Tearing Apart The Big Move

The Neptis Foundation has published a long report which provides a serious critique of projects in the Metrolinx Big Move plan and proposes significant alterations to the proposed network.  Everything is based on cost-effectiveness although the critique depends on implementation of the overall scheme rather than the usual piecemeal approach to network expansion.  Of particular note is the need to regard GO as a high frequency, high capacity regional system closely integrated with local transit.

There is too much in this report for me to comment on as I write this (midnight, December 11), but I will try to pull together more extensive remarks in the next day or so.  Meanwhile, coverage of this report will appear in the Wednesday Star, and this is likely to stir up several hornet’s nests.

A quick review indicates the following significant issues:

  • The Downtown Relief Line disappears and its “relief” function is provided by a combination of GO Transit upgrades and increased subway capacity.
  • The only service to Pearson Airport remains the Union Pearson Express which is considered to be profitable (operating cost recovery only) despite a conclusion to the contrary by the Provincial Auditor.  The wider question of this service’s ability to absorb greater demand and a wider variety of traffic is not examined beyond a proposal for a “frequent user” fare that would attract trips by airport workers, not just business class travellers.
  • Electrification of GO Transit is essential.
  • Fare and service integration with GO is an essential part of the proposal.
  • Several stations on the Eglinton Crosstown line would be dropped, and the proposed at grade section would become an elevated structure.  This takes us back to a version of the Eglinton line originally pushed by Metrolinx as a regional facility, and begs the question of transit service to the now wider “in between” locations that would lose their stations.
  • The Richmond Hill subway would also lose some of its stations pending contributions by developers along the line.
  • The Scarborough Subway, LRT and Sheppard LRT would be converted to one consolidated, automated line to attract more riders.

At first blush, I cannot help thinking that this report is hopelessly naive on a few counts.

First, it depends on a co-ordinated scale of network expansion we are unlikely to see, especially for the GO component which is used to justify dropping other parts of the Big Move network.

Second, there is a focus on cost-benefit that at first glance appears to preclude the function of new transit lines as part of a network.  A related issue is the question of marginal new ridership where a large expenditure to improve the quality of service for existing riders is given no credit for that benefit as they generate no net revenue.

Third, there appears to be no discussion nor appreciation of the role of local services for areas beyond the immediate reach of rapid transit stations.  This is very much a return to the kind of thinking that infected early days at Metrolinx.

I will leave further comments until I have a chance to read all of the details.

58 thoughts on “Tearing Apart The Big Move

  1. I would say that this is the last thing that we need. The only thing that could be worse would be the all-at-once reintroduction of One City, the ‘Lakeshore Local’ and that Markham councilor’s railway plan with the funny name.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  2. Well, I can’t argue with the focus on electrifying the core of GO, which is beyond overdue. Not that that would replace a DRL. At least Metrolinx finally bought almost all of its railway tracks (the exceptions being where it runs on the freight mainlines), so it’s no longer sinking money in for the benefit of the freight railways. It may be able to replace the disintegrating VIA in Southern Ontario eventually.

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  3. Who prompted this report? It seems like it will provide excellent cover to call for a halt or pause to TBM while yet another review is conducted that won’t be completed until after the next election. It could either be to provide some cover for Wynne or a campaign launch point for Hudak.

    Steve: It was commissioned by Neptis who also funded Ed Levy’s wonderful history of rapid transit plans for Toronto. The biggest problem with a report of this size and heft is that a lot of work is required to identify the good, the bad and the just plain wrong parts. Meanwhile, anyone who prefers to change course while building nothing will take comfort from the report that claims to be trying to get better value for our investments. That line has been the scourge of all plans because so much depends on how one defines “value”.

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  4. I read transit message boards, and I notice a lot of people who love to armchair plan prioritize long distance travel over local travels, and this report reflects that misguide belief. Why can’t people focus on both Regional AND local and how we can integrate GO Transit with local agencies?

    This report is claiming to focus on value for money, but I think author is more concerned with regional travel and increasing the speed of regional transit at the expense of local travellers.

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  5. Sigh. Can we please just build something? Reports don’t move people and they are rather effective at distracting politicians who dread spending lots of money to actually accomplish something. I would love to know the collective dollars spent on transit plans which were never built and the value which could have been added if those dollars had actually been spent building something, even if it was only half as effective as what could result from studying a problem to death as we seem to be doing these days.

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  6. I think the Eglinton LRT line is perfect as currently planned, with perhaps the only exception being the alignment between Brentcliffe and Don Mills (surface is OK, but it should be on the south side to avoid the lights at Leslie). In fact, the Eglinton LRT is probably the best, most sensible line being built in this city since the Yonge and B-D subway extensions. The last thing we should do is make any radical changes to it at this stage. We can’t afford not to build it.

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  7. The thinking in the report seems to me to be short term or for today. What about tomorrow or the long term?

    Will the price of oil be steady or will it rise? Don’t they see that the Far East is burning up more and more oil as they develop. The supply of oil in not infinite, there is only a limited supply. That means the price of oil will, not might, go up.

    We need an alternative to car, and more rapid transit is and will be needed. Especially, to and from and around the suburbs. A Don Mills Relief Line WILL be needed. Light rail WILL be needed.

    Of course, redevelopment will needed as well. More density, more mixed commercial and residential, more sidewalks, and other changes will be needed. But at the same time, better and more rapid public transit will also be needed and implemented.

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  8. Well, you’d probably guess I’m supportive of this.

    Wider stop spacing, less stations, greater speed. More integration. More Go and high frequency transit.

    I don’t like that the motive is cost, but the outcome is still good in my view and it is what is needed to relieve congestion in the GTA.

    Integration could be hard, but don’t see it as any greater a problem that any of the other issues in transit.

    Steve: My problem is the focus on “regional” travel to the detriment of “local” travel. Also, I think that some of the cost-benefit numbers are skewed by looking primarily at regional benefits.

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  9. Wow. The Neptis report is so easy to tear apart.

    Here’s what it says about Main Street Station, the lynchpin of the claimed $100 Million GO Transit Shuttle Relief Line:

    It would also make sense to build a pedestrian tunnel under Danforth Avenue, linking the two stations, similar to the existing link at Spadina/Bloor between the two stations. Indeed it seems provision was made for such a link when Main subway station was built in the mid-1960s (the station has an oversized mezzanine level between the tracks and the street). Total capital cost for the track changes and the pedestrian tunnel might be $100 million NPV.

    Costs are low because it would not be necessary to buy or run any new trains. In the morning, the services would use trains from Georgetown and other routes from the west, which have already made a long trip into Toronto and would otherwise go straight to the yard for the day. It would, however, be necessary to make some changes to trackwork, signalling, and platforms at Danforth Station, which might cost some tens of millions of dollars. It would also make sense to build a pedestrian tunnel under Danforth Avenue, linking the two stations, similar to the existing link at Spadina/Bloor between the two stations. Indeed it seems provision was made for such a link when Main subway station was built in the mid-1960s (the station has an oversized mezzanine level between the tracks and the street). Total capital cost for the track changes and the pedestrian tunnel might be $100 million NPV.

    [Page 40]

    Even a quick glance at the Wikipedia article for Main Street Station would tell the most casual researcher that the oversized mezzanine contained the collector’s booth and fare gates. In 1968, when Main Street Station opened, it was very close to the Zone 1/Zone 2 boundary. The booth was moved upstairs later after the zone system was abolished, so the mezzanine appears to be oversized today. That also ignores the fact that GO started operations in 1967 as a shoe-string 3-year pilot project, and by that time, construction on Main Street Station would have already been well advanced.

    Even to accomodate additional GO Trains from the Milton and Georgetown Lines (of course, this assumes those runs aren’t headed to other assignments), a new fourth track would likely be required between Don Yard and Danforth Station. Trains would have to have the mandatory brake check there, and as such will take 5-10 minutes to reverse to head back to Union Station. Does Union have the capacity for these extra train runs and extra passengers? Wasn’t GO/Metrolinx looking to build a new separate station at Bathurst Yard for those very same Georgetown and Milton trains to free capacity at Union?

    In any case, I’m doubtful of this supposed “magic bullet” that negates the need for a Downtown Relief Line.

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  10. “I read transit message boards, and I notice a lot of people who love to armchair plan prioritize long distance travel over local travels, and this report reflects that misguide belief. Why can’t people focus on both Regional AND local and how we can integrate GO Transit with local agencies?”

    It’s not armchairing and it’s not misguided. Is it that hard to comprehend that other people might have different priorities?

    For many people, walking 5 minutes extra to a nearby subway or LRT is well worth it to make transit a credible alternative for regional travel in the GTA.

    Sure, we could focus on both, but the money is not there. Maybe ideally, the Eglinton Crosstown is a local route and there is a separate Go-train running East-West somehow. I don’t know. But they’re not doing that.

    So what is the best bang for your buck, that actually relieves congestion for the city we have? I’ll put my money behind larger stop spacing and regional travel. If nodes develop and areas urbanize, we can always add stops.

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  11. Some of the problems that I have with this report are:

    So far I have found no mention about how Union Station would handle the extra GO passengers in the rush hour and how would the TTC handle extra traffic at their Union.
    I “love” the remark that GO Danforth is a “mere 250 m” from Main subway station. People complain about the distance from the SRT to the subway. They will love a 250 m ride on a people mover. Is this a conveyor belt as found in the airports or a true people mover? Who in their right mind would get off a subway train to travel 250 m to get to a service which runs every 10 to 15 minutes and then get back on the subway at Union if they are going north on King?
    How does the Sheppard East – SRT – Malvern Wye fit into the grid system?
    This system that they propose seems to be designed to serve the longer distance commuter at the expense of the local riders, especially in the 416.

    The problem is that many of the things that the report suggests are very good ideas, electrifying GO, 15 minute service, EMUs etc. but the problem is some of them are awful from a local ridership and network point of view. I am afraid that this will stir up more counter proposals and once again nothing will get done.

    I am reminded of the Rick Mercer show about Canada’s High Speed Trains. Canada leads the world in studying High Speed Trains; unfortunately it does nothing else. That, I am afraid, is what will happen here.

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  12. I would be interested in knowing Steve’s opinion about distance-based fares. I think that the current system that the TTC has with one fare for all of Toronto is unsustainable. Nor could this be applied to the entire GTA. I think the only option here really is to put into place a distance-based fare system with zones, similar to what exists in London and Paris. Might this deal with one of the big concerns, meaning regional transit vs. local transit? People would pay more to travel further , which costs more anyway. Right now we (people travelling shorter trips, and the government) are subsidizing longer TTC trips – taking a short trip of a few stops on a streetcar costs the same as taking the TTC from Long Branch to the Zoo. I would imagine that transit-takers from the 416 inner suburbs would be very upset with this idea (ie. low-paid service workers who live in the apartment blocks in North Etobicoke or Scarborough).

    Steve: I have written about moves away from flat fares before. There are several aspects to this debate, and simply talking about “distance fares” does not embrace all of the potential variables.

    First off, there is the alternative of a time based fare which would be, in effect, a limited time pass. Implementing this will be essential on the TTC because their complex transfer rules cannot be embedded in a smart card system.

    Second, a large portion of existing travel is now done using passes, not tokens or cash, and so the concept of an “all you can eat” fare must also be considered. Would it be subdivided by zones? Would you buy the right for unlimited travel in certain areas with pay-as-you-go elsewhere? Will all of the fare schemes across the GTA be consolidated so that they “behave” the same way and people can expect a “foreign” system to behave the same way as their “home” system?

    Finally, some time ago, I did an estimate of the effect of a distance based fare for the TTC. My conclusion was that people who are at the outer edges of the network (existing and planned including the Richmond Hill subway) would pay 2-3 times what they do today because their trips are 2-3 times as long as the current average. Is this the sort of effect we want to have on suburban riders who already feel hard done by and who generally must endure a higher proportion of slow, crowded trips on buses as part of their commute? How will the folks in York Region who hope for a single TTC fare ride to downtown react when we tell them to pay three times as much to make their journeys?

    If we are serious about charging for transit based on the absolute amount of service consumed rather than as a flat fee for system access, we need to thing very carefully about the effects of such a change, and about the rationale behind much of the current planning.

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  13. “I think that the current system that the TTC has with one fare for all of Toronto is unsustainable. Nor could this be applied to the entire GTA. I think the only option here really is to put into place a distance-based fare system with zones, similar to what exists in London and Paris. Might this deal with one of the big concerns, meaning regional transit vs. local transit? People would pay more to travel further , which costs more anyway. Right now we (people travelling shorter trips, and the government) are subsidizing longer TTC trips – taking a short trip of a few stops on a streetcar costs the same as taking the TTC from Long Branch to the Zoo. I would imagine that transit-takers from the 416 inner suburbs would be very upset with this idea (ie. low-paid service workers who live in the apartment blocks in North Etobicoke or Scarborough).”

    I’m not opposed to distance based fares to control congestion or just to gain funding for line expansion. But I’m just going to comment here on one thing.

    When it comes to networks, there is no problem with paying the same whether you travel 1 km or 30 km. Just because you travel 1km, doesn’t mean you should pay any less in any kind of moral sense.

    What do I mean by this?

    There is an upfront cost to build any line and that line is going to run at the scheduled times to the schedules. That is the cost to build the line and to operate it.

    If you take the subway from Kipling to Islington, you’re not affecting the cost of the subway anymore than if you took the subway from Kipling all the way to Pape.

    While not an exact analogy, this is very much akin to say Internet usage. The ISPs have tried to convince people that people who use it more should pay more. As if there is some kind of natural cost/GB that should be paid.

    In reality there isn’t such a cost. They build out their network on a fixed cost to operate at some kind of capacity based on some technology (cable, fibre, DSL…) From there how people use it has basically no impact on cost.

    Insert disclaimer about peering arrangements and transit charges for the nitpicky.

    Any form of bandwidth charges or whatever the ISPs use is basically stuff to control congestion. Which is a valid goal. But always keep in mind, the pricing is used to control congestion. There is no direct tie in with the cost to produce the service… once the line is built.

    And it is much the same with transit. If you just take the local street car a few stops, you’re not any cheaper to serve than someone who takes the street car across the city. At some point, they still have to build the tracks, buy the vehicles, hire the drivers… and they’re going to drive a fixed route on a fixed schedule. You wouldn’t have a street car to take 2 stops if they didn’t build the whole line.

    As for me, I’m all for distance based fares to control congestion or to fund line expansion.

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  14. Steve:

    My problem is the focus on “regional” travel to the detriment of “local” travel. Also, I think that some of the cost-benefit numbers are skewed by looking primarily at regional benefits.

    Yes I agree. It is one of the reasons I don’t pay too much attention to the modern day cost-benefit analysis. Basically whatever metrics you pick to be important will determine the outcome. You basically settle on the outcome before you do the study.

    Really, it comes down to subjective or values based discussions, which you really can’t quantify in any objective manner.

    You might choose ‘places people close to transit’ and magically comes up with LRT with close stops as the best choice and the report will show that.

    Another study will choose travel times and magically come up with subway or wide stops or Go as the best choice and the report will show that.

    Cost/benefit analysis is rather useless when it comes to differences in preferences/vision.

    Saving someone commuting 20 minutes is good.

    Making transit accessible with close stops to the elderly is good.

    I’m not going to pretend there’s some kind of objective cost/benefit analysis to override this largely values/visions/preference/goal based decision.

    All I’m saying is my goals are reducing congestion and making sure people can get to work and where they need to be in a timely manner.

    I place that goal above the close stops which might benefit the elderly or street-level communities.

    I personally think it is a great problem that must be solved. Most people can solve their own local problem of walking a few minutes more to a stop. There problem of solving the long distance commuting is much greater. It requires people to literally uproot themselves constantly (jobs are hardly constant these days).

    Given our limited money, the option that helps both sides a little bit is wide stop spacing on lines like the Eglinton cross town. You get some local and some regional. Neither side really wins or loses too much. Even with 1km stop spacing, it’s still going to take some time to cross the GTA. But it makes it tolerable.

    But again. Just my preference and ultimately that’s all it is with these kinds of topics.

    Steve: Note that with the eliminated stops proposed for Eglinton, the stop spacing east of Yonge would be at least 2km through an area that now has strong demand at local bus stops between the arterials. The Neptis report shows a degree of overkill on this matter that belies either slavish adherence to a view that local riders don’t count, or total ignorance of existing demand patterns.

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  15. I read the jist of it, especially the Scarb Wye proposal and I think the author must’ve inhaled something stronger than whatever Rob Ford has ever tried. Why? YOU DO NOT BUILD AN ELEVATED STRUCTURE OVER THE 401 AND CALL IT COST SAVINGS.

    Needless to say, a bum sitting anywhere outside of Ontario, let alone Canada, who has not spent enough time to understand both car and transit flow, should not be commenting. The amount of money “saved” in building ANY elevated structure over the 401 will be erased and have a bigger cost to the economy as a whole since construction will snarl traffic 24-7 the entire time the structure is built. Also, wouldn’t that structure interfere with the recently rehabilitated Warden Ave bridge?

    Finally, a little comment on the 250m Main Stn walkway… tell that to the immobile who use a crutch or cane… and don’t think of a “people mover” like at Pearson within the terminals… since the TTC and GO will always bicker about who should cover the cost of repairing it every time it breaks down, it’ll always remain “out of service”.

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  16. “I am reminded of the Rick Mercer show about Canada’s High Speed Trains. Canada leads the world in studying High Speed Trains; unfortunately it does nothing else. That, I am afraid, is what will happen here.”

    And nor should we build high speed trains.

    We can’t even get across the GTA in a reasonable time, and people want to spend billions upon billion building high speed rail connecting Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal?

    Who will use this high speed rail? Business travelers, vacationers?

    Mass numbers of nurses, waiters, warehouse workers, engineers, electricians, IT people… are not going to be living in Toronto and jet setting to Ottawa for their daily job.

    And you wonder why some people think various urban planners are severely out of touch with the reality of the average Canadian.

    Another article in The Star today emphasizes this point.

    “The plans for the LRTs were drawn up under former Mayor David Miller, who wanted to “urbanize” the suburbs and create “avenues” along Sheppard and Finch that would attract pedestrians, shoppers and diners, said Schabas.”

    Yeah, like high speed rail, feel free to dream about urbanization and avenues and pedestrian shoppers and diners and live and work communities… They are great goals. But they don’t match up to the problems of the average person in this region. People who need to get to work to pay the bills. Sipping a late on an urban avenue is just not on the top of their mind.

    Jobs move, business relocate, hefty travel times… that is the reality of the average person in the GTA.

    So like I said, feel free to dream about transforming communities or high speed rail, but save some of that money to solve real problems that people face today. People don’t want to sit there with increasing density for the next 50 years, while their employers move to Brampton or Mississauga or Waterloo, and they still have to deal with traffic that grows ever more due to density and the jobs aren’t all in the hip urban areas…

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  17. In the report in the Toronto Star, the author states that BRT on Finch West might be more cost effective.

    What does he mean by BRT? Is it going to be akin to the VIVa busways in York Region where the buses run in their own right of way (just like an LRT would!)

    If so, then what would be saved (besides the cost of laying tracks and the electrical grid to power the vehicles)?

    Or is he referring to “BRT Lite” (which means that the vehicles are going to stuck in the same traffic as they do now)?

    Steve: I have not had a chance to go through all of the gory details yet to determine which version of BRT he is talking about.

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  18. I cannot help but wonder at the timing of the report, coming as it is 2 days before the Transit Panel report. The Transit Panel also unfortunately went outside of their mandate but I suppose that their reasoning seemed sensible at the time.

    The obvious problems with this report stand out as soon as it mentions a GO Shuttle train (hence my comment about a ‘Lakeshore Local’ in the post above)…because there is simply no way a 5-10 minute frequency could be offered because it would take that long just for the brake check and reversal. There are obvious errors that stand out but that is the most glaring.

    Royson James asks in today’s Star if Metrolinx is killing our transit dreams? as part of The Star’s major coverage (5 articles and a column) on this report. But really, it is not Metrolinx but certain politicians … and for 35 years the Ontario government has not been helping much. Indeed, the 3 examples of bad transit cited in the report (Scarborough RT, Sheppard, and the York Subway) were all chosen for political expedience by the Ontario government.

    On the other hand, beginning January 4th 2014 GO will be adding service to the Stouffville line by changing an express trip to a local train.

    If there was some form of TTC/GO fare integration that added service might be enough to convince a few people to use GO instead of the subway … but how many would there be?

    I support fare and service alignment (if full integration is not happening) but is it enough?

    Cheers, Moaz

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  19. I should add that more services stopping at Danforth (not a GO Shuttle as Schabas proposes) is a solution that can and should be implemented … but it would not replace or supplant the proposed relief line a.k.a. Don Mills & City Line.

    Cheers, Moaz

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  20. I should also add that it is unfortunate that Laura Kane reports that “ALRT technology is used in Vancouver” but does not mention that it has been used (in Mark I incarnation) in Scarborough since 1985.

    First of all, why does Schabas want to reopen the ALRT debate when there is lots of evidence saying that this technology is not suited to Toronto (not forgetting that the advantages of elevated ALRT are not as great as promised).

    Second, a great deal of the objection to the Scarborough LRT was the perpetual transfer … which I presume would be retained with Schabas’ proposal. Wouldn’t Scarborough residents object to this ALRT for the same reasons they objected to the Scarborough RT and Scarborough LRT.

    Cheers, Moaz

    Steve: Schabas seems to have the hots for ALRT and a great deal of his proposal seems aimed at justifying the wholesale replacement of LRT by ALRT in Toronto. Does he have a bias? A conflict of interest? Who knows? I could understand if he were talking about generic “Medium Rapid Transit”, but when he talks up Bombardier so much, one has to wonder who is paying the bills here.

    In any event, he downplays the problems of the technology and overstates the extent to which it is used as part of major transit systems elsewhere.

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  21. I can’t help but agree with this report’s conclusions about Eglinton. Underground light rail where the underground section is long is nearly always a bad idea. The underground sections are as costly as a subway but the maximum capacity of the underground sections is constrained by the low capacity surface section, made worse by the lack of grade separation at Leslie. Unless it is designed like Ottawa, where the trunk section is grade separated and branches are not allowing for higher capacity than Eglinton, the line ought to be fully grade separated. Also given how high the cost is of putting in minor underground stations, costing hundreds of millions of dollars each, Chaplin and Oakwood should be eliminated. I can’t agree with the author about any of the other underground stations because that would create a 2km gap between stations. Elevating the eastern end of Eglinton is not that costly and definitely cheaper than the costly McCowan Road subway extension proposal, which is not needed if the eastern end of the line is elevated. Or that portion of the line could simply be eliminated, because it goes through low density big box stores and the only justification for it is through traffic going further east in Scarborough. On the other hand, using really short platform lengths is a bad idea, that would be making the same mistake as the Canada Line, the whole point of grade separation is to increase the capacity of the line to about 20000/hour, higher than Highway 401 and not very much lower than the Bloor-Danforth Line because 4-car trains with a modern signalling system can carry almost as many people as 6-car trains with an old signalling system.

    As for the Richmond Hill subway extension I think there needs to be at least one station between Highway 7 and Steeles to serve the Thornhill area. Cummer station can certainly be removed because the tunnel leading to an office building just north of the YRT bus terminal at Finch is already half the way between Finch and Cummer.

    Using GO to replace the downtown relief line should be considered, but probably isn’t adequate. The primary reason is the really bad alignment of the Richmond Hill line, which does not connect to the Bloor-Danforth line, and is too far from Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park, Ontario Science Centre, Fairview Mall and Seneca College. Despite the high cost a Don Mills subway is needed that goes to at least Finch. GO would do a reasonable job of relieving the Yonge line south of Bloor and the University line but not the overcrowded section of the Yonge line between Bloor and Finch.

    The report’s proposal for converting the Sheppard subway to ICTS is rather strange, I think that this would cause reliability problems like the subway interlining in the 1960s. I still think that the Sheppard LRT is a bad idea because of the excessive numbers of transfers and the rather high level of development in that area.

    I don’t agree with the report on Finch. This is the one route in Toronto where LRT actually make sense, because of the low levels of new development, overcrowded buses and the lack of complications like a need for tunneling or an existing subway line. It would probably be far more useful if there were a longer line like Finch/McCowan to Humber College, with the eastern part running parallel to an extended Sheppard subway. Finch and Hurontario are the two places in the GTA where LRT actually makes sense.

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  22. Onecity Plan – 30 Billion dollars – moves 300 million annually
    Metrolinx Plan – simply a taxation agency
    Smart Plan – use all 19 GO stations as a “ALL Toronto relief line” and just show your TTC Pass with busing feeding such stations.
    COST TO METROLINX – JUST TOILET PAPER.
    COST TO TAXPAYERS – ZERO.

    Note: if 6 EAST GO stations, loaded 1,700 persons each in peak hour. voila – no relief subway required- (just show your TTC Pass). This is what was presented on November 18th, TTC mtg and the board supported for a with a full
    report coming back to dec 20th commission. The only cost to Metrolinx to fixing Toronto’s Gridlock is toilet paper and maybe some grab bars. This post just saved 16 billion dollars, since that is the 2015 inflated cost of the big U. Note: Karen Stintz has just met with the Chair of VIA rail. What do you suppose she is up to? I’ve already been in touch with Ontario Northland for the same reason, and recorded VIA as an alternative solution, since Metrolinx seems to just want everybody’s hard earned cash.

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  23. I’m actually somewhat pleased that there’s a serious shot across the bows of it all – even though yes, devils lurk in details, and a snapshot from an external standpoint is both fresh and superficial.

    We do have a near-tradition of blowing billions for some transit that is ill-advised or done for politics vs. need. This starts with the Spadina extension being too central vs. further west, but maybe it “had” to go to Yorkdale. The next costly error was the stubway of Sheppard; then the UPX line is/was a waste of a corridor when the real need is/was for somewhat intermediate spacing sub-regional public transit. There is then the Sorbara subway extension; and now we have the Scarborough subway idea, we cannot call it a plan.

    Given the great reluctance to even get to talking about how thoroughly cars and the lower-density suburbs don’t really pay their way (eg. Perverse Cities by Blais), we do need to have a pause and knock the heads and silos together to really explore what the better fixes are, while also starting to build up a transit chest with obvious things like the re-introduction of a Vehicle Registration Tax, most proceeds to transit.

    As an example of how better GO has helped us out; the province a few years back now figgered out that the Front St. Extension was Dumb Growth and costly, so the GO got 2 cars longer and did more for congestion relief for 1/4 of the cost of the road folly. And then just this year, the frequency of service on the Lakeshore was doubled for near-nothing.

    It also has to be noted that for a commuter cyclist, Pape to the downtown core is not that big a deal, really, and one doesn’t have to spend $600,000,000 to make it a lot better, though no, bikes don’t work for everyone all the time.

    And what is best about this is that it highlights the follies and foolishness of the politicians to approve Big Stuff while ignoring basics, like overall demand and a thing called origin-destination. We really don’t have transit planning anymore.

    Steve: Hamish, you should know perfectly well that the riders of a DRL will not originate at Pape and Danforth, but much further afield to the north and east. Saying that cycling into downtown is an alternative to $600m is blatant misrepresentation. Argue for cycling, but don’t use Ford-like prevarication to support your position.

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  24. Oh another anti-LRT person. Great so he doesn’t care about cancellation fees. Does this man not realize that LRTs are more popular than Skytrain technology? Skytrain is primarily used for airport people movers.

    Have everyone read about railforthevalley? It says that no one builds Skytrain anymore except Translink…

    “Today, streetcars have proven in revue service to have a higher capacity than SkyTrain and no one builds (except for TransLink) Skytrain anymore, improvement for Skytrain will never see the light of day.”

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  25. This report looks like it was written by some kind of anti-matter parallel universe Steve Munro railfan wannabe sped up by too much Dexedrine. The Scarborough Wye? Converting the Sheppard Subway (Line No. 4 3/4 under the Byford scheme) to ICTS?

    Steve: You might very well say that, but I couldn’t possibly …, well, yes, I am working on a critique. Some things are perfectly reasonable criticisms, but yes it had all the earmarks of a “fan” who will warp reality to fit his preferences. The sad part is that this gets the Neptis name on it, probably only because of the association with Tony Coombes, and has enough publicity that it can’t be ignored.

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  26. My take on the Neptis report on Metrolinx’s Big Move –

    1. This “out-of-the-box” (tired cliché) thinking is good; you do not have to agree with all or anything. Michael Schabas appears to be a well-qualified transit consultant, in Britain.

    2. The “bang-for-the-buck” approach is refreshing. I’ve seen some criticisms on this blog regarding methodology. Give it a chance, this is just the first pass. Fine tune the parameters & variables, the numerators and denominators, the results will be more accurate & irrefutable. I applaud some of the comments that I have seen on this blog! (Yamin Bismilla, for example, has put a lot of good thought into this.) There will come a time that this approach will overcome political meddling in transit planning.

    Steve: Except that the usual process is for the methodology to be tweaked to produce the politically desired outcome.

    3. Schabas’s approach seems to be to make incremental improvements in order to implement the bang-for-the-buck. I can agree with this to a significant degree but only so far. What Schabas proposes is intensification of the GO network, because its infrastructure is “underutilised”, coupled with GO-TTC fare integration.

    Steve: Yes, this part of his argument I agree with in general even though some specifics need work in part because he is “over there” doing consulting work for “over here”.

    4. I personally do not subscribe to the inference that more intense GO service can adequately serve major portions of TTC rider demand. Compare a GO train and a TTC subway train. First thing you notice is that the GO train has three or four times the mass of the subway train. They are both called trains, yet they are definitely a different class of vehicle. Therefore, do not expect the GO train to make stops every big street. The GO train cannot start or stop as fast as a subway train. Schabas himself calls for fewer stops to expedite the trip. Meanwhile, a subway ought to serve both local and non-local commuters, so stops should be spaced about 1.5 km apart or closer. An LRT ought to be primarily a local service that serves all the stops that the buses used to service. What the LRT has is a right-of-way so that auto traffic cannot slow it down. Therefore, I disagree with Schabas about reducing the number of LRT stops. (Note: Roncesvalles streetcar stops every 2 blocks or 200 meters, this route cannot be replaced by subway. Also note, due to wide spacing of stations on the Yonge subway, the 97 YONGE bus serves many points along the way at street level. May as well restore the Yonge streetcar from Front Street to Glen Echo.)

    5. With my 4th point above in mind, I have mixed feelings about some of the major conclusions of this report.

    5a. I really like Schabas’ recommendations on the BD extension & Sheppard East subway & LRT lines & routing. Updated SRT/ALRT starting north from Kennedy Station with a split in route at Ellesmere, west (to Sheppard & Don Mills, with Sheppard subway converted to ALRT) & east (to Malvern). Bravo!

    5b. Schabas recommends a BRT instead of an LRT on Finch West. Perhaps he is right.

    5c. Schabas recommends dropping the Downtown Relief Line aka Don Mills subway line, to be replaced by improved GO service. This does not sit well with me. Schabas quotes a $7b price for the DRL, which is for the distance Dundas West around to Eglinton for a quoted increased ridership of only 55k passengers. However, it is only $2.3b for Union to Pape, the core route. TTC say that they are working on updated numbers. Personally, I support Wellington & Bathurst to Eglinton & Don Mills, with plenty of stops for the local transit users.

    Steve: And the sad part about Schabas’ analysis is that he (a) only cares about regional demand, and (b) only counts new riders as a benefit, not those who are better served by adding a DRL to the network.

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  27. Scary thought. Right now, if I need to go from Eglinton & Redpath to Eglinton & Swift, no problem, just get on the 34 Eglinton East bus. An actual, not hypothetical trip for me. I am disabled, though not too severely, but I cannot walk far. When the Eglinton LRT opens, this trip is impossible, either end, no stops either place any more. That is the trouble with TTC stops spaced way too far apart. This is part of my critique of Michael Schabas’ idea of eliminating stops on the subway and LRT. Some bloggers are always saying to eliminate stops, but what about easy access to the TTC for all? Easy to say for someone else to have to cope with it, but when for yourself it doesn’t affect you.

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  28. First thoughts after browsing the report:

    DRL – Don Mills subway: there is no chance to substitute it with GO. One can build a computer-modeled network where GO diverts enough core-bound trips to keep the existing subways under capacity, and even prove that such network is more cost-effective than the new subway. In practice, the temptation to deliver GO expansion in small chunks is too strong for the governments who have to fund it. As a result, the added capacity will always be tailored to the growing demand from outside 416, with not much left for 416. The only practical way to resolve the core network capacity issue is a new subway into downtown.

    Eglinton: their prediction of a two-fold growth in ridership for a faster line is suspicious. Eglinton is a medium-density street and cannot generate such demand by itself. Either they count on a massive latent demand for E-W trips, and assume that people will go out of their way to use Eglinton; this is hard to believe if the line still ends at Weston Rd. Or, the additional riders simply shift from BD subway, in which case the benefit for the whole system is minimal.

    Steve: The claim for Eglinton echoes one used in early days of The Big Move by Metrolinx who use a model that rewards fast trips with higher simulated demand. This is a fundamental flaw because it rewards planners for turning every rapid transit line into a mini GO corridor. Imagine if the same approach had been taken for the Yonge or Bloor-Danforth subways.

    Scarborough subway: they have a point. We know that either ALRT or LRT can provide most of the benefits of the subway extension, while costing much less than the subway. However, reopening this issue now would be politically damaging; not just for the persons involved in the subway decision, but for the transit case in general.

    Sheppard corridor: again, they have a point. A fast ALRT line that incorporates the existing Sheppard subway tunnel, swings south to STC and Centennial, and then continues into the eastern Scarborough, has its appeal. Converting Sheppard subway to a high-floor ALRT would be easier than converting it to LRT. However, the said ALRT line would cost considerably more than LRT, and I do not know how it can be funded concurrently with Don Mills subway, Yonge North, and other higher priorities.

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  29. Replace LRT on Finch and Sheppard with BRT.

    When people recommend this idea, I never hear any rationale for reducing the capacity on corridors that require more capacity.
    We BRT can mean any type of bus service that is more than a bus and stops. What sort of BRT?

    The Finch West bus and the Sheppard East must be LRT because the demand is there. The only level of BRT that might be able handle the ridership demand is a fully grade separated ROW, with passing lanes.

    Steve: I am always amused by the objection to LRT on the grounds of lost traffic lanes when BRT requires at least as much space, more with provision for passing lanes at stops.

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  30. You comment that “Schabas seems to have the hots for ALRT “. Check out his web-site and you can understand why. Mr. Schabas worked for the Urban Transportation Development Corporation when the UTDC spent enormous amounts of Ontario taxpayers’ money flogging this still questionable system on cities in North America and elsewhere. Not quite a conflict of interest but close!

    Also, was he paid by Neptis for his report?

    Steve: I do not know how this report came to exist, but plan to ask Neptis about that including possible corporate sponsorship.

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  31. Peter:

    To be fair, the plans do call for a surface bus that will serve local stops once the LRT is opened, granted it will not be very frequent as most passengers will use the LRT (likely every 15 to 20 minutes). With the exception of Leslie (in order to preserve full capacity as far east as Don Mills Station, where several bus routes will dump riders onto the LRT, though that ship has sailed) I would, personally, not cut any more stops.

    Schabas goes too far and calls for the elimination of more LRT stops – the total elimination of Chaplin and the re-thought of Oakwood, Avenue, and Mount Pleasant. Including every stop, the underground portion of Eglinton-Crosstown has almost identical stop spacing as Bloor-Danforth. Reasonable to me.

    As I read the report in more detail, it feels like a pretty good fourth-year BA paper, but isn’t very useful as a legitimate independent study. The focus on Bombardier ICTS is unfortunate. I find it rather disappointing that the media – particularly the Toronto Star – gave it as much publicity as they did.

    Steve: Fourth year, you say?

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  32. Rather than blatant misrepresentation, I think it’s basic pragmatism in looking really hard at what’s proposed and contrasting that with a “track” record in building things. IF, it was a fuller line going north, well north, as you’ve suggested thanks, then it’d be a different thing, but given those costs, and our inability to commit well enough to the right things over a distance based on real facts eg. origin/destination and ridership and density etc., (transit scheming has replaced planning), it’s perfectly valid to point out that it is a bikeable distance from Pape and Danforth to the core, moreso if it were made safer and better.

    Steve: No it is not. The riders who will use the DRL will NOT originate at Pape and Danforth, and therefore their bike trip needs to be measured from their point of origin. You are not going to get hordes of riders nipping out from the station to a Bixi stand for their trip to downtown.

    You were also at the PGM meeting where I pointed to the Main/GO proximity and maybe this could be a better deal if somehow we tweaked systems and linked the two, ahead of this report; so you are selective somewhat in the basis of criticisms.

    Steve: The problem at Main is that the distance is substantial (longer than the connection between the two stations at Spadina), and the operational problems associated with the proposed short turn trains at Danforth Station are considerable. If we are going to run very frequent “in town” service, we need enough track space, and it should almost certainly start further east than Main so that riders from Scarborough can access it directly without a bus-to-subway-to-walk-to-GO trip.

    The DRL is misnamed, that is misrepresentation right?

    There also is not real logic in the explanation that we have a great problem with Yonge St. north-south congestion but heck, let’s do something on the east end for $600M or whatever. It’s apples and oranges; we might get a core stubway.

    Steve: That’s why the “relief” needs to go NS via the rail corridors (for the 905 and outer 416) and via Don Mills.

    Meanwhile, getting traction for a Bloor/Danforth bikeway is soo slow, though for the price of paint we could expand the subway, following what London has grasped: bikes can complement transit, just bikes offer some of us far better service eg. Sewell as quoted in the Straphangers book p. 304 “I ride my bike all the time now. It’s the only rational way to get around downtown.”

    Yes, he said downtown and my comment also said bikes don’t work for many of us.

    NYC has been putting in maybe 50 miles of bike lane each year; they aren’t always the separated type either, which cost far more. $200,000 would provide done with paint bike lanes from Sherbourne to High Park; the Metrolinx Mobility Hubs document of 2011 has the most mobility hubs of all on the Bloor/Danforth subway, not including normal subway stations.

    Thanks for doing this forum.

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  33. Well I guess I have been proven wrong. There is still a very real threat that the Eglinton Line may be cancelled or delayed even though it’s already under construction. And hear I thought that at least the underground portion was more or less decided upon…

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  34. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but in hindsight I feel that Rob Ford’s plan to bury Eglinton all the way and connect it to a rebuilt RT line makes more sense than what’s actually happening. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the original Transit City Plan was by far the best option. BUT if I had to choose between Rob Ford’s Eglinton Plan or extending Bloor, I would have picked the former. The RT would have been reused, Scarborough residents would have stopped complaining about being treated as second class citizens, and the city would have saved significant amounts of time and money. Yes, that does mean the Sheppard/Finch LRTs would have been permanently cancelled – but let’s be honest, at this point that’s probably going to happen anyways.

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  35. Hi Steve,

    Michael Schabas read your blog post and passed on these thoughts which we are passing on to you.

    Please feel free to contact us if there are any other clarifications to be sought.

    Marcy Burchfield

    Steve writes:

    “There is a focus on cost-benefit that at first glance appears to preclude the function of new transit lines as part of a network. A related issue is the question of marginal new ridership where a large expenditure to improve the quality of service for existing riders is given no credit for that benefit as they generate no net revenue.”

    Michael responds: “We have used Metrolinx and TTC numbers, which we assume do take account of the overall network. We agree with Steve that there are strong network synergies in transit – this is one reason we have said that, without upgrading of GO into a Regional Express Rail network, the value of all other schemes will be diminished.

    On the second point, we do give credit for time savings to existing passengers in our cost:benefit analysis, as does Metrolinx, and use their figure of about $13.52 per passenger hour to value these benefits. We have also argued that modernization of the subway, with a 30% increase in capacity, and automation to allow higher off-peak frequencies, would attract new riders onto transit because wait times will be reduced and there will be a better chance of getting a seat.

    We identify incremental revenues separately, because if a scheme generates money as well as benefits, then Metrolinx’s limited funding can go further.”

    Steve: It is not sufficient just to count net new riders, and the cost per net new rider is one of Schabas’ metrics. When an existing rider is presented with the opportunity of using a new route, this not only saves them time (at least we hope it does), it frees up capacity elsewhere in the network for use by others. Throughout many reviews of the Relief Line, the consistent problem is that the analyses have not examined avoided costs elsewhere such as the need to expand Bloor-Yonge Station, or even the need to attempt operation of headways below 2 minutes which has technical problems unrelated to the signal system. Any capital savings should be credited against new alternate routes, as should the value of capacity freed up by shifting ridership. Indeed, a good benefit could be obtained on the Yonge line even if the DRL were not jammed to the doors at 30k/hour.

    I agree that much better GO service is needed, but this will primarily handle riders from the 905 and the outer fringes of the 416. That still leaves an issue of capacity and service within the 416. Again, the premise that we can stuff more riders on YUS is based on the claimed reduction in headway, but I am not convinced that this can be achieved, automation or no.

    As for off peak service encouraging more riding, have you been in Toronto recently? The BD and YUS lines run no less often than every 5 minutes, sometimes below 4, and they are well-used in the core areas. If there is any constraint on riding, it is the level of service on feeder buses that constrains the rate at which riders can reach the subway, or conversely the convenience of service for off peak outbound trips. This exposes another major problem with Schabas’ work: the undue focus on regional transit trips. Metrolinx has only in the past year “discovered” that local services exist and will be a vital part of their network. The network is not dense enough to operate without feeders (this isn’t New York or an equivalently dense European city) and all that white space between the main routes needs to be filled up with connecting services.

    I am working on a much more extensive critique of the Schabas paper, but have been distracted by the Transit Panel’s financing report just out today. Some of the comments on inconsistent methodology within Metrolinx analysis and the importance of GO are valid, but Schabas’ UTDC background sticks out far too strongly with the repeated references to ALRT and Bombardier. There are also some profound holes in local knowledge about transit demand and geography that simply don’t belong in a paper with the Neptis name on it.

    Who paid for this paper, by the way?

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  36. And, so we go round and round and round with one set of studies and recommendations after another – and meanwhile everyone dithers and nothing gets built.

    The pattern is clear – transit is something that will only generate hot air.

    Ten years from now, we’ll all be discussing transit in these same terms, and not a spadeful of dirt or rail-length of track will have been put down.

    How much more of this endless dithering about can we tolerate. Can’t we decide on something and then commit ourselves to finishing it? Seems we can’t, and aren’t about to. Who else among you are fed up with this?

    Steve: For a good laugh, pick up the current (10th anniversary) issue of Spacing and check out the century of Spacing covers. A running joke is the endless fascination with subways that almost never get built.

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  37. Steve (and other posters), I think you’re overstating the dichotomy between “local” and “regional” transit. In terms of rapid transit it’s a bit redundant to speak of local demand at all since so much of it is transferring anyways.

    Take the Avenue Road Station, what local demand does it serve? Almost all of the demand which passes through the intersection would be on either the 61 or 5 buses, and it would be quicker for them to just transfer at Yonge and Eg than at Avenue Station then again at Y/Eg.

    Steve: The issue is how many riders use the local stops either side of Avenue Road to board the 32 Eglinton West which seems to have escaped your notice. A good analogy is east of Yonge. There are many stops between Yonge and Laird, and a bus leaving Yonge packed will be half empty by the time it gets to the east side of Leaside. Most of the riders get off at “local” stops, not at Mt. Pleasant (which Schabas would delete anyhow) or Bayview. Bad enough that these riders will have to deal with much wider stop spacings under the Metrolinx plan, but 2km from Yonge to Bayview, and then another 3.4km east to the Don Mills? The folks east of the DVP are not happy with the wider stop spacing for the surface LRT, and it would almost certainly be worse with an elevated ALRT. There was a big fight in the early days of The Big Move against precisely this sort of blinkered planning, and now it’s back again.

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  38. From the Neptis Foundation Report page 47:

    “As currently planned, the DRL would not connect directly with GO Rail in the downtown. This shortcoming would limit its “inter-regional” use. TTC has looked at a scheme terminating at Exhibition, to function as a distributor for the Barrie and Georgetown-Kitchener lines. An interchange station with the Richmond Hill line also seems possible at River Street, although there is no mention of this option in any of the DRL reports.”

    Have they done any studies to see who would want to make that connection? There is a financial and time penalty for adding a subway and a GO station. I will bet, to use their term, that it is not cost effective. Have they ever been to River Street? It might be a location to serve the new residential development but then that would probably not be “cost effective” either.

    Like the Spadina subway, which was also built as a “relief” line, the DRL would do relatively little to increase all-day transit use or encourage higher-density, transit-oriented development. While some passengers would have faster or less crowded journeys, crowding is only a serious problem in the peaks. So ridership growth seems likely to be small unless the line stimulates more intensive development along its length and not just in the downtown area. This seems unlikely.”

    The purpose of transit is to move people, not to create development. I am surprised that they did not say that Bloor Danforth was also ineffective at encouraging transit oriented development.

    To them the current riders and resident within the 416 do not count. Ridership improvements inside Toronto are irrelevant, only inter regional ridership is important. They make some good points in places but after reading garbage like this I have to wonder if it is just a reflection of the idea that if you write enough stuff some must be good.

    Steve: I think it also reflects thinking caused by planning from afar, and having a viewpoint that is blinkered by years working for the UTDC. It may also reflect selective conversations with folks at Metrolinx or MTO who still see the role of “rapid transit” as emulating expressways.

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  39. Scary thought. Right now, if I need to go from Eglinton & Redpath to Eglinton & Swift, no problem, just get on the 34 Eglinton East bus. An actual, not hypothetical trip for me. I am disabled, though not too severely, but I cannot walk far. When the Eglinton LRT opens, this trip is impossible, either end, no stops either place any more. That is the trouble with TTC stops spaced way too far apart. This is part of my critique of Michael Schabas’ idea of eliminating stops on the subway and LRT. Some bloggers are always saying to eliminate stops, but what about easy access to the TTC for all? Easy to say for someone else to have to cope with it, but when for yourself it doesn’t affect you.

    Be thankful you don’t live in East Scarborough. Transfer City is going to make it even worse for the disabled commuter in Scarborough. It already sucks. Now we’ll reduce the stops & add more transfers.

    Build the Subway as main artery into the Center of Scarborough and increase bus capacity. Time to stop wasting money on consultants to beat the dead transit horse.

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  40. “Steve:

    I am always amused by the objection to LRT on the grounds of lost traffic lanes when BRT requires at least as much space, more with provision for passing lanes at stops.”

    Indeed. Here in Waterloo region there are lots of people arguing we should cancel the LRT and go for BRT instead. Fortunately I think our regional council is, with a couple of notable exceptions, holding firm in their determination to see the project through. But at this point, with utilities mostly moved and property acquired on the assumption of an LRT, to revert to BRT probably wouldn’t save much at all, even in the short run.

    One question about passing lanes: Are they always required for BRT? For one like Ottawa’s, with numerous separate routes, I can see the need. But wouldn’t it be possible to build a BRT that was essentially an LRT but using asphalt and buses instead of rails and LRVs? Of course I suppose the question then arises of what is supposed to be better about the BRT since the easy branching and interlining with numerous bus routes goes away.

    I look forward to your detailed analysis of this report. I have to say upon skimming it that some parts of it read like some of the less well-thought-out comments on this site, complete with blithe assumptions about features of the existing system, or costs of proposals. If transit planning were rational, the newspapers would have made a bigger deal of “A Grand Plan”.

    Steve: Passing lanes are required if buses are going to play hopscotch at stops to reach route-specific loading bays, or if there is a mix of express and local services. The bigger design question is whether to provide only one shared lane for this, or one in each direction. A shared lane, of course, is easier to use if stopping directions are offset such as farside on opposite sides of an intersection.

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