On June 11, Dr. Vukan Vuchic spoke in the Council Chamber of the Waterloo Region Council on the subject of medium capacity transit modes. Dr. Vuchic has been around transportation issues for decades. He organized the first Transportation Research Board Light Rail Conference in 1975 in Philadelphia, an event that became a series of 12 such meetings, the last in 2012.
Dr. Vuckic’s presentation (just over an hour long) covers a lot of historical ground going back to the early days when “LRT” as a mode distinct from “streetcars” – the missing link between bus systems and full-scale subways or rapid transit – started to gain popularity. Vuchic’s speaking style isn’t breezy. He could cover his material faster (and probably with less text on the Powerpoints running behind him), but he gives us the history of transit evolution over four decades.
This is not an all LRT, all the time, presentation, and it gives fair credit to the importance of buses at the core of transit systems. The point, as always, is to use the right mode for each implementation.
Oh dear, it seems the Sheppard LRT is doomed because of that statement. We’ll have to spend another billion++ dollars to extend the Sheppard subway. Along with the Scarborough subway extension, we seem to want to spend a billion dollars here and there to eliminate transfers instead of expanding the range of service. That seems rather extravagant to me.
In the meantime, while eliminating transfers, we will neglect, for example, Eglinton east of Kennedy Station which could benefit from an LRT/BRT upgrade. I rode from Kennedy Station to Guildwood Park, and it seemed a very slow ride. Spending a $1 billion there instead of eliminating a transfer would seem to be a better investment.
The Scarborough RT saga should probably go down in transit history as an example of how to mess up a good idea by getting politicians (and their egos) involved, then throw good money after bad, then dither while important decisions need to be made, all the while opening up another giant can of worms by undermining the concept of intermediate-capacity rapid transit.
If the province hadn’t gotten involved in maglev, then they wouldn’t have been looking to sell their leftover technology as ICTS, then they wouldn’t have undermined the Scarborough RT, then it would have run to Malvern (and the Etobicoke RT would be running to Pearson), then we’d have built LRT lines on Eglinton and Sheppard and Finch … but we’d still be debating whether Pearson needs an express rail connection to Union.
By the way let’s not forget this other example of how the Provincial government tried to make their “ICTS” work.
The irony is that if they had built a Scarborough RT using CLRVs as originally planned, some elements of the north corridor of the GO-ALRT Network might have been built … and we’d be on trains instead of buses (the GO 407 corridor and Mississauga BRT / transitway).
The subway isn’t a forced mistake, the LRT would be a forced mistake. Again, you’re arguing for a lesser form of transit with an unnecessary transfer. The only benefit to a light rail replacement for the RT – and the *only* benefit that is possible – is the slightly lower up front cost for construction. It has no other benefit, you may argue as many points as you want, but this is the only reason to support it. And yes, its a point worth considering, but not important enough to choose it over subway extension.
The initial cost of expanding the subway is more expensive on the front end, but it’s the best option long term. Whenever the TTC subway receives new rolling stock, it doesn’t have to be a separate purchase for a specific LRT line, the Scarborough extension will get the benefit without the added capital costs in 20-30 years. All these other moot points are just backtracking an already approved line.
Steve: It does not matter whether we have subway cars or LRT cars, we will have a fleet of standard vehicles that will be replaced at roughly the 30 year mark.
I’ll end my contribution here by repeating that its kind of sad seeing so many pro-transit people argue for a lesser form of transit. I think Toronto should take advantage of the fact that one of the most pro-urban, pro-transit provincial governments was just elected with a majority and push to finish the Scarborough subway as approved, as quickly as possible. Then move forward, make progress by advocating for a separate LRT line locally just for Scarborough that doesn’t use the RT or other routing, a proper LRT system that connects up to important nodes such as SCC and maybe a GO lakeshore stop.
Toronto has a lot of transit enthusiasts, but its kind of silly seeing so many supporters and supposed experts support lesser forms of transit above the better option. Again, its unfortunate Rob Ford has been the face of subway construction. He’s toxic and once he’s gone maybe Toronto will see why the subway for the Scarborough RT replacement is the best option in the long term.
Steve: It does you no good painting the LRT advocates as “supposed experts” advocating against a “better option” when the logic you use to define “better” is something with which we fundamentally disagree. Your argument boils down to “I am right, and you are wrong, and that justifies me calling you names”. Not the best debating technique.
You know Steve, you should post aerial photos of the STC area around the time the RT was under construction just to illustrate how stupid extending the subway there in the 1980’s would have been.
Steve: The report for the unbuilt Scarborough LRT to Malvern clearly shows much of the land in the area as vacant or farmland, with a smattering of light industrial. The whole idea was to build the transit line first and then the community around it.
Refreshing to read your posts. Spending big bucks on on an mix-match system that doesn’t quite mesh with the current infrastructure is short sighted.
Even if you build transit to an empty farm field you better build it properly or don’t build it at all. Just like the old farm fields in the 1980’s map what you’ll see on the map now is not what you’ll see in 30-50 years & the type of infrastructure we build will heavily dictate what that map will look like in the future.
LRT’s and BRT’s are fine around the perimeter of the City if we really need to spend that kind of money. But the main Artery should seamlessly connect onto the same infrastructure as the rest of the City we live in.
I am going to be a rebel on this thread and comment on the subject. I wasn’t initially going to watch this video because of the length and I though I knew what was going to say, but am glad I relented. As well as a history lesson and a good overview using examples of many cities which need a medium capacity mode.
Does any know where the presentation slides can be found?
Steve, with regard to your long reply to Dean Girard, on July 2nd, as to the difficulties with Kennedy Station — I have been lucky in that the escalators have been working every time I have had to use the SRT.
Have you seen the designs currently being considered for Mount Dennis Station — the western terminus of the Eglinton Line? An underground passage connects the LRT platform to a new GO platform, and then proceeds further to a D shaped platform with 15 busbays. The designs will require passengers transferring from the LRT to a bus to walk down a passage that is 250 meters long. Maybe they just couldn’t come up with a more compact design.
250 meters — that is farther than the distance between Spadina Stations east-west platforms and its north-south platforms, isn’t it? Aren’t most passengers coming from the west end of the Bloor line, who plan to go north more willing to travel to St George to transfer, than to get off at Spadina, and walk 100 meters?
I think I would rather climb three flights of stairs than walk a quarter of a kilometer.
Kipling has the Subway level, mezzanine, with a combination bus, LRT level. That might be preferable at Kennedy, as well. But stacking the levels does seem to be the most compact design. So, do you see a design superior to Kipling?
Steve: Kipling is ideal, but not all sites lend themselves to that arrangement. Kennedy has the same stacked layout, but much less conveniently designed because of the extra level between the subway and buses, and then another long rise to the RT level.
Malcolm N has some suggestions as to what was wrong with the SRT. I rode the Skytrain’s original Expo line, back when it used the exact same technology as the SRT. The Skytrain was a terrific success. How did that happen?
I don’t think it was that the Skytrain followed a more scenic route, or that it had more architecturally beautiful stations.
I wonder whether the Skytrain’s success was due to being much longer? But, on the other hand, the SRT was about the same length of the TTC’s original Union to Eglinton subway.
My recollection is that, originally the SRT would stop at each station, open the doors, and leave them open for close to 45 seconds. The Skytrain’s doors were only open about 15 seconds. (Mind you the SRT’s dwell times are now comparable to those of the Skytrain.)
Steve: Skytrain had several things going for it. First and foremost was the weather. The SRT has no end of problems in the winter, and that’s an almost unknown issue in Vancouver. Also, to put it bluntly, Skytrain was Vancouver’s equivalent of the Yonge subway, and they worked far harder at making the technology, including the automation, work properly. UTDC, who marketed the system, were fired as consultants during the construction for incompetence. Vancouver updated some of the computer systems fairly early in the line’s life while the TTC attempted to make do with out of date, unrepairable technology much longer. It is intriguing that when Bombardier finally lost its stranglehold on Vancouver, the Canada line was built with a different system.
Vancouver replaced the computers used in their vehicles relatively early? Lol. I spent a year or so working at the Canadian branch of General Automation, the company that built the computers used in the SRT. I wasn’t a full time employee, I was added to a different real-time projec, that was late. General Automation sold computers intended for real-time industrial applications. They were, in 1985, still using bit-slice tcchnology — so the CPU wasn’t on a single chip. One of the full time employees there told me how extra reliable everything they sold was. But the big old disk drives we used experienced several crashes.
I am not surprised that Vancouver replaced the computers with something more modern. I think the UTDC may have made the same mistake routinely made on military projects that take years to complete — if a project is to take a decade or so, it is a mistake to nail down all the computer technology it is going to use in the first year, because even if it is cutting edge in year one, it will be several generations obsolete by the time you start to deliver the first units nine years later.
The standard programming language used on these machines? Fortran — or assembler.