Updated Sept. 9, 2014 at 12:50 pm: NOW Magazine has published an article by Rob Salerno detailing the problems with the right-of-way on Eglinton West that John Tory’s SmartTrack plan assumes is available, as well as questions about the need for both a frequent service on the Stouffville GO corridor and the Scarborough Subway.
Toronto is beset by a love of drawing lines on maps. We have stacks of rapid transit studies going back to the horsecar era. We have competing views of regional and local transit. We have the pandering “I have a solution for YOU” approach tailored to whichever ballot box needs stuffing. Almost none of this gets built.
Fantasy maps abound. The difference between the scribblings of amateur transit geeks and professional/political proposals can be hard to find.
Common to both is the sense that “my plan” is not just better, it is the only plan any right-thinking person would embrace. Egos, both personal and governmental, are literally on the line. Once pen meets paper ideas acquire a permanence and commitment that are almost indelible.
If transit networks were cheap to build and operate relative to the resources we choose to spend on them, transit would be everywhere and blogs like this would be reduced to debating the colour scheme for this week’s newly-opened station. Transit is not cheap, and the debates turn on far more complex issues than which shade of red or green is appropriate for our two major networks.
Another election with competing views of what is best for Toronto brings a crop of proposals. I hesitate to say “a fresh crop” as some schemes are long past their sell-by dates. Candidates may strive to bring something new to the discussion, but these attempts can discard good ideas simply to appear innovative. Perish the thought that we might embrace something already on the table when we can wave a magic wand and – Presto! – the solution to every problem appears in a puff of smoke, a well-timed entrance and an overblown YouTube video.
Moving people with transit is not simply one problem with one solution. Nobody pretends that a single expressway could cure all the ails of Toronto and the region beyond. A single highway – say, a “401” in a Toronto that had only recently paved Sheppard Avenue – would be recognized for its limitations. But once a plan is committed to paper – even the dreaded coffee-stained napkin, let alone election literature – resistance is futile. At least until the next election.
This article reviews several dreams for new and upgraded transit, and tries to make sense out of what all these lines might achieve.
As I was reading through all of this, I felt that some of my critique will sound rather harsh, and inevitably I would be challenged with “so what would you do”. If you want to see my answer, jump to the end of the article, remembering that my scheme is not a definitive one.
Although some of my comments touch on proposals of various Mayoral candidates, I will leave a detailed review of those for a separate article. A good regional plan is more important than any one campaign, and the debate on what we should build should not be dictated by this week’s pet project, whatever it might be.
Regional Express Rail (RER)
Metrolinx and GO Transit (one organization with two very different public faces) now embraces the concept that a truly “regional” network means more than funneling peak hour commuters to and from Union Station. “Embraced” may be a stretch here, given that it took a pre-election promise by their Queen’s Park masters to shift attention to this long-overdue change in GO’s mandate. A new train or two, here and there, now and then, simply could not address the magnitude of demand for travel and the pressure on all transportation services as the GTHA population grows.
But Metrolinx has definitely shifted gears, as their status report on RER shows.
RER includes several facets.
Frequent, electrified service, possibly as good as 4 trains/hour, would be provided on all GO corridors, all day long, 7 days/week. Well, maybe not. Premier Wynne’s statement at the Board of Trade includes important qualifications:
“… our target will be two-way, all-day GO express rail on all lines. … Over ten years, we aim to phase in electric train service every fifteen minutes on all GO lines that we own.” [April 14, 2014]
The RER report does not give specifics of service designs, but a clear pattern emerges for major corridors with an express service to the outer ends, and a local service between nodes closer to downtown. On Lake Shore, these are at Oakville and Pickering (ironically the original termini of GO’s service); on the Kitchener line, at Mt. Pleasant. It does not require a big leap to foresee electrification to the bounds of local service with diesel trains continuing beyond, at least as an initial implementation.
GO does not own all of its routes, nor is it likely to acquire all of them for the simple reason that they are mainline freight trackage. What could happen is a co-existence of GO with parallel operations such as on Lake Shore East. Each corridor has its own challenges and potential solutions.
The shift in philosophy about GO as a regional surface subway, not merely a commuter railway, will fundamentally change GO’s role and the role of public transit in the GTHA. Strong integration with local operators will make the RER accessible via transit at both ends of an RER journey, and can be the impetus for better local transit service and demand.
The speed with which these changes will be implemented depends on a combination of long-term government commitment, overcoming hurdles to acceptance by private railways that GO will make greater use of their lines, acceleration of changes needed for electrification, and a truly integrated fare and service structure with local agencies.
Ongoing capital and operating budget support is essential. Too often, governments get cold feet when they don’t have a ribbon to cut every few months, or when economic crises make spending a project for “next year”. The problems don’t go away, and as we have seen in past decades, they just get worse.
RER is probably the best idea Queen’s Park has had in its long history of bungled transit files. For once, we have a proposal whose primary goal is to improve service, not to underwrite some hare-brained economic development strategy or pump money into a specific manufacturer’s product.
Alas, this could all be undone if an over-eager, influential cabinet minister starts gerrymandering plans and priorities to suit an election campaign. That could be a greater disaster than recent provincial meddling in Toronto’s rapid transit plans.
The regional context is particularly important because this is not just a few nodes – Union Station, Hamilton, Brampton, Barrie, Oshawa – but the many in between stops on the network itself, and in the many blank spaces between the green lines on the map.
That region includes Toronto, all of it, not just Union Station. GO’s long-standing antipathy for inside-416 ridership must end. This does not mean that trains would stop at every crossing, but fares and service patterns discriminating against local riding simply waste the capacity of the network. One can hardly blame folks from the outer 416 for wanting subways to downtown if GO’s presence is little more than trains that don’t stop, or high fares for limited capacity if they do.
A major challenge for RER will be to design not just for a 15-minute headway out at, say, Oakville, but to have enough capacity so that Port Credit, Long Branch and Mimico don’t become the equivalent of Eglinton on the overloaded Yonge subway.
The status report talks about two types of service on various corridors with an express serving the outer portion (say, Oakville to Hamilton on Lake Shore West) and a separate local service for the inner portion. This is important not just to divorce the long-haul demand from the locals, but also to allow improvements for very frequent service to stay within the portions of each corridor that GO controls.
Positive Train Control is included as a necessary part of the network’s upgrade because this will allow operation of more frequent service than conventional railway signalling and practices now in use. There is a limit to how many tracks will fit in each corridor, and moving more trains per hour will be vital to the RER network. PTC will also improve safety with a direct link between train operations and the signal system.
Electrification and very frequent service all the way to Kitchener is a real stretch and poses challenges for interoperation with the freight railways, not to mention being a dubious use of resources. Metrolinx talks of the local service going out to Mt. Pleasant Station, a much more attainable goal with funding concentrated on the busiest part of the corridor.
Will we get seven completed corridors in ten years? Not likely, but it is good to see that Metrolinx does not (for now) attempt to spin their project with the unreasonable promises made by politicians on the hustings.
Union Station is an area of special concern both for its complexity in an electrification changeover and its capacity. Constraints must be address through rationalization of platform use, better operating procedures that will permit shorter headways and, possibly, satellite stations. Shared approaches to Union are a special challenge because multiple frequent services will converge well before they reach the station.
At long last Toronto sees a network-based approach to its commuter rail system that goes all the way from the big-picture infrastructure all the way down to the essential improvement of fare and service integration with local transit operations.
This project must not be derailed by short-sighted political interference.
Union Pearson (Express)
An air-rail link to Pearson Airport has been in the works for a very long time with initial studies in the 1990s and the first request for proposals by Ottawa in 2001. Although the government hoped that this scheme could be a for-profit private sector operation, that was never really viable. Queen’s Park inherited the program in 2008, but with the continued need for public subsidy, the 3P deal fell apart. By 2010, it was a fully public sector Metrolinx project, albeit one with its own Division and President, a situation almost as laughable as if the TTC had a separate President for the Spadina streetcar.
The line’s development is littered with poorly executed public participation and a sense that the new service would bully its way from Union to Pearson over any objections. People can be coaxed into supporting a public work for the greater good, especially if this includes stops in their neighbourhoods and fares they can afford for daily travel.
Far too much government ego is invested in this line at both the political and bureaucratic level. Recent over-the-top publicity was pulled from YouTube, but not before it became the object of ridicule and exposed the self-congratulatory Metrolinx mindset for all to see. The sense that Toronto cannot be a world-class city without this service, that we would be ridiculed by visitors to the Pan-Am Games in 2015, have pushed what should be a basic local transit improvement into realms of hyperbole better suited to carnival hucksters.
We hear about all the trips by limo from downtown that will be replaced by brisk UP journeys saving on pollution and congestion. No reference to when these trips might occur, nor to the fact that a trip to the airport by transit – whether it be a harried member of the business elite or a worker on the daily commute – is a trip removed from the road.
The Provincial Auditor did not think highly of this scheme, and a credible “business case” for the UP Express has never been published.
After all of the criticism, Metrolinx is backing away from initial plans. They talk of protecting for additional stops and of a fare regime that might attract weekday workers, not just the business elite. A proposed tariff may appear on the December 2014 Board meeting agenda.
The sad part in all of this is that the UPX could have been so much more right from the outset if only GO’s view of its purpose had advanced to an “RER” context years earlier. The Weston corridor is an obvious and oft-proposed way to link northwest Toronto and the Malton/Bramalea/Brampton area to downtown. Instead, all of the effort went to serving a small potential market, the only one where a profit from transit might be possible. That is no way to plan a network.
Service to the airport must be more than something for a handful of business-class riders, and it must serve far more than downtown Toronto. As a major destination it should be served from multiple directions (in effect, a mini “downtown”) including busways from the west and LRT from the east both on Eglinton and from Finch. The study of transit needs for the airport district must look to the widest possible catchment area for trips, and should not be cooked to artificially inflate the role of the UP Express line.
The UP Express will open to much fanfare, but it will be a “success” only to the degree that cut-rate fares will attract riders. How much subsidy it will require to operate remains to be seen, and this may simply be buried within the Metrolinx accounts. That embarrassment need not happen, and Metrolinx needs to rescue the line by rethinking its purpose, its role as part of both RER and the local network.
(Downtown) Relief Line
A “relief” line for overcrowding on the subway is a project many discuss, but nobody wants to pay for. The idea is hardly new, and as Ed Levy so beautifully documented, a rapid transit line from east of the Don River to downtown has been on maps for over a century.
Its last incarnation as a true subway plan was a line running east on Queen and then north to Don Mills and Eglinton. Later, as part of the stillborn scheme to extend use of the Scarborough RT technology throughout Toronto, the east-west leg would have run via Eastern Avenue, the rail corridor and Front Street to a terminal at Union Station.
Notwithstanding Gordon Chong’s recent ill-informed comments in the National Post, a Queen subway or any variant was not the victim of the “hippies” who convinced Toronto to keep its streetcars in 1972, but of a Metro Council more in love with suburban growth than downtown intensification. Presented with a choice between the Sheppard and Queen subway projects, the Council picked Sheppard, and did so over a decade after the pro-streetcar decision.
Meanwhile, the TTC continued to claim that the existing Yonge line could handle any foreseeable growth in ridership through conversion to fully automatic operation and expansion of major stations, notably Bloor-Yonge, to handle the resulting passenger flows. This claim was also in aid of a Richmond Hill extension, a project with strong support in TTC ranks, but one that could only be advanced if capacity would be available for new riders.
Like so much of TTC planning in the late 20th century, the idea that GO Transit could play a role in sharing peak demand from the 905 or outer 416 suburbs into Toronto was completely absent from the discussion.
The downtown capacity crisis hit its peak in the late 1980s, but with the recession of the 1990s, ridership dropped steeply. Twenty percent of the system’s daily riders just vanished along with any pressure to improve subway capacity.
Now the crunch is on again, but political attention is still fixed well beyond the core area.
One big problem the “DRL” has is that word “Downtown”, an area reviled by many politicians who argue that the coddled folk south of Bloor get far too big a share of the transit pie already. That would be fine if the subway were only used by people living, say, south of Eglinton, but as regular commuters know, the subway is packed with riders from both Toronto’s outer suburbs and from the 905 thanks to an extensive network of feeder buses.
In effect, Toronto needs a new “downtown” subway to handle demand in the central part of the city, to provide a relief valve for congestion on the Yonge-University line, and to diversify possible routes for travel. If we think of a new line simply as a way to siphon riders off of the Danforth subway to downtown, the proposal is guaranteed to fail.
It could be so much more.
As with so many plans, there are competing objectives, and lines fall onto maps as if strands of spaghetti landed randomly on the breeze. These objectives and possible service goals include:
- Serving downtown with an east-west line through the core at a location that lies roughly in the centre of potential demand. That centre has shifted south since Queen Street was thought to be the future east-west main street, a shift that was already underway with developments on Bloor decades ago.
- Serving new developments around the Don River and the eastern waterfront. That waterfront is a huge place stretching from Queen Street down to the lake. The distance is slightly over 1km at Sherbourne Street, but double this east of the Don when future growth in the Port Lands is considered.
- Serving new developments west of downtown. This includes the established Liberty Village district, but also its growing northern extension to Queen, many developments between the rail corridor and Queen west of downtown, and development between the rail corridor and Lake Ontario.
- Development at or near the Exhibition grounds and Ontario Place.
- West Queen West (the lands beyond the Weston rail corridor) and a link to Dundas West Station.
No one line can possibly serve all of these areas. Terabytes of space on various blogs is consumed with sundry maps and discussions of a “Relief Line” alignment, and I am not going to rehash all of that here.
A joint study between Toronto City Planning, the TTC and Metrolinx is reviewing options for “relief” on the subway network, and is now at the stage of winnowing many proposed schemes (the long list includes just about every fantasy map ever published) down to a manageable set of credible alternatives. What is still missing, however, is a sense of just what a “relief” line is supposed to achieve beyond diverting riders from the existing subway.
What neighbourhoods will it serve? What major existing or potential development sites lie along the various corridors? What will happen to the places left out of the DRL’s service territory? Which potential demands can be better served by other routes ranging all the way from the RER system down to the local street transit network?
That context is essential for moving debate on a “DRL” beyond mere “relief” to something that will contribute to the growth of the city. As relief, the investment would be quite dear, but to unlock the value of land now poorly served by transit, the payback would be quite different.
Unless the debate is refocused on that broader scope, the DRL, regardless of its name, will have weak support, be treated as a project for “someone else”, and will remain an unbuilt line on a map.
Waterfront (West/East) LRT
Transit to the waterfront – broadly speaking the lands south of the rail corridor – has always suffered because, like the DRL, it is something “downtown”, not part of the supposedly burgeoning suburbs, and because for so much of the waterfront, nothing is really “there”. Even as plans started to firm up, especially for the land east from Yonge to the Don, and the TTC claimed it should take a “transit first” approach, major investments in transit simply did not appear in the priority lists.
The Waterfront West LRT was announced as part of the 1990 transit plan that was supposed to re-elect David Peterson’s Liberals, but instead brought Bob Rae’s majority NDP government. Rae inherited the plans just as the economy dove into recession, and he tried to keep the overall scheme alive as much for job creation as for transit in its own right. (The other routes proposed included the Eglinton West, Bloor West, Sheppard East and Spadina/Steeles/Yonge loop subways.)
By 1993, there was an Environmental Assessment proposing a line from Union Station following what is now the 509 Harbourfront car’s alignment to the east side of the CNE, then south along Lake Shore to serve Ontario Place, north up Dufferin either to King or to a route along the rail corridor, and finally west via The Queensway and Lake Shore to Legion Road. A future enhancement might have been a more direct line via Bremner and the rail corridor covering the segment from Union to Dufferin.
Over the years, various alternatives emerged, but one important change was that the streetcars found themselves buried against the north edge of Exhibition Place far from anything that might happen on Lake Shore. Further west, a scheme to take the line beyond Sunnyside on a reworked Lake Shore Boulevard to a Queensway connection at Colbourne Lodge Road emerged during the Miller years as part of Transit City.
The WWLRT shares with the DRL the problem that it cannot serve all of the existing and potential developments along its path. For example, a line on the Lake Shore makes sense if it has something to serve, but this would leave Exhibition Loop (and a walking connection over the rail corridor to Liberty Village) high and dry. There is also a problem with the route’s length out into southern Etobicoke and whether it could really compete with frequent, attractively priced service on the GO corridor.
To the east, lands of comparable scale to the existing downtown lie almost empty. These are former industrial lands where development has been constrained by a lack of access and utilities, not to mention difficult of building near the lake on fill, and by flood protection requirement that conversion to residential/commercial property entail. There is also the small matter of the future of the Gardiner and particularly the geometry of its connection to the Don Valley Parkway.
The Waterfront East LRT in its fully developed form would include a line splitting off from the existing Bay Street tunnel at Queens Quay running east to Cherry Street which would be shifted west from its present location. Here there would be a connection north via Cherry to King (the track is now in place to a loop just north of the rail corridor) and south via New Cherry to the Ship Channel (not to be confused with Keating Channel which is just south of Lake Shore). The line could be extended east via Lake Shore to hook up with an extended Broadview Avenue, or via Commissioners Street to Leslie at the new Leslie Barns.
The political problem is that much of this land is now vacant, and even the recent developments are well known only to those who visit the area, not to the wider city. We might have seen pressure under the Miller regime to build sooner, but with Rob Ford in charge, any new streetcar lines were out of the question and the waterfront development risked being restyled as an amusement park.
The Challenge of the Core
Work now underway at Union to improve capacity and modernize its appearance is long overdue. However, the RER plan accelerates the consumption of that capacity, and Toronto cannot sit back thinking “well, that job’s finished”.
Part of the problem is operational – the way GO and VIA share space and manage their trains could be improved to reduce conflicting movements and reduce or eliminate turnaround times.
Another issue is simply the movement of passengers to and from platforms, not to mention congestion. This is a common problem with some subway stations where running more trains will overwhelm existing capacity.
Metrolinx has included these as part of their review in the RER study. One option is the creation of one or two satellite termini to the east at the Don River, or to the west between Bathurst and Spadina. That can reduce the number of trains arriving at Union, but the “last mile” problem remains for the passengers. (It would be like ending southbound Yonge subway service at Summerhill.)
The DRL has been proposed, but this forces its alignment to match the location of any new GO terminal, and definitely requires fare integration with the TTC as a distribution mechanism.
The core area is much larger than in decades past with expansion both east-west (mainly residential growth) and north-south especially across the rail corridor (residential and commercial growth). Where “King & Bay” was once the target of a large proportion of trips, demand is much more spread out, and it is impractical to serve the whole area with subway lines.
Residential growth occurs mainly in shoulder core (roughly a 4km radius from Union) , but is spilling beyond anywhere there is better transit with infill and redevelopment of previously low rise neighbourhoods. The streetcar system is already under stress from this growth, but will only slowly gain capacity as the fleet of new low-floor cars arrives.
Academic institutions also contribute to the growth, and they have a different demand pattern from office towers. The growing campuses of Ryerson University (near Dundas Station) and George Brown College (both in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood and on Queens Quay East) bring large, transit dependent populations into the core area.
Transit’s share of trips to the core is good, but certainly not 100%, and “active transportation” (walking, cycling) can only address part of the capacity shortfall.
Express buses appear on wish lists as “solutions”, but these are expensive to operate and can only serve riders with an origin-destination pattern that lies along what little spare road capacity might be found. Even where a route into the core exists, road space for a shared downtown loop and stops is limited and this will constrain the capacity of express services.
Finally, the core and a goodly portion of the “old” city suffer from congestion that has become an all-day problem. This is partly a “good news” story with the rejuvenation of the central city, new residents and commercial activity. However, the failure to improve surface transit routes and to manage road space leaves would-be transit riders steaming about capacity and service quality.
So, Smarty, What Would Your Plan Look Like?
None of this will be new to regular readers. I hate to draw my own map because this will launch an immense comment thread about the minutia of each reader’s preferences. The issue here is to view transit as a network, not as something that can be cherry-picked or a problem that can be solved with a single, magically “free” project.
- GO’s RER plan should be implemented as quickly as possible, and the benefits it will bring to demand for long-haul trips must be factored into plans for the subway network.
- RER cannot be a “local” service on the granularity of the TTC and it should not try. However, more stations are needed along with a service and fare structure that will make GO useful and attractive not just in the 905 but in the outer 416.
- A “Relief Line” is required separate from service on the GO corridors because it would serve a different type of demand. To the east, it should run from downtown via Wellington and Front with an alignment at the Don suitable for developments planned in the area. Further east and north the line should not end at Danforth, but should continue through East York to serve Thorncliffe Park, Flemingdon Park and the Don Mills/Eglinton intersection (with potential for further northward extension).
- West of downtown, a DRL alignment (if any) depends on whether there will be a satellite GO station at Bathurst North and on whatever plans might evolve for Exhibition Place.
- The Weston rail corridor should be the route of whatever western “relief” line might be built, and this should incorporate the airport service from downtown. A convenient link at Dundas West with direct access between the Bloor subway and the rail corridor is essential.
- The Queen Subway, especially the West Queen West and Roncesvalles components, is an inappropriate response to existing and probable development patterns, and it should not be pursued.
- A detailed study and understanding of evolving demand in the shoulder areas around downtown is urgently required together with a review of improvements to streetcar service both by fleet expansion and by better traffic priority.
- Service to the waterfront, broadly speaking to the areas south of the rail corridor, must be seen as a requirement in its own right, not as something that can be handled by a passing GO or subway line. The nature and timing of developments both to the east and west of the core need to be much better understood so that the needs and priorities of these areas can be debated intelligently as part of the regional plan. This includes a clear plan for the use of lands at Exhibition Place and transit’s role there either with improved streetcar service on the Bathurst and Harbourfront routes, and/or as a western terminus of the DRL.
- The SmartTrack scheme to access the airport via Eglinton West is impractical both because of the difficulty of getting from the rail corridor to Eglinton at Jane, and because the land proposed for SmartTrack is no longer available as a continuous corridor. We already have built a line to the airport – use it – and leave Eglinton free for extension of the Crosstown LRT.
- The Finch LRT line should be built including protection for eventual extension to the airport.
- In Scarborough, the function of an RER service on the Stouffville GO corridor, together with a subway or LRT route, should be clarified. They should not both be trying to provide local service as well as funneling riders south from Markham into Toronto. My preference for the LRT scheme is well-known, but if the subway plan survives, its potential loss of riders to the RER should be well-understood.
- The Sheppard East LRT line including its proposed UTSC extension should be built.
Last, but certainly not least, service quality and frequency must improve across the surface route network. Buses and streetcars are too often ignored while grandiose schemes for future rapid transit get all the attention. Recently, I wrote about The Crisis in TTC Service Capacity. The abdication of responsibility for transit by the current administration is among the blackest of many appalling acts for which Rob Ford and his cronies will be remembered.
The standard line these days is to say “we can’t fix anything until 2019” because of lead times on various projects. This, flatly, is not acceptable. The problem is not time, it is money, or rather the continued unwillingness to spend it on anything that won’t buy votes in the election of the day.
We hear lots about “respect for taxpayers”, but rarely about “respect for the city”. I cannot help thinking of shareholders in now-dead corporations whose only concern was to maximize dividends while stripping assets as quickly as possible. That is what we risk doing to Toronto – disinvesting to the point where the city stops working – and our transit system is one big example of that folly.
All of the bright hopes for regional transit, all those multicoloured maps, are worthless if they will be hamstrung by the “no new taxes” brigades, by the short-sighted politicians who can’t bear fighting for spending unless it is in their ward, their riding, their campaign literature.
Toronto and Queen’s Park lost any claim to fiscal responsibility or “business case analysis” with the Scarborough Subway project and the decision to fund its cost through a new transit tax. If we have money for Scarborough, there is a long line of projects and services that have equal if not better claim for new money. Investment in Toronto’s future means more than building a few subway lines.
I see NO room whatsoever in your plan for swan boats! At least those have the possibility of being implemented!
Always great insight towards harnessing an overall plan.
My preference for Scarborough is a Subway for many reasons not worth rehashing but I feel as though it should end at Markham/Sheppard not McCowan. Hopefully this will be tabled during design.
Citizens in Scarborough would be much more forgiving towards LRT technology if there was a guarantee that a Sheppard would loop to Eglinton & we could see benefit for the majority of the City instead of seeing an above ground Sheppard LRT stub-line connect to an underground Sheppard Subway stub-line which is utterly ridiculous.
Building transit like this will cause politicians to further troll Scarborough for another 50 years to build more rail. Like people from all over 416/905 we’ve had it enough.
I just have little confidence anything useful will be built since there are too many locations with their hands out begging for transit the moment with the infrastructure & service backlog. With politicians in control the usual outcome will only ends up benefiting the most “politically” connected locations.
God knows people tried, but Metrolinx is tone deaf.
Yes one of the big issues here, is that we seem to have notionally assumed that the taxpayer is one group, and then there are the consumers or services, and that other distinct group, residents. The notion of regarding these as a single integrated set of persons, both by politicians and the voters themselves is important. You cannot have a free lunch, and the costs of trying to have one, is usually very high in the longer term.
The other concern, to my mind here, is frequency, as the discussion is centred around 15 minute service, which might not be frequent enough for many riders in the outer 416. However, having said that, it needs to be understood that it will primarily serve one destination, and Toronto has other destination that should really get additional service.
Steve is not this loss of (subway) ridership required, if the subway network as a whole is to actually continue to function? To me there is a need to actually look at the detail of origin destination information that I was under the impression would be available shortly, and evaluate and build the overall network around that. Do we not need to make some allowance, to ensure that we actually direct core bound riders from the area around the Stouffville line to RER, and away from subway in even the outer 416?
Steve: Definitely. Now that the updated O-D information for the GTHA is available, we also need to see demand projections based on a realistic collection of network options and on land use / population density projections that are vaguely related to what is likely to be built, not artificially inflated to make suburban pols and planners feel good.
Steve, will it not be critical that this be a very high frequency route, in order to actually draw the type of ridership that is required to make it provide a real alternative to driving, and subway.
Steve: It depends on what you mean by “very high frequency”. I do not agree that we need 120 second headways everywhere, especially if as an alternative route a new line gives an overall time reduction for trips. The concerns most riders seem to have is that service arrive predictably, and that there is actually space for people to board when it does.
Again Steve well said, and I appreciate your nuanced approach, not being overly committed to a single solution. I know for myself, when I look at the overall structure of the city, I think that there are a dwindling number of options available to actually help with this. I cannot help but think that a solution like a Waterfront LRT will be required in order to provide a route for the further reaches of the shoulder areas (I know it sounds like an oxymoron), but as the density builds out, I can see anything beyond the Don seeming like an endless ride on a streetcar (or in auto), and the same for anything close to the park in the west. I am with you that there needs to be a hard look at how the Exhibition grounds can be used in transit.
The piece in the Star today, and the fact that the infrastructure is such an issue in Toronto (and other major centres in Canada) brings home the import of approaching this problem in a smart and careful way.
I hope that a way can be found to run a frequent service in the Weston, and Stouffville corridors, that advanced transit priority coordinated integrated with a predictive vehicle locating system can be implemented for the bus and streetcar networks. To me there is need for this to support many of TTCs longer routes, as well as the implementation of LRT and BRT in a number of areas to make transit in the city work.
The entire process needs to be looking transit and transportation as an integrated whole, not as route or corridor “solutions”. There needs to be a good understanding of how RER (and at various frequencies) will affect lines like Yonge, and Danforth, as well as new potential lines or extension, needs to be understood before it is implemented or extension are built or new lines added.
I hope that Metrolinx has the data and the will and ability to use it to properly model overall network solutions, and that the politicians and public will actually listen to a solution that actually accounts for the overall origins and destinations, and is actually designed to meet the needs of the city, not to look grand.
I think it needs to be understood that a full streetcar (new ones) every 2 minutes is like 3 lanes of autos. Where we can justify such service, a small corridor can have a massive impact.
I suspect that riders will be quite sensitive to frequency as well as price and trip length, and all of these need to be taken into account in any network implementation.
Just curious – would your preferred DRL alignment along Wellington have a direct connection to the YUS line? Just glancing at the map I guess you could connect to King, Union, and St. Andrew via walking tunnels and station alignment, but I’m not sure what else is underground there which might get in the way.
Steve: The south end of King Station is at Melinda Street, a short block north of Wellington. This would make a connecting tunnel quite short. Over at University, St. Andrew Station ends a bit south of King, but the space on top of the subway is now occupied by a parking garage that could be repurposed, in part, for a connecting passageway with minimal new construction. A Union connection is trickier, and requires a walking transfer through the PATH system probably to the western end of a Wellington/Yonge/Bay station.
I would suggest changing the wording about the DRL from ‘wouldn’t stop at Danforth’ to ‘wouldn’t terminate at Danforth’.
Yes, it’s obvious if one is familiar with your DRL proposal, but it read oddly.
Steve: Good suggestion. Done. Thanks.
It was a big mistake for Miller to ignore GO expansion and ignore the downtown relief line and push for his LRT everywhere plan. Because the GO lines date from the 19th century some neighbourhoods may be unlucky to not be near one (as we saw with the Olivia Chow campaign’s remark regarding John Tory wanting to cancel the Finch LRT) but overall they serve pretty much every municipality in the GTA, and a far larger area than any other transit proposal can. There is a limited amount of funding available and it seems to me that if Miller had actually pushed for GO expansion, there wouldn’t have been any money left over for either subways or LRTs and we would have to make do with articulated buses for the remaining unserved areas. Miller set transit back in this city by 10 years I think by pushing a lot of weird LRT proposals, ignoring everything else, and I think that Rob Ford was basically elected because Miller was very unpopular by 2009/2010. There is a lot of opposition to LRT in this city, particularly among car drivers, and I think that Pantalone’s distant third place finish in the 2010 election shows how few people really supported Transit City. As I’ve said before Eglinton would have made far more sense as a shortened subway with nothing east of Don Mills and Sheppard should be left alone if a subway costs too much because building incompatible subway and LRT on the same road results in strangely located transfers and is basically unheard of anywhere else in the world, and would result in an additional transfer for route 190 riders. There is nothing to prevent the TTC from running every 2nd bus route 85 to UTSC. (My suspicion is that Metrolinx is trying to silently kill the Sheppard LRT, assuming Tory wins, given how little attention it is given in the board meeting material and fund Hurontario LRT instead to use up the Bombardier LRVs. The duplicate construction near Finch/Kipling seems suspicious as well though Finch LRT has a significantly higher chance of being built than Sheppard.)
Steve: I really hate to break this to you, but Transit City was not intended to address regional demand. Moreover, at the time, GO was being very slow about any expansion, and what we did see was oriented to commuters from the 905, not the outer 416.
As someone who had a hand in designing Transit City, I find you remarks sound much more like a desire to slag any “Miller Legacy” than to address the situation as it existed in the late 2000s. Metrolinx was about to announce a new set of routes, a precursor to The Big Move. What wound up happening was that every plan then on the table was bundled together as one package. It was not Toronto’s role to propose expansion of GO in the 905, and Transit City was intended to speak to the lack of a suburban 416 network with a technology that was affordable and practical.
I really feel for you and your problems with Don Mills Station’s long subway to bus connection. That is not, repeat, not what is proposed for the LRT which would have an across the platform transfer to the subway line.
All over the world, high capacity lines end in places and lower capacity modes take over. Sheppard should never have been built as a subway, but we’re stuck with it along with the transfer at Don Mills to any future LRT. You are unlikely to ever see a subway east of Don Mills Station, and that transfer to buses will stay forever in the absence of an LRT line.
Not that I necessarily disagree, but I would love to hear your explanation critiquing this plan.
I live on The Queensway, just west of High Park in reach of the 501. It’s an appallingly terrible line. There’s simply no fast way to get to downtown from the south-west Toronto area, an area which is getting denser and denser with large residential developments.
What I’d like to see: Serious study of the 501 streetcar line and road. The TTC website shows a streetcar “target” headway within +/- 3 min of 70%. A target it never achieves. This target must be higher to gain any trust of reliability with riders. Any target below 90% should be deemed unacceptable. If 90% reliability is not achievable with streetcars, they should be teared down and replaced with a mode of transportation that can.
I believe that streetcars can be reliable. But we must implement a solution to reach that target. Personally, I think only drastic measures to reduce motorists using this route, removing certain intersections and reducing stops to a reasonable spread will have any meaningful impact.
Queen Street West currently has twice as many lanes for cars, yet the 501 already carries more passengers than motorists during a typical work day. If the 501 can operate reliably, it can greatly increase its ridership and its usefulness to those of us that live within it’s reach. It’s time we build our roads to prioritize modes of transportation that will move the largest number of people rather than continuing a path to cripple mass transportation for the benefit of cars.
Steve: The purpose of any western “relief” is to get people off of the Bloor Subway either from a transfer connection at Dundas West or by intercepting north-south flow before it even reaches the BD subway. Going west via Queen and Roncesvalles has absolutely nothing to do with this goal and actually makes the “relief” route longer.
Service on Queen West and on Roncesvalles has closely spaced stops that would almost completely disappear with a subway line. There would be a stop at Dufferin, maybe one at Lansdowne and then one at Ronces, although that curve turning north would be a challenge and the stations could not be at the corner. Going up Ronces there would be at most one station enroute to Bloor.
I do not understand why we should sacrifice close stops on local streetcar routes just to “fix” the problem of riders coming in from The Queensway.
Finally, there is the small matter of demand which I think would never reach a level justifying subway construction west from downtown via Queen from what would otherwise be a terminal at University.
Yes, Queen and King streets need to be fixed as transit streets, and this will affect other road users. However, there is a big issue with the amount of service now provided and its reliability. It is very, very hard to blame congestion for problems with inbound service from Long Branch and Humber, an area which, especially outside of the peak, has no congestion at all. The problem is line management and scheduling.
One concern I have for the proposed DRL west of Union is that I feel it should service Ontario Place.
Currently, all TTC access to the area only services the north end of the a Exhibition grounds. To attend events, like the Moldon Ampitheatre, Caribana Parade, Ontario Place and other tourist attractions, one must walk several kilometres or park their car adding to congestion.
Therefore, not only would access by DRL and/or Waterfront/Lakeshore LRT to Ontario Place make this area accessible to elderly/disabled tourists/residents, but also encourage use and development of the provincial/city parks in the area. (Accessibility for cyclists is a must, as the waterfront trail passes through Ontario Place from the Humber to Don Valley Rivers.)
This would also serve to relieve pressure from existing loops (Exhibition Loop near Fleet Street and Dufferin Loop) as well as an alternative route for those connecting with GO Transit to ease crowding at Exhibition Station.
Presto allows for fare integration, making it easier for those travelling from 905 to plan a day trip at very attractive prices, rather than paying expensive cash fares or confusing day passes. (Day pass rules differ depending on day of week and/or statutory holidays, which confuse riders who wouldn’t normally take Toronto transit or not familiar with our calendar, such as foreign tourists.)
This would also support recent and planned residential high-density developments to the west of Ontario Place, by providing alternative to the 501/508 streetcar to connect with the subway for such destinations as the Metro Toronto Zoo, Ontario Science Center and other attractions in the north and east ends of the 416 area.
The area I’m describing that would be ideal for the development of a DRL/LRT terminal/station are currently large tracks of parking, owned by the province, for Ontario Place.
In short, building in this area would support Toronto’s tourism industry, current/future development, maintain provincial standards for accessibility development for disabled individuals, and increased property values. All of which will, in turn, generate additional revenues through multiple revenue streams.
At least, better than building any DRL connections on the north side of The EX, where transit currently terminates.
LA had the same marketing problem with the Downtown Connector (linking the north and south halves of the light rail network). The solved it by rebranding it as the Regional Connector, and it’s now under construction. So maybe Toronto can pull an LA here and rebrand the DRL as the Regional Relief Line (it will, after all, benefit travellers from all over the region), and hope that that marketing makes it more likely to actually get built.
What, no port lands monorail?
Steve: Swan boats in elevated canals, converting to swan sleighs in the winter.
I could be wrong, but aren’t the swan boats scheduled as the most appropriate technology for the express service from downtown to the revamped Ontario Place? The termini would be an interchange at the bottom of the Don with the DRL, and the other under the protection of the pods at Ontario Place. There would be only two stops in the middle of the line, one where the Captain John’s will ‘used to be’ (for the Island Ferry connexion), and another at the Yo-Yo Ma garden lawn.
I am incensed by the total amount of money wasted by politicians year after year changing transit plans. It is not their money to waste, it is public money!
Transit City, if left alone, would have been coming to fruition and people would already be benefiting from the lrt lines. Yes a downtown subway relief line would be great but get the LRT lines operational in the meantime.
Manchester UK has a great LRT network with lines now reaching other towns in the area. I don’t think the people of Manchester suffered from politicians changing their mind as often as the wind changes direction. Good article Steve!
Another excellent piece, thank you!
The talk about Union satellite stations scares me, the last mile is an enormous problem. Even with DRL connections at Don and Bathurst, already heavily loaded trains absorbing GO’s quantities for one stop seems a recipe for disaster. That is why pulling out every last stop to make Union work without satellites is imperative. Pairing the lines and avoiding conflicts is mandatory, and yes, with the loss of some flexibility.
Steve: If we are talking about a western satellite at Spadina/Bathurst, this would connect with the DRL at or near its western terminus. The real problem would be for an eastern satellite at the Don where the DRL trains would arrive from points north fairly well loaded.
Consider too the idea of swinging the southern most pair (GO LSE and Via) of eastbound tracks to the south of the Don Storage Yard, requiring a new river bridge and nicking the corner of the Unilever site, to accomplish two things – Provide Milton line (unpaired with an east side line) trains access to the storage yard and turn back facility without conflicts; and to provide space just east of the river for the GO platforms for the proposed Broadview/DRL/GO interchange.
Although you are not fond of Downtown Express buses, keep in mind they could well serve a ‘temporary relief’ function, given that the DRL is still 15 years away. Moreover the DVP could yield a lane to accommodate them with little overall loss of vehicle capacity.
Steve: The problem with buses is that there is a finite capacity for their operation on downtown streets, and the same space has to be shared with express operations from other parts of the city than the DVP.
And, amusingly, Metrolinx still do not understand what a Multiple Unit (MU) is; refer to their report Page 25 Fleet, which refers to 18 DMU’s, when in fact they mean 18 cars (or vehicles, or diesel railcars) formed into three’s (with driving cab at each end) to make six 3-car DMU’s.
Steve, the last I heard the WWLRT was dead. I think some of the problems are:
1) Established neighbourhoods (Mimico, New Toronto, and Long Branch) that make it more of a political hot potato to put a ROW along Lake Shore Blvd. W. Also, from my experience, the issue along the Lake Shore is not a big issue – especially outside of rush hour – moving streetcars. And from what I have experienced, and heard from other local residents, the issue is reliable service along the Lake Shore. The service needs to be improved, but a ROW is not necessarily the solution.
2) Unless the line moves from Fleet St. south and along the Lake Shore, you have the issue of extending the line through the Exhibition Grounds. This may not be an issue to many, but it would mean changing the entrance/exit area for the GO Transit station.
3) Why on Earth, if I can jump on the GO train an be downtown in less than 25 minutes, would I take a streetcar all that way to Union? It’s going to be a slower trip. As such, better GO train service is more likely to be beneficial.
I miss Transit City. But apparently good sense doesn’t win elections in Toronto…
I must concur with the assessment of Mr. Chong’s comments as “ill-informed.”
One thing that he got right is when he wrote:
But what he did not do is add up the gazillion km for his multiple proposed subway lines to get a total price tag. Undoubtably because that would reveal just how absurd his proposal is.
Some of his proposed lines are truly delusional. Extending the BD line beyond STC? I will merely comment that projected demand in that area would make the Sheppard stubway look well-used.
My gut feeling is telling me that Transit City was also adopted as a tool by the province to garner support in building Pan Am facilities. It provided enough false hope to citizens that their tax money (or tuition) was not being wasted & the Big Move was around the corner. This use of tax dollars may have been heavily criticized from the start for such a questionable event.
Now that the facilities are built the lines are eroding quicker than Ford can yell “subways subways subways” & the provincial Liberals seem quite happy with this momentum of building as little as possible & have clearly changed their direction.
Steve: Transit City had absolutely nothing to do with Pan Am. When Transit City was developed and announced, the Pan Am project wasn’t even on the table. The network only potentially served one venue — the aquatic facility at UTSC — and service to that campus can be justified in its own right.
It is very important after four years of lies and misinformation from the Ford crew who reinvent history to suit their world view not to fall into the trap of actually believing their BS.
Tory has been mostly vague on SmartTrack, but provided three scenarios for how it could get through Mount Dennis.
Considering that the rails would be curving away from the Georgetown line, and a station would be needed to connect to an underground Mount Dennis Station, a long GO bridge that would need to quickly drop into a steep valley would be a costly eyesore, with an inconvenient transfer. Trenching through populated neighbourhoods, might have worked for the Yonge line back in the 50s, but it would be ‘an issue’ today. I expect a tunnel would be more realistic.
Am hoping the Province doesn’t repeat the RF debacle by allowing a new mayor’s election promises to slow down and/ or derail transit expansion.
Steve: The fact that Tory’s campaign would make such a ridiculous proposal shows how little they understand about building rapid transit lines or about the neighbourhood through which this would pass. That Tory would trust his campaign to such incompetence is a troubling preview of what his mayoralty could look like.
Thanks for clarifying that timeline. I just found it odd that a few proposed LRT lines in the GTA were around venues for Pan Am.
As long as Ford is out of office this Fall I truly hope the Province comes out with a new hard-line funding & expansion plan immediately. They have definitely been given the green light by voters.
I agree, although the area of ultimate destination has spread, I think it is a scary notion to have the large block of riders transferring especially from large trains. I would like to see the old Government office building immediately to the east of Union (with GO bus terminal behind it) taken over to a much greater degree, and have platform space built into it, in order to act as a kind of eastern terminus, joined to Union, to provide for increased pedestrian area and additional PATH space. That way it would retain the effect of being in essence a single station. I am sure there would be lots of complications to this approach, but it would have the advantage of keeping everything in one space.
Steve: The space behind the Dominion of Canada Building is only long enough for about half of a 12-car GO train, and the tracks would stub end at Bay because Union Station prevents going any further west. The space is now occupied by GO’s bus terminal, and further east by condos. Widening the rail embankment for additional space is not practical.
I could not place a number on it and I agree there is nothing magic about 120 seconds, as an average wait of 2-3 minutes is not a hardship, so I would say headway of 5-6 minutes would be a reasonable target, some of this depending on the nature of the stations themselves (ie indoor and dry vs outdoor). However, I think for reasons of traffic management at the terminus, there would be a lot to be said for making the trains more frequent and smaller. I would prefer a 3 car EMU every 2 minutes to a 7 or 8 car EMU every 5, although clearly the latter would be less expensive to operate.
I am still trying to understand why that route has any appeal, as opposed to simply extending the Crosstown LRT, and leaving “SmartTrack” in the existing rail corridor, and extending it out to Brampton (which to me seems natural). The provision of both services would mean that the EMU service could remain more express, and the LRT would collect and transfer at the connection point. Beyond the obvious technical issues of trying to build it, I do not understand the political, or transit advantage of making this Eglinton west section anything but LRT.
Steve: I suspect that Tory is trying to get something on Eglinton West without engaging in a debate with Ford about LRT right-of-way design. His advisors may also have an anti-LRT bias.
Thanks Steve for your detailed response!
I do understand that any relief line, to be effective, needs to be a faster way to get to a destination for a significant number of passengers (such as Union), otherwise passengers would simply continue using the current path. That said, since the only efficient east-west link to downtown is currently the BD line, any western relief line, be it located at Queen, King or Lakeshore should have a connection at its turn north to pick up feeds from the south-west of Toronto/Etobicoke. This would add a secondary east-west route, eliminate the current situation requiring residents to travel north to the BD before going back south. The 501, with its good spacing and dedicated lane west of Roncesvalles, seems to me like a good candidate for a feeder route from the west to a theoretical “relief” subway line. (A King St. alignment vs. Queen would certainly help make the turn north to Dundas West.)
Still, I’d like to see the 501 improve. It’s incredible that such an important line can be consistently mis-managed in this way.
Actually it is about 750m from the streetcar stop to the main Ontario Place entrance.
We should be orienting transit to daily commuting, not annual and summer-weekends-only events.
Steve: But if the lands along Lake Shore opposite Ontario Place are developed as some have proposed, the sitiation changes completely.
Will not RER increase the opportunity to run much more frequently? Use the space only for shorter RER trains, that were 6 or fewer cars, which would be run much more frequently.
Steve: We have to be careful about tradeoffs between train capacity and frequency. Some recent proposals play fast and loose with demand estimates vs the type of trains they plan to operate. Another big issue would be that new stub-end tracks in that location can only reasonably be used by service that come in to Union on the north side of the corridor — Richmond Hill and Stouffville. If peak period trains need longer platforms, that “extra” platform capacity is of no use.
Has this information been collected on a detailed enough fashion, to look at access to and from current transit for both ends of the trip away from the high density core area? Could be extremely useful in designing bus routes if you knew both ends of the trip at the block level.
Steve: There is a limit to the granularity of travel surveys. Getting down to block levels would require a very large number of survey responses so that one had a statistically valid representation of destinations from each origin. In practice, the zones within demand models are larger. This can lead to problems if it is not possible to resolve the difference between small changes in route options.
Moaz: You should see his “SmartTracker” App that can be used to compare trips via existing transit and SmartTrack. To say it is inaccurate would be an understatement. Laughable would be far more appropriate. For example, an Ossington to Liberty Village trip would take 43 minutes (by taking the subway to Union and a 25 minute *bus ride* out to Liberty Village) on existing transit but only 10 minutes via SmartTrack.
Steve: But Tory has “experts” who do this sort of thing!
I wanted to post this as a separate comment to day thank you for this excellent post that communicates many of the challenges and necessary questions behind transit investment.
Rather than restating everything I’ve said over the past few years regarding RER, the Airport line, SmartTrack, LRT, subway etc I’ll just restate what I told the Minister of Transport yesterday.
1. There is an opportunity here for the Minister to bring Metrolinx, GO Transit, and the TTC (and other municipal transit agencies) together by giving them a clear mandate and the funds to make things happen.
2. The premier has taken the lead with RER. Now you have to take the next step and push for those regional interconnections otherwise all those Mobility Hubs will be inaccessible to the majority of transit users.
3. If you want a “Quick Win” then resolve the airport access issue. In Spring 2015 bring in all-day GO service on the Kitchener line with shuttle bus connecting Malton GO to Pearson Airport. In addition give the TTC the funds they need to implement 2 more Airport Rocket buses (on Eglinton West and Lawrence West).* Launch those 3 services at the same time and the cost of the Union-Pearson Express will no longer be a headline grabbing issue.
*I do recognize that the TTC would probably prefer to offer more bus service on other congested lines as opposed to Rocket Services that may not generate as much revenue … and there is the huge crisis in service capacity as well … but Lawrence West & Eglinton West Rocket buses would help improve access for the entire Pearson employment area (including the Airport Corporate Centre and industrial lands).
It’s really helpful to have this detailed, critical context offered, and the comments. Thx.
I’m guilty of line-drawings in propositional criticism that I’m trying to circulate to tilt us towards more sensible transit, more speedily attained, and with a broader sets of fixes. The startpoint is reversing away from the Scarborough subway extension, to both free up funds, but also restore a semblance of planning to what we do. I’m also sour on the DRL as is being touted as it potentially is another stubway in the core and a costly one, and it won’t be doing nearly enough to really relieve things – especially if the TTC and City and GO keep in their silos, and don’t think of the broader options – like the express buses; like GO improvements, and something that likely has a few decades of existence, linking up the Main and Danforth stations far better. In fact, if there is any place to start with increased GO/RER is it not from Main/Danforth in to the core? (Yes, DDW and into core would be another clear winner).
Steve: The Main to Danforth Station connection is one of those things that look good on a map, but don’t work because of added transfer time and the limits on the amount of capacity that can be provided this close to the core. Also, if we want to offload riders at this point on the BD line, we should intercept them further east with better feeder services. After all, most of the subway riding is not walk in trade.
A further query that some may know the answer to: has there ever been any interest or study in using the former Scarborough Expressway corridor for transit? If not, why not? Could we not be doing some substantial coverage of much of Scarborough on the inherently efficient diagonal routing? Surface usually is far cheaper to do, and if the ratio is say 15kms of surface to 1 km of underground, hmm, my respect for transit users and taxpayers is to go on the surface. This could help feed into Main/Danforth and in some dreaming, could be extended into the downtown too. (At least I’ve given a few options into the politicians).
Steve: There is no “Scarborough Expressway corridor”. It was a swath of new construction up from Lake Shore via Woodbine and then heading east on top of the rail corridor.
As for Yonge St. relief, I’ve been thinking of a Bayview or Leslie busway, that in the more regular existing roads just has many buses given relative narrowness of Bayview in the near core. A route to the core is possible I think, by re-using an existing rail bridge across the Don that Metrolinx now owns, and then there’s either the rail ROW or the DVP for continued quick routing into the core, and yes, let’s squeeze the cars on the DVP and advantage transit.
Steve: There are two bridges, both single track, and the northern one is not structurally sound. There is also the small problem of getting buses too/from that rail corridor.
As a quick-start, better biking parallel to heavy routes like Bloor/Danforth and King/Queen are potentially cheap and easier, though the latter is trickier. B/D has been the #1 for an east-west bike lane since 1992, and it won’t work for everyone, but if 2% of the existing riders opted to bike, that’s near-free capacity. In the old core of the City, there is not a good set of bike routes in the E/W direction that are linked and continuous, and there remains great potential, though streetcar tracks and a bad grid inhibit as easy a bikeway development as Bloor, and it is scandalous that Bloor has just been repaved in the west end with nothing! for bike safety, especially W. of Ossington where Harbord ends.
In other east-west transit, the 1993 WWLRT EA actually gave solid ammunition for another pet pursuit over the years – a Front St. transitway instead of a road folly. The City never bothered pursuing any transit options to a car-based porkway, just as they have gone ahead and given umpteen millions of repairs for out-of-town car drivers in the Gardiner repairs, and no thought of transit including on the Gardiner itself. While Front St. may may be still OK for sneaking a transitway linkage from Queensway to the core, we could also get those Queensway cars onto the Gardiner near Dufferin, and there’s a quick route in! It does provide some Bloor subway relief as some in the west end go up to Bloor, transfer to subway, then transfer south again.
One thing that would be helpful for us all thanks Steve, is having a link to where the Origin/Destination data are. We might then see the perils of a silver bullet vs. silver buckshot in all of the Toronto area.
The upcoming post on mayoralty candidates transit plans will be interesting. May I offer a sales pitch? Building Underground Long Lasting Subways Here in Toronto – everywhere, though sub-braying is sometimes far more from some than others. That is to be clearer, Fordwards is backwards, and would be.
Of course, if you get that swan boat time machine working, you could go back in time to ensure that the original embankment and tracks that use to exist where the GO bus terminal currently is would be preserved for future GO train expansion.
And with David Soknacki now out of the race, I have a feeling that the bad transit ideas, both funding and routes, will now come out of the woodwork.
Swan boats in summer; swan sleighs in winter.
Still probably cheaper than some subways.
Steve: This is the “business class” version of the service reserved for air-swan links.
Tory’s so-called transit plan — The Smarttrack!! — should be accepted for what it is and nothing more: a vote-garnering political document. He managed to draw a line from Scarborough through downtown into the heart of Etobicoke. The fact that I will need to hold my nose and vote for the guy makes me feel nauseous. His doubling down on the ridiculous Eglinton component of his “plan” today -suggesting he’ll tunnel out to the airport – is even more unsettling. This is the embodiment of an extraordinary political cynicism given that any interested and educated voter will understand that a) Union station will soon again be bursting at the seams, b) the Crosstown is already planned for this stretch on Eglinton, and c) 2 way all day Go service has already been given the green light.
It’s all very extraordinary.
Steve said:” There is no “Scarborough Expressway corridor”. It was a swath of new construction up from Lake Shore via Woodbine and then heading east on top of the rail corridor.”
No but this is the other corridor that should really have been retained. The ability to solve the transit problems in Toronto would be hugely improved if this and the Richview corridor had been retained. Transit as a planning priority has to be looked at everytime a possible route opens up.
The desire to turn these over to parks is both laudable and understandable, but, competing uses need to be weighed, and transit corridors need be a serious priority. The desire to allow development in them needs to be tempered.
Steve: I repeat, there was no Scarborough corridor. Building the expressway involved running through residential neighbourhoods. Imagine an interchange at Woodbine and Queen or Kingston Road. There were no lands to preserve.
Hi Steve. We can safely assume transit needs will hold even more weight in the next municipal election in 2018.
Considering you have some “street cred” & have been gaining some respect through local newspapers would you even consider teaming up with a candidate to bring some type of responsible plan to the forefront?
Steve: At the current rate, by 2018 someone’s head will be on a platter for the utter lack of progress or change.
I would suggest that Ontario, needs to look at this on a highly detailed basis at least once, in order to get a sense of the current distribution. Could likely go quite some time prior to needing that sort of resolution. However, polling employers as opposed to employees, might be a way to start, as they would have all (or at least are supposed to have, as long as employees keep them updated) all residential information. If all that was asked was a list of postal codes and number of employees there, it would provide remarkably resolved O-D information on at least the employment side.
Steve: This would tell you where they worked, but not when. A similar problem exists with lists of students in schools.
Steve, (with regards to eastern extension of Union) if we are only looking at Richmond Hill and Stouffville, would it not make sense that at least the Stouffville route would be comprised of much more frequent trains, with a sub 10 minute headway, that would be 6 cars or fewer in order to compete with subway. If the Richmond Hill service were to be seriously upgraded, based on current ridership, would this not also be a much more frequent, and thus smaller.
Steve: More frequent does not necessarily mean shorter.
The increased demand at peak, should then be taken up with extra trains on these routes, not longer ones. However, yes I understand that this approach will be hugely complicated, not least by a notable lack of available engineers in order to do this. However, for this service to compete with subway in terms of the electorate, will it not need to be very frequent anyway?
I have to admit, one of the reasons I like the idea of an LRT like service, is that it tends to be pushed to higher frequency, rather than larger unit size. I would far prefer to see trains size, wherever possible, kept below ~1000 riders and additional trains added, both for reasons of frequency, and pulse size at Union.
Also in this area, how possible would it be to host Montreal and Ottawa destined Via trains? I am not sure which rails they currently use, however, obviously do not want them switching across other tracks if at all possible.
Steve: VIA trains are serviced west of downtown at the shops south of the tracks opposite GO’s Willowbrook depot. Getting them to your proposed siding would not be straightforward. Also, on occasion the combined Montreal/Ottawa train would not fit.
Is there any source of information available to show where trips are originating and where they are going, along with historical changes? My fear is that one, if not both, sides of that equation have become so dispersed that it will be near impossible to create effective (let alone cost effective) mass transit. Toronto, over the last 30+ years, has added over 500,000 residents while the total number jobs located within the city have decreased. On the other hand, employment in the 905 areas has grown tremendously but is to spread out to justify rail transit.
How can anyone make any plans without this information?
Steve: There is current and historical data in the Transportation Tomorrow survey, but you have to work at it to pull this out.
As a Torontonian now resident in the UK (Bristol) for the past year, I’ve been following these debates with interest. What always grabbed me about the UP Express was how it’s been branded as “like the Heathrow Express”. Now I don’t live in London, but the airports surrounding that city are the best ways to get back to Canada so I’m quite familiar with them.
While the Heathrow Express is indeed a premium fare train aimed at business travelers that only stops at the airport terminals and the core (Paddington Station) there are many other ways to reach the airport. Another train branded as the “Heathrow Connect” serves the same route but makes multiple stops in West London before reaching Heathrow. It’s also much cheaper ( around 9 pounds for a single ride as opposed to 30 for the express). Heathrow is also connected to the regular subway (London Underground) system and many local bus routes. Not to forget the two other major London airports or Gatwick and Stanstead.
I would be OK with the UP Express existing as a premium service if there was also local, regularly prices (say GO fare) trains on the same route that made several stops, thus serving in part as local transit. Why was the actual experience of London ignored?
Steve: Because comparisons here to Heathrow are all about marketing and misleading people to think that Toronto is duplicating London.
The corridor I was thinking of when calling it a Scarborough Expressway Corridor is a diagonal but wider RofW slicing through to the North East of the City from the Don Valley – and it is now both a hydro corridor/linear park with some bike trails on it. It may be called Richview – I don’t know all the contexts and history – but it is a very long potential linkage that remains in public ownership, and I think it was intended to be a faster highway route into the core from the 401/east. It could be a potential transitway I think though it remains north of Danforth.
To me, the Main/Danforth connection is fairly far east at least compared to Pape, and I don’t think there are other such meet-ups between RER potential and the TTC in the east end. Yes, it’s a hike: moving sidewalks? Small mini-shuttles underground? vs. a billion in extra subway costs?? I think there are now 8 buses feeding into Main Station so it’s already getting some inputs from the wider system.
Steve: You are miles off. The Richview Expressway was planned to run along Eglinton West which is why there was all that extra land (the same Land Tory wants to put SmartTrack on except there are buildings already). The one you are thinking of is a Hydro corridor that was never, ever intended as an expressway corridor, certainly not for an extension of the Gardiner east to connect up with the 401 near Pickering Station. Also, it is not a potential transitway because of its alignment (lousy connections with anything) and because Hydro does not want its corridor used for that sort of thing any more.
As for a connection at Main, I am really getting tired of people trying to make something out of this unworkable connection. It’s not just a matter of tunnels or shuttles or whatever, but of operational issues with the GO corridor, as well as the fact that the extra time added for the transfer (including the likely wait for a train) outweighs simply staying on the subway and taking one’s chances on the YUS.
Tory’s team appears to be using all of the internet tools available to make a line that hasn’t even been independently studied appear real and imminent. A user that also created the 100% positive ‘John Tory Mayoral Campaign’ Wikipedia page, (since fixed), also created a ‘SmartTrack’ Wikipedia page that uses the language of ‘is’ and ‘will’. There are numerous errors such as it heading to Pearson Airport, rather than a corporate office park.
Steve: I am particularly amused that it has been categorized under “High Speed Rail in Canada”, something it most definitely is not. The article already has a banner stating that it is being considered for deletion.
This would be the Gatineau corridor?