At the December 5 meeting of Toronto’s Executive Committee, Mayor Tory walked a motion onto the floor to launch a study process for SmartTrack in conjunction with various agencies and consultants. Of particular interest is paragraph 2:
2. City Council authorize the City Manager to retain the following specialized services to support the review of the SmartTrack plan:
a. the University of Toronto to support the planning analysis and required transit modeling;
b. Strategic Regional Research Associates for assessing development scenarios along the SmartTrack alignment; and
c. Third party peer reviewers of all SmartTrack analysis.
Paragraph 2.b refers to an organization, SRRA, which has been involved in proposals that evolved into SmartTrack before. Iain Dobson, a member of the Metrolinx Board, is listed as a co-founder of SRRA in his bio on their website. He is also listed as a member of the Advisory Board to the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute.
I wrote to Metrolinx asking whether Dobson has a conflict of interest with the consulting work contemplated by Tory’s motion and his position on the board. Here is their reply:
Metrolinx has strong policies guiding Board directors and employees on conflict of interest
• This matter has arisen today and discussions are underway to determine what is the appropriate course of action, after gathering and considering the facts
• In considering this, the most important factor is protecting the public interest
• While a final direction is being determined, the Board director will not be involved in discussions involving Regional Express Rail and SmartTrack
[Email from Anne Marie Aikens, Manager, Media Relations]
Background reports that led to SmartTrack can be found on the Canadian Urban Institute’s website and on the SRRA Research site.
What is striking, in brief, is that SmartTrack arose from a desire to link many potential development sites, some on the fringes of Toronto, while ignoring large spaces in between. Moreover, the claimed ridership is based on a high level of commuter market penetration and a level of service more akin to the core area subway system than to suburban nodes.
I will review these papers in a future article.
1) At least we are talking about transit and not just ‘subways, subways, subways.’
2) How did John Tory walk a motion onto the floor? Do you mean that he made a motion which was placed for the the Committee for its consideration? I know I am being picky, but no one walks a motion onto the floor. One makes a motion after one is recognized to speak (i.e. taking the floor, in parliamentary terms.)
Steve: There is a procedure for a member to ask the committee that an item be added to the agenda. This is often referred to as a “walk in” item, and it is often used to slip business onto the table at the last moment to avoid scrutiny in advance or organization of opposition. Some members of council are expert at using this tactic.
John Tory still hasn’t explained how he is going to fix the part of SmartTrack that runs on Eglinton West. Running GO trains on Eglinton West is prohibitively expensive as far as I can tell because of selling off land along it and the need to build underground. There are three obvious possibilities I can see, and it is possible to build more than one of these:
– Extend Eglinton LRT west to the airport as originally proposed by Miller.
– Run a spur south from the Georgetown line to Airport Corporate Centre via Pearson Airport Terminal 1, but this requires partially or totally rebuilding the UP Express spur. Hopefully Metrolinx would admit that charging $27 to get to Pearson is too expensive. Maybe they could get away with $10 to enter or exit at Pearson but exempt monthly pass holders from the surcharge.
– Extend Bloor-Danforth line to Pearson Airport via Airport Corporate Centre and Highway 427.
If his intention is to connect Airport Corporate Centre to the transit system, there is more than one way of doing this. There is an enormous amount of commercial development south and west of the airport and I think that Eglinton LRT alone could be overcrowded during the peak of rush hour if Mississauga Transitway and various other MiWay bus routes act as feeders connecting to the Eglinton LRT at what is currently “Skymark Hub”, so having Eglinton LRT + GO trains is desirable. LRT capacity is about 10000/hour which means 40000 for morning rush hour from 6am-10am, but the number of people working near Pearson is many times this number and I suspect that a large percentage of people living in Toronto would use transit to get to jobs in the airport area once this is built (people who live in Mississauga/Brampton/elsewhere much less so). I suspect that “SmartTrack” might be even worse because of Union Station capacity limitations, if it is limited to every 15 minutes then GO Transit’s website says 162 per BiLevel car * 12 = 1944 * 4 = 7766 which is even lower than LRT. Clearly Union Station needs to be expanded so we can run trains more than every 15 minutes.
I think the Union Station capacity issue could be something that breaks this plan. Plans to expand GO service rely on having a relief station at Bathurst St. So how is it possible to also accommodate SmartTrack trains?
I know digging a new set of tunnels underneath the downtown would be an engineering nightmare, if not outright impossible; but it seems that having rapid transit pass through the core of the city on an alternative alignment would have the benefits of creating a true network that doesn’t force everyone through already crowded chokepoints, and serving as a valuable bypass route when there is a disruption on one of the other lines.
The takeaway I’m getting from John Tory’s SmartTrack proposal is (a) that the western portion of the Eglinton Crosstown should be accelerated to open at the same time when as the rest of the line opens i.e. 2020 with (b) fewer intermediate stops and (c) should be as grade-separated as possible.
As for where SmartTrack should terminate in the west end if sticking to the rail corridors, two possible logical contenders would be either downtown Brampton and to a lesser extent Woodbridge. Downtown Brampton would be the most logical choice connecting with both the Queen and Hurontario-Main BRTs, GO/VIA and is an urban growth centre. Woodbridge via the Bolton GO corridor north of Weston would connect with the Highway 7 corridor and another urban growth centre, though not on the same scale as Brampton.
Bloor-Danforth should go to Square One; although a Highway 27 BRT from Long Branch to Humber College via Sherway, Renforth Gateway and Pearson en route would be a good idea.
My problem is with the very apparent conflict of interest with a group study a report it created and the fact that it would serve developments that members might have a financial interest in.
From the SRRA homepage:
The Financial services sectors and real estate companies and developers might, just might, have a pecuniary interest in seeing rapid transit lines built to serve their interests. They have the right, and the responsibility to their share holders, to lobby for these lines but they should not develop the plan and then report on its validity.
I was watching the live stream of the meeting and Janet Davis was asking if this is a sole-source contract. I can’t remember what the answer was. Can you describe how this motion fits with the city’s consultant procurement policies?
Also, didn’t you point out in a post that the Tory campaign ignored or misused ridership numbers for ST? If they did that, how can we trust the use of the same consultants? How will the third-party review team be decided?
Steve: Yes, this is sole cource, and I don’t know how it fits with the procurement policy beyond the claim (unchallenged) that the consultants are “experts” on this topic. I should hope so, considering that they invented the idea. As for third party review, it will be difficult to find someone in this town who does not already have their hand in the cookie jar, professionally speaking, on this or related projects.
The idea of having the originating firm review SmartTrack seems very similar to the idea of peer review of a paper being done by its author, after all who knows more about a paper than its author. Of course it would seem odd if it did not get a positive review.
Also the Government of Ontario is continuing to study Glen Murray’s high speed rail pipe dream which would require a new station at the airport. This is unlikely to ever be built, but maybe SmartTrack and the high speed rail could use the same station at the airport and the SmartTrack station could be designed for future high speed rail. This of course requires wasting money rebuilding the spur that UP Express uses.
If you read the SSRA review you will see that they recognize this and want to put the line under Wellington through the downtown and run subway type equipment rather than commuter rail stock, mind you at 160 km/h. Until they get segregated track exempt from Transport Canada regulations the best they can hope for is about 10 minute service. Since there is already service between 15 and 30 minutes on these lines that does not allow much room for more passengers. This was not well thought out. They looked at a map and saw tracks. They ride the subway and they see tracks.
Conclusion: we can run subway type service on the GO lines! If you point out the contradictions and problems, then you are a nay sayer and not part of the team.
The major problem is that there is not enough room on either corridor to also run SmartTrack which would require two additional tracks as when fully implemented they would not be Transport Canada compliant and they would overwhelm any freight service. Getting to Bramalea is relatively easy because Metrolinx owns the right of way and is upgrading most of it to three tracks with room for a fourth track. This would allow 2 tracks for rapid transit style SmartTrack and 2 for main line rail, i.e. Via and GO trains beyond Bramalea.
Metrolinx wants to run all day GO service to Mount Pleasant someday but can’t say when. CP will never allow service to Bolton unless Metrolinx puts in major upgrades to that line which would probably be too expensive.
The way in which Tory & company have pushed SmartTrack makes it clear that they hope to avoid “a fact-based and transparent process.”
According to Tory, Wynne required a 3rd party report green-lighting the project, before “moving forward.” Instead he used his pliant executive, and likely Council (majority), to hand a sole source contract to the people who came up with the plan.
Penachetti, who survived the Ford era, and is staying on at Tory’s request, supports Tory’s plan not to tender the ST study.
The last thing Toronto needs is to sleepwalk into at least $8 billion worth of unstudied transit expenses, due to the mandate of another new mayor.
As for the media, while this dangerous move was noticed by individual reporters, it got little press coverage outside blogs like this. Most appear unaware or unconcerned by the real estate conflicts, or need for 3rd party study. I bet even a G Chong report would give us a more realistic view than Dobson.
If anyone is planning to build a subway, LRT, etc, it is virtually impossible to forecast ridership tens years in advance, let alone 20 t0 30 years. The people that put together contract documents to build these projects (like IO) have seen just about everything and still have trouble. There are a limited number of companies that can deliver these projects. In many cases there are only three contenders at best. More probably two.
This ‘sole source’ agreement is a bit of a joke.
Go to other cities, say Berlin, where they have an SBahn system. Headways maybe 10-15 minutes, not a subway. So what. Perfectly acceptable.
Check the Berlin population density and ridership on the SBahns and ask why? Berlin also has a RingBahn. OK. Radical idea. Ditto for Tokyo and the Yamanote Line. Not a subway service based on headways. Length on line? Stations? Ridership?
Everything that does not work, or will not work in Toronto, works elsewhere. Both I and my wife have no problem navigating these referenced systems. Ditto for Rome, Paris, Osaka and Madrid. Buses, purchasing tickets, validating tickets, etc. No big deal. And I and my wife do not read or understand Japanese although we can figure out some German.
We were in Berlin in early October and took a regional train for a day trip to Dresden and noticed on the way that a freight train that passed us was sharing the same rail corridor. This happened in Germany. Too much politics in Toronto.
Steve: I am not entirely sure what specifically you are arguing for or against in Toronto as opposed to other cities, but I will take a stab at commenting. First off, Infrastructure Ontario does not have expertise in transit projects. They may be good at things like hospitals and office buildings (although it is probably easy to find counterexamples), but transit is beyond their field. The whole idea of PPPs as a delivery mechanism keeps the folks who think the private sector can and should do everything happy, but it substantially complicates the contract structure because everything must be specified in a contract, and anything that isn’t becomes an opportunity for higher prices. It’s no secret that even in conventional contracts, bidders expect to make their serious profits on change orders.
As for 10-15 minute headways, there is nothing wrong with this provided that there is a good network of lines, not just one corridor, and not with claims of immense ridership numbers more appropriate for a frequent subway service than 4-6 trains/hour.
Navigation? That’s a matter both for good design, and a culture that says “people who don’t use the system every day are important too”. Indeed, even regular riders will visit unfamiliar corners of their home system now and then, and good communication tools are not just frills for the tourists. We are all tourists when we get out of our regular environment. Fare collection is a combination of good system design and the provision of easy to use and understand machinery that does not get in the rider’s way (not just a matter of physical placement, but of simplicity and an “obviousness” to how things should work).
As for freights and passenger services on the same corridor, that’s a federal issue, not a Toronto peculiarity. Given many concerns about rail safety, I would not hold my breath for any change in regulations.
I think the Scarborough subway should just be a SmartTrack branch. Rebuild the RT tracks to run standard EMUs, from Finch/Morningside right through to Union (stopping at the additional SmartTrack stations). That would eliminate the Kennedy transfer for those heading to the core, and provide some relief for the BD.
There are a couple of basic issues in the GTHA. There were, compared with most other major cities, fewer rail links to preserve, simply because the city was smaller compared to its current size for longer (compare say Berlin, or Paris or London’s size circa 1950 to today and then look at Toronto’s). The other is that because these cities have placed a high importance on public transit their overall networks are more extensive, meaning the capacity required on any given link is a lot less. Toronto is now being promised a big bang solution, that would infer that a single rail link in each direction solves its problems.
Toronto’s congestion issues or even overcrowding on Yonge being solved by an SBahn type service in only 2 lines seems a stretch. If the geography of Richmond Hill were easier, providing access at Danforth, Eglinton, as well as existing GO, and it and the Barrie line were also included on a 10 minute basis, the idea would seem more plausible. If you have substantial service inside 416 on these lines and Lakeshore east and west on a better than 15 minute basis well…
If you could implement RER on all lines on a 10-15 minute or better basis all day (remember this idea?), well that would have an impact. If you could re-task/abandon from mainline service a couple of these lines, so they were rapid transit lines, well…
The other important aspect of making these services work elsewhere, is that they tie to a series of transit layers. SmartTrack is entering a discussion of this or LRT, and RER generally serves a different role than the LRT proposed in Toronto. I am of the mind that increasing the stops of RER to a great degree will cause it to serve its primary role (longer distance) less well. Toronto, needs layers of transit, each layer serving a specific need.
Subway is already being stretched towards commuter rail with a 2km spacing, closer spacing is required for truly local service. LRT fills the idea of local service for areas where the density is not there for subway, RER for longer trips where stop spacing should be longer. Scarborough to Scarborough trips are not well served by subway, or RER. However bus and LRT can serve these trips well.
A network model should be run with analysis done, each possible line being put in or taken out and a reasonable forecast of ridership done, in order to establish what should be built. LRT, RER, subway, and their stops need to be examined in the context of their likely impact with the other possible components of the network in or out.
Build the network based on a reasonable expectation of largest impact with the dollars available.
In that case, let’s hope that they invite impartial experts from other cities to undertake the said review.
This is a good idea potentially, but it will not work with SmartTrack running on 15-min headways. After the Scarborough and Markham services split north of Ellesmere, each will have a 30-min frequency; this is clearly impractical.
If SmartTrack operated on 5-min headways, your proposal would probably work well.
Steve: This is an example of confusion of technology and the specifics of implementation with the function of various routes. Ryan wants a line from Malvern to downtown, and strings together bits of other proposals to provide it. However, there is already a route that makes a similar journey — the CPR line plus the inactive Don Branch south from Leaside Station. Making this a GO line won’t be easy, but considering the billions we are prepared to spend on other proposals, just about anything is possible.
It will be interesting to see what the reaction of the transit planners are to Mr. Tory’s SmartTrack plan. I can see 3 possibilities.
A. Completely ignore SmartTrack (and the significant population who support it) and insist that the existing plans are the best (i.e. on-street LRT to Airport Corporate Centre and GO RER to Malton (Brampton).
B. Take Tory’s SmartTrack campaign promise 100% literally and find a way to make the curve from GO tracks to Eglinton, regardless of cost.
C. Find a compromise that satisfies the intent of the Tory promise. That is frequent service to the NW part of a Toronto and a more rapid connection to the Airport Corporate Centre. The former can be done by a GO RER type service. The latter can be done by elevating the western part of the ECLRT to make it more Rapid. (There may be other compromise solutions that may be discovered if planners actually put their minds to it).
A similar thing happened 4 years ago with Ford. At first we went with C, a Ford and McGuinty compromise, but 1 year in when another compromise was needed, they took a hard turn to A (ignoring the wishes of the people and going back to the rejected LRT plan). Then when Stintz, Council, and the Provincial Liberals got involved, we took a hard turn to B (a subway, and a subway must be fully buried).
I would say that those in group A are equally (if not more) responsible for the huge waste in money and lost time as those in group B, because they refuse to acknowledge that in a democracy, people need to be listened to.
Steve: I would agree with you but for the premise about listening to “the people”. I don’t think the majority of David Miller supporters explicitly voted for Transit City, and a majority of Ford’s supporters did not specifically endorse his plans, especially those involving gutting TTC services in the the name of “efficiency”. Equally, John Tory’s supporters wanted a better government than Ford gave us, and they wanted “something” done about transit. Whether SmartTrack is the specific solution they all endorsed is another matter.
I think that “the will of the people” is that politicians stop gerrymandering plans to suit their own electoral needs and get on with building and improving transit.
Four years from now, we could all be rallying around another map.
All I can say here is that Dentist Gordon Chong must be quite disappointed that he has missed out on this sole source contract … it seemed to me that for the past few years he had a lock on any totally unnecessary research contract related to the TTC.
Personally I am waiting for someone to just shut Tory down on Smart Track and explain that the $2.7 billion (early estimate) cost of the Eglinton West spur is simply unnecessary when Metrolinx and the provincial government were prepared to pay for the cost of the RER network plus the Eglinton crosstown extension.
As for fast-tracking the Crosstown extension that would depend on funding and possibly require a new EA (though I am not sure of the timelines) but the Smart Track would definitely require a new EA and Transit Project Assessment. I think the bigger question about Eglinton is:
A) Can it be fast tracked?
B) Are we prepared for other projects to fall by the wayside specifically so Eglinton can be built (as opposed to falling by the wayside because “Transit First” is nothing more than a slogan).
C) If there is a plan for rapid transit on Eglinton West, should the TTC pave the way by introducing a Rocket Bus now? They wanted an express bus on Lawrence West which would serve the employment areas east of Pearson … While an Eglinton West express bus would add a faster connection to the Airport Corporate Centre, MiWay buses and the Transitway via the Renforth Gateway which is supposed to open in 2018.
Steve: I cannot help thinking that the Eglinton spur was an attempt by Tory’s advisors to replace the contentious west end of the Eglinton LRT with something that at least superficially would avoid a contentious battle with the Ford crew who opposed the LRT. I know that Metrolinx wants (or at least wanted) to build the Eglinton line to the airport, but who knows what meddling has been going on. We will get a better sense at the Metrolinx board meeting later this week.
As for a Rocket Bus, it needs to make a connection with the wider network fairly speedily to be an attractive service. How easily this can be done while Eglinton is under construction for the Crosstown line would be a challenge today.
You could run an interim Eglinton West express bus down to Kipling station pretty easily. If it runs out as far as Creekbank it may be a useful route. If it runs into the airport from Kipling station, then it’s just a duplicate of the airport express bus.
That is correct.
What I am specifically interested in are the dynamics of business clusters and centralized development on equality of opportunity and the optimization of human capital utilization. If a framework can be developed on how society will be impacted by CETA and other noteworthy agreements, a development strategy and transit plan can then be designed to capitalize on the opportunities available.
Moaz: Tunneling is complete over to Eglinton West Station so the rest is just a matter of building the portal and guide way over Black Creek Drive and starting construction at Mount Dennis itself. I’m not sure how construction there would impact an Eglinton West express bus. As for station construction east of the portal I should hope that the stations would be topped off by the time a Rocket bus was running.
I suppose that this might explain why TTC management did not include an Eglinton West express bus with their service expansion plan.
On the other hand …
Moaz: I was thinking and tweeting about this today. Three thoughts, namely:
1) If serving the Airport Corporate Centre with a TTC service is so important why doesn’t a direct connection to the subway at Kipling already exist?
2) The Airport Corporate Centre is already served by MiWay’s MiExpress 109. Is there a need for a TTC 192A “Airport Corporate Centre Rocket” at least until Metrolinx implements a 2-hour GTA-wide fare (allowing passengers to use any bus without worrying about paying an extra fare)?
3) When the Renforth Gateway opens would TTC be rerouting the Airport Rocket to stop at the Renforth Gateway? I have a feeling that even if an Eglinton West Rocket or Crosstown extension ends up being built, the Renforth Gateway would be the terminal for a long time. A rerouted 192 or a 192A would be a way to connect more people between the subway, Airport Corporate Centre & Pearson Airport.