SmartTrack: That Pesky Curve in Mount Dennis (Updated)

Updated October 17, 2014 at 4:15pm:  Information from Metrolinx about the revised design for the Air Rail Link spur line from the Weston subdivision to Pearson Airport has been added.

John Tory’s SmartTrack proposal has been roundly criticized by various people, including me, on a number of counts. When one looks at the scheme, it is the technical issues — the degree to which SmartTrack will crowd out the Metrolinx RER scheme (or simply take over its function), the question of capacity at Union Station, the route along Eglinton from the Weston rail corridor to the airport. But the biggest challenge is the link from the rail corridor to Eglinton itself.

Let’s get one issue out of the way up front. Writing in the Star on October 6, Eric Miller states:

And it’s interesting to note that very little criticism deals with the basic merit of the proposal as an addition to Toronto’s transit network. The design logic to address major commuting problems is self-evident; analysis to date indicates high ridership and cost-recovery potential that is expected to be confirmed by more detailed post-election studies; and it is modelled on successful international best practice.

Criticisms have, instead, focused on the line’s “constructability” where it meets Eglinton Avenue W. and on Tory’s proposed financing scheme. As already briefly discussed, however, the constructability issue is truly a tempest in a teapot. And with respect to financing I would suggest that all three mayoral candidates and most of the popular press still have this wrong.

In fact, constructability and the technical issues are precisely what could sink this proposal. Dismissing this as a “tempest in a teapot” is a neat dodge, but it is the academic equivalent of “you’re wrong because I say so”. Many who support Tory’s campaign see criticism of SmartTrack as the work of naysayers who, like so many before us, doom Toronto to inaction.

This is tantamount to saying we cannot criticize the plan because doing so is disloyal to the city’s future. Never mind whether the plan is valid, just don’t criticize it.

Miller’s comments in his op-ed piece (linked above) also don’t line up with statements in the “Four Experts” article of October 9 where he and others talk about what SmartTrack might do. Miller is much less in agreement that SmartTrack could achieve what is claimed for it. Should we dismiss his comments as being irrelevant or counterproductive? Of course not.

This article deals with the challenge of getting from the rail corridor to a point under Eglinton Avenue West at Jane Street, the first stop on the journey west to the airport. To put all of this in context, it is vital to look at the details of both the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (including amendments) and at the Metrolinx Georgetown South project in the rail corridor.

The Eglinton Crosstown’s Difficult History in Mount Dennis

Documents related to the Crosstown’s original design can be found on the project’s website in a page dedicated to the Environmental Project Report. The file of interest is in Chapter 3, Plates, Part 1 which gives details from the airport east to roughly the Allen Expressway.

The portion of interest here is from plate 27 to plate 34 covering the Humber River east to Black Creek. Illustrations here are reduced from their size and level of detail in the linked reports.

Plate27

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In the original scheme, the LRT line was to stay in the middle of the street all the way from the portal east of Black Creek, under the rail corridor, through the intersection at Weston Road, down the hill to Jane Street and points west. The difference in elevation is substantial with a 4.9% grade down into the valley (see the vertical profile at the bottom of plate 31). This is almost double the maximum gradient for any conventional GO equipment, although there is a comparable grade on the spur line from the rail corridor into the airport (see discussion of the Georgetown corridor later in the article).

Correction: In the original design of the airport spur, there was a steep grade required to drop the line to a level appropriate for access to a maintenance facility. Because this has been moved to another location, the steep grades on the airport spur were removed, and it now is built to a maximum 2% grade, the standard for GO’s passenger operations.

This defines the type of equipment that must operate on SmartTrack, and it would almost certainly be trains of Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), not full-sized GO trains as has been claimed on occasion. If something less able to handle this grade is intended, then the path from the rail corridor down to Jane Street must take a longer descent, and this affects issues such as station placement and the location of a curve between the rail line and Eglinton itself.

Plate 32 shows the original scheme for Mt. Dennis Station with a centre platform on the street west of Weston Road. This would have included not only the extra width for the platform, but for a storage track west of the station. All of this would not fit in the existing roadway. Houses built to the sidewalk line on the north side of Eglinton would have to be demolished, a scheme that did not endear the original LRT proposal to the Mt. Dennis citizens.

The TTC and Metrolinx were quite adamant through the project’s review that no alternative was possible, although what was really going on was that Queen’s Park refused to up the ante on project funding. Various alternatives were studied (see Appendix K), and of interest in today’s context were the difficulties with underground structures at or near Mt. Dennis Station. (See Appendixes A/B to Appendix K.) A common problem was that the station structure and/or a three-track section for turnbacks affected properties above the line on both the east and west sides of Weston Road, including the houses mentioned above.

The at grade scheme didn’t get very far, and continued political pressure forced Metrolinx to reconsider its options. In an addendum, a completely revised setup for Mt. Dennis Station became the preferred option. For details of the alignment see Plates E-3a to E-3g of the Executive Summary PDF.

Plate3a

Plate3b

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This scheme shifts the platform east under the rail corridor and avoids the requirement for a wider structure west of the station. The grade for a future extension westward is less onerous because the line is already underground at Weston Road and does not have to descend as far to reach the level of Jane Street. However, this is still a higher elevation than SmartTrack would use because it would tunnel under Jane and under the Humber River further west.

The design of this station and alignment was a hard-fought battle in Mt. Dennis, and it cannot be wished away by treating objections to construction hurdles as simple problems to be overcome. This is a neighbourhood already sensitized to the tender mercies of planners who don’t care about local effects.

Now let us look at the rail corridor.

The Georgetown South Project

Like the Eglinton line, the Georgetown South project encountered stiff community opposition because of effects along the rail corridor. This has required GO/Metrolinx to completely rethink the section around Weston Station north of Lawrence Avenue West and to provide more grade separation than originally planned.

Further south, there is provision for a future interchange with the Eglinton Crosstown line whose station (see above) is now directly under the rail corridor.

This project produced its own Environmental Report complete with drawings in Appendix I. Plates 16 to 20 cover the section from Eglinton south to St. Clair.

GO_Plate16

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A curve linking the rail corridor to Eglinton has a number of obstacles to deal with. It is self-evident that the SmartTrack station cannot be beside the LRT station which is north of Eglinton and under the rail line. There are three possible locations for a station, each with its problems:

  • Under Eglinton Avenue west of Weston Road. This location is the easiest to fit in, but it brings up again the issue of the effect on buildings above the station structure just as the proposed Mt. Dennis Station on the LRT line did.
  • On the rail corridor south of Eglinton before the turn west. This location is constrained by the presence of Black Creek drive (not to mention Black Creek itself) not far south of Eglinton. The station would have to be underground so that the turn under the residential community could be executed underneath it as a bored tunnel rather than by cut-and-cover construction. In turn, that would require the SmartTrack line to begin dropping into its tunnel further south somewhere between St. Clair and Black Creek. This location would certainly not be an easy one to build in, and the station would not be close by the LRT (or a future GO Eglinton West station).
  • On the curve between the rail corridor and Eglinton. For this to work, the curve would have to be in two segments so that the station itself could occupy a straight section of track. This is essential for alignment between the platform and the car doorways. Whether this is physically possible is dubious, and depends on the minimum curve radius that equipment operating on this line could handle and the maximum length of the trains. The station itself would be under the residential neighbourhood, an obviously unworkable location.

In summary, any tunnel at Mt. Dennis must quickly drop from the rail corridor’s elevation to get under the residential community southeast of Eglinton/Weston, pause in its descent and curvature for a station (whose size is in turn dictated by the type of equipment that might be operated), and then resume dropping both to get under Jane Street and, further west, the Humber River.

The Airport Spur

This material is included here for reference although it is not part of SmartTrack per se. Here are the alignment drawings for the route from the Weston corridor south to the airport.

The points to note here are:

  • The curve radius of 125m for the turn from the main rail corridor into the spur.
  • The grades of almost 4%.
  • The length of the station at the airport (less than 100m).

All of these dictate that something other than conventional GO trains serve this spur. The platform size places an upper bound on the capacity of any train serving this location.

Correction: Karl Junkin has pointed out to me that the design actually under construction is not the same as the one shown in the Georgetown South EA, and that there is a video giving an animated tour of the new alignment. The 4% grades originally planned are no longer necessary because a descent to a proposed maintenance yard has been eliminated thanks to relocation of the yard. Notwithstanding this change, the spur could not accommodate regular sized GO equipment.

The RER belongs in the rail corridor at least as far as Brampton if not beyond, and the airport will always be a low-volume spur operation. Taking the RER west along Eglinton is a foolish modification to an otherwise defensible plan.

GO_Plate30

GO_Plate31

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Updated October 17, 2014

Metrolinx has provided additional information about the revised alignment of the spur line:

In February 2010, at the time of filing of the Statement of Completion of the Environmental Project Report (EPR) for the Georgetown South Service Expansion and Union-Pearson Rail Link, the Union-Pearson Airlink Group was responsible for the design, construction and operation of the Union-Pearson Rail Link Service (now known as UP Express).  When the responsibility of the design, construction and operation of the UP Express was assigned to Metrolinx following the EA, a review of the project, including the vertical and horizontal alignment of the Spur Line, was completed to identify improvements to the design.  The potential for changes during the detailed design phase of a project, following approval of the EPR, is anticipated during the Transit Project Assessment Project process.

During the detailed design phase, Metrolinx determined that maintenance and other activities contemplated at the Operations Management Centre (OMC), proposed in the EPR at a location along the spur, could be accommodated elsewhere within the Metrolinx – GO Transit rail network.  Environmental impacts associated with construction and operation of this facility were then avoided.

In addition, the decision not to design and construct the OMC also provided an opportunity to reassess the vertical profile of the approved project, as the need to return to grade to access the OMC was no longer under consideration.  Under the original project, the transition grade from the OMC towards the Terminal Station was projected to be 3.98 percent, significantly steep for rail operations.  The re-alignment of the vertical profile of the Spur Line reduced this grade to approximately 2.00 percent, and resulted in two fewer grade transitions along the Spur Line.  This grade reduction will significantly improve the operation of the UP Express service with respect to safety and energy efficiency, as well as the level of customer comfort along this portion of the route .  The resulting cost savings enabled double-tracking of the spur which also improves safety and reliability.  The environmental impacts of this change in vertical alignment were determined to be negligible.

Metrolinx also investigated opportunities for improvement of the Spur Line horizontal alignment.  From this assessment, it was determined that the alignment of the Spur Line could be shifted eastwards to be further from existing and future development.  This resulted in an alignment in closer proximity to the interchange of Highway 409 and Airport Road, and through the multileveled road and highway network approaching the Airport, and further from more sensitive receptors.  Again, the environmental impacts of this change were determined to be negligible.  The change in horizontal alignment also reduced the distance that the UP Express Service operates in parallel with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority’s (GTAA) People Mover Service, which is also of benefit. [Email from Anne Marie Aikens at Metrolinx, October 17, 2014]

Here is a drawing comparing the original and revised alignments (the resolution is that provided by Metrolinx).

Schematic of Spur realignment

Concluding Thoughts

It is unclear whether SmartTrack is really a “new” service at all or simply a rebranding of something Metrolinx was planning to do all along. As such, SmartTrack cannot make up its mind whether to be a local or a regional service, and attempts to serve two purposes in one facility.

SmartTrack started out as an all-surface proposal, but eventually gained an underground component once the difficulties of the alignment from Mt. Dennis westward became apparent. If the line had stayed in the rail corridor, this would not have been an issue.

Fixing this requires more than a wave of the hand dismissing objections as negative thinking. We already know that Tory’s “experts” depended on out-of-date Google Street View images of Eglinton where recent developments built in the former Richview Expressway lands were not visible. Have they looked at the terrain, or the relationship between various streets and rail corridors as shown in the drawings included here (all easily found in the public domain)? One might wonder.

There is nothing wrong with supporting expansion of regional rail services to provide added capacity into the core area and even to support counter-peak commuting where the rail services actually connect with job centres in the 905, but this has to be done in a realistic manner.

Raising challenges to SmartTrack does not mean that I or anyone else of like mind is opposed to the RER scheme. Indeed, I support it quite strongly and don’t want to see Try distort the rollout plan to suit his own pet project. Even worse, I don’t want the provincial government (which does not have any by-elections requiring voter bribery in the near future) to screw up RER either.

If John Tory becomes mayor, he will need to learn flexibility, to learn that his precious plan can and should be modified, and that it is not the answer to every problem afflicting southern Ontario. That would be the collegial John Tory many hope to see after the election. If only his campaign sounded as if that’s what he’s selling Toronto.

96 thoughts on “SmartTrack: That Pesky Curve in Mount Dennis (Updated)

  1. On a different note, the TTC has posted a tender for tunnel design for the Scarborough subway extension. While politicians exercise their vocal cords, at least some progress (on something!) is progressing behind the scenes.

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  2. Steve just for impact on Yonge Subway, and Toronto Transit congestion- couple of basic questions.

    Even assuming that you cannot get enough access to the CN line North of Steeles to Richmond Hill so need alternate access, (as 4 trains per hour would be a huge service increase, so this is a very substantial assumption).

    1 -Would not it be less expensive to build an LRT from Richmond Hill down Bayview to south of the CN mainline and then into the Richmond Hill ROW and all the way down the valley to the core?

    2- Would it not also have the advantage of being readily removed from Union, and easier to support as a sattelite station as the train sizes would be so much smaller? Thus providing more flexibility for GO growth elsewhere?

    I realize this is certainly not an ideal route, and would certainly be a Metrolinx regional project.

    It would be useless in terms of Danforth riders transfering, but would it not have more impact than the Stouffville portion of SmartTracks, on York region TTC load, and also potentially provide more relief of load to Yonge from the various bus lines that the current GO line intercepts, as well as the Sheppard Subway. If you had a stop at Steeles, Finch, Sheppard and Lawrence, (Eglinton ??-little tricky because of height issues with Crosstown??) could you not relieve as much or more from Yonge, while spending less money?

    Realistically either route you are only going to get corebound load, and of course the question becomes how much core bound load is there. This type of route does not approach the basic issues that a Don Mills subway would address. It would not serve the shoulder areas of downtown, would not connect the Danforth Line, would not really serve Flemingdon Park or Thorncliffe Park, but would be a pure regional commutter rail service, but as such would it not have at least as much impact for less?

    I am not suggesting that such a route be a first pass, as clearly need to double track GO owned portions to offer more service, and I suspect you could get 4 or even 6 slots per hour at peak out of CN for the northern portion (although electrification could be an issue there) and this would certainly be a huge start.

    Would not just getting the same in Stouffville/Markham as basic GO or better RER also makes sense, before attempting any grand projects?

    I am basically asking simply in terms of directly addressing the largest issue in Toronto transit, and regional congestion. 1 – Yonge is overloaded, 2 – an inordinate amount of core bound traffic is now coming from York Region, and a lot appears headed to Yonge.

    In terms of within 416 transit, would not just having 4 GO trains per hour stopping in Scarborough at all current stops (Lakeshore & Stouffville), plus the Scarborough, Sheppard&Morningside LRTs, provide more than enough capacity and a lot more coverage for a lower cost?

    Steve: No. We already have the GO tracks and potential for service on both the Richmond Hill and Stouffville corridors. There is no point in changing technologies.

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  3. Malcolm N says

    “I have been of the mind that Metrolinx needs to rethink at least a portion of Union to be essentially a rapid transit hub. Correct me if I am wrong here Robert, but in a perfect world would you not

    “1. Create a couple of pairs a from your high frequency services.

    “2. You could then have each pair share a much wider platform.

    “To me this would mean for instance that Lakeshore East and West would be a pair, and if you could actually squeeze 5 tracks into the Lakeshore East ROW to Stouffville you could then pair UPX ROW and Stouffville.”

    The problem with UPX and Stouffville is that they will initially operate with different types of equipment because UPX has high platform stations only 3 85′ cars long while Stouffville will run standard 10 or 12 car GO trains on 1100′ low platforms. UPX would be better suited to be part of the west end DRL and not run with railway equipment but with rapid transit equipment.

    “For the platforms however, to do what is suggested for the big U in both I think you would be looking at something on the order of 10+ meters wide, and 24 escalator sets (one per door). One of my issues with the idea of much more crowded trains is that even here is that even with this massively improved escalator set up, if you have 220 people on a car, you are looking at a 2 full minute escalator surge with every arrival. This would mean even if you have 6 trains per hour per direction, you are looking at the escalators being full 1/2 the time (ignoring stragglers in the car).”

    Removing one track would add 3 m (10′) to the width of the platforms on either side which are about 3 m for the existing passenger platform and 2 m for what was the service platform for a total width of about 8 m. (I am not sure of the width of the existing platforms but for each track except tracks 1 and 2 there used to be a passenger platform, wide so to speak, and a service platform, narrow, to move baggage, food, mail etc. They are now both used for passengers. I don’t think that you can get 10 m wide platforms in the existing station though when I was in Poland last year they were putting in 10 m wide platforms in all the stations I visited.

    You would not need on escalator per door as people are going down. Stairs would allow for faster travel and would be much wider in the same space. Inbound loads tend to come in groups off the train while outbound loads are more spread out.

    Steve: Another problem is that in the central part of the station, you are above the Via concourse and there is no space for those one-per-door escalators to go down into. Another problem would be that you could not remove all of the columns that now hold up the tracks you would remove in this scheme, and obviously a stair/escalator cannot go through a column.

    “I think we also need to ask ourselves, assuming that we do all these things inside Union, does the Big U represent all of the traffic growth that should be going to the core, on GO ROW. What about Yonge relief from Richmond Hill ROW? Lakeshore Growth beyond 6 trains /hour.”

    I suggest that you go onto Metrolinx’s web site and down load the following document: USRC-Track-Study_MainReport

    It does a very good job of explaining why the tracks can only run 6 trains per hour for through running.

    From the Transport Canada site you can download the Canadian Railway Operating Rules.

    The site also has rail corridor clearance requirements and other interesting reading guaranteed to cure insomnia.

    In order to get a large increase in passenger flow off GO and into Toronto there needs to be another station downtown with at least 6 tracks and very wide platforms. A couple of stations on either side of Union would also probably help. Toronto is plagued with a station designed for a city of 250,000 people and not 2,500,000.

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  4. I would like to see a costed estimate for a diesel “Big U” service running from 2 trains per hour from Bramalea to Unionville via Union, along with the cost of building and operating the same “Big U” as an electrified service. Then add the projected cost of the Eglinton Crosstown extension to the Renforth Gateway (leaving out the airport connection for now).

    Compare that to the cost of SmartTrack.

    Cheers, Moaz

    ps. Didn’t Michael Schabas say that electrification was not necessary to offer 15 minute service? I’d like to see a document that proves that.

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  5. On the subject of “problematic” transit ideas Steve, did you have a prolonged bout of laughter or do you now have a concussion resulting from the facepalm you did after you heard about Doug Ford wanting to widen the DVP?

    Steve: Considering that I can look out the window from where I am typing this and see the DVP, yes, prolonged laughter.

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  6. As Noted by Robert Whitman.

    In order to get a large increase in passenger flow off GO and into Toronto there needs to be another station downtown with at least 6 tracks and very wide platforms. A couple of stations on either side of Union would also probably help. Toronto is plagued with a station designed for a city of 250,000 people and not 2,500,000.

    And what you see in say, Tokyo, Osaka, Berlin (sort of) and Munich (sort of).

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  7. Tory if anything is a man who will compromise. And I think we all know that means Smart Track will be rolled up into the Metrolinx RER plan.

    Getting an electoral mandate from voters ensures that the province doesn’t prioritise 905 riders along those lines, as they do today with GO.

    Voters are frustrated with slow transit that makes regional travel difficult. This is why they gravitated towards Ford with his all subway mantra. And this is why they gravitate towards Tory now.

    Transit advocates need to understand that transit riders want speed above all else.

    Sorry that your preferred candidate is losing. But it was to be expected. And it’ll keep happening as long as transit planners and advocates keep pushing local or medium-haul improvements (like LRTs) over long-haul improvements (like suburban rail).

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  8. If I remember correctly, 4 years ago you were advocating that every other than the top 2 candidates drop out in order to make sure that Smitherman beat Ford and that was before we knew how bad Ford was going to be and this time that we know how bad Ford is going to be, why are you not advocating that the third place candidate (whoever it may be) drop out to make sure that the Ford family is out of the mayor’s office? Doug Ford is dangerously close to John Tory in the polls and Ford also has momentum and so can potentially win in a 3 way race but will loose in a 2 way race since most of Chow’s supporters prefer Tory over Ford.

    Steve: Well, that’s a position that in retrospect (like a lot of former Ford supporters, I suppose) did not work out quite as hoped. I have already voted for Chow, and feel that Doug Ford is doing a good enough job of defeating himself.

    In the previous race, it was a question of a third place candidate who was only on the ticket to support his own ego, a failed last hurrah he never had chance of winning, and a standin for Giambrone whose own candidacy blew up in his face. Olivia Chow is not Joe Pantalone.

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  9. Keith said:

    Transit advocates need to understand that transit riders want speed above all else.

    Except that Steve has been supporting the idea of suburban rail for years. Simply put, he is well aware of how slow subways are when it comes to serving core bound riders that travel from the edge of the city.

    Steve: And that doesn’t mean there is no place for a moderate capacity non-subway network somewhere in between.

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  10. @Nick L

    Never said Steve didn’t support suburban rail.

    The issue is one of priorities. What do you build first?

    Transit advocates tend to lean towards building LRT and improving local/medium haul transit first. Meanwhile, the bulk of the public that is fed up with long commutes is looking for a candidate to provide them relief.

    End result is that transit advocates are left frustrated and baffled that candidates like Chow aren’t leading. They think it’s racism, or that she’s not enthusiastic enough, or not aggressive enough. All wrong. It’s simply the faster transit plan (with a shot at getting built) that is attractive to the public.

    Chow promises slight improvements in bus service now. And then a DRL 12-20 years from now. That DRL will only help riders from the East and in the core and will only save them a few minutes.

    John Tory pledges a train that cuts a good chunk of their commute time and on the surface looks buildable (because it uses surface rail). He says 12 years. TTC says 15 years. Still better than what might be needed for the DRL.

    And that’s why Tory’s leading in the polls.

    Of course, he did have to be vague about the cost. And fundraising for it. Unfortunately, it’s the bar set by the Fords. But if even half his plans comes to fruition, people will forgive him for any tax increases that comes to pass.

    Steve: First off, you left three copies of this comment of which this is the last.

    Second, saying “transit advocates” tend to do this or that shows you have a dismissive attitude and prefer to lump those you don’t agree with into one pot where they can easily be ignored. There is nothing to prevent the creation of a regional rail system, something that is long overdue thanks to foot-dragging by Queen’s Park and GO, and an urban system at the same time. It’s worth noting that upgrading GO is really more in line with LRT plans than with subways in that the lines stay on the surface, but of course this is only possible if we stay on existing corridors. The point “advocates” like me have been making is that we should not build subways as a matter of local pride, or to spite downtown, but in locations where their cost and capacity are actually needed.

    Huge areas of Scarborough will not benefit much from the Scarborough Subway, and its comparative advantages over the LRT alternative have been oversold. If anything, the SmartTrack scheme — were it to be fully realized as Tory proposes — will compete with the subway and undermine the justification for building it. Your comment about 12 or 15 years does not make sense in the context of SmartTrack (which is supposed to be up and running in 7), and I assume you mean the DRL which is intended to serve quite a different market from ST and the Regional Express Rail system in general. I get the drift of your argument but you are wandering among various proposals.

    As for the cost, at first we were told that Tory’s plan had real live engineers who worked it out, and only more recently that the cost was simply an estimate based on the level of costs for similar schemes in other cities. I would be less inclined to doubt the whole ST package had it not been presented as such a complete, well thought out concept that would brook no criticism. There is an arrogance about the way Tory, and by extension his advisors, present this as just short of a miracle cure for every ailment in the city. This is utter BS and will get in the way of intelligent debate when we get away from the campaign.

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  11. Apologies for the multiples. Didn’t refresh properly on my browser.

    Your frustration is evident. But I think you missed my point. None of this would have happened if the entire transit-supporting community had focused on the long-haul portions first.

    I’ll put it to you that if Metrolinx had prioritised GO electrification with TTC fare and service integration as its highest priority, we’d be having half the transit fights we do today.

    Instead, the planners at Metrolinx decided to simply roll up every city’s transit shopping list into “The Big Move”. Not really that much thought about the public’s priorities or how regional transportation should really work. Just spaghetti on a map. And for Toronto? Just so happened to be that our portion would be a bunch of LRTs because that is what the mayor at the time preferred. Can you imagine say TfL doing business that way?

    Steve: I sense your frustration too, but it’s important to remember a few things about the context in which The Big Move was created.

    On the GO Transit side of things, ambitions were rather small-scale thanks to years of making do with incremental, small improvements and limits to GO’s budget. At the point, GO and Metrolinx were separate agencies. The scorn with which pleas for better GO service and electrification were met, not to mention some of the disinformation about electrification, showed just what provincial priorities were at the time.

    On the city side, what Miller specifically did not want was a city position favouring only one subway line (the typical problem in decades of council debates) that would be the city’s only “ask” going into a 25-year plan. Moreover, if Toronto had asked for a very expensive network of subways, they would have had little credibility in what was, after all, a regional exercise.

    It was not the city’s job to be making a plan for GO Transit, but to look at what might be done inside of the 416. That’s why we had an LRT plan. As you have probably noticed, it took Queen’s Park years, with eventually the force majeure of a platform announcement, to get GO/Metrolinx to take electrification and frequent service seriously. We should have been at this point a decade ago, but that’s not the City of Toronto’s or the Miller administration’s fault. There are times I tire of city LRT advocates being tarred for the sins of Metrolinx in their failure to recognize the importance of GO sooner.

    I find it odd that Smart Track faces so much criticism and demand for detail. Transit City effectively doubled its price tag over time. It was $6 billion when Miller first proposed it. And could be $18 billion if built entirely as originally planned. You don’t see people criticising Miller for that. And you don’t see people demanding that Chow put up her exact alignment of the DRL so that we can analyse costs. Are we to expect that every mayoral candidate spends millions to duplicate Metrolinx’s staff for just the transportation portion of his platform, just because he has an idea?

    Tory is caught between a rock and a hard place with Smart Track. Too little detail and people will say he didn’t think it through. Too much detail and of course you’ll get lots of facts clashing, that open him up to nitpicking criticism.

    I think most of us do understand and take it on faith that it’s a basic proposal for suburban rail. Once elected, he’ll have to work out implementation with Metrolinx and where that fits into their plans and how much the city’s bill will be for it. This flexibility and compromise are virtues not flaws, the value of such apparent in light of the Ford administration.

    As for timing. Tory says 7 years. I say 12-15 years. Chow says 12 years for DRL. I say 20 years. We all know how quickly things move in this city.

    I do agree with you on the subway and Smart Track overlap. It’s also an issue that I think will work out in the wash. To pledge to cancel it at election just sets in motion an electoral mess. Imagine where Doug Ford would be in the polls if he was the only candidate pledging to build the subway.

    I think you should now start considering what would happen if Smart Track were folded into Metrolinx RER. How could the latter be implemented in the context of Smart Track.

    PS. If you do talk to the Chow, please tell her to stop pandering to NIMBYs living near rail tracks. Unless she has no intention to ever expropriate or demolish a single house for her transit plan. And do let her now that Metrolinx has been working on that capacity problem.

    Steve: Sorry, but the background of SmartTrack is a bit trickier than that. First off, it was Tory who came up with the idea of using Eglinton West and claimed originally that he was building a “surface subway” when it was manifestly obvious that this was impossible. It came out quite early on that his “experts” had not even bothered to look at the corridor but depended on Google Street View’s out of date images. Anyone with any knowledge of city affairs would know that the land was already on the market on Build Toronto’s site, and that some of it already hosted buildings. That’s a basic credibility problem right off the top. Second, Tory has been involved for years in telling the GTA that it must be prepared to pay up for transit, but then embraces a deeply flawed interpretation of TIF to avoid this very issue and finance his scheme by stealing future general revenue on the dubious claim that development would not occur without SmartTrack’s construction.

    Miller was criticized for low-balling Transit City, and part of that is directly traceable to the TTC who omitted basic elements such as carhouses and vehicles from their cost estimates. As for Chow and the DRL, there are already published estimates of its cost and a study underway to look at various approaches to downtown relief. At this point, Chow has only proposed funding the studies.

    What amuses me about the whole GO/DRL tug of war is that the two lines would serve different types of demand, and yet SmartTrack is trying to get away with doing it all-in-one. Metrolinx has been quite clear that both GO improvements and a DRL of some flavour will be required with the only question being one of timing. As for Tory’s spending, isn’t it odd that he would propose building something that duplicates work Queen’s Park plans to do anyhow? Why should Toronto be raising money (by whatever mechanism) to pay for a provincial project?

    Tory’s description of SmartTrack has been inconsistent as to whether it is an overlay on the Metrolinx RER, or a separate service. This has huge implications for combined service frequencies and capacities, not to mention the question of what happens on the Stouffville corridor north of the end point of the ST line. This is not a trivial issue. It also affects the design of the Eglinton West ST spur to the Renforth Gateway because the size of trains to be operated will affect station siting and tunnel alignment.

    I really do hope that a blended SmartTrack/RER scheme does emerge, but this will require compromise on both sides, something that Tory does not seem willing to acknowledge. Moreover, his constant claims for SmartTrack make me think of a snake-oil salesman whose miracle elixir would cure every ill of mankind. Yes, it’s a campaign, but when the votes are over, Tory needs to rein in his overblown claims.

    My own position on this is clear. SmartTrack/RER should proceed as soon as possible, but we must clarify just what SmartTrack is to be sure what the target really is. Moreover, the Eglinton spur is a needless complication and if it were replaced by ST continuing northwest along the Georgetown line, some of the major issues in Mount Dennis would vanish. The Eglinton LRT should be extended west to the airport as originally planned (a scheme that continues to have Metrolinx’ support).

    The problem with demolition in Mount Dennis is of Tory’s own making. This area has already been sensitized to the effects of the GO and Eglinton projects and how bad plans can result in destruction of neighbourhoods if the locals don’t fight back. It was Tory who claimed he could build the whole thing without disruption, and that’s a huge credibility issue.

    SmartTrack almost would have made more sense if Metrolinx and Queen’s Park had not already embraced the RER scheme. However, with RER a high priority provincial project, SmartTrack has too much “me too” about it, and a non-trivial amount of bad planning by its advocates.

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  12. Steve said:

    “As for the cost, at first we were told that Tory’s plan had real live engineers who worked it out, and only more recently that the cost was simply an estimate based on the level of costs for similar schemes in other cities. I would be less inclined to doubt the whole ST package had it not been presented as such a complete, well thought out concept that would brook no criticism. There is an arrogance about the way Tory, and by extension his advisors, present this as just short of a miracle cure for every ailment in the city. This is utter BS and will get in the way of intelligent debate when we get away from the campaign.”

    To me there is also the basic question as to whether actually just providing a more frequent GO will have a sufficient impact. I am not convinced that just running 6 trains /hour in Stouffville, and Richmond Hill will not accomplish most of what is required, as long as at least 4 of these trains actually stop at existing stops within 416. So rather than a grand plan, how about we look at starting with double tracking and running what service can be run, then basic RER.

    However, in terms of Tory’s campaign, basic, basic question, is this not a provincial issue? There are 2 ways this could go, lots of help from the province because you have a mandate, or a very irritated Provincial government, because you ran your entire campaign based on areas beyond your levels of authority and responsibility. I suspect that one reason that LRT has been discussed in terms of city transit, is that this is what could reasonably be within the purvue of the city Mayor and council. Yes RER has a huge impact on the city, but it is not within the Mayor’s purvue, other than to beg and plead.

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  13. Steve said:

    There is an arrogance about the way Tory, and by extension his advisors, present this as just short of a miracle cure for every ailment in the city. This is utter BS and will get in the way of intelligent debate when we get away from the campaign.

    The big headache I’ve been having with this election is how much of it is necessary BS just so we can get past the reality, and law, defying Ford brothers? When you look at the two front runners, you get the impression that this is nothing more than a contest to determine who can come up with the most believable fiction to explain how they will spend imaginary dollars.

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  14. Second, saying “transit advocates” tend to do this or that shows you have a dismissive attitude and prefer to lump those you don’t agree with into one pot where they can easily be ignored.

    Actually Keith is being quite civil here compared to his Ford-esque messaging on Urban Toronto where he suggested those against the Scarborough subway were doing so from a position of underlying racism against his compatriots in that part of the city.

    (Wasting large amounts of money is also okay as long it’s done in his part of town because it’s understandable due to how the rest of Toronto has treated Scarborough.)

    Steve: Probably he knows that such a comment would get him banned on this site. I know this will sound odd, but I remember when Scarborough had a lot of farmland, and I answered a call of nature in a grove of trees by a dirt road called Finch Avenue out near what is now the zoo, but was then an orchard. I have never thought of Scarborough or any other part of the city as having a “race”. It started out white and evolved just like the rest of Toronto. LRT advocates were talking about a network 40 years ago before much of suburbia existed as a way to build “transit first” suburbs without going bankrupt, but it never happened.

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  15. Hmmm….so Metrolinx is:

    *Not building the OMC on the Pearson spur
    *Building facilities for the electric service out in Whitby not at Willowbrook
    *Protecting for a station at “Woodbine” at or near Highway 27 just south of Rexdale Blvd.

    Is it just me or is Metrolinx being very prudent in incorporating UPEx as part of the future RER? How long before they admit that everything operations related is going to be handled by GO Transit as the RER will do the majority of the heavy lifting (er…hauling? carrying?)?

    Cheers, Moaz

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  16. I wouldn’t worry too much about John Tory’s Eglinton West proposal. It is definitely the weakest part of SmarTrack; but at the same time, a completely non-essential one. It can be modified or dropped quite easily.

    I don’t really know what prompted Tory to come up with such an extravagant scheme. Perhaps his advisers were concerned about a backlash from the Weston Coalition folks, if the line was drawn through their area.

    The most likely outcome is that SmartTrack / GO RER will continue in the rail corridor north of Eglinton, and possibly absorb UPX and its tracks.

    If Metrolinx refuses to give up UPX, and a service level needed for SmartTrack cannot be achieved due to the Weston Coalition’s resistance or the physical limitations of the corridor, then there is an option to simply terminate the line at Mt Dennis. Obviously, RER service to Brampton will run beyond that point in any case, but it will have lower frequency. Connection from Mt Dennis to the airport will be provided by the extended Eglinton LRT, just as in the current Metrolinx plan.

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  17. Michael Forest said:

    Perhaps his advisers were concerned about a backlash from the Weston Coalition folks, if the line was drawn through their area.

    Which would have been a dumb assumption since the Weston Coalition’s beef with UPX was that it would cause significant community disruption without any benefit.

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  18. Steve said:

    “No. We already have the GO tracks and potential for service on both the Richmond Hill and Stouffville corridors. There is no point in changing technologies.”

    The question of LRT in Richmond Hill Steve, was on the assumption that somehow you would not get permission to run additional service north of the CN main. I am not convinced that running more than 6 trains per hour will be required in the short term. However, not controlling the ROW north of the main line, could you not be seriously limited there? That in my mind would be the only {and unlikely} reason to change technology on Richmond Hill {Although I suspect capacity here is more likely to be limited by capacity at Union Station}. The reason I have wondered about a proposal (as opposed to actual doing) of LRT for Stouffville, would the forced required of acknowledging the ROW limits immediately (especially in Lakeshore).

    Steve: The question is whether you would move away from 12-car double-deck GO trains to another rail technology including a signal system that can handle more frequent service. This runs headlong into capacity problems on the tracks at Union.

    With all the issues surrounding the launch of an RER scheme, the last thing we need is a red herring argument about converting GO lines to LRT. Use EMUs. Same thing, just a different vehicle design.

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  19. I know, it is frustrating to me and anyone that cares about good public infrastructure that candidates put forth unworkable ideas, and elected officials continually interfere in good transit planning.

    But that is not their game, per se. It is not “bang for the buck”; it is just “bang”. As they say in Hollywood, “there is no such thing as bad publicity”. So, while John Tory’s SmartTrack plan is easily shot full of holes, it does grab attention of the media and the public. Likewise, the Ford Brothers’ subways plan (and they do have the nicest map). Meanwhile, poor Olivia’s bus plan is totally ignored as is her entire transit plan.

    All a candidate needs to do is promise immediate relief at a ridiculously low price (subject to the fine print), accompanied by a huge brou-ha-ha and bright balloons and free hot dogs.

    Unfortunately, the whole municipal election campaign has been wasted on dreams.

    Speculation is on this blog that the western extension of the Crosstown LRT will get a faster go-ahead. Outside of this blog, there has been no mention in the media or by candidates of this western Crosstown extension, nor of TTC operations funding, nor of the proposed McNicoll bus garage, a NIMBY issue. I did see some talk about bike lanes and gridlock and bunching streetcars on King Street. There was also some talk of a GTA regional transportation authority in charge of all transit and roadways.

    If someone is really interested, you can dig around and find something on any transit-related subject, but not from Toronto’s main three mayoralty candidates and not newspaper front pages.

    One more week and reality will begin to set in. Everybody wakes up and cannot remember what they were dreaming. As a Toronto Star article stated Saturday, what is really needed is a big fix to the system (as opposed to piece-meal little fixes to specific problems). This applies not just to transit, but also public housing, urban growth issues, the school system, growing poverty and the squeeze on the middle class, jobs, crime control, etc., etc.

    I do not pretend to offer a solution. How can we efficiently & fairly reconcile Politics, Planners, and the Public and move away from a propensity to muddle-through, wasting time, wasting opportunities, and wasting taxpayer dollars? But perhaps Steve can open up a thread on this blog to discuss a Big Fix to the entire process?

    Steve: I think I will wait until we know for sure who the Mayor-elect is, although it’s fairly obvious now, because the ability to have such a discussion depends on the intelligence, or utter lack thereof, of the candidates.

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  20. Steve said:

    “The question is whether you would move away from 12-car double-deck GO trains to another rail technology including a signal system that can handle more frequent service. This runs headlong into capacity problems on the tracks at Union.

    With all the issues surrounding the launch of an RER scheme, the last thing we need is a red herring argument about converting GO lines to LRT. Use EMUs. Same thing, just a different vehicle design.”

    I am only suggesting it as a possible option to address the concerns with track time North of the CN main line, and as I suspect it may be easier to take out of Union (require only a 200 metre long station to support Confederation Line type trains twice as long). However, I suspect that addressing current levels of services, with just additional trains, and double tracks would have more impact for less money than SmartTracks.

    So basically double track Richmond Hill, run as much service as you can, go RER if it will allow substantial additional capacity and keep LRT in your back pocket, when you hit an issue that cannot be resolved at Union or at north end of service. The only advantages are the ability to make sharp turn and run in a wider variety of ROWs. This might be important in terms of relocating the station as well.

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  21. We continue to see comments posted/uttered about John Tory about the likelihood that he will compromise on/fix LaughTrack if elected. This gives me no warm fuzzies. Compromise is indicated when you encounter a condition you did not anticipate once committed. We are not yet committed and yet the conditions – the alignment from Georgetown South into Eglinton, the size and power source of the ST trains (since 25kV would require larger tunnel voids as would bilevel equipment), whether it would UPX or GO height platforms since high platform equipment creates accessibility issues under AODA, the ability of Union and the USRC to handle the traffic volumes, how ST Stouffville aligns with Scarborough subway in terms of catchment and demand, how will a TTC-ST entity presumably operated by Metrolinx be viewed by ATU113. These are a non-exhaustive list of operational issues and exclude the financial ones: where will TIFs be imposed and how will the City pay for services to those zones when taxes are withheld from the general treasury, will the TIFs be sufficient to service the ST debt, who will own ST assets which are cofunded.

    Mr Tory’s unwillingness to engage in substantive discussion can be viewed in two ways. His political advisers, led by Kouvalis, will not be so much offering “run in poetry, govern in prose” as the dreadful but all too often demonstrated “if you’re explaining, you’re losing”. The parade of Ontario Liberal endorsements, including at Cabinet level, offers the other angle – SmartTrack will dissipate into a co-pay by Toronto into GO RER, with some short turned services marketed as SmartTrack and the Eglinton line abandoned in favour of Crosstown phase 2 as soon as an engineering and alternatives analysis can be authored, leaving “no option” to abandon. Ford Nation will rage at the treachery of at grade rail – perhaps more will be tunnelled than necessary to make the Tory reversal less stinging.

    Bottom line: there is enough doubt about ST that Tory will neither admit to it now, or build it later.

    One other point re the discussion of the CN Bala, GO Richmond Hill – grade separating the Doncaster Diamond and proceeding with flood proofing the USRC approaches are surely prerequisites to any great strides being made in that corridor, irrespective of what happens on the CN trackage itself.

    Steve: Metrolinx is already working on designs to improve the Richmond Hill corridor both for double tracking and for changing its profile to make it less flood prone, if not totally flood proof (even the subway isn’t flood proof). Whether they will actually build this depends on how improving the corridor fares as one of the many options for downtown “relief” now under study.

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  22. How would you like to be TTC Chair, Steve? I think Olivia should appoint you as her TTC Chair on Oct 28. If that happens, then the first thing you should do is to get rid of those foreigners from England ruining (sorry I meant running) our system.

    Steve: First off, the Chair of the TTC must be a member of Council, and it’s a Council appointment, not a mayoral one as Rob Ford found out when he tried to oust Karen Stintz.

    Second, as for the folks from across the pond, I think that while Andy Byford may not be fixing everything in sight, he is doing a good job and would be hard to replace. The real shame is that he came into his position unexpectedly early thanks to the sacking of Gary Webster, and also had the misfortune to spend the first years of his job under Chair Stintz who was far more concerned with show than with substance. We only began to see some advocacy for the overall good of the system in the past year, and who knows how well that will survive into what administration will follow. As for Chris Upfold, he may have worked in the UK, but he was born in Ontario.

    The TTC has a deeply entrenched culture of being “the best” and of looking outside the organization for the root of all problems. Introspection and self-improvement are harder, but possible. I don’t think Byford fully understood the extent of his challenge, and I think the jury is still out on whether he will turn things around. The last thing we need is more upheaval and the recruitment of yet another new face who will take a year or more just to figure out who they can trust, assuming they even know which questions to ask.

    Finally, in answer to the perennial question, no I do not want to be on the TTC Board. Such a position would actually limit my effectiveness and ability to work “off stage” with a variety of people at the community, media, professional and political levels. When you wear a badge of “Commissioner”, it’s impossible to take off.

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  23. Steve said:

    “The TTC has a deeply entrenched culture of being “the best” and of looking outside the organization for the root of all problems. Introspection and self-improvement are harder, but possible. I don’t think Byford fully understood the extent of his challenge, and I think the jury is still out on whether he will turn things around.”

    Yes, and the organisations that are truly the best only remain so, by believing that they can learn from others, who will at the very least do some things better than we do. Usually the best overall organisations, (at least in my personal experience), are second best in a whole bunch of areas, and are doing their best to learn in each of those areas from the leaders in each area.

    Toronto, may capture the best overall, but it is hard to imagine that there will ever be a time, that they will not benefit from learning from other. Also, the best organisations, start by assuming that they at the least can do something to improve their service when an outside force disrupts their previous best effort.

    I would suggest that in LRT application Metrolinks and the TTC should be looking across North America, and Europe, and dragging Toronto Traffic and Toronto Police along with them, in order to establish best practice. The same would be true for transit priority and traffic management. The city as a whole needs also to start seeing itself as one organisation, and one of its goals needs to be to maximize the effectiveness of city assets in terms of volume and quality of services delivered.

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  24. Steve said:

    “Finally, in answer to the perennial question, no I do not want to be on the TTC Board. Such a position would actually limit my effectiveness and ability to work “off stage” with a variety of people at the community, media, professional and political levels. When you wear a badge of “Commissioner”, it’s impossible to take off.”

    I would also argue Steve that an apolitical, friendly but outside critic (one who both defends and points out flaws), is just as likely to allow an organization to find introspection, as a Commissioner, who by definition must also play politics. The TTC needs more neutral, high profile, service champions as much as it needs Commissioners. I suspect that much of the time the Commission’s hands are tied in advance by council, and opening the debate can be very valuable.

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  25. Peter Strazdins said:“I do not pretend to offer a solution. How can we efficiently & fairly reconcile Politics, Planners, and the Public and move away from a propensity to muddle-through, wasting time, wasting opportunities, and wasting taxpayer dollars? But perhaps Steve can open up a thread on this blog to discuss a Big Fix to the entire process?”

    I do not pretend to suggest that I have an actual fix, however, I will say that any major fix must start with the voters themselves. It requires the voter, to be involved, thinking and reasonable. A well informed voter, would not encourage this sort of plan, and the politicians would be more inclined to stick with the message that they intend to set this as a priority, and take the best advice of the planners, or to get the current best plans passed and into action as quickly as possible.

    As long as the voters rewards this (see Tory’s rise from also ran to leader on the back of this plan, and Chow’s collapse on promoting real viable existing plans) this is what you can expect. I think Steve is already doing quite a lot, in terms of making information, informed opinion, and a venue for discussion available. It is up to the voter to take the issues seriously enough to inform themselves, and stop being swayed by what they either know, or should know is pie in the sky. Fortunately Tory found a way to promise what the province was already committed to (for the most part) and packaging in a effective manner for marketing. He will have to change Eglinton West, but well, I think he knew that at the start.

    There was a reasonable planning process in place, the issue has been executing on it. The voter needs to pay attention to the basic process, not just the grandstanding.

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  26. @L. Wall.

    Nice attempt at libel.

    I’ve suggested that there’s a certain dislike of Scarborough that maybe race based. This was in response to comments on UT describing Scarborough as “scary”.

    And I’ve suggested that there’s a sense that Scarborough residents don’t actually deserve significant transit investment. I’ve heard that view expressed publicly a fair bit.

    In any event, I’ve always maintained that the public will vote for the fastest (to them) transit plan. Don’t give them subways? Fine. They’ll vote for suburban rail.

    Must be frustrating to some. But I actually talk to my family, friends and neighbours about public transit and advocate for what they want (faster commutes). That’s why I wasn’t surprised when Ford was elected (I voted for Smitherman) and I won’t be surprised when Tory gets elected and Chow finishes in third.

    Steve: Imputing that “dislike of Scarborough” may be race based ignores the fact that many other parts of Toronto have significant visible minority communities, and is a cheap shot implying that if someone feels the scheme you prefer should not be built, that such a position is somehow reflective of the relative races of Scarborough (treated as if it were one entity) and the writer. The issue is whether the subway is an appropriate response to transportation demands in Scarborough especially when it will not address anywhere near all of them.

    “Scarborough residents deserve”? That whole line was started off by Cllr De Baeremaeker and the almost entirely white crowd who attempted to create a sense of “second class Scarborough” in response to subway critics. What any part of the city deserves is good transit, but we will have to differ on just what that might be.

    As for “faster” that all depends on where you are travelling. Some trips will be faster than today with the subway, and some will also be faster with the LRT replacement for the SRT. The question is which trips and by how much. Also, of course, the subway won’t serve areas the LRT network might have gone to. I agree that voters will always favour their perceived self-interest, but the subway’s “benefit” for Scarborough is based at least in part on bruised egos and misrepresentation. Statements about how Scarborough taxpayers have supported downtown and its transit system are flat out wrong (I will avoid the word “lies” here, tempting though it might be, as it implies a knowing misstatement) and were intended only to further inflame the sense of poor, hard-done-by Scarborough.

    Chow will lose badly in Scarborough in part because she did such a bad job of explaining all of the benefits of the LRT option, including future expansion, and both Tory and Ford are happy to make proposals with bags full of money that does not exist.

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  27. Steve said:

    “I agree that voters will always favour their perceived self-interest, but the subway’s “benefit” for Scarborough is based at least in part on bruised egos and misrepresentation. Statements about how Scarborough taxpayers have supported downtown and its transit system are flat out wrong (I will avoid the word “lies” here, tempting though it might be, as it implies a knowing misstatement) and were intended only to further inflame the sense of poor, hard-done-by Scarborough.

    Chow will lose badly in Scarborough in part because she did such a bad job of explaining all of the benefits of the LRT option, including future expansion, and both Tory and Ford are happy to make proposals with bags full of money that does not exist.”

    Part of the issue here is also enlightened self interest. Much of the current subway was planned when it was the only viable option. It was also much better used. If Scarborough were to get the Km of subways required to make much of a difference, why then could not Etobicoke argue for the same, or even the downtown. When was the last mile of subway added downtown? What contribution to that construction did Scarborough make (it having been mostly farm fields at the time, and not part of Toronto yet).

    Best transit to serve the most people, in the most equitable way, is achieved by deploying the most appropriate technology to task. The most time savings will be achieved for the most people, by making bus journeys more direct to where they are headed, and trips to rapid transit shorter.

    A rapid transit network that reduces the amount of distortion of bus routes in Scarborough will provide far greater benefit. If Scarborough has reason to be upset, it should be around the issue that too little of transit currently serves Scarborough to Scarborough trips well. Because of the built form (a choice by Scarborough), far more money needs to be spent to provide adequate transit than should have been required, or that required to provide similar services for old Toronto (whose service is hugely overcrowded). Transit in Scarborough needs to do a better job in terms of serving all trips, not just those that are core bound.

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  28. Beyond buildability issues, what deeply concerns me with regards to SmartTracks, as a solution to all that is in need in Toronto rapid transit is that Stouffville GO seems to me too far east to relieve the Yonge subway.

    It may act as relief to some degree to the Yonge Bloor exchange, but I suspect that in 7 to 10 years any capacity bought by switching on Yonge will have long ago been consumed, and load from the bulk of the bus lines in Toronto, and central York region to the north will continue to be directed to the Yonge subway. The overload condition will be happening at Sheppard, not at Bloor, and I think SmartTracks will not address this.

    To me the number 1 issue in Toronto Transit, is yes relieving the Yonge Bloor subway exchange and Yonge to the south, but any large capital instense plan needs to look realistically at what comes next. A serious, look needs to be taken at how the resulting network will behave after construction. I think Scarborough needs to get more high order transit, and more development should be enabled there, but a plan that clearly allows continued growth, and capacity beyond the instant need is required. A Don Mills subway, plus LRT would provide a dramatic increase in capacity allowing buses to off load before Yonge, as would largely improved GO service in Richmond Hill with local stops (even if only Oriole and Old Cummer) as long as they were tied to local bus.

    Among the questions that SmartTracks needs to address beyond the western end goofyness are equally fundamental.

    – If you do this at Union, can you really add significant other service after? Or does having this GO to Union, essentially consume all capacity there?

    – What kind of radical alterations to Union will be required to offer similar service to southern Scarborough and Etobicoke?

    – Does this really provide the biggest bang for the buck across the city?

    – If this is targetted at the east end, does other heavy rail service there actually make sense?

    Personally I think that the Don Mills subway, opens more potential for similar money, and it opens not consumes future options. If you are going to provide a radical increase in service to Stouffville, the possibility of removing this service and corresponding service in the west from Union. How this is approached should be on the table before any large capital expenditures are made. Also how to integrate the service with the surface TTC needs to be resolved, and how and to what degree that actually sheds load from the most overloaded TTC line.

    This kind of proposal in the political arena should have followed not led a Yonge Relief study.

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  29. Steve, can the eastern leg of the ST be built without demolishing any houses? Is there space to widen the rail corridor all the way from Unionville to the lake? It will most likely be needed to double or even triple tracked, and that is not including stations.

    Also, what are the chances the province would agree to the UPX conversion to the western leg of the ST? The electrification EA is already in progress. All they will need to do is replace the rolling stock and add a few more stations.

    Steve: Metrolinx has been studying double-tracking the corridor from north of Scarborough Junction, and it appears to be doable. The real question is the level of service to be operated and how ST will co-exist with whatever remaining GO service uses the same line. The bigger challenge is the merged service on Lake Shore East which will, for starters, require a grade separation at Scarborough Junction, although this was foreseen for the RER plans (which ST duplicates) anyhow.

    UPX is trickier because the station at the airport is too small for full sized GO trains. The question, then, is whether the ST service would run with smaller trains (which would limit its capacity) or with more frequent service (which would challenge existing track time and signalling limitations.

    Unfortunately, John Tory is not entertaining any thoughts of change to his plan deflecting all comers with the implication that any criticism, even that which is intended to improve the proposal, is tantamount to disloyalty to the city’s future. I think he has been badly advised on the Eglinton leg of SmartTrack and will do the overall concept damage by holding too tightly to it.

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  30. Steve said:

    Chow will lose badly in Scarborough in part because she did such a bad job of explaining all of the benefits of the LRT option, including future expansion, and both Tory and Ford are happy to make proposals with bags full of money that does not exist.

    Joe M says:

    Chow doesn’t resonate with Scarborough residents for many reasons not only transit but that’s a whole other topic.

    Opening up the LRT/Subway debate is an gutsy gesture to the residents of Scarborough. Surely Chow’s team calculated that this would not end well for future relations & was sure to be political suicide?

    And really … How could anyone sell a transit starved suburb to choose their central transit line as an LRT which would includes a transfer to another technology & follows the current lackluster alignment, when a subway with stops (yes we know only 3-4) located in much more ideal locations & it’s already tabled by all other levels of government? LRT’s are fine around Sheppard and Eglinton. Let’s move on.

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  31. Joe M said:

    “And really … How could anyone sell a transit starved suburb to choose their central transit line as an LRT which would includes a transfer to another technology & follows the current lackluster alignment, when a subway with stops (yes we know only 3-4) located in much more ideal locations & it’s already tabled by all other levels of government? LRT’s are fine around Sheppard and Eglinton. Let’s move on.”

    Really, somebody has sold cities larger than Scarborough, LRT as their central transit line. Calgary is larger, and likely has a more concentrated travel pattern, and I believe more load on their system than that forecast for Scarborough, and that system is entirely LRT. I believe that a most of the Calgary LRT lines have higher daily load than what is on the RT, the LRT or forecast for the end of the subway. LRT in the RT, is very much like Calgary’s, completely grade separated.

    While Scarborough may be transit starved, a couple of LRTs would produce far more service than a single subway.

    The one argument, that does cause me pause, for those who must live with it, is the notion of an extended shutdown. Given the current state of the TTC and its fleet, this is a valid concern. Perhaps, if there were enough buses running express from each station to Kennedy, in dedicated lanes (with enforcement) and this was assured, it might allay some concern. Steve how many buses will it take to actually replace the RT, and ensure that the service will be no worse.

    The provincial decision so many moons ago to force equipment, and make conversion hard looks very ridiculous now.

    Steve: A one-way bus trip from STC to Kennedy with fair-to-good transit priority would take at least 20 minutes. The biggest problems are at the two terminals where the buses would face a much more convoluted entry/exit path than the trains do now. Providing a capacity of, say, 4000/hour would take 80 buses/hour (or, say, about 60 as artics). With a round trip time of 45 minutes that would require 45 artics plus spares for a total fleet of about 52 dedicated to this service. The TTC does not have these buses available. If a 45 minute round trip sounds tight, up the estimate. This does not allow for additional service needed from Lawrence East, the only significant source of passengers other than STC.

    Once upon a time, the idea was that some of the other LRT lines would be completed first, and the buses they released would move to the SLRT shuttle, but that option no longer exists. The alternative now is to “pre buy” buses to cover the SLRT and then redeploy them, probably as replacements for future retirements.

    The SLRT conversion is only one of many options we might have had for the expansion/upgrading of the transit system that have been closed off one by one through council’s squabbling and by the starvation diet the TTC’s capital and operating budgets have been on. Scarborough is particularly hard hit through the combination of inadequate bus service and the worn-out condition of the SRT.

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  32. “A one-way bus trip from STC to Kennedy with fair-to-good transit priority would take at least 20 minutes.”

    Would it help if half the buses ran express in one direction and half express in the other direction? My theory is that a substantial fraction of the demand is between the endpoints of the line (well, STC, not McCowan, but almost the endpoints). Also, given the duration of the shutdown, does it make sense to do things like divert buses that would normally connect with the SRT so that they connect with STC or Kennedy directly?

    I guess it’s mostly moot now but it’s still an interesting problem in service design.

    Steve: My timings assumed a non-stop run from STC to Kennedy both ways. Running light in the off-peak direction would only save the time spent loading and unloading passengers.

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  33. Steve said:

    “Once upon a time, the idea was that some of the other LRT lines would be completed first, and the buses they released would move to the SLRT shuttle, but that option no longer exists. The alternative now is to “pre buy” buses to cover the SLRT and then redeploy them, probably as replacements for future retirements.

    The SLRT conversion is only one of many options we might have had for the expansion/upgrading of the transit system that have been closed off one by one through council’s squabbling and by the starvation diet the TTC’s capital and operating budgets have been on. Scarborough is particularly hard hit through the combination of inadequate bus service and the worn-out condition of the SRT.”

    The thing is that at least the shortage of buses is something that could be addressed reasonably quickly. Even with the consideration of bus replacement, could not the LRT still be in service sooner than the subway. Also in the post completion period, will not this also provide a greater reduction of buses required (or rather more greatly reduce the rate of growth in required.)

    I understand that we can no longer afford to wait for the completion of another LRT, however, will the RT now survive long enough to do all the work to actually construct a subway? Also does the subway come even vaguely close to matching the LRT proposal in terms of serving actual travel patterns. Also given the current state of the fleet and ridership growth, would not these buses be required elsewhere just within Scarborough anyway post LRT, even after Sheppard / Morningside are complete? {and as additional buses not replacement to retired}

    Steve: All perfectly reasonable arguments that mean nothing in the face of “only a subway is good enough for me” arguments.

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  34. Is the ridership on the Downtown Relief Line going to be higher than the Yonge subway? Isn’t one of the most important arguments of streetcars over buses is the high capacity of streetcars? Isn’t Yonge St doing fine without streetcars to complement subway operations? If so, then why would we still need a subway on King / Queen or wherever the DRL may be built? I am not saying that no surface operations would be needed but just that the demand would be dramatically reduced as to no longer justify streetcar operations (remember that streetcars are not even needed on Yonge St and Yonge subway carries more people than any DRL ever will). If you want to keep the streetcars, then you should promote a Front St DRL (Richmond / Adelaide / Wellington will offer very inconvenient transfers to the Yonge and University Lines. Besides the subway platforms are too narrow on King, St Patrick, Queen, Osgoode, Dundas, and St Patrick and Union now has the widest platforms capable of handling additional DRL traffic.

    Doug Ford has offered a Queen St alignment for the DRL but doesn’t he know that Downtown has moved South? Doug Ford is also going to destroy your view of the Don Valley by cutting down forests to add lanes to the DVP.

    Steve: I strongly disagree that the DRL would render streetcars unneeded on various lines. Look at a map and see where the riders come from. On King West for example, they do not originate at Bloor and Dundas from the subway, but along Roncesvalles, through Parkdale and Liberty Village, then Bathurst/Niagara to downtown. Similarly, King East gets much of its demand down Broadview and along King Street in areas that are far from a potential DRL. It is unlikely that a DRL (whatever we call it, including SmartTrack) would serve much of this demand.

    Nearly 50 years ago, TTC planners mistakenly assumed that when the Bloor subway opened, they could cut back service on King. What had been a better-than-2-minute service was cut to 4′ headways. That didn’t last long.

    Remember also that there will be a lot of medium rise buildings in what is called the “shoulders” of downtown over the next two decades, and much of the affected area is nowhere near a DRL corridor.

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  35. Malcolm N said:

    Really, somebody has sold cities larger than Scarborough, LRT as their central transit line. Calgary is larger, and likely has a more concentrated travel pattern, and I believe more load on their system than that forecast for Scarborough, and that system is entirely LRT. I believe that a most of the Calgary LRT lines have higher daily load than what is on the RT, the LRT or forecast for the end of the subway. LRT in the RT, is very much like Calgary’s, completely grade separated.

    While Scarborough may be transit starved, a couple of LRTs would produce far more service than a single subway.

    Joe M said:

    Apple and oranges.

    Calgary is its own City and doesn’t segregate a major portion of its own City by implementing a different transit technology stub-lines with transfers.

    I’m all for LRT’s & preferably BRT’s to move around Scarborough’s (Toronto’s) perimeter. But not to connect Central Scarborough to the main artery of transit in Toronto.

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  36. Steve, you were naive to think that Queen’s Park delayed the Sheppard LRT solely for financing/accounting reasons. I hope you don’t believe this still.

    See Inside Toronto

    Steve: The original reason was to save money, but that goes back to well before the era of the Scarborough subway debate (Miller was still Mayor when the first round of deferrals came through). Later, it became obvious that the Scarborough Liberal caucus was going to throw its weight around and try to block any LRT plans. Having RoFo as mayor and the whole “poor hard done by Scarborough” cant of Glenn De Baeremaeker and others more or less sealed the fate of LRT in Scarborough for good. I hope that they enjoy the bus service which is all much of Scarborough will have for the foreseeable future.

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  37. @ Steve:

    I respect the fact you stick to the candidate you believe in the most. That should be how everyone votes. But your article on why you would vote Chow highlights the fact you live in a different world from other parts of Toronto.

    We need to support & bridge the divide in the City so we a facing at-least similar challenges otherwise here will be disappointment for many years to come at the polls.

    I’ll gladly continue to ride the bus for the next 10 years when I know the next generation will have access to the transit all my neighbors have been screaming for since I moved here.

    Steve said:

    “I hope that they enjoy the bus service which is all much of Scarborough will have for the foreseeable future”

    Joe M says:

    Yes it certainly will suck … But when there’s a very good chance in 15-20 years the next generation will have the transit infrastructure my neighbours have been screaming for. It’ll be well worth it.

    A subway to the core and improved bus service (or BRT) is really all we need out here.

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  38. Steve said:

    “I strongly disagree that the DRL would render streetcars unneeded on various lines. Look at a map and see where the riders come from. On King West for example, they do not originate at Bloor and Dundas from the subway, but along Roncesvalles, through Parkdale and Liberty Village, then Bathurst/Niagara to downtown. Similarly, King East gets much of its demand down Broadview and along King Street in areas that are far from a potential DRL. It is unlikely that a DRL (whatever we call it, including SmartTrack) would serve much of this demand.”

    I personally think that a properly located Don Mills subway (as long as locating such did not detract from purpose) could assist the Streetcar, by reducing the distance that people were travelling by car in order to transfer. However, I also think that adding a lot of stops to a subway in order to replace the car would be ridiculous.

    The streetcar is ideally suited to collecting locally, and serving local loads. The size of these loads in the shoulder areas is beyond that of a bus now, and will only grow. I can see a need to have the streetcar and subway meet, in order have the longer trips to and from the shoulder areas outside the core be served, but it will in no way replace the streetcar. I personally would like to see a much improved surface service along Yonge north of Eglinton, in order to help fill the holes, and improve service (and possibly encourage development). A subway to serve streetcar loads, would slow to a crawl, would be ridiculously expensive, and would still serve the need poorly. It would also undermine local business along the route, which would not be visible to their potential customers.

    I do think however, that subway (LRT, EMU whatever) service into a couple of spots in the shoulders would be helpful. This ideally should connect to the streetcar to serve longer trips, but streetcar is best suited to serve the local loads, and leave it alone (except better signal priority and more capacity). You cannot build subway along King anyway, but a stop every 300-400 meters would be ridiculously expensive.

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  39. Joe M said:

    “Apple and oranges.

    Calgary is its own City and doesn’t segregate a major portion of its own City by implementing a different transit technology stub-lines with transfers.

    I’m all for LRT’s & preferably BRT’s to move around Scarborough’s (Toronto’s) perimeter. But not to connect Central Scarborough to the main artery of transit in Toronto.”

    To me the natural centre of Scarborough should have been served by Subway. Someone decided to move the “centre” to a location that they were perfectly aware had no subway planned near it. Warden was opened in the late 1960s, and most of Scarborough was not occupied. To locate away from the subway was a conscious decision. Scarborough grew in a built form that does not support subway. Build what will best serve the most trips that are made by those residents.

    Steve: STC is located where it is because Eaton’s owned the land and wanted to develop it. Scarborough happily set up shop there with a municipal centre. The focus was the 401. Transit had nothing to do with it.

    Do I think that perhaps the Crosstown should continue through as the Scarborough LRT, that would be my knee jerk, at least that way people could continue west to wherever they were destined. However, a well designed transfer is not a big deal, and most people do it as a matter of course. The issue to me has been the design at Kennedy to date.

    This has made a massive issue, of something that should not be. If the LRT has sufficient frequency, and is actually a cross platform transfer, it should not be a big deal. Please make sure that the headway is reliably in the 2-3 minute range for both the LRT and subway, and it should not be an issue. Throw in a heap of escalators, walking, screwing around, not enough capacity on the line etc, and well yes it is a pain in the ass. To create decent service, more than one route to cover Scarborough is required. This will not be the case with subway, and long bus rides, on increasingly crowded buses will be the rule.

    Also I suspect to make the numbers work, the TTC will likely start short turning trains at Kennedy, and there will be an effective cross platform transfer for half the riders anyway.

    Vic Park should connect to a BRT on Kingston Road, and Kennedy to an LRT. Sheppard should have an LRT to and down Morningside. All of Scarborough should be close to rapid transit, not just a narrow corridor. Please connect all of Scarborough, not just some narrow corridor. The money allocated could, and should all be spent in Scarborough to allow a much more complete rapid transit system, not a single line.

    Just make sure that these transfers, are not designed like the one currently at Kennedy, which I suspect has been subverted by escalators from its original goal of being an early ParticipACTION project. It would appear that transit users have not appreciated this opportunity to maximize their use of stairs. I think this type of goal is better served with bike trails.

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  40. Steve:

    “Nearly 50 years ago, TTC planners mistakenly assumed that when the Bloor subway opened, they could cut back service on King.”

    Building a subway under Bloor having little effect on the reduction in King streetcar ridership in no way implies that building a subway under King St won’t have a significant reduction on King surface ridership. Bloor and King are far but building a subway under King might not only dramatically reduce surface ridership on King but also on Queen due to the proximity of the 2 streets and so much so that one or two streetcar routes get knocked down by the pro-car anti-streetcar interests and that is why I prefer Regional Express Rail and a DRL subway under Front St. What I am trying to say is that professing a subway underneath King / Queen / Dundas can have undesirable side-effects on the future of some of our streetcar routes which should be avoided and a DRL under Front via Union Station should be looked at as a serious alternative (also as a way to protect our streetcar routes).

    Steve: Your argument might hold water if a DRL were going all the way across the city via King Street, but it’s not. If anything is built, it will not serve King West at all as the western branch is unlikely to be built soon, if ever. As for the eastern side of the King line, its demand won’t be touched because the DRL will likely cross the Don well south of Queen to serve the Unilever site.

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