Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis for the Richmond Hill Subway

Metrolinx has published a study of the proposed subway extension to Richmond Hill updating a Benefits Case Analysis done in 2009.  The new report is dated May 2013, but it has only recently been publicly released.

Background information in the study gives an indication of the demand challenges facing the transit network in coming decades.  The study itself shows many of the shortcomings of Metrolinx analyses in the selective use of information and limited scope of alternatives comparison.

The study looks at four options for the Richmond Hill line:

  • A Base Case assuming substantial additions to existing subway capacity, leaving things as they are with buses serving the existing terminal at Finch Station.
  • Option 1: Full subway extension to Richmond Hill Centre close to the existing GO station.
  • Option 2: A two-stop subway extension to Steeles with buses serving the area beyond.
  • Option 2A: A Steeles subway extension accompanied by improved GO service on the Richmond Hill corridor.

Notable by its absence is an option of both a full subway line to Richmond Hill and improved GO service or any analysis of how demand would divide between the two routes.

The study notes that the Metrolinx Board, in response to earlier analyses, requested additional information:

  • Possible adjustments in project scope, timing or phasing;
  • Consideration of the extent to which improved service levels on the parallel GO Richmond Hill rail corridor off-loads some of the demand on the Yonge Street subway; and
  • The cost impacts of the various options on the subway yards strategy, Yonge-Bloor subway station improvements, and a future Downtown Relief Line to bypass the Yonge-Bloor congestion pinch point.  [Par. 1.12, page 3]

The 2013 report does not address these requests because it does not include any option where both the subway and improved GO service operate to Richmond Hill.  Although parallel studies (such as the TTC’s own subway yards needs analysis) do look at some aspects of the third point above, this information is not integrated into the analysis, nor is there any review of configurations that could avoid some of the cost of increased subway capacity.  This should follow in the Metrolinx study now underway of the Relief Line and associated alternatives, but that sort of network-based review is years overdue.

Demand Issues

Chapter 2 of the BCA reviews the rationale for the project.  Without question, Yonge Street both in Toronto and in York Region will be a major spine for development, and it is already a strong demand corridor, a status it has held for much of the last century.  This demand will be reinforced by development along the path of any rapid transit line.

The 2006 AM peak demand from York Region to downtown Toronto was 20,100 split 55% to GO and 45% to the TTC.  This reflects the comparatively low level of GO service crossing Steeles Avenue on all corridors and the volume of passengers fed into Finch Station by regional bus lines (and to a lesser extent to other subway terminals). [Par 2.35]

A demand forecast from 2011 predicts that by 2031, there would be over 20,000 passengers boarding the subway extension for southbound trips in the AM peak period.  These are passengers boarding north of Finch and the count does not include additional riders at Finch itself (although demand there would be much lower with many feeder bus routes shifted to points north).  [Par 2.36]  Ridership along the corridor north of Finch could grow by 70-90% by 2031 relative to 2006.  [Par 2.38]

Demand southbound at Wellesley is now 28,000 per hour, 2,000 above the nominal capacity of the subway (calculated at 1,000 passengers per train on 25.7 trains/hour, the currently scheduled service).  Reading the projections, one must be careful with figures quoted for the AM peak (which depending on the study may be two or three hours long) and with figures for the AM peak hour.  As a rough rule, 50% of the projected demand for a three-hour peak will occur within the peak hour, but this can be affected by factors such as capacity constraints (e.g. Yonge subway) and train schedules (GO).

The demand at Wellesley will be affected by other  lines feeding into Yonge Street such as the Eglinton line and a possible Scarborough Subway, offset by whatever travel can be shifted to a regional rail network and/or the Relief Line.

The current signal system can support the 140 second (2’20”) headway now operated and, in parts of the line, the headway can fall lower with the strategic insertion of trains such as now occurs southbound at Davisville and northbound at Union in the AM and PM peaks respectively.  However, fundamental constraints at terminals sets a lower bound on turnaround times and the number of trains/hour that a terminal such as Finch can handle.

Over 20 years ago, a proposed “loop” subway initially via Sheppard (when that was seen as the northern terminus of the Yonge and Spadina lines), then via Steeles (to a future York U extension), was proposed to eliminate terminal bottlenecks.  This would allow the headway to be reduced with the offsetting penalty that many trains would run nearly empty across the “top” of the loop between the two arms of the YUS.

This scheme was dropped because of its potential capital and operating costs, because it would interfere with northerly extensions into York Region, but most importantly because the recession of the early 1990s sliced 20% off of TTC demand and the then-critical capacity issues on the YUS vanished.  More recently, very aggressive claims have been made for potential subway capacity in the range of 50k/hour which would require closer headways and greater train capacity than are planned even with the new signal system on YUS.

That recession contributed directly to Toronto’s ability to focus growth on the suburbs while pretending there was no problem with downtown capacity.  The riders are back now, but we have forgotten just how close we came to completely filling the subway years ago.

Without the loop, an alternate strategy to deal with terminals is required.  This involves short-turning half of the subway service at Finch on the Yonge line and at Downsview on the Spadina line.  With this arrangement, if core headways drop to 105 seconds (1’45”), the service to Vaughan and to Richmond Hill would be 3’30”, or about 2/3 of the capacity now operated to Finch Station (at 2’20”).

The combined effect of more trains (34.3/hour) and the 10% increase in passenger space with the new “TR” units would bring the capacity of the YUS up to about 38,000/hour.  This is still far below the claims once made by the TTC to justify deferral of a Relief Line, a tactic that has left Toronto dangerously short of rapid transit capacity.

Peak hour demand south of Finch is forecast to rise to 25,000 and just over 44,000 at Bloor-Yonge if Option 1, the Richmond Hill subway, is built.  [Par. 4.26, page 34]  This exceeds the nominal capacity of 38,000.  The actual peak depends in part on the degree of dispersion of peak period demand around the peak hour, but in any case, the Yonge subway would be beyond its capacity by 2031 even if all of the enhancements included in the “Base Case” (see below) occur before then.

Metrolinx assumes that the carrying capacity per car can be increased to 220 from the 180 figure now used for the TR trains.  This is a dangerous assumption because it requires that more densely packing of passengers is sustained for the peak hour (with presumably even higher densities during the “super peak” or after any delays).  This is an irresponsible position and it does not align with good transit planning.  Moreover, Metrolinx is effectively telling riders that after spending billions on subway improvements, they will be even more tightly packed than they are today.  [See Par 4.27 and footnotes 19 and 20 on page 35.]

A more likely approach would be the “seventh car” scheme which the TTC has proposed with an extra short car (taking the train length out to the full platform length) inserted into the “TR” consists.  Although technically possible, this would have knock-on effects on storage locations and maintenance facilities around the system.

Shorter headways require a new signal system, and the first phase (Eglinton to St. George) is now being installed.  The full line will not be completed until 2018.  The need for this upgrade went unrecognized (or at least unacknowledged) long enough that it became an “add on” to the Spadina-Vaughan project and was not included in its base budget.  The 2018 implementation date allows construction and commissioning of the Vaughan extension to occur without conflict over a signalling contract that was not included in the planned work.

Major work is required elsewhere on the YUS to handle the additional pedestrian traffic at busy stations.  Bloor-Yonge and St. George are heavy transfer points, but there are other stations where passenger volumes have difficulty clearing the platform between trains (especially if one path is blocked by, say, an out of service escalator).  Additional entrances/exits are essential that are truly useful to many passengers, not merely a convenience for a minority of travellers (e.g. Yonge Station, west end).  During the PM peak at shorter headways, passengers will arrive at the BD line in greater numbers than they do today unless these transfer trips are diverted to other routes, but even with additional platform capacity (itself a challenge) more trains will be needed on BD.

None of the cost of these changes is included in the Benefits Case Analysis even though at least part of them flow directly from adding to rapid transit capacity north of Finch Station.

This level of analysis will come in the Relief Line study now underway, but its absence here detracts from the credibility of this limited “Benefits Case Analysis”.

The Richmond Hill GO Service

Various studies of the Richmond Hill line have been performed including several for GO as a diesel-based upgrade, the GO electrification study, the GO Rail BCA and this BCA.  However, the level of peak service projected is different in each case varying from 30 minutes (6 trains inbound during a 3-hour peak period) down to 10 minutes.

This variation has significant effects on projected ridership and operating cost, although a good chunk of the capital cost (double-tracking the line from Union to Richmond Hill) would be common to each scenario.  The GO Rail BCA shows a positive value (i.e. costs less than benefits) for better Richmond Hill service at a comparatively modest level.  By contrast, the subway BCA downplays the value of better GO service in conjunction with a subway only to Steeles (option 2A) because, as a package, the “benefit” is not outweighed by the cost.  This is only one example of how the assumptions in an analysis can skew the results.

The subway BCA does not examine the degree to which a 10-minute GO service (with a capacity in excess of 10K/hour) could provide relief on the subway system.  That relief has a value, but it is not considered here.

The subway BCA does note:

As a parallel route, the GO Richmond Hill line is a potential option for providing some off-load transit capacity for the Yonge corridor north of Steeles. At this time however, with the current fare structure, the GO service may not divert a significant number of riders from the subway.  [Par 2.64]

This raises another point.  The degree to which projected demand on the subway is a function of having a TTC fare all the way to Richmond Hill is another important issue in network planning.  However, GO fiercely defends its high farebox cost recovery ratio while ignoring that this produces offsetting costs for the TTC to handle trips that might otherwise be on the commuter rail network.  The attitude might be justified (or at least understood) when talking of inside-416 travel, but Richmond Hill is definitely GO territory.  If a cheaper GO fare shifts riders off of the subway, shouldn’t this be considered as an “investment” in alternative capacity?

The Base Case

The “base case” presumes that considerable investment will be made in the YUS including:

  • Spadina extension to Vaughan;
  • ATO implementation across entire YUS line;
  • Full roll-out of Rocket Trains on YUS line;
  • Service frequency of 105 second headways;
  • Short turn at Wilson Station;
  • Rail Yard provision as required; and
  • Yonge-Bloor station investment.  [Par 3.8, page 24]

Several of these items are currently unfunded, and there is no indication of when or if they might actually occur.

The TTC’s fleet plans include 420 “TR” cars, or 70 trains.  The service now operated requires:

  • AM Peak:  44 trains on a 2’21” headway with a scheduled short turn at St. Clair West plus 4 gap trains.
  • PM Peak:  47 trains on a 2’31” headway with no scheduled short turn plus 2 gap trains.

Wilson Station does not have provision for a short-turn operation, but this has been included north of Downsview Station.  Running all AM peak service to Downsview will require 6 more trains based on the current schedule.  (The AM peak service uses 25 trains for the Finch-Downsview service.  Hence 50 trains would be needed if the short-turn were eliminated.)

The Vaughan extension at 8.6km represents just under 30 minutes of running time at 36km/h (a commonly-cited average speed for subway lines with similar station spacing).  On a headway of 280 seconds (double the existing core headway), this would translate to about 12 trains.

The combined total fleet required for the Vaughan extension at the existing service level is, therefore, about 62 trains, a value this is tight for spares by current TTC standards.  (This will likely be achieved by having some gap trains do double duty as spares.)

Reducing the headway to 105 seconds from 140 requires 1/3 more trains, or about 23 more than the 70-train fleet, not to mention additional carhouse space and operating costs.  Moreover, operation of such a headway at Finch terminal would be challenging, to say the least.

At Bloor-Yonge Station, the cost of improvement could be over $300m [Par. 3.9] not to mention changes needed at St. George, additional entrances at now-constrained stations and the effect of transfer passengers arriving at a higher rate at interchanges with the BD subway.

All of these costs are presumed to have been borne before the BCA even starts to consider the cost and benefit of extending the subway to Richmond Hill even though at least part of them are a direct reaction to the demand that extension will trigger.  This results in understatement of the true cost of the extension.

Option 1:  A Subway to Richmond Hill Centre

The subway would be extended 7km with 5 or 6 stations from Finch to Richmond Hill.  Service would operate every 105 seconds (1’45”) to Finch and every 210 seconds (3’30”) beyond.  At an average speed of 35km/h, the one-way trip would be 12′ long.  It would add 24′ to the round trip time on the line, and at a 3’30” headway this would require 7 trains plus a spare.  (The BCA allows for 12 trains.)  Storage will be provided in an underground yard north of Richmond Hill Station.  [Par. 3.12-16]

Option 2:  A Subway to Steeles Avenue

This option would build only the first two stations on the extension (at Cummer and Steeles) with the Richmond Hill segment left for a future project.  Bus services now terminating at Finch Station would be cut back mainly to Steeles Station substantially reducing bus and passenger volumes at Finch and on Yonge south of Steeles, but requiring a large terminal at Steeles replacing much of the capacity now at Finch.

Subway service levels would be as in Option 1 with half of the trains turning back at Finch (an essential requirement to allowing Steeles terminal to operate with a conventional nearside crossover as Finch does today).  The extra round trip time would be slightly above 4 minutes, not a major addition to the overall length of  the YUS.

Although not mentioned in the BCA, there would likely be an extension of the three-track section north of Finch to Cummer Station to provide additional train storage at the north end of the Yonge line.

Option 2A:  A Subway to Steeles Avenue Plus Improved GO Service to Richmond Hill

This option is identical to Option 2 for subway service, but adds a 10-minute service on the GO rail corridor to Richmond Hill in place of the 30-minute service presumed for Options 1 and 2.

Comparison of the Options

The Metrolinx BCAs use a “multiple account evaluation” wherein the options are compared against various possible benefits and costs to arrive at a ratio supposedly expressing the net worth of the capital and future operating investment.

Travel Time Savings

“Time is Money” as they say, and the BCA assigns a value to time saved by travel on each of the options.  The value of a person hour is set at $14.24, a weighted average of $38.45 for business travel and $11.83 for everything else.  [See Appendix A, Assumptions]

Clearly, the majority of trips are going to be “non business”.  Obviously, the option that maximizes the change in trip speed for the most users will generate the highest benefit, and Option 1 easily wins on this basis.  [Table 4.1, p. 32]  However, the lion’s share of the benefits flow to existing transit users, not to new users of the network.  For Option 1, about 15% of the benefit flows to new riders, while for Options 2 and 2A, the values are 10% and 8.6% respectively.  A substantial benefit accrues to motorists through supposed reduced congestion, and this is further compounded by a presumed reduction in accident rates.

This is hard to credit if most of the transit benefit is for existing, not new transit riders.  This also begs the question of the degree to which the extension would divert auto trips to transit rather than simply improving service for current users (a laudable goal, but not the primary intent of the Metrolinx “Big Move”).  Moreover, if the majority of the benefit flows to existing riders, where does all of the new demand southbound at Wellesley come from?  Something is out of whack here in the calculations.

Other Financial Considerations

Figure 4.1 on page 35 is intriguing because it shows the uneven demand at stations.  Most of the riders on the extended subway will arrive by feeder bus with the demand being concentrated at Richmond Hill, Steeles and Finch Stations.  This begs the question of whether the oft-cited link between development and rapid transit is the fundamental factor in generating ridership here.  There is an existing population and demand for travel to central Toronto, but most of it will not walk into the new subway stations.

The incremental forecast annual revenue for the subway is $8.4m [Par 4.28, page 35], but the cost of its operation will be $14.8m [Par 4.33, page 36] for a cost recovery ratio of 57%.  However, that calculation assigns all of the fare revenue to the extended subway and ignores the cost of providing capacity for the new riders elsewhere in the system.  This is a misleadingly rosy portrayal of the economics.  Of course, a good chunk of the operating cost goes to serving existing riders (who contribute no new revenue) by providing them with a faster, more convenient trip north of Finch Station.  The cost recovery on their share is zero.  There is a benefit in reduced operating cost to York Region for bus service (and in York Region fares for riders who can walk to the subway), but this does not accrue to the TTC.

For Option 2A, there is a considerable net loss due to the provision of more in GO service to Richmond Hill.  The BCA does not state the additional fare revenue GO will obtain, nor does it give an estimate of GO ridership.  The benefits diversion of trips to GO might provide are similarly not included.  This is a fundamental misstatement of the value of Option 2A, and added to the absence of an Option “1A” (full subway plus GO) might make one think that GO improvements are deliberately downplayed here to improve the case for the subway alone.

From this point onward, any attempt to quantify the costs and benefits is meaningless because of errors and omissions in the methodology.  I cannot, however, ignore the “economic benefits during construction” component of the analysis.

In brief, the premise is that every $1b of investment in infrastructure generates jobs either directly in construction or indirectly through supplies, and the project has a lasting economic impact in the jobs needed to operate and maintain the line.  Self-evidently, the more expensive the project, the greater the economic benefit.  However, the type of jobs (e.g. what social segments benefit) and the geographic distribution (little of the high tech components of control systems and vehicles comes from Ontario or even from Canada) are not considered in comparing the effects of capital spending.

What is missing is an analysis of how else the money might be spent to other effect either on alternative transit projects and services (both on the capital and operating account), or elsewhere in society as a whole.  One could build a different line, or simply leave the money in unmarked small bills in strategic locations around the region.

Such an analysis is fundamental to the comparison of various transit projects, but it is completely missing here and in all other Metrolinx BCAs.  Capital intensive projects may help the construction industry, but they do not necessarily help the transit system — that is the heart of the debate over subway proposals for Scarborough today.

Land Values

Every proposal has its potential to increase land values and support regional growth in a transit-friendly way.  This of course assumes that development will actually occur around transit lines and increase demand for them, and indeed that municipalities will force such development to occur and leave empty fields far from transit.  This is rarely what happens because most development is car-oriented.

Without question, building a subway and other municipal infrastructure makes land worth more, and that is a public investment that will be recouped by private landowners.  Without question some of that profit should flow back to public coffers through Development Charges and future taxes.  However, there is typically quite a lag time between provision of the infrastructure and actual development, not to mention an unwillingness from the development industry to actually pay toward what is provided to make their lands more valuable.

It is important when looking at the potential of various schemes to raise land values to remember that the up front public investment has a cost.  Moreover, the Development Charges regime (provincial legislation) demands that only the share of costs due to new development go into the calculation of DCs.  The value to existing riders cannot be included even though the investment might not have happened without hope of the future development.

Summary

The Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis for the Richmond Hill Subway is fundamentally deficient in that it does not review an option for both a subway extension and substantially improved GO service.  Moreover, the BCA assumes a potential capacity for the subway system in excess of what realistically can be provided at reasonable levels of comfort and attractiveness, and it presumes that substantial investment in this capacity will occur separate from the Richmond Hill extension.

There is little question that a subway to Richmond Hill will be built some day, not just for political reasons, but because Yonge Street is a long-establish travel corridor.  However, more is needed than just this line, and as a region we cannot enter into the project without understanding its implications for the network as a whole.  Metrolinx does us a disservice by failing to present these implications and costs for a target year, 2031, that is not that far off in terms of major network planning and construction.

We ignored the need for more capacity into downtown over two decades ago, and now we must pay the price with subway and GO Transit expansion.

48 thoughts on “Metrolinx Benefits Case Analysis for the Richmond Hill Subway

  1. You say:

    The Vaughan extension at 8.6km represents just under 30 minutes of running time at 36km/h (a commonly-cited average speed for subway lines with similar station spacing). On a headway of 280 seconds (double the existing core headway), this would translate to about 12 trains.

    I think your calculation is wrong, if the average speed is 36km then doing 8.6km will take about 15 minutes.

    Steve: You have to come back from Vaughan again. The round trip is 17.2km which is just a tad under half an hour at 36km/hr. Trust me, I think you will not want to move to Vaughan permanently.

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  2. It is unrealistic to get a really high ridership projection for the Yonge extension north of Finch, even though the subway south of Finch is overcrowded and can’t accept very many more riders. This would require both massive redevelopment north of Finch, and either massive employment growth in North York Centre or the downtown relief line/Richmond Hill GO expansion. I do not want to think what the Yonge line south of Bloor would look like otherwise, it would make the Tozai Line (busiest subway line in Tokyo) look good in comparison.

    However we also get what I suspect is an unrealistically low ridership projection for the Sheppard subway extension/light rail. Both the Yonge St and Sheppard Ave corridors are fairly dense, my guess is that their densities are fairly similar. However Sheppard has the same issue as the Yonge line extension: either there is a lot of employment growth at North York Centre, or there is something to relieve the Yonge line (either Richmond Hill GO expansion or the DRL or Stouffville GO expansion or Rob Ford’s proposal to interline Sheppard and Bloor-Danforth). There wouldn’t be much room for new riders on the Yonge line south of Sheppard otherwise. The only real difference between Yonge line extension and Sheppard line extension is that a transfer is needed to get downtown for the latter (unless we interline Sheppard with Bloor-Danforth), otherwise I think that the density is rather similar.

    Also I suspect that Richmond Hill GO is not a very good way of relieving the Yonge line. Two reasons: the alignment south of Sheppard is winding and doesn’t serve many densely populated areas, and the northern end of the line has heavy freight traffic and is difficult to expand. I suspect that tunnelling a subway to Major Mackenzie would be the only way to provide frequent service to Yonge/Major Mackenzie because of CN. Also the only good way of relieving the Yonge line is a subway along Don Mills going as far north as Finch or Highway 7, despite the high cost.

    Steve: As I mentioned in the article, the lion’s share of the ridership on the Yonge line would originate on bus feeders, not with walk-in trade. The issue is not the development at the stations, but around the corridor and close enough to be attracted to it. This is a difference between the Sheppard and Yonge corridors.

    As for the Richmond Hill line, Metrolinx owns it, and is already studying double-tracking the line for service expansion.

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  3. I still wonder how Metrolinx can fail to make the correct complete and in depth analysis that the Yonge St. corridor and the Richmond Hill-Union origin-destination corridor demand.

    It should be obvious that this is an ideal opportunity for transit development for both GO and the TTC as well as the city of Toronto as well as the development opportunities along Yonge St.

    GO benefits from catering to a long distance travel market and offering a de facto express service that the TTC cannot. TTC benefits by picking up more passengers along Yonge St, and benefits by diverting long distance passengers onto the GO system. There are also the development benefits along Yonge St. as well as the redevelopment options north of Steeles. Finally, the option of being able to travel quickly into Toronto at almost any time of day and avoid the Don Valley Parkway is a huge benefit for drivers.

    In another post I wondered what kind of service improvement would be necessary to shift drivers onto GO Transit service.

    GO Transit doubled the frequency on the Lakeshore line but only recorded a 25% increase over the summer (which would presumably have grown in September with people returning to work and school) which begs the question of how much more is required to see a significant increase in demand and how much in potential costs GO is willing to absorb.

    Steve: Be careful here. The riding before the change was concentrated in the peak, and they have not made much change in capacity during that period. It will take substantial off-peak growth to represent a substantial percentage change in overall ridership on the line.

    I would like to see all day GO Transit rail service up to Richmond Hill Centre with any TTC extension, along with a fare system that encourages appropriate modal share for long distance, middle distance and local trips.

    Unfortunately it seems that the current studies are neither holistic nor complete.

    There is also another issue that has to be raised which is the fact that the Richmond Hill line runs through a flood zone in the lower Don Valley, and any plan to increase service frequencies will require flood-protection measures far beyond what is needed for the current limited peak hour service.

    Steve: At a recent meeting, Metrolinx staff mentioned that part of their response to the storm effects was that the planned double-tracking of the corridor would also include rebuilding both with a more robust base and at a higher elevation where possible.

    I’m guessing that study is also happening in isolation….like the others. That means that at some point Metrolinx is literally going to have to study the studies and create a new study.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  4. I really would like to see a model applied where subway riders getting off at a station in York Region (Richmond Hill to Clark, inclusive) would have to travel through two fare gates. One of the fare gates, closest to the subway platform access, would be pay on the way in only, while the other, farthest from the subway platform access, would require a fare both on entrance and on exit. Access to YRT connections would be made between the two fare gates.

    This would at least partially rectify the distortion in demand distribution caused by fare structures as they currently exist. The TTC has a mandate to service Toronto, so service to York Region, it could be reasonably argued, is a premium [extra fare] service. The various demand model results from such, particularly as compared to GO with its YRT co-fare, would be of great interest.

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  5. Richmond Hill GO line is not what I would call fast. The very meandering (although scenic) route it takes makes it not much faster than a subway. I also imagine double-tracking this line will be very complicated and expensive.

    For these reasons, I have little faith much improvement will come to it in my lifetime, and the subway will be more attractive both as an investment and as a passenger.

    The other, more direct GO train lines offer much better potential.

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  6. Why bother doing these studies at all… given the story of the Scarborough LRT/Subway…

    This is the “gravy” rob Ford was talking about… just as the federal conservatives gutted the Census and don’t care about science, lets stop paying for experts and planning since the their reports end up in the recycling bin anyway.

    By the time this line is ready to be built, Doug Ford will be Mayor (not that Doug Ford, but the other one, Rob Ford’s son!) and the rest of us will be retired or dead.

    In any case, it is obvious that the next step would likely be a 2 stop extension to Steeles… we know that it will keep going north, as opposed to the abandoned idea of “looping” the subway over to York University – an idea that was looked at but obviously can’t go ahead with the Spadina/Allen Subway going up to Vaughan.

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  7. I’d love to see the Yonge Line extended, but only to Steeles Ave. In addition I’d like to see more service is implemented on GO’s Richmond Hill line. With these options, there will be better service to Richmond Hill/York Region.

    The Steeles station will allow YRT buses to turn there, freeing up space on Yonge Street.

    But we still need a DRL. And an LRT along Steeles.

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  8. Does anyone recall why there is no station contemplated in ‘downtown’ Thornhill near Centre St. It is the densest area the line will travel through. Maybe it was in the 2009 report, but I don’t see it in the 2013 report. Something about elevations/station depth?

    An observation: Using the 38,000 capacity forecast (which may be tough to impossible for the TTC to actually achieve, according to Steve), and the fact that 1/2 the trains are short turned at Finch, I get a capacity of 19,000 north of Finch. Yet the graph of 2031 AM peak hour demand projections in the report shows 21,000 at Cummer, 1 station north of Finch. Oops. I guess this is one reason why Metrolinx is playing loose with the capacity limits and saying it’s really 44,000.

    Another observation: assuming PM peak hour demand is similarly 21,000 at Cummer , Finch station is going to be a big problem. Lots of passengers on short-turning trains will need to transfer and there won’t be room enough for them. Finch could become a microcosm of the problems seen at Y/B and points further south.

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  9. This report gives us some interesting data…

    Present values of options 1 and 2:

    Option 1 – 6.5km, 6 station, about 2.65 billion
    Option 2 – 1.8km, 2 station, about .97 billion

    Somebody else can do the math better than I, no doubt…

    Give or take, what I get is a formula whereby:

    150-200 million fixed costs to start up (boring machines etc.)
    200 million per station
    200 million per km

    Steve – what numbers do you use?

    Steve: You have to be careful with the PV numbers because they include the discounted value of future operating costs. This is partly a function of the level of service. Current costs are a bit over $300m/km for the Spadina line with stations roughly every 1km. Depending on its complexity and depth, a station will run anywhere from bare bones at $100m up to at least $150m. The station cost is included in the per km cost, but you also need to allow $25-50m/km or so just for the trains and associated storage with the value depending on the projected service level.

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  10. Watching the constant stream of buses running on Yonge between Finch and Steeles, and especially the colossal waste of time at Bishop Avenue (transit priority please!), I can’t help thinking that eliminating existing buses would make a significant contribution to the cost of a subway extension to Steeles. I’m surprised to see no mention of those offset costs in a report like this. Is there any information available making that direct comparison?

    Steve: I have not seen any estimate of the savings, although it is possible that this exists in one of the unpublished background reports cited in the BCA.

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  11. Steve:

    “As for the Richmond Hill line, Metrolinx owns it, and is already studying double-tracking the line for service expansion.”

    I think that they only own the track south of the York Sub; CN would not sell off its main line to Western Canada.

    I would support an extension to Steeles to get the buses off Yonge St. Beyond that York can build whatever they want, as long as it does not involve running subway trains north.

    Steve: Yes, north of the York Subdivision, any increase in GO capacity needs to take CN’s requirements into account. That does not mean that we don’t plan for improved service. Conversely, if the rail network outside of GO territory is going to be constrained for traffic growth on GO, then this needs to be quantified and incorporated in The Big Move so that we stop pretending there is all sorts of reserve capacity. Some of the demand projections for future GO expansion include very frequent service over track that will always be in CN/CP hands.

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  12. Extension of subway to Richmond Hill Centre with the subway station properly integrated with GO Trains (at both Richmond Hill station and at Langstaff station) and increased GO Train frequency will be a very good idea. Scarborough subway has been approved, Richmond Hill subway is now on the table, Sheppard subway also looks likely, a Downtown Relief Line is also possible in the next 25 years and so I am afraid that the Eglinton LRT will be an orphan line (an outcast much like the Scarborough RT line is an outcast to the subway system which is precisely why people hate the RT so much). Eglinton LRT was an excellent idea in the context of Transit City but since Transit City has been thrown out by the mayor (for better or for worse), a re-evaluation of the Eglinton Line as a subway is on order. According to various sources that I have found, the Eglinton tunnels are BIG enough for a subway. Bomabrdier which is supposed to provide us with Eglinton LRT rolling stock also makes our subway cars and it also sells the same LRT vehicle (Flexity Freedom) to many jurisdictions around the world and so there will be little costs and penalties incurred by switching the Eglinton Line to subway at this point (Bombardier can sell the Eglinton vehicles to other jurisdictions and besides, they have not even been made yet and so the order can be easily switched to subway cars instead). An Eglinton subway to Don Mills and Eglinton also makes utmost sense in the context of a future Downtown Relief Line. From Don Mills and Eglinton a state of the art BRT can go all the way to the Eglinton GO station should suffice and the BRT can use the LRT right of way already planned (so no additional costs and only savings in the form or tracks and overhead lines). Alternatively, the LRT can start at Don Mills and Eglinton and go east from there as planned.

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  13. “one [might] think that GO improvements are deliberately downplayed here to improve the case for the subway alone.”

    The Richmond Hill line passes through some of the last few natural forests remaining in the Don Valley and so the line cannot and should not be double tracked at the expense of destroying forests. That being said the line can still be double tracked for almost all of the route and combined with a modern signalling system and electrification, frequent 2 way all day service is possible.

    Moaz Yusuf Ahmad says:

    “There is also another issue that has to be raised which is the fact that the Richmond Hill line runs through a flood zone in the lower Don Valley, and any plan to increase service frequencies will require flood-protection measures far beyond what is needed for the current limited peak hour service.”

    Well, no need to run the GO trains on that line during and immediately after heavy rainfall and also it rarely rains so heavily in the area anyways and so that should not be a problem (the overhead power lines should be high enough to avoid problem during most floods). By preserving the few remaining forests and wetlands in and around our ravines, we can reduce the amount of flooding in the area in general. A limited platform can be built underneath the Eglinton bridge to provide connectivity with Eglinton transit (an underground subway or underground LRT will be better here and reduce the need to cut trees to provide connection with Eglinton Transit). Oriole station should also be moved a little bit north to provide direct connection with the Sheppard subway.

    Steve: The Don floods quite regularly from Pottery Road south (I have a perfect view of this from my apartment just east of the Viaduct). Without question, natural areas help to work against flooding, but we have do deal with the vast areas that are already paved and drain into the Don River system far north of here. That drainage pattern isn’t going to change any day soon.

    Overhead power supply will not solve the problem because the issue has to do with stability of the trackbed when it is underwater.

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  14. I can only hope that the subway demand projections north of Steeles are somewhat exaggerated, in order to strengthen the case for subway extension.

    If the said projections are accurate, then even a fully blown Relief Line up to Sheppard or Steeles may not be sufficient to resolve the Yonge’s capacity crunch. In that case, we need both DRL and quad-tracking of Yonge in order to enable express service (and we know that the latter is astronomically expensive and won’t happen).

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  15. @Ross Trusler:

    Centre St was considered in 2009 but rejected because it was concluded, as I recall, that the risks and mitigation involved in constructing a station in a heritage district wasn’t worth it for an area that cannot have any redevelopment.

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  16. Steve: Be careful here. The riding before the change was concentrated in the peak, and they have not made much change in capacity during that period. It will take substantial off-peak growth to represent a substantial percentage change in overall ridership on the line.

    I wasn’t expecting a 100% increase in (off peak?) ridership to go with the 100% increase in off-peak service … just saying that having an idea of what GO Transit was expecting, along with what the service expansion has cost them, would be interesting to know.

    I’m guessing that the cost increases aren’t that high and they are just paying for fuel and extra crews and maintenance … this coming against the savings from using Bombardier crew instead of CN crew, etc. Since they already own the trains I’m sure their capital costs are low.

    Steve: Also, they save on all the dead-head trips for trains that now remain in service outside of the peak.

    The key factor is that every single person I have spoken to loves the half-hourly service, even though they know it is not at frequencies that let a person “tear up your schedule” or “show up and wait”. That tells me that more people are ready and waiting to take GO Trains downtown … maybe even GO buses if the reliability can be guaranteed with bus lanes.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  17. Originally there was supposed to be dedicated bus lanes running from the Richmond Hill Centre all the way to Finch. If I remember correctly, they were axed due to local opposition and the vague promises of a new subway line in “the near future”. I wish that they had been built as planned. Although the capacity is nowhere near enough, it would certainly better than what transit riders are stuck with right now.

    Out of curiosity, I’ve read some other ideas for Yonge Street, such as this one.

    To make a long story short, this site’s idea is to extend the subway to Steeles, then use either an underground or aboveground LRT which would be operated and maintained by YRT instead of the TTC. My impression is that they are aiming for something similar to the Sheppard LRT.

    Any thoughts?

    Steve: A generic issue north of Steeles, regardless of the technology, is that giving up road space is something the region does not want to do, especially where the right-of-way is constrained. This affects proposals for either a BRT or LRT implementation. Also, with the projected demand, surface LRT would work, but with difficulty especially if it did not have a continuous reserved lane.

    Putting the LRT underground gets us inevitably into the question of where it would surface, and like the Eglinton line (and others) there would be calls for just “one more” kilometre underground. It is worth noting that almost all of the projected boardings on the Richmond Hill subway are in Richmond Hill itself. In other words, the traffic will be mainly what comes in on feeder routes and the full capacity of the line will be needed at least as far north as Richmond Hill Centre. The real question is where the transition from subway to some form of surface rapid transit should occur at or north of Richmond Hill.

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  18. If the Yonge line were extended (as well as all the new lines and extensions in the rest of the system), then Bloor-Yonge station would need pushers. Youth unemployment is also becoming high, so it would provide great opportunities to create jobs for teens and young adults.

    It works in Tokyo.

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  19. This is a classic example of ignoring the network effects of a proposed project.

    In particular, improving the Richmond Hill GO line to 10 minute headways has the potential to provide significant relief to the Yonge subway line if a proper transfer is created at the Leslie subway/Oriole GO station transfer point. This allows the Sheppard Subway/LRT to act as a feeder line to the GO train.

    This becomes even more important when the Sheppard LRT is completed. A large proportion of the new traffic generated by the LRT will want to go downtown via the Yonge line if they cannot transfer to the GO train at Leslie station. But the Yonge line is already over capacity south of Sheppard. Problems!

    Yet this whole network effect issue is ignored by the BCA. Starting with ignoring the very existence of Oriole GO station! From page 13:

    “A GO rail service also operates to and from downtown, stopping at Langstaff and terminating at the Richmond Hill GO station, approximately nine kilometres north of Richmond Hill.”

    But wait, it gets worse…

    The Sheppard LRT is not the only thing that will put added pressure on the Yonge line that could be relieved by a simple transfer to the RH GO train. Right now, the Finch Corridor Cycle Trail project is currently under construction in the Hydro right-of-way. By providing a fast, safe, direct and convenient route straight into the Finch subway station, this will add a lot of passengers onto the Yonge subway line.

    If there were 10 minute GO service, a lot of those people would instead transfer to the RH line at Old Cummer station. But this station and this network effect to relieve the Yonge subway line was ignored.

    In short, although this Benefits Case Analysis supposedly looks about how 10 minute GO service on the RH line would relieve the Yonge subway, it only looks at one station and ignores the network effects.

    The BCA totally ignores the relief that the RH GO line could provide to the Yonge subway by taking passengers transferring from the Leslie subway station at Oriole and by passengers transferring from the FCCT at Old Cummer.

    Steve: Moreover, the only configuration that includes the GO service has only a Steeles subway extension. The benefits associated with going further north — more riders, more diverted trips from autos, more development potential — are not included and so this option looks like a non-starter. Meanwhile in the GO-only BCA, the Richmond Hill line looks really great. How can the same consultant produce two studies with diametrically opposed conclusions? Maybe because the sponsors of the studies have diametrically opposed agendas?

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  20. Steve wrote:

    Notable by its absence is an option of both a full subway line to Richmond Hill and improved GO service or any analysis of how demand would divide between the two routes.

    Is it just me or am I detecting a shift by Metrolinx away from GO transit expansion? An earlier BCA from June 2010 for various GO rail options showed positive benefits for expanding the Richmond Hill line to two-way all day service. Other GO system improvements also seem to be moving further down the priority list as well (Milton expansion and electrification for example).

    We have been wondering why GO can’t offer better service for travellers within the 416 area. Now it seems TTC subway expansion is intended to solve the major transit problems in the 905 region north of Steeles. Because GO/Metrolinx didn’t inherit high capacity multi-tracked rights-of-way like they did on the Lakeshore they aren’t willing to bite the bullet and spend the money to upgrade the heavy rail corridors heading north from the city.

    Whatever happened to the idea of GO providing the regional service and each municipality providing their own local service? Its nice to have integration to avoid transfers and paying multiple fares but if you start treating the YUS subway as a regional system it would be more appropriate for Metrolinx to take over the line and pay for its operation.

    Steve: And the irony is that Metrolinx also seems to be trying to find reasons to NOT build the DRL by using capacity elsewhere. The biggest problem with that organization is that it plans in secret and we have no idea what this week’s marching orders may be from Queen’s Park.

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  21. We shouldn’t even be thinking about a Yonge subway extension until we complete the Bloor/Danforth/McCowan line and loop it continuously west along Sheppard, as well as the DRL heading north on Pape to Thornecliffe Park, then north on Don Mills to Sheppard.

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  22. Kevin Love said:

    The Sheppard LRT is not the only thing that will put added pressure on the Yonge line that could be relieved by a simple transfer to the RH GO train. Right now, the Finch Corridor Cycle Trail project is currently under construction in the Hydro right-of-way. By providing a fast, safe, direct and convenient route straight into the Finch subway station, this will add a lot of passengers onto the Yonge subway line.

    I have not seen any predictions on use, but I doubt that 60 ppdph (my estimate) would be the straw that breaks the (Yonge) camels back.

    I do agree that better connections (but mostly fare integration) between GO and TTC is needed. Assuming you do not live inside the Ikea, who would take the Sheppard subway 2km from Don Mills or Bayview to Leslie. Even if the transfer was better, $3 for that short trip is not worth it when they have to pay another full fare. They will either drive, or go to Yonge and pay only one fare.

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  23. As Kevin Love found on the Page 13 of the Benefit Case Analysis:

    “A GO rail service also operates to and from downtown, stopping at Langstaff and terminating at the Richmond Hill GO station, approximately nine kilometres north of Richmond Hill Centre.”

    This sentence is remarkable as it contains 3 errors in less than 3 lines of text. Not only did they forget the Oriole and Old Cummer GO stations, but in addition, they think that the Richmond Hill GO station is located 9 km north of Richmond Hill Centre. In fact, the two are only 4 km apart.

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  24. Bruce K. said:

    Is it just me or am I detecting a shift by Metrolinx away from GO transit expansion?

    and

    Whatever happened to the idea of GO providing the regional service and each municipality providing their own local service? Its nice to have integration to avoid transfers and paying multiple fares but if you start treating the YUS subway as a regional system it would be more appropriate for Metrolinx to take over the line and pay for its operation.

    I remember Steve talking about internal disagreement within the TTC with respect to subways and LRTs so I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some kind of internal disagreement with Metrolinx and their GO Transit subsidiary about what kind of service GO should be offering. GO does have that high cost recovery ratio that I’m sure many would want to defend, and the power of subways to generate publicity is a lot greater than that of buses or LRT. Plus if GO transit does expand the municipalities will be obliged to offer better transit service to GO stations, which I am sure is a cost many don’t want to deal with.

    Steve: And the irony is that Metrolinx also seems to be trying to find reasons to NOT build the DRL by using capacity elsewhere. The biggest problem with that organization is that it plans in secret and we have no idea what this week’s marching orders may be from Queen’s Park.

    I’m wondering what would take to stop the gerrymandering of BCA scope and just get Metrolinx to focus on all the options for Richmond Hill. I am sure that there are thousands of drivers from Richmond Hill who would happily *not* drive down the 404/DVP if they would use GO Transit instead. I’m sure many would switch to GO if the SB bus lane resumed from south of the railway bridge to Don Mills as well, since the buses could bypass a lot more traffic.

    By the way, what about the rail line that runs on the east side of the Don River, crossing the valley near the Brickworks … I know that it connects to the CP North Toronto railway and there is a missing connection to the Richmond Hill line just east of Leslie and north of Eglinton.

    If that connection could be rebuilt could the Richmond Hill line run on one set of tracks going south and the other set of tracks going north? Double tracking would still be necessary but not south of Lawrence.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: The old CPR Don Branch from downtown to the CPR line at Leaside has been owned by GO for several years, but the line is inactive and the bridge near the Brickworks would have to be replaced due to structural problems. The connection north from Leaside to the former CNR Bala Sub has not had any track on it for years, and it is now a bike path. The line passes through residential areas where opposition would be extremely strong to regular, frequent GO service (the route crosses Lawrence Avenue just east of Leslie). Reactivating this is a complete non-starter.

    There was a proposal some years back to build a curve from the CPR near Wynford down into the valley to connect with the Bala Sub, but this does not eliminate a more fundamental problem with using the Don Sub for Richmond Hill service. All of the GO traffic would have to cross the CPR main line, and on a 10 minute headway, that would not leave a lot of room for CP’s freight traffic.

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  25. Richmond hill and Vaughan seem like logical end points for a subway given their development over the years but as people noted something has got to give and at the end of the day the only real way things such as the DRL will get built is when people have to wait for 4 or 5 trains because of the number of people taking the cheaper alternative to GO, VIVA and YRT.

    Richmond Hill Centre is a fair sized node and it makes sense to run a subway there but again there is a time and place for everything. First Richmond Hill, next Newmarket.

    I wonder if anyone has put any thought into raising fares to align with YRT and VIVA if the subway is extended to Richmond Hill? If people in the 905 want to use our subway it’s only fair to make them pay what they normally would for YRT and VIVA. Simply put, a line extending into York region will cost more and as a result fares should be raised.

    Another discussion for another time perhaps.

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  26. As always, some great analysis but I’d beg to differ on a couple of points.

    -You write that “Richmond Hill is definitely GO territory,” but I think it only seems that way from downtown. The Yonge terminal would barely be in Richmond Hill so it’s really only going through Thornhill which is practically walking distance from Finch Station and with entirely contiguous development all the way up (i.e. The world doesn’t suddenly turn “suburban” when you hit Steeles.

    The GO line runs through the Don Valley so it effectively only stops at Union Station. That’s great for a lot of people but it’s a very different service from what the subway would provide.

    Steve: My comment refers to the way GO chooses to serve, or not to serve, various areas. Richmond Hill is in the 905, and GO cannot beg off by claiming that their mandate does not include travel inside of Toronto.

    -You also say that they’re playing up the land value aspect because it takes time and most development is car-oriented etc. But the secondary plan is already in place for Markham’s section of the Yonge/7 growth centre and it’s the opposite of car-oriented.

    Richmond Hill’s plan isn’t quite as ambitious (I think the modal split targets are 65% non-car for Markham) but they are also extremely forward thinking and, again, already on the books. Markham and Vaughan also have intensification plans in place for the Yonge corridor up to there, which puts them ahead of Toronto, north of Finch.

    The developers were intimately involved in the Markham process (again, less so in RH) and have made it pretty clear that if the subway is announced tomorrow, they’ll be putting up 40-storey condos next week. Metrus owns all the RH land and maybe they’re not quite as enthusiastic since they have active leases but, again, if the subway actually gets going I doubt they’ll shed too many tears over having to shutter Silver City and Home Depot.

    Maybe I’m optimistic or naive but I think the game has changed in that regard and ignoring the direct connection between the line and the transit-oriented development that’s already on the books and waiting for it, is a mistake. The downstream capacity issues are very real but so are the larger, anti-sprawl growth plans contingent on the extension.

    Steve: Without question developers are waiting to pounce, but look at the station-by-station demand chart. The heavy-hitters are Richmond Hill and Steeles Stations, and this suggests that the majority of riders will arrive by feeder bus, not as walk-ins from nearby buildings. If this is wrong, the problem may be with the demand model, but my general comment about the claimed transit-development linkage is that it is not as strong a part of overall demand, at least in the short to medium term, as it’s made out to be. The demand comes from a much wider catchment area, and that wider area is unlikely to be subject to Development Charges that can be used to fund the project.

    IMHO, as soon as there is actually funding, this should move forward (in large part because of the obvious necessity and how much work has already been done) with the DRL following close behind. The system should be able to handle a couple of years of capacity constraint between when the two lines open and you might just keep a few suburbanites out of their cars in the meantime.

    (Oh, and in answer to someone who asked above about Centre St, IIRC the issue had to do with the cost, lack of intensification potential and the topography, since the train will be heading down and crossing the valley floor. Clark isn’t that far away and the feeling was it could handle the traffic for the area.)

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  27. I wonder if there is some benefit to making a plan to “close the loop” given that the green belt is essentially going to constrain any development above Richmond hill and Vaughan. It would make sense for the Ontario government to essentially stop the potential for expansion in the interest of improving reliability and shorter headways, and protecting the greenbelt by removing the possibility for expansions up to Aurora. This would also essentially force a DRL to go above Eglinton eventually as there would be a clear demarcation that any transport north of Richmond Hill would be GO based. It would also create an n (upside down u) from which Vaughan could intensify within (as has occurred in Toronto). With their brt’s and potentially lrt’s providing service from subway stations east and west across the top of the n.

    Steve: A subway line from Richmond Hill to Vaughan really would be a huge expense to deal with an operational constraint. There has already been talk of taking the Richmond Hill line further north, although I’m not sure how serious this is.

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  28. Karl Junkin said:

    Centre St was considered in 2009 but rejected because it was concluded, as I recall, that the risks and mitigation involved in constructing a station in a heritage district wasn’t worth it for an area that cannot have any redevelopment.

    There’s many examples along the Bloor-Danforth where there’s been little development around the actual station locations, yet they can justify their existence. The important thing to note is the potential bus connections: 77 Centre and a rerouted 2 Milliken – these routes will feed passengers from afar to this stop.

    Frankly this stop (which could straddle the block from John to Centre) is more warranted than the Langstaff/Longbridge stop which is being built solely to boost new development. A 2 kilometre gap shouldn’t exist in-between stations.

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  29. Moaz said:

    “GO Transit doubled the frequency on the Lakeshore line but only recorded a 25% increase over the summer (which would presumably have grown in September with people returning to work and school) which begs the question of how much more is required to see a significant increase in demand and how much in potential costs GO is willing to absorb.”

    Is the 25% increase in off peak ridership, total ridership (I doubt that) or what? The problem with statistics is that without a corresponding base they are meaningless. An almost immediate increase of 25% is not really bad because it means that there was a latent demand that was not being met. With a little juggling of their schedule GO could probably save one train and crew which would save some money. If they could cut train size in the off peak and reduce crews size by using a sane set of operating rules they could save a lot more money.

    I took the train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam and back yesterday, 28.50 Euros, not cheap. There were 7 trains between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday, better service than anything in Canada.

    Rotterdam now runs a Metro Train to Den Haag, trip takes about 1 hour and runs with cars similar to Calgary C trains.

    Steve: The 25% increase is in off-peak riding as reported in the GO Transit Update at the last Metrolinx board meeting.

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  30. Michael Hobble wrote:

    Frankly this stop (which could straddle the block from John to Centre) is more warranted than the Langstaff/Longbridge stop which is being built solely to boost new development.

    The Langstaff/Longbridge stop will be the major Park & Ride stop on the new extension. Initially there will be surface parking for 2,000 cars but this could always be increased to 6,000-8,000 by building parking garages as they are doing at some GO stations. Congestion on the local road system may be the limiting factor.

    I see the whole highway 7/407 development corridor looking very much like the 401/Sheppard Ave corridor in Toronto. As the population density rises so does the vehicle density. The modal shift to transit is insufficient to offset the population growth and gridlock results at the major intersections along the corridor. Yonge street will likely be the first to feel these effects because there is little opportunity for widening the road.

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  31. Joshua Tossavainen wrote:

    Out of curiosity, I’ve read some other ideas for Yonge Street, such as this one.

    I am the author of that suggestion. It was created with the idea that LRT is better suited to the location in York Region and that for the same money as building subway infrastructure (that would only be used to half its potential due to the need to turn half the trains back south of Steeles), LRT infrastructure could reach closer to more people.

    Furthermore, the idea of building subway to Richmond Hill Centre partly hinges on the myth that a one-seat ride from that location to downtown is faster and better. The myth in this is that over 90% of users still have to get to Richmond Hill Centre and waste time traveling vertically to get to that one-seat ride. An LRT implementation from Major Mac to Steeles, with an underground platform-to-platform change to subway would involved less time overall for a vast majority of the users.

    The initial option (one that I am not fond of) would have the LRT placed underground to just south of RHC. Using numbers that are a couple of years old now, the surplus funding for this instead of full subway could then take the line at grade north to Major Mac and east to Woodbine, which would provide far more commuters with a faster connection to Steeles where an easier transfer to subway would be.

    My preference is option 2 where the underground connection with the subway at Steeles would come above ground just north of there. The savings from this would be able to fund extending the line all the way north to Elgin Mills Road, including a 1 km tunnel between Major Mac and Crosby where there simply is not enough room for surface running. Additionally, the segment of the VIVA purple route from RHC west to Dufferin could also be upgraded to LRT.

    Simply put, for the same money as building subway between Steeles and RHC, LRT infrastructure could provide that plus about 18 km of additional line, reaching far more people and giving them less travel time to downtown.

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  32. Steve said: The study looks at four options for the Richmond Hill line:

    A Base Case assuming substantial additions to existing subway capacity, leaving things as they are with buses serving the existing terminal at Finch Station.
    Option 1: Full subway extension to Richmond Hill Centre close to the existing GO station.
    Option 2: A two-stop subway extension to Steeles with buses serving the area beyond.
    Option 2A: A Steeles subway extension accompanied by improved GO service on the Richmond Hill corridor.

    Strange how they only looked at improved GO service if no improvements were made north of Steeles and the Yonge line was extended to Steeles. One would think that there would be value in improving bus service between Steeles and Highway 7 regardless of the level of GO service and how far north the Yonge line was extended.

    Of course, if the whole point of the study was to sell a subway extension and not to improve transit…

    Joshua Tossavainen said:

    To make a long story short, this site’s idea is to extend the subway to Steeles, then use either an underground or aboveground LRT which would be operated and maintained by YRT instead of the TTC.

    The problem with an LRT is that CN’s York sub runs in a deep trench when it passes under Yonge street and there is a steep grade between Clark and Doncaster. The end result is that you will need a deep tunnel between Clark and Steeles and you begin to wonder if it’s just easier to extend the subway to Centre which would inevitably lead to the question “Why stop there?”.

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  33. Ben says:
    September 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    “We shouldn’t even be thinking about a Yonge subway extension until we complete the Bloor/Danforth/McCowan line and loop it continuously west along Sheppard, …”

    Show me one projection that demonstrates that this loop would carry more than what can be handled by buses. There is a need for better service east of McCowan that would not be served by your loop. The loop line is too long to manage effectively as different headways would be needed on different sections which would be difficult to implement without doing lots of short turns.

    George Bell says:
    September 30, 2013 at 1:28 am

    “I wonder if there is some benefit to making a plan to “close the loop” given that the green belt is essentially going to constrain any development above Richmond hill and Vaughan. It would make sense for the Ontario government to essentially stop the potential for expansion in the interest of improving reliability and shorter headways, and protecting the greenbelt by removing the possibility for expansions up to Aurora.”

    What is with “closing the loop”? It is a colossal waste of money for no benefit. The money would be much better spent building a real line in Toronto than some fanciful line near the Oak Ridges Moraine . We are not rebuilding the Hydro Metropolitan line to Sutton but something useful, and since most of the money to operate it will come from Toronto forget about York.

    TJ says;

    “You write that “Richmond Hill is definitely GO territory,” but I think it only seems that way from downtown. The Yonge terminal would barely be in Richmond Hill so it’s really only going through Thornhill which is practically walking distance from Finch Station and with entirely contiguous development all the way up (i.e. The world doesn’t suddenly turn “suburban” when you hit Steeles.”

    If it is practically within walking distance then let them walk. What stops at Steels is the 416 tax base whom you would like to subsidize service into York. Remember that you live in York not Toronto and Toronto does not have to pay to subsidize or solve your transit problems. The TTC should make it mandatory to pay an extra fare to exit the Vaughan Subway extension. Given the length of the extension an extra half fare for this service is not extraordinary.

    The Yonge subway should end at Steeles, to get all the York buses of the street in Toronto, and the TTC should build an underground connection to the North side of Steeles where York could build any thing they wanted, pay for it and subsidize it.

    It is time that residents of York and other near 905 area remember that they are not paying any of the subsidies or costs for transit in the 416. If they want better connections then they better be prepared to pay all the extra costs involved, capital and operating. If they had to pay these the municipalities would be a lot quieter than they are when Toronto ends up paying most of the operating cost and a lot of the capital maintenance. Perhaps when the TRs reach life expectancy Toronto should only buy enough cars to serve the areas south of Steeles and tell York if you want service to continue buy the cars.

    Steve: And again, after a blast against 905 freeloaders, please remember that the subsidy the TTC receives from Queen’s Park (some of which is 416 money anyhow) pays for less than 20% of the TTC’s operating deficit, a number which will rise once subways north of Steeles are opened at a net operating loss because so many of the subway passengers are already paying a TTC fare.

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  34. Long-time reader, first-time commenting.

    One thing I noticed that has been ignored is that GO Transit is expanding northward. GO has recently built a second track to parallel the CN Bala Sub north of Elgin Mills with plans to extend it up to a new storage facility near Bethesda Side Road and a new Gormley GO Station (Planned opening in 2014). This hasn’t been discussed in the BCA, and likely has not been included when considering the operating ratios once deadheading to and from Bathurst Yard is largely eliminated.

    GO hasn’t been posting anything in their “Expansion and Improvement Projects” main page (which I find rather odd), but the EA site has details on the expansion.

    Steve: Thanks for flagging this and providing the link.

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  35. Anyone know how much stations actually add to the cost of a subway.
    For example, if the big demand for the subway would be at Steeles and then Richmond Hill Center, how much would the cost be reduced if we simply build a subway with those two stops?

    Obviously additional stops can be added in the future, but I’m just curious as to the value in building the subway / expanding GO to the ‘nodes’.

    We can see similar issues in the GTA with connecting multiple ‘city centers’ and major lines. Do we obey more ‘stop spacing’ mentality or do we focus on connecting major nodes…

    I have no idea what the numbers are, so I’m just wondering.

    Steve: A station is worth anywhere from $100-150m depending on its complexity. Really big ones (terminals) can easily double this number, but that’s not the sort of station you are talking about.

    Leaving out the intermediate stations works contrary to all the schemes for added land value and ridership along the route, and makes access much more dependent on feeder routes than walk-in traffic. Imagine if the Yonge subway stopped at Eglinton and then at Finch.

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  36. Robert Wightman said:

    What is with “closing the loop”?

    It’s the end of September when art supplies, including crayons, are on sale.

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  37. I’m glad both Steven and commenters are watching all of this as it seems to be another instance of not doing things right, or at least, sensibly. Given all the problems we now seem to have on the Yonge line, surely there’s a need to think and go beyond the tunnel?

    To yes, GO; and is there origin/destination data? Other options too. Maybe – tho I may show ignorance of current provisions – is there room to set up an express bus service from Lawrence to the core via Mount Pleasant/Jarvis?

    And why can’t we manage to figure out the operating costs of the varied types of subway that we have. The Yonge line and the Bloor/Danforth are likely almost at the point of breaking even whereas the Spadina and Sheppard are costing how much?

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  38. I live in York Region and agree with Calvin Henry-Cotnam’s idea that if the Yonge subway extension is built is should terminate at Steeles, and that any further extension should be a separate LRT system fully under YRT control.

    The number 1 reason for this is obvious: Toronto residents can stop complaining that we’re just a bunch of freeloaders worthy of nothing but scorn (though I’m sure that most downtowners feel the same way about everyone living north of BLOOR, let alone Steeles 😛 ). Apart from the connection at Steeles, whether we chose to have the LRT at-grade or underground would not be of Toronto’s concern. And if we chose to extend it further than highway 7, that would also be none of Toronto’s concern. We’d be able to decide for ourselves whether or not we wanted “just one more stop” without Toronto’s interference. Unfortunately Spadina is too far along in construction to be worth cancelling, otherwise I’d be saying the same thing about it.

    There are other reasons too. What a lot of people don’t realise is that non-Presto users will always have to pay 2 fares whenever they use the subway, even if their entire commute is within York Region. For example, if I wanted to travel from Clark Avenue to Major Mackenzie and I did not have a Presto card (or did not have money on it), I would still have to pay 2 fares: the TTC fare for the subway and the YRT fare for the bus. A separate LRT system would avoid this problem, as it would be fully integrated with the YRT network.

    Besides which, if only half the trains are capable of going north of Finch that would mean that the frequency of the trains at Richmond Hill Centre would be what, every 4-5 minutes? That’s no different an aboveground LRT, and unless I’m mistaken an underground LRT would be able to be run even more frequently (if necessary). The ridership projections are within the limits of aboveground LRT and well below the limits of an underground LRT, so I fail to see why we should be spending billions on extending the subway that far. There is no benefit for York Region residents except perhaps that the transfer point would be at Richmond Hill Centre instead of Steeles, and even then it’s debatable whether or not that’s actually a plus (for commuters travelling solely in York Region without Presto, the answer is definitely no).

    So I would say that Option 2A would be best: extend the subway to Steeles, improve the Richmond Hill GO-train line, and then let York Region develop it’s own rapid transit line north of Steeles.

    Steve: I think that if Rob Ford found out how York Region is going to freeload on Toronto, he would be upset too. This is a basic issue of fairness in cost and revenue distribution. As for the double fare, there is already a controversy over the Spadina extension because York U students who now ride from the 905 down to the York campus for one YRT fare will have to pay a TTC fare to ride from Vaughan Centre (the new terminus of YRT routes) down to the University.

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  39. Given all the problems we now seem to have on the Yonge line, surely there’s a need to think and go beyond the tunnel?

    Bike lanes on Yonge maybe? It could be the Yonge relief line that we’re all looking for.

    Steve: We have been down this path before. The volume of bikes needed to make a significant dent in subway demand is immense. Moreover, those bikes have to get to/from Yonge Street — it’s not just a case of kicking cars out of a few lanes on one street, but of designing a useable network.

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  40. Steve:

    “I think that if Rob Ford found out how York Region is going to freeload on Toronto, he would be upset too. This is a basic issue of fairness in cost and revenue distribution. As for the double fare, there is already a controversy over the Spadina extension because York U students who now ride from the 905 down to the York campus for one YRT fare will have to pay a TTC fare to ride from Vaughan Centre (the new terminus of YRT routes) down to the University.”

    According to Brampton Transit whose Zum riders to York would have the same problem they are working on a system where if you tap out on Presto at Steeles or York U you do not get charged a full second fare. Part of this problem is because York doesn’t want buses causing visual and other pollution of its campus.

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