The TTC Board met on March 26, and considered a meaty agenda that begins to address some important policy issues.
Updated March 29, 2015 at 3:45 pm: The presentation on One Person Train Operation (OPTO) given at the meeting has been added along with comments.
Updated March 24, 2015 at 8:10 am: After this was published, the TTC posted the CEO’s Report.
In a previous article, I wrote about the Spadina subway extension project update. This will undoubtedly be the main attraction both for board members and the media. Other items of interest include:
- An overhaul of system key performance indicators (KPIs)
- A door monitoring system for Toronto Rocket trains and one person train crews (Updated March 29)
- Revision and consolidation of the resignalling contract for the Yonge-University line
- A study of express bus routes
- CEO’s Report
Over many years, TTC management has reported on various aspects of the transit system through tracking indices, charts and tables, and there has always been a desire at the board level to make this information as simple as possible. Two basic management problems arise from this practice:
- Key information that might be evident at a more detailed level is lost in averaging of observations over a broad reach, or by the choice of the wrong measurement factor. The sun rises every day, but this tells us little about the weather.
- Targets for “good performance” tend to reflect current practice with little sense of why a metric may sit at a specific value or how it can be improved. This is further complicated by averaging effects where significant changes at a detailed level are lost in the summary data.
A further problem is that metrics used by the TTC might, or might not, be comparable to data from other organizations in the industry, and external benchmarking is difficult. A recent industry review of subway operations, for example, ranked TTC highly for “efficiency”, but this was a direct result of lower than average maintenance cost. There was no examination of the efficacy of the level of maintenance or the quality of service resulting from TTC practices, nor any comparison system-by-system of accounting practices that could skew the numbers being reported. Surface networks and their role as part of a total transit network including the supply of passengers were completely ignored. The TTC routinely cites this report as showing how well they are doing, but omits any discussion of the context for their rank and performance relative to other systems.
Long absent from published TTC reports is any indication of vehicle reliability, a fundamental point of comparison with peer systems and an important issue internally. How do TTC fleets stack up against those in other cities whose equipment has a similar duty cycle? Do successive generations of equipment show an improvement in reliability not just against older vehicles “as is” but to their historic performance figures when they were of comparable age? What constitutes a good maintenance plan and spare equipment ratio, and how will changes in these translate to better service? Can any improvements be tracked and demonstrated?
Readers here will know of the TTC’s quarterly performance reports on a route-by-route basis most recently reported for the fourth quarter of 2014. I will not reiterate my critique of these measurements here beyond saying that they represent a complete abdication by the TTC to provide anything remotely close to reliable service, or at least to report on service quality in a meaningful way.
The detailed presentation of new metrics is not yet online. I will update this article after the board meeting.
Subway Door Monitoring and One-Person Crews
TTC management proposes that the board approve the next step in a move to One Person Train Operation (OPTO: a new acronym for readers to learn) with a trial on the Sheppard Subway (aka Line 4) of a door monitoring system. Here is a description of the proposed system:
The TDM System consists of four strategically placed CCTV cameras that are installed on the subway platform to provide live clear video of all 24 train doors while the train is in the station. The video images are collected and transmitted by means of a wireless system to the subway train. Similar equipment is installed on each train to collect, process and feed the video images to a monitor in the operator’s cab.
The monitor is installed in the operator’s cab in such a manner that it does not obstruct the operator’s view of track level and the signal system while considering ergonomics for the operator. The view on the monitor is split in four providing a live view from each CCTV camera on the subway platform.
The TDM System provides the operator with the ability to view the subway car doors from a forward facing position in the cab while the train is in the station and as the train is leaving the station. The operator will have the ability to discern objects or people caught in the doors. The system automatically turns on and off as the train enters the station and does not require any action by the operator to operate. [pg. 4]
The specific request in this report is a change order to Bombardier under its current TR car supply contract to design the modifications required in TR cabs for the video displays and for revised door operation controls.
The Board authorize a Change Directive to Bombardier Inc. (Bombardier), in the amount of $2,734,822.98, including taxes, for the additional engineering design to facilitate installation of TDM equipment and modification/relocation of door control systems on the TR trains for OPTO. [pg. 2]
Note that this does not include the procurement of the station camera systems, nor the installation/modification of equipment on the trains themself. A related problem is that the TR trains do not now operate on the Sheppard line. This brings us to the following proposal:
Once Bombardier completes the engineering design a proposal will be requested from Bombardier for installation on one prototype TR train for testing. Line 4 Sheppard Line was selected as the pilot for the OPTO concept because there are only 4 trains operating during customer service hours.
The T1 trains presently operating on Line 4 will require replacement with TR trains that are Automatic Train Control (ATC) equipped prior to implementation of ATC on Line 1 YUS in 2020 because access to Line 4 is from Line 1. The required conversion of a six car TR train to a four car train for the OPTO pilot will be the subject of a future Board report. [pg. 5]
This has all the earmarks of a project that will proceed in bite-sized steps with one funding request after another, but no sense of an overall program. The scheme to shift TR trains onto Sheppard will take equipment that was originally purchased for service improvements on the YUS and redirect it to the Sheppard line. The current fleet plan calls for 10 additional trains (which have already been ordered from Bombardier) that would enter service from 2019 to 2031.
The same plan shows T1 equipment remaining on Sheppard for the indefinite future. The “need” to convert the line to TRs is a very recent change.
One might reasonably ask why the TTC orders trains so far in advance of actual need, especially when there will be a separate order for new trains for the BD line in the mid-2020s. The philosophy, of course, is “get ’em while they’re hot”, in other words, order more trains at a lower price as part of a big order. There are, however, limits to this and the related costs of housing trains we will not actually need for well over a decade. The “savings” may not be quite what they seem, and in the process the TTC acquires a bloated fleet.
In the medium term, the proposed trial implementation looks like this:
Upon completion of the design for the TDM and door control modifications, approval will be obtained to modify one TR train as a prototype. Upon completion of the modifications, testing of the TDM equipment and door controls will take place followed by evaluation processes as prescribed by the Concept of Operations. It is planned to have one TR train available for service in OPTO by the end of 2015.
The associated cost savings and increases related to OPTO will be available at that time for development of a business case for roll out of OPTO for the remaining 3 trains on Line 4 in 2016 and for submission of the 2016 – 2025 Capital Program for roll out of OPTO on Lines 1 and 2. [pg. 5]
This plan becomes even stranger with the following reference to funding:
Sufficient funds are available for the pilot project on Line 4. Modifications to the remaining TR and all T1 trains for Lines 1 and 2 are unfunded. Sufficient funds will be submitted in the 2016 – 2025 Capital Program upon successful completion of the prototype TR train on Line 4. [pg. 2]
The TTC’s fleet and signaling plans call for the BD line to receive new equipment and convert to ATC in the early 2020s, certainly in time for opening of the Scarborough Subway Extension. It is quite strange that TTC would contemplate a retrofit of the T1 equipment for OPTO on the BD line when these cars would probably be less than five years from their retirement. Moreover, design work for the TR trains would have to be redone for the T1s because these have completely different cabs.
There may well be a business case for implementation of OPTO on the TTC system, but this report underplays the technical and financial issues the TTC could face in the actual implementation. It is striking that:
The TR trains do not have provisions for installation of the TDM System or relocation/modification of the door control system. A significant amount of structural work, electrical work and software changes are required in the TR train. [pg. 6]
One could argue that preliminary work is needed just to reach a decision point on proceeding with this conversion now, or as part of a future project involving new trains and station equipment. However, the history of TTC projects is that this could be “in for a penny, in for a pound” with the goal of OPTO overwhelming any technical issues of implementation.
Why, for example, does the TTC not begin with the premise of OPTO and ask “how much will this actually save”? That translates to a sustainable level of spending on technology change from operational savings and at least an order of magnitude figure for capital spending. Of course, if the savings from OPTO are consumed by capital costs, they are not available as offsets in the operating budget.
At the very least, the TTC should examine various scenarios for OPTO implementation including staging conversions to coincide with provision of new trains whose controls are designed for this option from the outset.
Meanwhile, operators on Sheppard should be prepared to walk the length of a four-car train over 40 times per day (an 8 hour shift with the need to change ends every 11 minutes, about 3.7km). They will be very fit.
Updated March 29, 2015 at 3:45 pm
At the meeting, Chief Operating Officer Mike Palmer gave a presentation on OPTO (One Person Train Operation).
OPTO Presentation [skip to page 8 of linked pdf]
One person operation has been in use worldwide for decades, and is appearing city-by-city, line-by-line even on very old systems such as Boston’s. The SRT, albeit with comparatively small trains by TTC rapid transit standards, has operated with one person crews since it opened 30 years ago.
The position taken by the TTC is that the single train operator who will, eventually, not be driving the train, can concentrate on door operations, a move that can improve safety. The presentation cites stats from London where OPTO lines had fewer “door related incidents” than non-OPTO ones, but it is unclear what other factors could have been at play.
One might argue that “safety” could equally be improved by an attitude adjustment of guards who now delight in closing doors on boarding/departing passengers. This is not a case of a last-minute attempt to jam through closing doors, but of failure to pay attention to (or simply ignore) passengers.
Inevitably a move to OPTO brings with it labour unrest. The TTC hopes to avoid this by treating automation and one person control as a chance to redeploy staff rather than to downsize. Whether this is practical will depend a great deal on the duties of the new positions which, if they involve standing around in stations for eight hours at a time, will be none too attractive.
The claim that “future service improvements require no new hires” shows that this is a transitional arrangement, not a permanent one, because any added service will require at least a driver. The cost will be lower than with a driver a guard, but it won’t be zero unless the TTC plans to absorb staff back into driving roles from temporary positions as station monitors. Conversely, the TTC could simply absorb drivers back onto the surface workforce. The TTC needs to clarify its position on train and station staffing because their stated plans are inconsistent.
Among many issues listed for the shift to OPTO is one oddball: tunnel ventilation, listed with the need to “upgrade and repair”. If there are tunnel issues, these should be addressed as basic safety and maintenance matters, and they do not have anything to do with how big the train or station crews might be. Conversely, if OPTO implies a need for better ventilation, then this is a cost and risk that must be identified up front.
As I wrote in the original article, the changes needed to retrofit the older T-1 trains used on Sheppard and Bloor-Danforth (a few sets remain on YUS for storm service because no TR trains have been fitted with de-icing equipment yet) are more complex. Given that the BD line won’t move to a new signal system and ATC likely until the early 2020s, it could make more sense to aim at the next planned fleet upgrade and the Scarborough Subway Extension as targets rather than attempting to retrofit T-1s for a limited remaining lifespan.
The presentation takes a “wait and see” position on conversion of the BD line including the consolidation of conversion with acquisition of a new fleet.
Restructuring the Yonge-University Signalling Contracts
[See also The Evolution of TTC Signaling Contracts]
For some time, the TTC has been engaged in replacing and upgrading the signal system on the Yonge-University subway line. The original section, from Eglinton to Union, opened in 1954, and equipment installed at that time is well beyond its design life. With technology changes, parts are difficult to obtain. The need for a complete replacement is without question.
The TTC launched this process in September 2008 with a contract covering Eglinton to St. Patrick Stations (this covers the 1954 line, plus the southern end of the 1963 University line that overlaps into the control territory of Union Station). The technology to be used was Computer Based Interlocking (CBI), a modern version of the original signalling that is controlled through track circuits to monitor train locations.
Less than a year later, in April 2009, the TTC decided to embark on the implementation of Automatic Train Control (ATC) over the entire line, then Finch to Downsview Station. Although the Spadina Subway project (TYSSE) was already underway, signalling for that extension was not included in this contract. Alstom was the successful bidder for the ATC contract which included on board control equipment for the 39 TR trains then on order.
At this point, three critical assumptions had been made:
- That some of the service on YUS would continue to be provided by T1 trains to which ATC would be retrofitted.
- Work cars and yard areas would not be covered by ATC, but would use conventional signalling to navigate the system.
- That the CBI and ATC technologies from different vendors would be able to co-exist.
The plan for some T1 trains to remain on the YUS ran into problems on a few counts:
- The cost of retrofitting this equipment for ATC proved to be quite high, and
- The TTC wanted to push ahead with replacement of all of the “H” series trains due to reliability problems, and this required shifting many T1 sets to the BD line.
Additional contracts extended the scope of both the equipment and signals procurement:
- June 2011: An additional 21 sets of ATC equipment were ordered for 21 supplementary TR trains (bringing the total to 60 sets) to replace the “H” cars.
- March 2012: A contract with Ansaldo for implementation of CBI on the remainder of the YUS plus the TYSSE.
- January 2013: An additional 10 sets of ATC equipment were ordered for the 10 TR trains destined for the TYSSE.
- April 2014: A major restructuring of the Alstom contract was approved to simplify the phased implementation, to extend ATC to the TYSSE, and to provide equipment for a further 10 sets of TR trains intended for future growth in demand. (See the discussion of TR trains for the Sheppard Subway above.)
The actual implementation to date of the two technologies has not gone well, and the projects are behind schedule. In 2014, the TTC retained Parsons (not to be confused with Parsons Brinkerhoff who worked on the TYSSE project management review) to review the project and recommend improvements. This led to the current proposal to consolidate all work under Alstom and cancel the outstanding contract with Ansaldo.
The confusion about signalling technologies is rather strange, and speaks to inconsistencies in the TTC’s scoping of this project:
The current signaling contract arrangement for Line 1 has evolved since its inception in 2008 with a higher than anticipated passenger demand and an increased scope with the inclusion of ATC on TYSSE … [pg. 1]
During the very period when the TTC was telling anyone who would listen that Toronto didn’t need a Downtown Relief Line and that passengers would somehow fit on an upgraded YUS, the need for a better signal system was somehow forgotten, or it was conveniently ignored as a pre-requisite to increase YUS capacity.
An important technical change that appears only in the recommendations is:
Increase $74,580,000.00 for adding the Alstom CBI system, equipping work cars for ATC and interfacing to the Wilson yard signaling system. [pg. 2]
This sorts out a previous design issue that non-ATC rolling stock, notably the work fleet which does operate during revenue hours, would not be controlled by the ATC system and, therefore, would require management by the CBI system and its interface to the primary ATC system. (The same would be true if a T1 train without ATC ventured onto the YUS.)
Obviously there will be sunk costs for the Ansaldo work that cannot be recovered plus whatever cancellation penalties might apply. The TTC expects to remain within the project budget and timeframe because of significant savings:
The key areas of savings that offset the cost of this contract change are:
- Reduced TTC construction costs, both material and labor as significantly less field equipment is required.
- Greatly reduced number of subway closures.
- Costs recovered from the cancellation of the existing CBI contracts.
- Reduced effort in TTC design with one supplier not three.
- Reduced testing and commissioning activities given the simplified solution as the need for independent subsystem testing is eliminated.
- The ability to test the new system during the day without inconveniencing the public, i.e. running the new system in shadow mode and ensuring greater reliability from day one.
The risks associated with current complex contract and technical arrangements are greatly reduced also allowing more confidence in cost and schedule.
The financial impact on future years is significantly reduced as the maintenance costs of the newly proposed solution are also greatly reduced. [pp 9-10]
A detailed technical review of this project is not online, but according to the report is available. I will be asking to see it if only to better inform myself on issues related to signaling changes on the subway.
In line with the difficulties already reported on the TYSSE project, it would certainly be useful to see an updated project implementation schedule and a confirmation of the estimated cost/savings tradeoffs. Needless to say, this should be tracked to completion.
TTC management proposes a study of express routes that will consolidate two requests from the Board. The first in March 2014 asked for a feasibility report on additional express bus routes. The second was the August 2014 “Opportunities” report that proposed various improvements including increased express services on existing routes.
No new services can be added given the current limitations on the fleet until at best early 2016, and this study will report in October 2015. Whether any recommdations from the study find their way into the 2016 budget will depend on the mood of the Board and of City Council who will still be digesting unexpected costs on capital projects.
A Service Plan for express routes will address:
- the costs and revenues associated with existing express routes;
- an analysis of all existing express services to determine the viability of these services;
- an analysis of instituting peak-period express service on the TTC’s busiest bus routes which do not already have express service;
- an analysis of possible new “rocket” express routes that would directly link major generators;
- the potential benefits of using articulated buses on existing and/or proposed express routes;
- a cost / benefit analysis of different fare structures for express bus route services;
- potential means of alleviating bunching of buses and short-turns on routes being considered for express bus service;
- the implementation of queue-jump lanes, priority signalling, and dedicated lanes as ways to improve speed and reliability on existing and proposed new express routes; and
- a review of other comparable municipalities or transit systems that successfully operate express bus services [p. 4]
A complete review of these routes is long overdue. Many existing “Downtown Express” services exist because of special pleading from Councillors who were on the TTC Board when they were implemented. These routes generally do not appear in the TTC’s annual statistics for its surface system, and there has never been a report comparing the cost of resources devoted to these routes with the benefit they might confer. Could the buses be better used elsewhere? Is there justification for running more service on these or other new express routes? Are there suburban nodes that could support express routes?
Part of the study will look at existing “local” routes to determine whether they could benefit from an express overlay. This is always a tradeoff problem because some riders use local stops at one end or the other of their trip on a route, and the “express” branch is of no use to them. Generally speaking, creation of an “E” branch speeds travel for those who can use it, but hurts those who ride local branches because fewer buses are left to serve them.
This will be an interesting review in particular because it is system wide, rather than a location specific response to “squeaky wheels”.
Earlier in this article, I wrote about the poor quality of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) used by the TTC to track aspects of the system, notably service quality. While new methodology may be in the works, this has yet to show up in the CEO’s report.
Service quality is still reported relative to a ±3 minute target of scheduled headway. The subway achieves a very high rating, but it is almost impossible for a route with all day frequent service to achieve a low rating. During the peak period, half of the service could be missing, but the headway would still be within 3 minutes of the scheduled value. On surface routes, the target is a hapless 65% for bus routes and 70% for streetcars. Many routes fail to meet even these targets on paper, and riders can be excused for thinking even these numbers are optimistic especially beyond common short turn points on major routes.
Streetcar service has particular problems, although oddly enough weather issues are not mentioned.
Construction associated with Harbourfront Toronto continued to negatively impact both the performance of the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina routes and overall street car performance.
The March Board meeting will include a presentation from the Chief Service Officer on actions being taken to arrest this decline and drive up all aspects of performance.
Leaving aside that it’s “Waterfront Toronto”, by January the schedules for the routes on Queens Quay included extra time to deal with traffic signals that interfered with the service rather than helping it. Queens Quay represents a relatively small part of the streetcar system, and problems there should not have a large effect on system-wide stats. A major problem through the winter was vehicle reliability, but the TTC does not report on this aspect of its operation.
Elevator and escalator “availability” is reported above targets of 98% and 97% respectively. Although the report speaks of the benefits of improved maintenance on reliability, there is little movement especially in the escalator numbers. This could reflect what is counted as an “unavailable” device.
Ridership in January 2015 is up about 1.9% over 2014, and on a rolling annual basis is up by 1.8%. However, this is lower than the budget target and the drop is blamed on January’s unusually bad winter weather.
The new streetcar roll out plan is described in conflicting ways in this report:
After much discussion and negotiations, which included me [Andy Byford] and my counterpart at Bombardier, we have now received a revised delivery schedule from Bombardier for our new streetcars. We have four state-of-the-art streetcars in operation on the 510 Spadina route; however, a much higher number should have been received by now, but production difficulties with Bombardier have caused significant delays.
The new schedule commits to 30 cars being delivered by the end of 2015, enough to complete the conversion of the 510 Spadina route, plus the 509 Harbourfront and 511 Bathurst routes. This will require Bombardier to reduce production time to five from 10 days per vehicle. [pg. 5]
Until streetcars begin arriving on a regular, frequent basis, we will not know whether Bombardier has managed to overcome its supply chain and quality control problems.
Meanwhile at Leslie Barns, the TTC expects to have “staged occupancy” in June 2015 with project completion by the fourth quarter of 2015. Construction continues on Leslie Street but has finally progressed to the point where the track bed north to Queen and south from Lake Shore is under construction.
The implementation of the Presto fare card continues through the system, but as yet there is no discussion of a new fare structure such as time-based fares or cross-border integration with systems in the 905.
A common problem through the CEO’s Report is that projects are described in text, some of which changes little from one report to another. Projects schedules are not shown, nor are there exception reports to flag significant changes from previous versions.
That’s a newspaper that Steve likes and which likes Steve’s views as it often quotes our very own Steve Munro.
And so Steve, why did you want to sell the Spadina subway tunnel boring machines (TBMs)? You said that more advanced TBMs will be available by the time that they are needed but they are needed now for the Scarborough subway extension and so why should we sell them? Just to derail the Scarborough subway plan? The actual route does not matter too much as in Scarborough there is no in-fighting about who gets a station and who does not (compare this to the Eglinton LRT west of Victoria Park and compare this with the proposed DRL and DRL East vs DRL West infighting).
Steve: I don’t remember advocating sale of the TYSSE boring machines. That was a TTC decision and I was citing their report on the subject.
The proposed sale in mid 2014 fell through when the company bidding for them withdrew. I believe that the TBMs are still in storage somewhere.
The issue with these machines is that the original builder, Lovat, was acquired by Caterpillar, who subsequently shut the company down. There is no source for spare parts to refurbish and maintain the machines.
The TTC report includes a discussion of using the TYSSE machines for the SSE, and at the time it was thought better to go with new TBMs when they are needed, which will not be until, best case, late 2017 or sometime in 2018. Their work on the TYSSE was finished in 2013, and so they will have been inactive for at least four years.
There was no attempt to derail the SSE, and the TTC was looking for the lowest cost option with the least potential risk exposure of having old TBMs with no vendor support.
As a general comment, remarks by the SSE supporters on this blog are getting more and more outlandish, and most are now deleted. If readers have something worthwhile to contribute without insulting me or advocates of alternative transit priorities and spending, that’s a valid debate.
Couple of issues, I think there will be fighting aplenty when the time comes, and the route is truly being set, and some have improved access pending and some do not.
Also the Star is suggesting that Hydro do some very expensive work in order to permit it. It suggests in essence that Hydro spend a massive amount of money building tunnels and placing shielded cable in it. One of the reasons I have found myself suggesting B.R.T. in this same corridor, is that there is a reasonable possibility that Hydro might perhaps maybe go along – without requiring a multi-billion dollar side payment or funding from elsewhere. I would really like to see Hydro’s response to the idea of permitting this, and the impact on the ability to expand the transmission of power into the east side of the city . Also it begs the question as to what other services/utilities currently use this as a primary corridor?
Steve: It is important to note that the article is not a Star Editorial, but a contributed op ed piece by Richard Gilbert. It should not be read as the Star’s endorsement of all of the details. Gilbert’s main point, as you note below, is that we cannot just build subway stations to empty lots, but must be prepared to intensify land use at stations. If the numbers work (and that’s a big “if”) this is a more direct form of “value capture” than some of the TIF schemes that depend on notional future development.
The Star’s basic premise that we need to do more to make subway stations make sense, however, what are we modelling this after?, How intense is the land use around the stations, and how intense is the use of the station itself in the areas being used as a model? I fully support the idea, that a substantial increase in zoning be allowed in the immediate area around a subway station, however, if they are within the corridor, to what degree is this frustrated, or are we then giving this up as park and bike and walking trail, and developing it?
From my perspective Steve, we should be looking at the same idea in the area close to the stops in case of LRT and even BRT as well. This would be especially true, if the BRT would the sort of closed ROW that I was suggesting for the Gatineau and the actual stops close to one edge, as you could walk into the corridor and onto rapid transit. If people are going to insist on having higher speed as opposed to better access (the argument that LRT would stop too frequently) then this to would argue for a very large increases in density around the rarer stops. I think ST damages the debate, by making huge promises, with either little or no substantive increase in capacity, beyond what was projected for RER, which itself was expected to be saturated.
I really think while the debate surrounding density in and around subway, and other rapid transit lines needs to be had, and the logic understood. Toronto, really needs to come to a realization with regards to the order of build, timelines involved, and real capacity limitations. If the SSE were to achieve what should be reasonably be expected of this type of extension, it would represent substantial problems for the line further west, and most especially the transfers to the core. This problem must be addressed a decade before the crisis, so the capacity can be built, not have the construction start as the system collapses from overload. Substantial extensions of the existing lines (Yonge, Spadina, Bloor or Danforth) while looking to increase density at or near the existing stations as should be done, without addressing connectivity issues, and concerns in areas where the lines are already close, at or beyond capacity, is inviting substantial issues.
Toronto needs to start this debate looking at where it wants to be in a region of 8-9 million, and to what degree it wants those residents inside Toronto, and not in the Greenbelt. What does that network need to look like? If we are going to hugely increase density along the Danforth line and especially in the areas around the SSE, and there is a real plan for it, and substantial additional linking capacity into the core, great, but one requires the other to work – SSE needs DRL.
Although I agree with the general analysis, I pointed out in my previous comment the Sheppard subway is predicated on the need for growth to satisfy political necessity which makes the current transit trends irrelevant. If growth in the inner suburbs was not desired, than the province should not have amalgamated the city. Given that some form of subway into the inner suburbs is inevitable the question is which one provides the highest value and greatest utility. I would venture to say that the Sheppard option is likely to be better than the Danforth extension.
Also by not having a sub optimal subway competing with SmartTrack/GO RER, a spur line off of the Stouffville Line through the existing SRT alignment to Malvern can be used to best meet the travel needs of the region. As you have mentioned in the past the service must be convenient and go where people want fast.
Oddly enough this is one of my concerns with ST. I do not think we want to add the stations, and distort RER into a subway. Having said that, local transit needs to support access to the RER, ideally this should include transit including rapid. My concern with the Sheppard subway, is that I am not convinced that a large enough pool of riders are bound to North York, and this should not be the fastest way to the core, and those not headed to core are more likely to be within Scarborough trips, which are reasonably dispersed.
I really like RER however, it needs to fill this longer haul function. I think there should be something in an alignment to Malvern, and this should tie to both subway and RER, just do not believe it should be mainline heavy rail.
I agree. I think that the intermodal approach taken in Karlsruhe, Germany is worth considering. I recognize that there are issues with it, but overall some form of RER spur line to Malvern that is able to meet the transit needs of the community is likely to provide far superior service to the Danforth Extension.
I share your legitimate concern. However I look at it from a practical political perspective, if the historic commitment to the inner suburbs are honored it is likely that it will be easier to build political consensus around pressing matters such as building adequate structures to get people into the downtown. The growth along the corridor, and asset value optimization of the existing Sheppard subway can also be leveraged to help build future projects. I admit this approach is not pretty but it is likely to work.
The concern I would have with this is that the growth along the corridor will only happen if this is a really desirable neighborhood, and the growth itself is not really all that desirable if it results in a large number of additional inbound auto trips or a substantial increase in the trips core bound on the Yonge subway, at least until Yonge subway gets substantial relief. If the extension of this subway were to in fact to result entirely in counter peak auto and subway riders headed to NYCC (not core), and resulted in a substantial growth in that center that would be good, however, that is anything but clear, and is more likely to further overload the Yonge subway, and the 401.
There are 2 issues involved therefore, order of build is critical, and limited budget. If we were arguing in an environment where Yonge had substantial excess capacity, I would be happier to really think Sheppard corridor growth was perforce a positive. This being a high density corridor fits very well with the way I that Toronto should evolve, however, it requires more capacity to the core, at a viable intermediate point – 5 minute service on Richmond Hill anyone?.
Your concern is again quite justified however the problem will precipitate the solution. There currently exists the propensity to use the automobile instead of public transit. The weakest link in the Sheppard corridor is not the Yonge Line but highway 401, by growing the Sheppard corridor it would become impossible for the province NOT to toll the highway in a way that both former mayors Miller and Ford explored. The revenues from the toll can then be used to build the necessary structure to deal with transit capacity issues. Also the Don Valley Corridor study indicated a number of quick cost effective ways to improve the carrying capacity to alleviate the Yonge Line which would compliment quite well the provinces RER plans as you hinted at regarding the Richmond Hill Line. The highway toll would also compliment your previous suggestion to build commuter BRT across the region
From a purely theoretical point of view I think that you are right. However our political environment displays certain eccentricities that effectively flips your desired model on its head. Nothing currently gets done without a crisis. However it must be noted that the political cleavages that are causing this eccentricity are themselves tied to a degree to the fact that the Sheppard Line was not built in the first place.
I would argue to you that it was politics that got the project set up as subway, not LRT with a small underground portion, and on Sheppard, as opposed to Finch in the first place. Yes, it should have been a substantial line, and run much further, however, it did not – even in very long term forecasts, merit being subway. I often wonder whether we would be better building an LRT with an underground portion on Finch, starting at the subway line.
Also while the main bottleneck for the Sheppard corridor is currently the 401, that is because people are driving – and the subway not really acting as the main driver of growth. However, even if we were to extend the subway, and it did in fact succeed to be the primary method of transportation for the corridor, adding a large area of high density, if they were to use subway, would still be an issue on Yonge. Unless and until NYCC or some intermediate point or a point north on Yonge becomes the destination of people boarding the Sheppard subway, gaining a large increase in ridership along this corridor would only make worse the issue on the Yonge line. It does not have the capacity to absorb a substantial number of riders unless they are headed someplace at least north of Eglinton.
While I agree that currently things happen once a crisis has clearly emerged, it is important to recognize that anything that will cause very rapid growth in transit growth on lines that are already in trouble is a huge issue. It would take decades to relieve a Yonge Line as far north as Sheppard, unless and until you could convert the Richmond Hill line to rapid transit, which would require creating an alternate route to core (not the USRC) and terminus (not Union Station), and an alternate corridor for the portion north of the CN mainline (essentially everything North of Toronto proper). You are not going to get the number of slots required on the CN line, and there is not room in the USRC, to run enough trains to get people to not simply ride the Sheppard Line to Yonge if they are core bound.
I am a huge believer in building the LRT on Sheppard (should have all been LRT), and LRT on Don Mills to a core bound subway at Eglinton and Don Mills. I hope that some will chose a less crowded route to the DRL instead of a packed Yonge subway.
Steve: Mel Lastman said “Real cities don’t use streetcars”. That is a direct quote. Meanwhile, the TTC at the time was death on LRT because it would threaten their subway expansion schemes. At the time, this included looping the Yonge and Spadina lines first via Sheppard West and later via Steeles. Queen’s Park was useless because of their love affair with high technology and expensive construction, a trait shared by all three parties.
When David Peterson’s government was putting together his transit announcement for the 1990 campaign, the Sheppard line was not included originally because it was too expensive. However, the dollar value of the commitment didn’t look “big enough” to make an impression on voters, and so Sheppard was put back onto the table. Bob Rae won the election, and all he cared about was job creation, not the best use of transit funds. Sheppard was far enough advanced that Mike Harris couldn’t kill it, but cutting off funding meant that the line could only get to Don Mills, not Victoria Park.
There are two chances of the 401 being tolled: fat and slim. Even that is being generous. I wouldn’t expect any government who did it to last past the next election.
It could happen, there might be a leader that actually wanted to wipe her/his party out for the next 30 or so years.
The historic source of economic growth in the region has been population expansion. Given this historic propensity the 401 will be overcapacity WITH or WITHOUT a subway or LRT within the next 25 years. The question is how long political sentiment can resist the ever increasing pressure coming from the stress being loaded onto the system. The question is not if, but when will it break. That is why I am advocating investing public funds in a way that will optimize the utilization of the existing public assets and provide higher quality growth potential that can be used and leveraged to better integrate and enhance the services provided by the transit system.
Whether we prefer LRT or not the last decade has show that constraints around technology choice for the Sheppard corridor will not allow LRT in any form and the more they try to push LRT the stronger the resistance becomes. My suggestion therefore would be to use the IBI Group’s Sheppard subway project risk assessment to determine what the optimal staging for expansion is.
So in short if the government wants to get anything done they should pursue the province’s RER/SmartTrack plans with a Malvern spur line, the IBI Group’s staged Sheppard subway expansion study, and the TTC’s Don Valley corridor capacity expansion study. This proposal will cost less than the projects currently planned and will produce greater growth that can be leveraged to provide the cash flows necessary to further expand the system to alleviate congestion, build a more competitive economy, and provide greater equality of opportunity.
I would argue that what the last decade has really shown, very nearly Toronto wide, has been the inability of Toronto to get out of its own way. The idea that we should support that which cannot reasonably be built and operated, because there was a mayor that hijacked the politics is not right. There needs to be a broad push to bring to the fore the technology, and means of operations that makes the most sense. I would put to you the political barriers surrounding LRT are trivial compared to those of tolling the 401. From a pure economics perspective, have a differential charge on the 401 to allow for peak period surtax, make sense, but politically I would argue it would be virtually impossible and would only really serve to bring the region together in opposition to the idea.
I would suggest an alternate approach to pushing LRT here, is merely to move to the next area. The idea should be to implement best solution, and if there is an area willing to adopt it then they go to the front of the queue. If Rexdale is willing to go LRT now, and Sheppard East insists on subway, then Sheppard East can wait.
You presumption that my proposal is not reasonable would be to say that you do not trust the work of the IBI Group, Neptis Foundation, TTC, and Karl Junkin. I believe that you are mistaken in this matter.
A well balanced properly staged build project funded in part though growth directly related to the respective build projects can be reasonably build and operated, as the research data indicates. By respecting historic commitments the project risk associated with political volatility goes down significantly, which will actually allow the projects to be built instead of simply being discussed ad nauseam.
Steve: To avoid getting into a tit-for-tat over what promises to be an endless debate over the proposed “Malvern spur” off of the Uxbridge Subdivision, can this be the end of the exchange?
I don’t disagree with your sentiment that tolls are a better connection between usage and funding, but I disagree with the political viability of the idea. Unless more voters are going to be using the subway than the highway, they are going to get outvoted eventually. It’s much easier to collect $200 from every worker than $3000 from every 401 driver.
So we end up with nothing more than buses, because the subway people won’t settle for a LRT and the LRT people think a subway is a waste of taxpayer money? There was a modicum of support for the LRT under the TransitCity Plan.
The premise of subway related growth is flawed. Bessarion station shows that just building a subway doesn’t automatically spur growth.
I am looking at the idea of a toll from a theoretical perspective for the purpose of long term planning. Given the stress levels currently displayed by users of the 401 it is unlikely that a toll will be viable within the next 5-10 years, however beyond that given a constant rate of growth it is highly unlikely that a toll can be avoided.
You are making an overly general statement. I would say that the unique characteristics of the area surrounding a subway station have a lot to do with the development potential that can be realized. Bessarion station was built in a historically low density residential community that was not, and will not likely be for some time receptive to high volume growth. Whereas if we use the IBI Group’s recommended Sheppard subway extension to Victoria Park the characteristics of a Consumers Rd station would be vastly different. As the Neptis report identified the existing business park that is zoned for high density development and sits at the cross roads of the 401, 404, and Don Valley Parkway has high development potential. If you add to this the city’s efforts to increase the competitiveness of business tax structure the business park is likely to grow in a way that more than justifies the subways extension.
Oddly enough an extension only this far might actually be reasonable. I would note that the existing subway ends at essentially the same cross roads, and this extension only really moves the subway to the other side of the 404, and permits service to a business park.
It was a very general statement in that you need to look at the specifics in order to validate any assumptions. Consumers Road is only 650m from Victoria Park Ave. and 1km from Fairview Mall. There is already a lot of car-oriented development ongoing in the area. How much developmental benefit is there to a subway compared to an LRT? From an eyeball measurement, I’d guess 25% is already high-density and another 25% is being redeveloped currently. The comparison needs to be subway induced development, not just development potential.
The other question, surrounding this would need to be, to what degree would a change in plans actually induce a change in behaviour, and hence make a change in modal use (ie reduce congestion). I think that this very short extension would likely change a small number of workers’ behaviour in the business park, but as I recall, there are fair walks within the park itself, and it is not that terribly pedestrian friendly (ie car oriented) in terms of layout. This office area exists because it is at the intersection of the 401& 404/DVP, and like the density on Don Mills south of Sheppard, and the Fairview Mall itself largely predates the existence of subway or subway plans (ie most of it was there in 1990).
Steve: An important question about the Consumers Road district is “where are people coming from”. My guess is that a whole lot of them originate in places that would not be well served by the Sheppard Subway, if at all. And, yes, just about any location within that district is a pain in the butt to walk to.
That was really my point. Their origin over a very long time may change, but the office location made easy coming down the 404 or up the DVP and running east west on 401. The offices located there based on the the housing being thereby available making sense to the employee base, and people who have since gained employment there, will have taken up residence accordingly. It would take a very long time for a large number of people to change their residence in order to alter the nature of their commute.
It is and it is even more reasonable if you add an improved bus network as we discussed in the past. The growth experienced by the Consumers Rd Business Park over the medium to long term will also lower risk associated with future extensions and enhance the quality and quantity of future growth potential in the region.
One of the major problems that we are facing regarding transit development is the way we are dealing with the cultural disposition of communities that are affected by the projects. If we are to be successful we must take a long term view and design the transit projects to provide optimal value, and a high quality of life over the long term. A gradual approach that keys into the existing idiosyncratic needs of the communities while at the same time gradually shaping them is critical.
Steve: Another problem we have is that the brains trust (and I use that with caution) behind SmartTrack has a dismissive attitude to old business parks regarding them as places time has passed by and not worthy of additional transit investment. The result is that, regardless of our individual feelings about specific rapid transit expansions and technologies, there is a systematic bias against certain possible routes that don’t happen to lie on the SmartTrack corridor.
This is especially sad, when you consider the limits of realistic capacity that will be available based on the corridors they require, and the fact that the city is likely to continue to grow, and at least some of that growth will be of existing business that will not be inclined to move, or at least not far enough so as to disrupt their current employees lives in a substantial way.
The city/region, need to work with what has already been created, and use transit to improve flow, and encourage a more desirable livable form of growth and intensification.
To this end one of the questions that needs to be addressed when looking at transit extensions, is points of connection and how they can be improved so as to improve transit use, both more, and in a way that is easier to accommodate. Don Mills LRT would likely to be better used by people coming from Sheppard East if it did not trigger extra transfers in a core bound trip. Moving the start of the subway to Vic Park, would mean LRT to subway (not to possible LRT one stop later), and therefore all the way to an overloaded Yonge. Having LRT to LRT+LRT+Subway junction would make it more likely that people would bypass Yonge using Don Mills LRT to a DRL.