto update, was how TTC usage of Presto related to usage as a whole.

    I thought I’d seen some numbers somewhere on how much usage there was in the existing TTC stations, but I can’t find it now. Have you seen this? (I think you might have actually mentioned it previously!).

    Steve: There was a presentation about Presto at the TTC’s December meeting, and I put a text version of the document up in my meeting wrapup. About 25,000 fares are paid each day through Presto at 14 stations where readers are installed.


  5. Hilarious. A quarter century, if not more, to construct a railway and expand service on *existing* rights-of-way through already built up areas. The CPR was built in five years, from scratch…what pathetic times we live in with regards to infrastructure in this country. As another poster said, I’m 39, and will conceivably be retired (or not, the way things are going) before some of these plans come to fruition.


  6. Presto has rolled out in Ottawa on a trial bases with 12,000 cards. Originally OC Transpo and Metrolinx wanted to release 10,000 Presto Cards over a weeks time. However, these dissappeared in one day and OC Transpo still had two events to go. Hence the additional 2,000.

    There have been a couple of reports of issues with Presto here in Ottawa:

    1. A lady who put the Presto Card on Mastercard for a Monthnly pass for OC Transpo. Interesting story here.

    2. Presto cards with Monthly passes need to be activated on the bus within a certain time period. But when an activation is made for a monthly pass in a previous month, the card deducted $2.60 for a ride. This was despite the OC Transpo passenger using tickets to pay the fare. Read here.

    These may be teething issues, but you would expect Metrolinx and Presto would have solved them. Considering the poor Presto history in Ottawa and the coming full launch of Presto in Ottawa, you would figure Metrolinx would have this figured out. I hope the Metrolinx meeting will have a better briefing on this situation in Ottawa including preliminary tap rates and other OC Transpo concerns.

    Steve: What sticks out from the second article is that Presto’s data model still involves downloading information about passes to onboard readers, something that I had the impression would disappear with the move to the “Next Generation” technology.


  7. Steve wrote

    “About 25,000 fares are paid each day through Presto at 14 stations where readers are installed.”

    So using the 300 rule of thumb, about 7.5 million a year.

    Looking at the chart on page 5 of the Presto presentation, there is about 50 million taps in 2012. So even despite TTC’s lack of participation (so far), they account for about 15% of Presto usage!

    Steve: I would not go that far as I suspect the volume has been ramping up since GO forced its pass users to switch to Presto part way through 2012. The difficulty is that Metrolinx reports cumulative totals, not incremental values so that we can see month-by-month comparisons. Probably the numbers would be rather embarrassingly low on that basis.

    I’m not sure I follow Robert Wightman’s comments. There haven’t been any trains in Windsor Station since the mid-1990s, after they built the new Forum between the tracks and station. And if he’s referring to Lucien L’Allier station, there haven’t been CN trains in there either. I’m not sure when diesel fuel was banned from the Mont-Royal tunnel – it was common practice for electric engines to pull VIA diesel trains through the tunnel departing Central Station for the Trois-Rivières service … and surely this is still done for the Jonquière/Senneterre service (or have they started dropping off the engine on the north side?). As far as I understand it, AMT is currently acquiring the dual-power locomotives explicitly to run through the Mont-Royal tunnel for the Repentigny service, which isn’t planned to start until sometime next year. Not surprisingly, they are using the trains elsewhere for the time being. I’ve heard no reports that these won’t be used on the CN tracks to Repentigny.


  8. I concur about the issues with parking. Long Branch, for example, has seen its reserved spots increase over the years. This is great on one hand (those who use the parking lot are the ones who pay for it), but it is geared to communters not the occasional user. And again, while Mississauga users of Long Branch have the “co-pay” fare, the TTC does not offer this which increases the costs of those passengers who might use the TTC instead of driving.

    As for all-day service – do all the other GO routes require all-day service along the complete line? For example, north of Newmarket, will GO trains operating all day actually carry many passengers? Same with Milton – will people actually travel all the way in from Milton to Union during the non-peak hours? Or could you simply run the trains to Meadowvale, with a bus the rest of the way?

    I am glad to hear about the building of the DRL is moved up by 10 years – we need it. You always need to increase capacity before current capacity is reached – but even in 15 years I fear capacity will be reached then then some.

    As for the extension further into the City of Vaughan, I say drop it. The DRL is more important, and if York Region wants subways, let them build and operate their own. York Region is too vast and does not have the population to support subways.


  9. Garbage bins are not all that ideal. If someone dumped a banana in there, it will emit a foul smell very soon. Passengers should be taught that garbage bins exist at most stops and at all stations. When I go hiking in Arrowhead Provincial Park, I carry my garbage with me until I reach the trail head or the park office to dispose of. It is not hard.

    GO should consider purchasing DMUs and run them like JR does. 1 Hour 6 departures is much better than the current cram everyone into a Bilevel car several times a day. It would ease the safety issues at the stations. At Miliken GO station, people rush to the door as the train approaches the station. People then rush out to reach their cars as soon as they can. The left turn lane at Redlea Ave is jammed for the next half hour or so. Having all day service that is spread out using lighter equipment will smooth out the passenger flows. This will also allow local transit to have more frequent service to the GO stations.

    Steve: You are forgetting about track capacity problems in the Union Station corridor that constrain the number of trains/hour on the system.


  10. Benny makes an interesting point about the DMUs. Perhaps not the best option for rush hour service, but what about outside of rush hour? Beats 10 bilevel coaches that are potentially 90% empty. Also a great idea for the Stouffville line – the DMUs can meet an existing Lakeshore train at Scarborough and then head up north using the platform and track currently located at the station.

    Steve: This issue comes up again and again. If a fleet exists for peak service, then having an off-peak only fleet is not a good idea unless there is somewhere else in the peak those cars can run. This is analogous to proposals I see all the time to run “smaller” buses for “efficiency” on minor routes outside of the peak. Two fleets instead of one, plus a lot of dead-head mileage, is not good economics. Also, GO is highly unlikely to run better service on the Stouffville branch than on the Lake Shore (nothing to connect with, for one thing), and so the idea of frequent off peak service with DMUs runs aground on the lack of equally frequent connecting trains. LSE may eventually get down to under 30 minutes off-peak, but I am not holding my breath.


  11. Hi Steve,

    Just a quick question about the Vaughan subway extension – why didn’t they just extend the subway to Vaughan Mills, especially now while they can? That would make a more logical terminating station, instead of Jane and Hwy 7 and could serve as a hub for the area.

    Steve: Vaughan declared that the current terminal is the centre of the known universe and insisted on calling it their Metropolitan Centre. If they want an extension, they can queue up with every other proposal that awaits funding. There is also the small matter of who will pay to operate a further extension which will almost certainly run at a loss just as the original Vaughan line is projected to do (about $10m annually net of new revenue to the TTC).


  12. “The City of Vaughan has asked that Metrolinx consider a further extension of the Spadina subway north to Major Mackenzie.

    Geez, we’re going to be taking this thing to Barrie in my lifetime!


  13. nfitz says:

    February 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    “I’m not sure I follow Robert Wightman’s comments. There haven’t been any trains in Windsor Station since the mid-1990s, after they built the new Forum between the tracks and station. And if he’s referring to Lucien L’Allier station, there haven’t been CN trains in there either. I’m not sure when diesel fuel was banned from the Mont-Royal tunnel – it was common practice for electric engines to pull VIA diesel trains through the tunnel departing Central Station for the Trois-Rivières service … and surely this is still done for the Jonquière/Senneterre service (or have they started dropping off the engine on the north side?). As far as I understand it, AMT is currently acquiring the dual-power locomotives explicitly to run through the Mont-Royal tunnel for the Repentigny service, which isn’t planned to start until sometime next year. Not surprisingly, they are using the trains elsewhere for the time being. I’ve heard no reports that these won’t be used on the CN tracks to Repentigny.”

    Sorry, I meant Central Station; it has been years since I was on a train in Montreal. Since Dec 11, 2011 The Transportation Safety Board has Banned the dual power locomotives from use after one derailed, while stopped, in Central Station. From the Canadian Railway Observer:

    “In November, Canadian Pacific Railway authorized the use of the ALP-45DP locomotives in diesel mode only, and as of November 7th, eight ALP-45DP’s were at Sortin Yard being prepared for service on CP trackage only. More ALP45DP’s were transferred from St-Eustache to Sortin on November 19th, via Parsley: 1351, 1359, 1363, 1367, 1368 and 1369 leaving only 1350, 1352, 1353, 1361, 1365 and 1366 still hanging on [at] CN. The first revenue run was November 28th on AMT train 191 from Montreal to St-Jerome. The train made its return this morning and is shown here preparing to lay over until the evening rush hour. For the immediate future these Bi-mode units will be used exclusively on CP lines to St-Jerome and Vaudreuil. The first ALP-45DP’s into service on the Blainville line on Train 174 November 28th had one at each end of its 9-car set of Bombardier bi-levels. AMT expects to use them on the Vaudreuil-Hudson (CP line) by “late winter.”

    From the February 2011 Canadian Railway Observer:

    “Although unconfirmed by official sources, recent testing has revealed that the powerful ALP45DP exert forces on the rail that are considerably higher than those from a standard locomotive, especially in electric mode. This factor may (or may not) have contributed to the derailment of unit 1352 at Central Station in December 2011, and the subsequent withdrawal of all the ALP45DP’s, because the engine was in diesel mode.”

    From the May CRO:

    “After a four-month hiatus, a few AMT ALP45DP have finally hit the road again, albeit for testing purposes only. Although unconfirmed, early reports indicate that the 1352’s derailment in Central Station last December was caused by track condition.”

    From Oct. 2012 CRO:

    “CN is banning the locomotives from leading a train until the derailment investigation is completed by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, following the 1352’s derailment at Central Station on December 9th 2011. Although the investigation is still in progress, a likely cause for the derailment, although not confirmed, has been hinted to be the inability of Central Station’s tracks to withstand the excessive forces on the rail exerted by the extra-powerful ALP45DP’s. AMT and CN are reviewing a wide range of options to allow the high-tech dual mode locomotives in service as soon as possible. One of the locomotives (AMT 1350) was moved to AMP Pointe St-Charles Shop and was moved over CN with special CN Superintendant’s permission. It is still unknown when these may be called to active duty.

    “The ALP45-DP locomotive fleet has been in storage ever since the first one placed into service (AMT 1352) derailed in December 2011 pulling into Central Station. The AMT locomotives were purchased at a total cost of $308 million to allow the Agence Métropolitaine de Transport to increase service, particularly on the overcrowded Deux Montagnes commuter line The AMT bought 20 of the German-built Bombardier locomotives. The dual-mode (diesel and electric) locomotive are to be used on the Deux Montagnes commuter line, which serves Laval and the North Shore and s the AMT’s only electric-powered line. The agency has said it needs the new locomotives before it can start using new double-decker railcars on the line. Those double-deckers have up to 30% more capacity than typical single-level cars. The locomotive derailed on tracks owned by CN. The TVA network quoted an internal study commissioned by the AMT and CN that indicated CN tracks at Central Station may have been defective and could not support the new locomotive, which is more powerful than others in the AMT fleet. AMT spokesperson Brigitte Léonard said the AMT has hired an external engineering firm to provide “a range of possible solutions” that would allow the locomotives to be put back on track. TSBC spokesperson John Cottreau said the board’s investigation is in progress. He could not say when it would be completed. On average, it takes the agency 16 months to complete rail investigations.”

    From Dec 2012 CRO:

    “The Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) (s)pent $308 million on 20 new German-built Bombardier dual-mode locomotives. But it was forced to put them in storage after the first one derailed days after being put into service in December 2011. Test runs involving eight locomotives will take place on Canadian Pacific tracks this week and next week, according to a memo sent to CP commuter train crews on Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Montreal Gazette. “AMT and Bombardier representatives will be on board to perform the tests and will train our crews” at the same time, says the memo, signed by a CP superintendent. The tests will take place between Blainville and Saint-Jérôme.

    “The AMT is to begin using the locomotives to pull trains carrying passengers on its Blainville-Saint-Jérôme, before putting them into service on the Vaudreuil-Hudson line, the memo says. The locomotives will not be used on the Candiac line. All three of those lines operate on CP tracks.”
    “The AMT has been criticized for opting for dual-modes, which are much more expensive than regular locomotives. They were purchased in part because the AMT planned to gradually electrify the commuter train network. That idea was shelved this year after CP and CN rejected the idea.”

    I read somewhere else, but can’t find the source now, that after the upgrade of the tunnel to 25 kV AC new safety features had to be installed before these locomotives could carry diesel fuel in the tunnel.

    AMT spent $15 million per locomotive to haul only 2/3 of what a $5 million GO locomotive can haul and cannot use their electric ability on many of their lines. That is why I do not believe that we will see any electrification on the Lakeshore, Kitchener or Milton lines; they use some tracks still owned by CN or CP. Before any more time or money is spent studying electrification, get the terms firmly in writing.


  14. Steve wrote:

    “The City of Vaughan has asked that Metrolinx consider a further extension of the Spadina subway north to Major Mackenzie.”

    Kevin’s comment:

    Shades of the Sheppard Subway! Needless to say, the DRL is a much higher priority. Unless the owners of Canada’s Wonderland want to pay for 100% of the thing. After all, Rob Ford says that private business will line up to pay for subways, so here’s their chance.

    More seriously and all sarcasm aside, what is with all these strange proposals to build subways where the demand and density definitely do not support them. Doesn’t the City of Vaughan have any adult supervision that can explain the reality of certain financial facts of life? Perhaps Hamilton can lend them some of their planners to show how LRT makes more sense.

    Steve: Vaughan is almost certainly counting on 100% provincial funding through the Investment Strategy rather than having to shell out at least 1/3 for a subway entirely in their own municipality. Then there’s the small matter of operating subsidies that somebody has to pay.

    As with Rob Ford’s math, subways are cheap when you can pretend that someone else will foot the bills.


  15. I’m gonna sound like a kid but hey …

    If Vaughan is getting a subway and Richmond Hill is getting a subway and Vaughan is asking for a subway extension … then dammit Mississauga deserves a subway too. After all, Mississauga has a large enough population (largest suburb in Canada or 6th / 7th largest city in Canada depending on which one you think sounds better) and the same density as Vaughan (with a higher density “Metropolitan Centre” and commercial and residential buildings). Not to mention that there is already density on Bloor St. at West Mall, Renforth, from Fieldgate to Dixie, as well as the Mississauga Valley area.

    Ok, rant over. About the 2-way all day service on the Milton line, that is a tall order … offhand I can think of at least 4 level crossings (Thomas St. in Streetsville, Erindale Station Road and Wolfedale Rd in Erindale, Stanfield Rd. in Dixie) that would have to be removed along with an upgrade of the line to have at least 3 tracks (which is what the Lakeshore line has).

    If all day service on Milton is deferred, I wonder if we will see GO running an infrequent GO service from Kipling to Agincourt before the upgrade to the Milton line happens.

    Cheers, Moaz


  16. Steve says :

    ‘You are forgetting about track capacity problems in the Union Station corridor that constrain the number of trains/hour on the system.’

    And I don’t think there’s many DMU’s on the market that can meet Canada’s crash regulations, other than the Colorado Railcar DMU.


  17. The TTC’s transfer rules are hardly byzantine. The whole lot can be printed on the back of a transfer, after all. What may be byzantine is the number of possible routings to accomplish an A-to-B trip, but it should not be the riders’ responsibility to take only those routings acceptable to Presto, but rather for Presto to adapt to legitimate routings. (The default assumption that You Will Take The Subway Always would be like the assumption of a GPS that you need to get on the freeway, even if that adds considerable distance to your trip.)

    What clearly won’t work is the Presto assumption that you will travel between Stop A and Stop B, and vice-versa, and that’s pretty much all (with one of the stops likely being Union). We can’t have a system that gets confused if I don’t get on the Queen streetcar at Victoria as usual, but instead at Yonge or Church. Working up to a “monthly pass” where all your trips aren’t identical is required. I don’t think Presto is capable of that right now.


  18. Ed said,

    The TTC’s transfer rules are hardly byzantine.

    I would agree that the rules are hardly byzantine. The ability to interpret them actually is: a surface-route transfer is supposed to be set for the time the vehicle leaves its terminal, while a subway transfer shows the time it was issued; a surface-route transfer is not supposed to be re-issued along one’s journey, but a subway transfer can be. Then, when the transfer is used an operator or collector is supposed to be able to look at the time on the transfer, do a quick calculation to determine how long it typically takes on to travel from the location of the time on the transfer, allow for a tolerance, which is NOT specified in the rules, and come to a conclusion about the validity of the transfer. I will admit, a system like Presto should be far better at doing this than a person.

    A better word to describe the TTC’s transfer rules is “outdated”. Gone are the days when transit was primarily for the use of people traveling to and from work: an A-to-Z form of travel. If we truly want to reduce automobile traffic, a transit operation has to cater to the multi-destination trip, and this is accomplished by treating a transit fare as the purchase of a block of time on the system.

    I have always wondered why purchasing a food item while waiting for a bus at an intersection makes one’s transfer invalid (though, not all operators will call one on it, but I do know one who admits he has), but purchasing a similar food item within the fare-paid area of a subway station isn’t.

    Finally, I suspect this old “transit is for going from A to Z” line of thinking is a major driving force between the TTC seeing Metropass users as “stealing” rides when they make more trips in a month than the cost of the pass represents in token fares.

    Steve: When I used the word “Byzantine”, I was referring to exactly the sort of convoluted evaluation you describe to ascertain the validity of a transfer. The whole attitude to stopovers leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Someone may pop into a coffee shop at a transfer point, and the transaction would be “invisible” to the car they board next especially if the decision to get a coffee was triggered by a gap in the service. Short turns and other service foul ups can add to a rider’s trip time and segment their trip into pieces that would not “ordinarily” occur and create “transfers” at locations that were not part of the official list. All of this has to be factored into the fare system.

    It is particularly amusing that Metrolinx is big on “Mobility Hubs” where passengers are expected to shop as part of the process of changing from one vehicle to another.


  19. “The City of Vaughan has asked that Metrolinx consider a further extension of the Spadina subway north to Major Mackenzie.”

    If the Jane LRT line got built as planned, it would probably be more sensible to extend that to Major Mackenzie instead. I hope this gets considered. (On the other hand, if it gets extended far enough, we might finally be able to add another maintenance yard.)

    Steve: The larger question within York Region is that of the “logical” place for a boundary between the high capacity subway system and a moderate capacity BRT or LRT system serving the region. There is always pressure for “one more stop” as we see even within the 416, never mind the 905.

    It would be fascinating to see Queen’s Park’s attitude to GO service extensions if the rail corridors were not already in place and they had to build from scratch. Sprawl has occurred based on the road network, not the rail network, and only parts of suburbia lend themselves to commuter rail operation at modest cost.


  20. First off Robert, CRO is a terrible source for info. They aggregate info from other sources, frequently without attribution, and also frequently add errors to it to the point where it barely resembles fact.

    TSB did not ban the dual-mode units in Montreal – CN banned them from their tracks. The TSB’s report on the derailment did outline some potential issues with the units, but found fault with CN’s track maintenance in Central Station. Despite this, CN has still refused to allow the units in service, and thus they are starting to be rolled out on the CP routes.

    As for diesel fuel in the tunnels, the Montreal Fire Department did raise issues with the units being run in the tunnel with fuel onboard. This is despite the fact that diesels have (and continue to) run in the tunnels since passenger trains were dieselized in the 1950s. I believe that AMT agreed to pay for additional fire security measures as part of the purchase of the new units.

    Going back to the topic at hand – electrification of the lines in Toronto – you can’t use what Montreal is going through as a basis. CN has helped pen many of the various GO Transit electrification reports over the years, and is more-or-less on side with it, although they have made sure that there are certain conditions that have to be met before it happens. As for when it happens…..well….

    Toronto, Ont.


  21. Dan Garcia says:
    February 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    “”First off Robert, CRO is a terrible source for info. They aggregate info from other sources, frequently without attribution, and also frequently add errors to it to the point where it barely resembles fact.

    “TSB did not ban the dual-mode units in Montreal – CN banned them from their tracks. The TSB’s report on the derailment did outline some potential issues with the units, but found fault with CN’s track maintenance in Central Station. Despite this, CN has still refused to allow the units in service, and thus they are starting to be rolled out on the CP routes.”

    Thanks for the information but the end result is that they will not run on CN until after the TSB report is issued and if it finds that the problem is CN’s track we know who will pay to fix that.

    “As for diesel fuel in the tunnels, the Montreal Fire Department did raise issues with the units being run in the tunnel with fuel onboard. This is despite the fact that diesels have (and continue to) run in the tunnels since passenger trains were dieselized in the 1950s. I believe that AMT agreed to pay for additional fire security measures as part of the purchase of the new units.”

    From what I have heard there is more concern now that the electrification system has been modernized and if you can find a way to get some one else to pay for the improvements then soak for all you can get.

    “Going back to the topic at hand – electrification of the lines in Toronto – you can’t use what Montreal is going through as a basis. CN has helped pen many of the various GO Transit electrification reports over the years, and is more-or-less on side with it, although they have made sure that there are certain conditions that have to be met before it happens. As for when it happens…..well….”

    Remember that this is a very different CN than the one who helped pen those reports. Also remember that the person who was responsible for the many changes at CN is now running CP. Amtrak has more complaints against CN for holding up passenger trains than any other class 1. This is why I think it is time for a complete re-think of how GO is going to deliver service on the lines that it owns outright. GO ALRT may not be the best answer but it is a lot better than more of the same.

    Keep up the fight and don’t let the powers that be get away with saying “Trust us, we know what we are doing.”


  22. Regarding Benny’s comments. Isn’t it time Metrolinx consider adopting a multi-hub approach to regional transit. Something along the lines of Paris, London, New York with a north station, downtown station, airport station etc… If GO and TTC are moving towards the same pay platform (Presto) and there is going to be ever-more integration between multiple transit agencies (GO, TTC but also municipal transit) then doesn’t this approach make sense?

    When has that approach been contemplated? As many readers have pointed out before, Union Station, even with billions in upgrades, has limited train/hour capacity to be the one hub.

    Steve: Multiple hubs imply that there are multiple major nodes for passengers within the network. There is no employment concentration in the GTHA remotely close to what we have in downtown Toronto. Putting a hub somewhere else simply creates a transfer point. For example, North Toronto Station on the CPR has little development near it, and would act as a transfer point to an already crowded subway line.

    The rail network in Toronto, like it or not, is radial and almost entirely focused on Union Station. Toronto’s development pattern is not like other cities you mention which evolved many nodes as part of the city growth, and the transit systems just followed along. Remember that those cities were much larger than Toronto at the point their rail networks evolved and, in some ways, could almost be thought of as collections of towns that grew together as metropolises. These were urban areas with millions of inhabitants at a time when much of what we now call Toronto was farmland. By the time Toronto built out, the dominant transportation mode was automotive, and the rail system was not expanded or reconfigured to serve the growing city. Commuting and freight traffic shifted to roads and expressways, not to a network of rail corridors with multiple nodes.

    As for the airport, Metrolinx has flagged it as a major node comparable to Union Station, but seems bent on avoiding actually running much service that would actually be useful to people working at that node.


  23. Freight railroads retain running rights on GO-owned corridors, which are used. CN still has some faint traces of freight traffic rolling on GO-owned tracks on the Oakville, Weston, Kingston, Newmarket, and even Uxbridge subdivisions. I believe even the Toronto portion of the Bala subdivision still sees a daily CN train roll through around noon-ish, plus or minus an hour or so, even though no local activity remains on that line. I saw that train go by one afternoon on the Oakville sub last summer. GO does not have free reign on the corridors they own; my understanding is that it is obligatory that freight requirements be considered for any infrastructure changes.


  24. I just checked the GO bus schedule on the Milton corridor and realized that the service is half-hourly on corridors running between Mississauga and Union Station.

    With the first phase of the Mississauga BRT/TRANSITWAY set to open this year and the bus lane on the sb 427 from Eglinton to Dundas (whenever it actually opens) I could see that service frequency improving … which would be a good thing for GO if they can start promoting their bus service as a long distance form of ‘rapid transit’ instead of a service only available wherever & whenever the trains can’t go.

    Apparently the actual demand for GO buses is growing almost as fast as the apparent demand for GO trains … and even faster than the supposed demand for subways in Vaughan.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: The demand for GO buses is rising quickly, but the number of bus riders is much lower than on the trains. According to the current “quick facts” page, buses carry about 30% of the total ridership. GO bus traffic is growing in the off-peak, not surprising considering that this is the only service provided on most corridors during those periods.


  25. This doesn’t belong here but wasn’t sure where else to post this:

    Does the province of Ontario actually have the power to upload the TTC (or more specifically just subway / lrt routes) from the city ?

    This is, of course, in regards to some recent comments by Hudak of course.

    Steve: Yes, Queen’s Park would do this under the City of Toronto Act which governs, among other things, the TTC. There is an issue of compensation because some of the subway and streetcar system (if we call that LRT) was paid for with city funds. The other big problem is that there is an “infrastructure deficit” for maintenance and enhancement of the existing subway system that, so far, Queen’s Park has managed to avoid paying for. If they take the rail system, they inherit those costs.

    Hudak is playing to the Ford crowd here without realizing the cost of going through with his proposal.


  26. “the end result is that they will not run on CN until after the TSB report is issued and if it finds that the problem is CN’s track we know who will pay to fix that.”

    How much freight does CN run through Central station?

    None … if those tracks are to be upgraded (which presumably is the simple outcome of all this) no one would expect for CN to be doing it.


  27. The largest issue with uploading portions of the TTC (e.g. the subway) is, correct me if I’m wrong, but revenue from the subway helps subsidize bus routes. Yes, I understand bus routes do serve the subway, so there is a chicken and the egg situation at play as well (i.e. cut bus funding, and subway ridership will decline).

    But I’d imagine the province may be OK with the above fact, and instead use any revenue from the subway operations to fund more subway expansion.

    Steve: The “profits” from the subway are not large, and they would be consumed on the capital program to maintain the infrastructure. Expansions requires net new funding no matter who “owns” the lines. The “profits” come only from the old, heavily-used section of the line, and extensions such as the Spadina line to Vaughan will run at a loss. I don’t think the Tories understand this.

    For Toronto to maintain the same bus operations in place today, rates or subsidy (from the city) would need to increase.

    Another issue, it’s pretty clear Hudak doesn’t view the DRL as a high priority, on several occasions he has mentioned funding the expansion to Highway 7 and a subway along Sheppard, no mention of the DRL, and I’m sure that’s quite intentional.

    I think the Liberals are going to struggle next election, regardless of any platforms at play, and there is a good chance Hudak may actually be the premier this time next year.

    Dark times may lay ahead for the city of Toronto …


  28. It was never a good idea to extend the Spadina subway all the way past Steeles avenue to Vaughan. If TTC wants an extension of the Yonge line, it should only go up to Steeles otherwise TTC loses more money to operate lines outside Toronto zone.


  29. Robert:

    The TSB’s report was released 2 weeks ago.

    A CN spokesperson was quoted days later as saying the ALP45DPs are still not welcome on CN track, regardless of the TSB’s findings and CN’s own maintenance actually being up to snuff.

    As for CN being friendly to commuter railroads, you are right in that they most certainly are not, and that is why we are seeing GO paying huge sums to purchase corridors. But they have been part of every single electrification report, even the most recent one, and so have been very aware of the process. Heck, it’s arguable that CP has been far more confrontational about the service than CN has, regardless of who they have at the top.

    To be honest, I think there is something far more nefarious going on with the whole debacle in Montreal, but that is getting way too far off-topic for this venue.

    Toronto, Ont.


  30. I’d like to add a comment about subway expansion towards greater, freer and stronger “North”; that is, first stop – Vaughan; next stop – Canada’s Wonderland; future extension – Barrie.

    Did anyone at TTC/Metrolinx/(any political party of ON)/ ever perform an informal analysis of major transportation systems in the world and their alignments/modes? It would be interesting to know, how many subway systems reach beyond “host” city municipal boundaries? How many of these systems actually run underground thru to outer destinations? And what about their financing?

    For example Berlin (Germany) is well known for its mix, where U-bahn (that is, subway) is not 100% underground and S-bahn (similar trains running on ramps like in Vcvr.) is not 100% on the ramps.

    Steve: I presume by “ramps” you refer to elevated guideways such as those used by Skytrain in Vancouver.

    As it is, it appears,that folks at Metrolinx and major political parties of ON are proposing transportation plans, which they can never ever afford or complete.


  31. Robert:

    “The TSB’s report was released 2 weeks ago.

    “A CN spokesperson was quoted days later as saying the ALP45DPs are still not welcome on CN track, regardless of the TSB’s findings and CN’s own maintenance actually being up to snuff.”

    Thanks Dan, the report makes for interesting reading. If nothing else this should make Metrolinx look at EMU’s more favourably and dual powered locomotives with very strong reservations.


  32. High concentration of employment, retail or residential is not a requirement for a successful hub. A hub just needs to have good connections and something to do while waiting for the next train or bus. Even in Tokyo, not all hubs are near employment centers. Keikyu Railways terminates at Shinagawa Station, but that area only has about 10 office buildings close by. This is low in Japanese standards. In Osaka, Shin Osaka station and Osaka station is about 4 km apart. There is not much except hotels near Shin Osaka where Shinkasen passengers disembark.

    Right now, to go from Pickering to Barrie on the GO Train requires a transfer at Union Station. Is Union Station the ideal place to transfer the passenger? The answer is no. In a highly congested station, free capacity should be use for O/D passengers and not connecting passengers. The question is whether we want to build the spider web across the city so that there are more point to point connections. Obviously a hub and spike model is the cheapest. But it runs in to capacity problem very quickly. How many more tracks can we fit inside Union? It is the same with Beijing’s Capital Airport, when eight runways are not enough, what do you do?

    Right now, we need a technology that can be built cheaply with good economics to make point to point connections work. If we can bypass Union Station and have direct routes like Langstaff GO Station to Square One, it will improve the appeal of transit. A motor vehicle can already do point to point travel but at terrible economics.

    Steve: There is great irony in the fact that as “nodes” within the highway network, major interchanges would be development hubs if they were treated the same way some planners think about transit hubs. However, the roads take up so much space that the actual development must be spread around at some distance from the road junction. Also, just because a location happens to be a road interchange does not mean that it’s the natural place for high density development in the larger scheme of urban evolution. The interchange may be located where it is precisely because land was available rather than being too valuable to buy up. Imagine something like Spadina/401, 427/401/etc or DVP/401 dropped into the middle of a high density business district.

    Unlike an airport, a transit node can be compact and building above it is no technical challenge. Whether that is necessarily what will happen is another matter as you note.

    Definitely the technology choice for a regional spider network is a challenge not least because unlike other major cities, Toronto and the GTHA did not build when corridors would have been comparatively easy to assemble and before population and travel densities produced the congestion with which we wrestle today.


  33. Benny Cheung said:

    Keikyu Railways terminates at Shinagawa Station

    Some trains do, but many don’t. This line features 直通運転 (through-operation) with the Toei Asakusa subway line through downtown Tokyo, meaning substantial quantities of Keikyū trains don’t terminate in Shinagawa. Many of the commuter railways in Tokyo use this practice to provide more capacity and service than their original terminals had space to accommodate. This changed the evolution of growth patterns, so historical terminals’ appeal lost prominence in some cases, but obviously not all (in particular the Shibuya-Shinjuku-Ikebukuro corridor, a huge deal, each of which was a historical terminal).


  34. Calvin writes

    “I would agree that the rules are hardly byzantine. The ability to interpret them actually is”

    and Steve replies

    “When I used the word “Byzantine”, I was referring to exactly the sort of convoluted evaluation you describe to ascertain the validity of a transfer.”

    I still think these arguments miss the point, and that “byzantine” is the wrong adjective (especially given the connotation).

    From a rider’s functional point of view, the rule is simple: one fare grants you one ride from point A in the City of Toronto to point B, by a reasonable route, with no stopovers. (We can discuss the appropriateness of the “no stopover” rule, but it’s hardly byzantine or unclear.)

    This can be, say, from Long Branch to Seneca College at Finch and 404. (It could be Long Branch to U of T Scarborough campus for a really long trip, but I actually did the Long Branch/Seneca trip daily for eight months so that’s the example I will use.) With any grid system, there will be multiple possible routings for a trip that long. Even if I did the “expected” and made the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge subways the backbone of my trip, there are still two unquestionably legitimate routing options at either end (110A/B and 123 at the west end; 39 from Finch station or 139 from Don Mills station at the east end), giving four perfectly plausible routings. This is not the fault of the fare system; it in fact is not a fault but a bonus of the network. I agree that any fare system has to be able to deal with these multiple possibilities.

    One could argue that figuring out, for a longer trip, what a “direct” or even “legitimate” route would be, can wind up being byzantine. There I agree. In my case:

    1. The simplest route was to take the Queen car from Long Branch to Queen station and vice-versa, avoiding one transfer (and also avoiding Bloor-Yonge). This routing took about ten minutes longer than using the Bloor-Danforth, but because of the simplicity and no need to fight the hordes and Bloor-Yonge, and also the possibility of getting a seat northbound, I used it quite often.

    2. My quickest-ever morning trip to Seneca was a transfer-fest: 110B (slow operator), 44 (let’s bail and go to the subway), Bloor-Danforth, Yonge, Sheppard subway (big backup to Finch station), 139. Was that a “legitimate” route?

    3. Although most of my trips were by Metropass, and therefore it actually doesn’t matter where I went, I did find myself one afternoon at Islington and Lake Shore, holding a 39 Finch East transfer. The operator of the westbound 508 car that picked me up didn’t bat an eye. And, as far as I was concerned, it was a legitimate routing. (When I got to Islington station, I had just missed the 110B to Long Branch; rather than wait for the next 110A, I took the 110 straight south to Lake Shore in the hopes that a westbound streetcar would show up sooner than the 110A at Islington would.)

    Perhaps all the above points to the need for a time-based fare. However, the “Point A to Point B, no stopover” still works, in my opinion.

    Steve: It’s the IT person in me that sees the “simple” transfer rules as requiring a “byzantine” process for the fare system to verify. If I am holding a Finch East transfer as I get on a Long Branch car, I can have a debate with the operator or a fare inspector about the validity of that transfer. A not-too-bright fare machine will simply charge me a new fare when it cannot understand what I am doing, or that I have gone “out of my way” to make the trip more efficient in the sense of comfort and travel time.

    From an epistemological point of view, I would argue that the system works fine. Note that because of fare-paid transfer zones at subway stations, I could easily make my Long Branch-Seneca trip by a number of routes, none of which required ever showing a paper transfer. So, yes, the system is open to the possibility of someone riding for hours, taking advantage of subway paid-fare areas, on one fare, and potentially without ever needing to posses or show a paper transfer! Well, so what; how many people other than the indigent or transit fans are likely to do this?

    Steve: Just wait until the folks who want every possible piece of data on your travel habits decide to force you to tap in and out every time you change routes especially if we move to fare-by-distance.

    Well, actually, I was once on a westbound Queen car, halfway home from work at Queen and Spadina to my home in Long Branch, when I realised that my house keys were still at work! I did the whole thing without paying an extra fare. (Used my 501 transfer to catch a Royal York South 76 to Royal York station, grabbed a transfer at Spadina station, took the 510 to Queen, quickly grabbed my keys, and used the Spadina station transfer to board a westbound Queen car to Long Branch.) Sure, I broke the rule, but how often do people do this sort of thing? I certainly learned to check that I had my keys with me after that.

    A lot of the fare disputes I’ve seen are because someone has incontrovertibly made a stopover. Less often, it’s when they use the “wrong” transfer point. I do agree that it’s a bit byzantine that, to transfer from an eastbound Queen car to a northbound 79 Royal York South, you have to get off at Symons St., instead of staying on to Mimico Ave. where the 76 tends to lay over. (The 501 and 76 share quite a few stops northbound on Lake Shore between Royal York and Mimico.)

    Of course the indigent trying to board a bus or streetcar with a transfer that they picked up off the street has nothing to do with the rules, byzantine or not.

    Steve: Many years ago, a friend and I attempted to see how far we could get on one fare and transfer. This was back in the days of zone fares, and it was “legal” to go out of your way to avoid crossing the zone boundary.

    We started on Lake Shore outside of Etobicoke so that we boarded a TTC Port Credit bus and got a “Zone 2” transfer from that vehicle by paying the combo zone 3-2 fare. Our destination was West Hill. Long Branch car, plus buses north and east to Jane Station (the western edge of zone 1 on Bloor). More buses north and east eventually arriving at Finch and Kennedy (I think). When we attempted to go south, we were forced to pay another fare. This trip would also have failed on a two-hour time basis given its length and the infrequent nature of suburban bus routes at the time.


  35. I think it’s naive to think that they delayed the Sheppard LRT solely for financial reasons.

    Steve: They were also waiting to see which way the wind would be blowing with future governments.


  36. Ed wrote,

    Used my 501 transfer to catch a Royal York South 76 to Royal York station, grabbed a transfer at Spadina station, took the 510 to Queen, quickly grabbed my keys, and used the Spadina station transfer to board a westbound Queen car to Long Branch.

    The transit-using public should not have to play these games. If one were to get picky from the costing side of things, you cost the system more to transport you around in a circle in order to retrieve your keys than if you could simply change to a streetcar going the other way, get your keys and get back on a westbound streetcar with a time-based transfer. You also cost yourself a chunk of time, but if you don’t value your time, then this is a moot point.

    I myself have made weird routings to make a last minute stop, sometimes walking a kilometre or so to get to a “proper” transfer point to get back on the system. Other times, when coming south on Yonge, I’ll get off at St. Clair to take the streetcar over to St. Clair West station in order to get a time-based transfer for the rest of my multi-destination journey.

    A time-based transfer system eliminates this farting around, and eliminates many disputes that can come up (I have occasionally made legitimate trips, not ones intended to get away with a stop over, that had to be explained to an operator. That operator I mentioned above has made people pay a new fare when boarding at an intersection with a fast food item because an outlet of said fast food place is located there).

    This is the twenty-first century, not the 1950s where all the men wear hats and only use transit to go to and from work.


  37. Even if they could program Presto to handle the current transfer rules …

    … how do you deal with transfers due to diversion – a daily event. Say you board a 506 at Bathurst station and transfer to a 506 heading to High Park at Bathurst and College? That’s not listed as a valid transfer anywhere I’ve seen.

    Or say you board a 504 heading eastbound at Pape and Gerrard, and transfer to a 22 Coxwell north to Hanson.

    What about if you get off a 75 Sherbourne heading north at Parliament and Oak and change to a 65 Parliament to get to Wellesley? (Oak being the last northbound stop you get off the 75 Sherbourne when it is diverting north on Parliament and then west on Gerrard).

    Ultimately the permutations are endless – and the only reasonable way of dealing with it (especially given the software only knows where you’ve tapped on, not off) is to go to a X-minute transfer window – similar to the pilot project TTC is running on St. Clair.

    Anything else will either create a methodology far too complex, that it’s always going to be causing complaints.

    Steve: Another variant is a storm day when a system keen to market its services might say “today one fare gets you 3 hours travel to make up for delays”. That’s a lot simpler to implement (or to give retroactive credits for) than having to figure out each permutation of car/snowbank/streetcar/diversion.

    Weekend and other special day or time-of-day pricing could work the same way. If this capability has not been built into Presto Next Generation, then Metrolinx has missed an obvious and simple way to manage fares and promote off-peak system use.


  38. TTC’s transfer system is absurd to the end user.

    When I have a Metropass and nothing is coming, I walk to the next stop (and the next and the next) to continue my trip.

    I can’t do this if I switch back to tokens. All of a sudden, if I need to transfer from Yonge subway to the College car, I can’t walk to Bay anymore and catch it there. I believe I did this once, found my transfer had become invalid, and walked back to Yonge to make it valid again.

    It’s immensely frustrating to have the grocery store at the halfway point in your commute home, but be unable to visit it even though there’d be no change to the TTC in the distance it needed to convey you.

    Maybe this would be excusable if all other transit systems worked the same way, but when every other transit system in the GTA has switched to a simple 2-hour fare with unlimited stopovers, TTC’s transfer rules are infuriating.


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