The SmartTrack scheme was born of an election campaign, but it was John Tory’s signature project, one he is loathe to relinquish despite its shortcomings.
What’s that you say? I am just being one of those “downers” who cannot see our manifest destiny? What’s that line about patriotism and scoundrels?
At the recent Executive Committee meeting, Tory actually had the gall to say that during the campaign, he didn’t have access to a squad of experts and had to make do with the people he had. Funny that. This is the crowd that estimated construction costs on the back of an envelope, who “surveyed” the line using out of date Google images, who ignored basics of railway engineering and capacity planning to make outrageous claims for their scheme.
When the dust settled and John Tory became Mayor Tory, I thought, ok, he will adapt his plan. Indeed, it didn’t take long for a reversal on TTC bus service and the recognition that Rob Ford had stripped the cupboard bare and then started to burn the lumber at the TTC. A campaign attack on Olivia Chow’s (far too meagre) bus plan changed into championing the restoration of TTC service to the days of the “Ridership Growth Strategy” and beyond. Good on the Mayor, I thought, he can actually change his mind.
SmartTrack is another matter, and what Tory, what Toronto desperately needs is a fresh look at what GO, SmartTrack and the TTC could be if only the fiefdoms and the pettiness of clinging to individual schemes could be unlocked. That would take some leadership. I wonder who has any?
Inevitably comments like this bring out the trolls who say “so what would YOU do” (that’s the polite version). Here’s my response as a scheme that bears at least as much importance as a way of looking at our transit network as the competing visions in the Mayor’s Office, Metrolinx, City Planning and the TTC.
First: Stop trying to make GO into two separate systems. It’s a mainline rail network and should be operated as one collection of lines. The idea that these tracks are something like lanes on the 401 where any bus company can just hop on and off with its own service is complete madness.
Second: Stop trying to keep GO as its own precious independent system immune from those pesky riders in Toronto and their desire for lower fares. We hear a lot about “integration” in the context of the 416/905 boundary, but the worst offender is GO itself with discriminatory short-haul fares and no co-fare with the TTC.
Third: Stop trying to pretend that the “subway in every pot” approach will actually build anything useful.
Fourth: Stop trying to make a new network “self sustaining” or a fare system a “zero sum game”. There is, nominally, $8-billion on the table for SmartTrack and billions more for RER and other transit schemes. Why is this spending a mark of investment in GTHA transit while any hint of new operating subsidies is rejected out of hand?
Here is what comes from these principles:
- GO/RER builds on its own network, but institutes a co-fare with the TTC on ALL branches, not just the two occupied by SmartTrack, and fixes its “distance based fares” so that they don’t discourage shorter trips.
- We hear a lot about “transit equity”, but I am mystified about why those who happen to live near or commute via two of GO’s branches should get a special deal of express travel with SmartTrack while those on other legs of the network (Lake Shore, Milton, Barrie, Richmond Hill) are stuck with the existing fares.
- The Scarborough Subway scheme reverts to the full LRT network in Scarborough including Sheppard East, Eglinton/Kingston/Morningside and the RT/LRT conversion and extension to Malvern.
- On Eglinton West, replace the western leg of SmartTrack with the Crosstown line extension that is already on the books. Stop trying to engineer a complex SmartTrack interchange with the Crosstown LRT at Mount Dennis.
- Abandon the scheme to reach the Airport Corporate Centre (MACC) by a roundabout heavy rail route through the airport lands.
- The idea that the MACC service has to go downtown is complete nonsense, let alone that it should be a through ride to Markham. If someone wants to get to MACC, an east-west route on Eglinton is likely at least as attractive as a trip from Union Station, and we have these things called “transfers” to existing rapid transit routes.
I have no idea what this would cost, and am not going to attempt an estimate, but my gut feeling is that we would have money left over from current plans ($8b for SmartTrack plus $3.6b for the SSE). A big problem is that we don’t even know what the current plans will cost or the upheaval they will entail, and I’m not going to try second or third guessing that mess.
There is no question that a GO-TTC co-fare will drive up demand on GO Transit. Fine. By how much? What sort of infrastructure – track, equipment, stations – is needed to absorb this? How does it compare to SmartTrack which itself will require massive upgrades in two corridors to reach its target frequent 5-minute service?
In Scarborough, if both the Stouffville and Lake Shore East corridors operate with a co-fare, what does this do for access at reasonable cost to the core area as an alternative to the SSE?
Reviewing this sort of proposal won’t be easy, and it will require a fundamental re-think of how the pieces of our transit puzzle fit together. But what we have today is a bundle of competing ideas that don’t fit together at all, politicians too full of their own ego to admit things might be changed, and staff too terrified to say that the emperors have no clothes.
GO/RER is a very good start but it should be more, not simply stop in a decade or so content with electrification and 15 minute headways. Queen’s Park has to get serious about funding transit, much more than they have to date, including both capital and operating (including fare restructuring) costs. GO needs heavy duty engineering reviews of just what our rail network is capable of handling.
SmartTrack is GO in disguise and should be merged into GO’s service plans. Sorry, Mayor Tory, but there won’t be any blue and green trains. As for your consultants and lobbyists, I am sure they can find work elsewhere.
For the LRT lines, I don’t care if we call them “Transit City”, I just want to see them built. Give Scarborough the three routes they were originally promised plus access to GO service on two corridors at a reasonable cost, and I suspect they will live without a subway extension.
There are “naysayers” to a scheme like this, of course, who will gripe that we will never see the whole plan built. Well, I choose to be optimistic despite the best effort of politicians and lobbyists to bring gridlock and despair to transit planning.
My bottom line is simple: give this idea a fair shake and tell everyone why it won’t work for solid technical, planning and financial reasons, not simply because you have a warehouse full of outdated campaign literature.
Readers will have noticed that I did not mention the Downtown Relief Line here. It has a place in the mix too, but my concern was to throw all of the pieces of the GO/SmartTrack/SSE puzzle up in the air to see what might happen when they land. I am certainly not abandoning the DRL project, but it’s a bit further off than the timeframe for the projects discussed above.
If the Milton, Barrie, and RH lines are included in the fare integration scheme, wouldn’t long-haul subway trips shift over in great numbers (Why take the BD from Kipling or the YUS from Downsview if you can an express ride at the same fare)? Could the infrastructure on these lines handle this?
Steve: That is part of my question. Great claims are made for SmartTrack’s ability to provide significantly more capacity, over and above RER, on two corridors. Why stop at two just because these happen to connect with some land (outside of Toronto) where developers are salivating at the thought of better transit access? To put this in the terms we typically hear from “Scarborough”, why should someone who is near the Stouffville corridor get a fast TTC fare ride to downtown, while someone along the Lake Shore puts up with GO fares, or a bus+subway combo at TTC rates?
This is not just an exercise in balancing out claims made for ST, but for the whole “Big Move” collection of projects. In the original version of that plan, service levels down to 5-6 minutes were claimed for the “regional express” corridors together with huge increases in demand carried on GO Transit and the associated shift away from auto commuting. If GO Transit cannot actually achieve this, then Metrolinx should stop making such grandiose claims about diverting traffic away from roads and reducing pollution.
However, even if we accept that service levels can move to the 5-6 minutes level, on Lakeshore West, this does not represent more than incremental growth at peak. If we were to build an LRT / BRT network in Mississauga and Oakville, that actually help to shift a substantial load to this corridor – it would be overloaded – even at the claim numbers. Kitchener – with an extra set of track – or using UPX tracks for something worthwhile – could increase service, as could Stouffville and Lakeshore East (with an extra sets of tracks in both). I suspect that was one of the other reasons these 2 corridors are attractive at first glance.
What bothers me however, even on these corridors in acting as though they will solve all issues is that even if we are looking at having terminal space (a really big if) and tracks on Stouffville you are discussing the addition of 7-9 trains – and on Kitchener 6-8 trains that would need to be split between in and beyond Toronto demand. So between these 2 corridors say 30k capacity – to share inside and beyond Toronto – sounds like a huge amount – but we are discussing the addition of 100k jobs in the core alone, sounds like a very long rush hour if these were to the prime additions to capacity for Toronto transit. So even if access made sense, well what about the say other 30k of core bound capacity required plus supporting non core trips? Even adding in 5 trains on Lakeshore East, and the a couple of trains possible on each other corridor – you get close – but you have played yourself totally into a corner in 2030 even if all that capacity was properly located, and core bound was your only concern.
PS – If a DRL were to be run at 33 trains per hour, it would in fact add as much or more capacity – core bound than the combination of these 2 corridors, be dedicated to Toronto load likely be closer to where capacity is required and leave more space on these corridors for growth, and not consume the critical terminal capacity at Union and in the USRC. The USRC will require great planning to grow appropriately. Can we please ask City Planning – where and how much capacity of what type will generally be required, and then go from there.
Steve: You forget that part of the plan behind SmartTrack is to make land at the outer ends of the line, notably in places Toronto cannot tax, more valuable. This is at least as important as carrying passengers.
I don’t see that as a concern, so much as JT building a couple of trains by the time he leaves office. If/how that works out will then be someone else’s problem.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for calling for an LRT network for Scarborough. The far reaching benefits and superiority of this plan over a single subway line are too important to ignore.
Perhaps your readers would consider signing a petition outlining the reasons why we think Council should scrap the Scarborough Subway Extension and go back to an LRT network.
All the best,
Scarborough Transit Action
Ottawa Mayor’s Transportation Vision
I believe that this would be a real goal for Toronto. Get built out in advance, and have transit actually lead – for a change. We really need to get to the point in Toronto, that transit helps to guide development, and things can get built with transit being considered in the zoning etc.
Steve: We have been talking about this for as long as I have been a transit activist, and never, ever, actually acted to implement this philosophy.
Perhaps I am thinking too much about service, and all that land that can be redeveloped at Don Mills and Eglinton? How that seems such a natural location for development. Perhaps his sponsors can acquire some of it, and therefore protect their profit. I also support the need to explore options for running frequent service into and beyond Richmond Hill. I would like to see this be looked at for TC exclusion for express LRT and a Bayview corridor north of the CN main, as part of a long term capacity plan. This would need to follow the construction of and then exhaustion of a DRL.
Steve: There is already a development proposal for the former IBM lands on the northwest corner at Don Mills and Eglinton.
I would caution however that we should expect to exhaust this capacity much more quickly than we did that on the Yonge subway, and the next option needs to be looked at and protected now. We are 60 or so years since the Yonge subway was built, the western leg completed in what 1978 – at least in part to relieve Yonge, and well… We see in the forecasts that a DRL would have 20k in riders basically about the time we would likely be able to complete it – how many years till we need to look again? I think we should expect it and Yonge to be over 30k within 15 years of completion. We do not want to back the GTA into an even tighter corner than it is now, but start working to protect options – beyond the ones that solve the problems we have now.
Steve – sounds like there exists the makings of a stirring speech here somewhere – surely somebody could come up with something. “I have a dream, of a city not sprawling, but planned, not of a sea of parking, but of walkable neighborhoods and parks. A city where we act today to secure our tomorrow. A city where people spend not hours in their cars, spewing exhaust, but make pleasant quick trips ….”.
FYI digital petitions hold no statutory power in Canada. The City will receive petitions by email, but there needs to be at least one hand signature, preferable all signed. If you are serious about raising support and awareness for an alternative, I suggest you go physical.
Steve: At the risk of sounding cynical, hand signed petitions have very little effect either, and will be dismissed by the Tory crowd as the work of misinformed people who have been led astray by naysayers.
Yes it’s true digital petitions are not legal, however they forward people’s comments to Council/MPPs and those comments are usually well informed and compelling.
We also have physical postcards for people to sign and we plan to deliver them to the Executive Committee, some time in January. We have canvassed at UTSC and along Sheppard East. Next is Centennial College, possibly Malvern Town Centre, STC. If you like, I can send you a pdf of the postcard.
In my mind, the fact that you and others have stated an LRT network is a better plan, shows just how the shaky ground is beneath the Tory crowd. If they are going to vote for the flawed SSE, at least we can make them feel very uncomfortable about their decision. At least we can point to their utter failure to vote for transit that serves the needs of transit riders, in order to further their own political careers.
Bravo, Mr. Munro. Hopefully Mr. Tory will read your comments, agree with them, and promote the ideas you propose. I don’t understand what SmartTrack is supposed to achieve; since it would run on railroad tracks that will also be used by commuter trains with enhanced schedules after GO/RER is instituted, there wouldn’t be enough intervals left to run a meaningful service. My thought about this has been to scrap SmartTrack and the Scarborough Subway Extension, somehow divert the money from those two projects to east and west extensions of the Eglinton Crosstown through the Airport Corporate Center to the airport and along the converted Scarborough RT to Malvern, complete the Finch West and Sheppard East LRTs, and start appropriating funds for the full length Downtown Relief Line (King-Pape-Don Mills-Sheppard). These projects in addition to your GO/TTC co-fare idea would go a long way in improving rapid transit in Toronto.
For general information from observations on the Kitchener line between Georgetown and Union.
1) Track 1 in the Georgetown storage yard has CTC signals at both ends and higher speed switches. It is used both ways by the Kitchener trains.
2) There are signal heads installed over the mainline tracks at the east end of the yard for a third track south of the two current ones. The Credit River Bridge would need an extra track also.
3) The south track (3) at Mt. Pleasant temporarliy dead ends at the west end as there is a grade separation going in and CN did not run that track through the shoe fly.
4) The old south platform at Bramalea that was used by the old mid day short turning trains has been ripped out and is being rebuilt to more modern standards. Given Metrolinx speed at completing projects it should be ready for GO’s centennial.
5) There is a grade separation project going in between there and Malton but I cannot remember the road’s name.
6) The north platform at Malton, between tracks 1 and 2, has had its north side fence removed making it almost usable by trains on track 1. They still need to move some shelters to get a fully usable platform.
7) There are many signal gantries that have a set of signals being installed for an extra track north of the current ones between Malton and Etobicoke North.
8) The east (north?) platform at Weston is being set up to have tracks on both sides though there is no track there yet but signal heads for it are being installed all along the right of way.
9) The east (north?) platform at Bloor is also being built for trains on both sides and there appears to be a bridge over Bloor street for another track. This would have 4 tracks served by platforms there including one on the Milton line.
10) As you go in there are signs that the right of way is being expanded to allow first one extra track to the east (north) and then 2 and 3 tracks after the Barrie line (Newmarket sub) joins in.
Sorry about the east (north) use but most people would refer to east and west platforms at Weston and Bloor but they are called the north and south platforms because the tracks spend more time running east west instead of north south along the Kitchener line.
Metrolinx is also putting in an extra track north of the north platform at Exhibition. They are doing a lot of infrastructure work but they seem to take an awful long time to complete anything.
Thank you Steve for your continued work and publishing posts that get to the critical issues facing Toronto’s transit future. Unfortunately, I am one of those that voted in support of John Tory though I never agreed with his transit platform (and would’ve preferred Olivia Chow on that file). I think it’s unfair to constituents for politicians to assume that simply because they were elected that everyone is in support of all aspects of their platform – especially when citizens voice their discomfort with some of those plans (Hydro One sell-off also comes to mind).
The reality is that as many have noted SmartTrack is ill-advised on a number of fronts as has been documented by yourself and many others. It’s sad at this juncture that the mayor continues to dig his heels in deeper re: SmartTrack when we should just be advocating for fare integration/fair pricing for Toronto and the desired local stations that we want to see in our communities.
The City needs to be planning the entire length of the eventual Relief Line and making incremental steps towards it’s completion (Don-Mills & Sheppard to St. Andrew), as well as working with Metrolinx to find a solution to the western leg (where and how far will it go, and which stations both existing and proposed on GO lines will be integrated with any stations west of St. Andrew). This all takes time, but hopefully can be done with an eye on the 2.6B that has been promised by the federal liberals. The Province already has a commitment for 2B to the GO System – the 2.6 B should support a relief line! The way we are going then we can expect shitty morning commutes and overcrowding for the next 20 years. Transit needs to be quick, convenient and comfortable, not so crowded that regular delays are a part of every morning and weekend subway closures are a regular fixture. With a relief line we can actually move people around as a network without worrying about a pinch-point problem.
One thing that needs to be discussed more is the actual amazing travel time savings of a Relief Line to Sheppard as was highlighted in the Metrolinx presentation deck from June. Time savings of approx. 20 minutes for those traveling between Don Mills and Union (instead of using the Sheppard and Yonge subway lines). As a Scarberian that means that I would be able to take an LRT (32 minutes – Source: Code RED TO) from Morningside to Don Mills Station and then take a 22 minute subway ride down to the financial district at King/Yonge. Even better time savings for me if I work or hang out in Liberty Village and I don’t need to take streetcar. So let’s say an hour trip instead of a 1.5-2 hour trip. That would get me out of my car more. And if I want to get to Union or somewhere on the GO I can still transfer at Agincourt GO and take an RER train. The relief line adds dramatically to the network and gives us options as well as providing service to huge new areas and people in the City. Downtown (and everyone in Toronto who goes there to work and play) is served by getting the transit it needs to supports the growth that has occurred already in condo and office construction.
All of us who voted for John Tory need to bombard his office with e-mails telling him to abandon SmartTrack and get moving on planning the relief line (all the way to Don Mills). The 2.6 B commitment from Justin Trudeau should be moved over to the DRL. While we’re at it we should also pick up the $200 M or so that Brampton just gave up for Waterfront transit. Why should nice, needed transit be twenty years away – it’s unacceptable when it can be done more quickly. I am a firm believer that despite all the capacity improvements on Yonge that as soon as the Eglinton line is open it will be a disaster on Yonge.
Whether it be Smart Track, the DRL or the SSE, are mega projects the best way to address our transit needs? This article on Vancouver, by Elizabeth Murphy makes a compelling case for “affordable solutions with the broadest network benefits.”
When I read about Smart Track I thought it was a very good draft proposal worth further study. Now that there are studies underway, I wonder how John Tory would fare politically if he decided to introduce a drastically revised Smart Track program with a different route and/or different technology. I also wondered how he would survive politically if he said Metrolinx RER underway would be just as good as Smart Track and that the money instead would be better spent on the LRT plan, a Relief Line subway, and expanded express bus service.
I’m not sure what research was done before however it sounds like they had some research done for Smart Track. I might suggest anyone running for mayor in the future though spend less on polls and more on research for key issues in Toronto like transit, affordable housing, and taxation. The truthiness platforms from different candidates have left us with no progress on these issues since people expect them to do whatever they said they would do during the election, even if the facts don’t support their policy.
Steve: And the great irony is that Tory defends the holes in his plan by saying he didn’t have access to a “squad of experts” during the campaign, even though the folks behind SmartTrack were trotted out regularly (including on his campaign site) as examples of how “experts” thought it was such a good idea. Either it was drawn on the back of an envelope, or it was a careful, professional proposal — can’t have it both ways.
I would argue – this makes sense – if there are reasonable opportunities to run the required number of riders on available routes. It is important to remember this is a discussion in Vancouver – which has built the Skytrain system since Toronto created a meaningful (ie not Sheppard subway) substantial rapid transit.
I see no way to reasonably replace the capacity of another subway link into the core. We would reasonably be talking something on the order of an additional 400 to 600 buses per hour coming into the core. I cannot imagine how this would flow through the roadways currently available, or where additional road capacity could be run, let alone make it function well as attractive transit. A very substantial project would be required to have both a dedicated roadway, and a substantial terminal to run them to. Think in terms of even the extra buses required to replace the equivalent of the load increment coming from improved turning, and signals for the Yonge line and think of the disruption to traffic flow of adding even 100 buses per hour or each side of the YUS line.
However there is space to run this as additional buses where they can run well, or BRT, where there is a ROW, and say only 60 buses per hour in load, it would make a great deal of sense.
Steve: I am constantly amused and frustrated in equal measure by BRT advocates who forget that all of those buses have to go “somewhere” and just finding a corridor (or even stealing space on a few suburban roads or the DVP) is probably the easiest of their challenges.
Buses and BRT definitely have a place within a well balanced mix of transit technology. However, within the “core” of Toronto (the City of Toronto pre-amalgamation in my definition) the streets are too narrow and full of cars plus the volume of passengers is too large.
Here is an article Steve wrote in 2007: How Many People Will Fit On A Bus?
The numbers for the DRL are: 5.5K to 6.0K new riders and 24K to 28K peak hour ridership. At a standard loading of 55 people per bus, you’d need 436 buses per hour. Or to put it another way, that’s 10.9km of buses, which is 163% of the length of the route.
Elizabeth Murphy’s article is a strong example of incomplete knowledge being inappropriately applied to fix our transportation problems at a fraction of the real cost. Electric trolley buses might get people out of their cars, but they would also contribute to the gridlock they are seeking to dispel. The benefits of electric trolley buses are not that great as compared to regular diesel/LNG buses, mainly a lower point-source of carbon emissions. As any expansion to electricity use in Vancouver would be largely powered by the Burrard Thermal Natural Gas Generating Station, unless the price of a new hydroelectric station were included, it just moves it from a lot of small buses to one big power plant.
I respect your activism, but it needs to be based in a full understanding on the issues to bring about an effective solution.
This is too sane a proposal to get any politician behind it. :sigh:
Switching from diesel to electricity for buses eliminates more than half of the energy usage *entirely*. Diesel engines are very inefficient, wasting 25% or more of their energy in heat. More is wasted every time the bus is slowing down or idling. (And even more is wasted in diesel refining and transportation.) Electric motors are over 95% efficient, as is the transmission of electricity, while big natural gas generating stations are about 50% efficient. And modern electric buses use no energy when stopped (except for lights), and *generate* energy when slowing down.
So *just* switching from diesel to electricity, even if that electricity is generated from fossil fuels, would be a HUGE cut in energy usage and a huge cut in greenhouse gas emissions. A lot of people do not understand this — apparently including you. Consider yourself educated.
Steve: Electric motors may be over 95% efficient, but there is still the matter of getting power to the motors, and the fact that not all the energy going in can be recovered through regeneration. As I said in a previous reply, a stopped bus has not just lighting, but a substantial load for heating and cooling.
Thanks for your response. Just wanted to make the point that broad network benefits are sometimes ignored in favour of getting people downtown. With Smart Track, SSE and DRL all focused on getting people downtown, it leaves very little opportunity for us to develop transit hubs/jobs/redevelopment elsewhere in places like Scarborough, Etobicoke. Was not suggesting that DRL would not have enough riders or that electric trolleys are the answer to Bloor/Yonge subway congestion.
There’s no doubt that larger capacity, and steel-wheeled transit can carry lots and lots of riders, but maybe we underestimate busways eg. Curitiba and Bogota, where in the first eg., they got about the same capacity as a subway for 1% of the cost, though political will was also required. Buses can be near-autonomous though, and in terms of what may be my idea of using the Gatineau Hydro corridor for a linked to core busway via Thorncliffe (and there are good odds it was studied 30 odd years ago), further benefits are relative speed of doing, some relief up to the areas that may be creating the pressures, extra speed of going mostly on the diagonal, and also being off-road, so that transit is advantaged without squeezing the cars, which given our level of carruption etc., makes the votorists peeved. In the absence of good/current origin/destination data or their application, and a long near-tradition of doing Big Dumb Costly heavy transit in suburbs to drain the entire system, we would be smarter to be thinking of new busway corridors and broad improvements for the entire region, not just one or two Megaprojects which can be more of private benefit than public benefit.
What You Should Know About Megaprojects and Why: An Overview
Mega Delusional: The Curse of the Megaproject
Steve: Please do not compare BRT implementations in the middle of huge roadways where a very substantial space can be dedicated to the BRT and still leave tons of room for cars with the situation in Toronto. The Gatineau corridor is an attractive space on a map, but it ends well before downtown. How is all of that equivalent to subway capacity bus traffic is actually headed? The extremely close headways on the Transmileneo require multiple platforms at stations where everything stops because the headway is well below the dwell time. There is also a small problem of crossing any city street with a headway measured in tens of seconds.
Some basic math: If a bus has a capacity of 200 passengers (and that’s a fairly large bus by Toronto standards), then you need 100 per hour to achieve 20k and put yourself roughly in subway range. That’s one bus every 36 seconds. There are also major circulation issues to deal with for passengers at the stations. How such an operation would navigate downtown streets, I simply do not know.
There might be a place for something in the Gatineau corridor, but could we please discuss it based on realistic expectations and some basic engineering of how the line would work. The corridor begins at the Hydro substation in Leaside (near the site of the old railway station) and heads northeast into Scarborough across several roads and a few rather large valleys. There is no logical continuation of the corridor to the west and south. Yes, Hydro lines do leave that substation in those directions, but they do so over terrain a bus cannot handle. Even if somehow you built a ramp down into the valley to the DVP, the buses have to get off onto local streets downtown at which point they would encounter exactly the same problem as the busway in Ottawa which overwhelmed local streets with bus traffic. (It probably wouldn’t be much good for the bike lanes on Richmond/Adelaide either if that wound up being the route through the core.)
There is more to planning a transit network than saying “Aha! I have a corridor”.
You are double counting. Either diesel engines don’t waste energy by slowing down or electric engines doesn’t generate energy by breaking. You can’t count one as a negative and the other as a positive. Likewise, you’re counting the “waste” in refining and transportation of diesel, but not in mining lithium.
Modern diesel buses run at over 50% efficiency, including heat waste.
I’m not against electric transportation (it’s great for LRT and subways), it’s just that all the factors need to be considered including full source path and opportunity costs.
The cycle of neglect seems to shift from the ‘fringe’ to the ‘core’ and back. Transit City did nothing for downtown travel, then FordCity and OneCity were subway focused, which tend to go downtown, now SmartTrack is just piggybacking on existing infrastructure for better utilization. Politically it’s easy to focus on one side or the other, from a planning perspective, a delicate balance is need and desired. Most here would support “doing a bit of everything” if there is enough money to go around. Otherwise, it becomes the fight of what makes the cut or not.
I went to Curitiba (population over 2.5 million) just to see and ride on the Bus Rapid Transit System. It would take enormous political pressure to develop a similar one here.
There is almost no on street parking in downtown Curitiba. The number and speed of the buses were hard to fathom unless you actually are there.
The “Tubo” buses that loaded at raised platforms (you pay to get into the platform) are like subways and they go very fast 50-60 km/h through downtown. The big buses that come downtown are double articulated and carry over 270 people.
70% of daily trips in Curitiba are done on transit even Curitba is the city with the highest rate of private car ownership in Brazil.
Their zoning is such that the densest zoning is along the BRT corridors.
I would point out three things here:
1 – The access in dedicated busway was much closer to the core area in Ottawa than it possibly could in Toronto.
2 – There was much less congestion in Ottawa, (having just moved there in 1987 I remember being caught in a “traffic jam” according to the radio at Bronson and the Queensway – and the same conditions on the DVP would have been called moving well. I was quite amused, but that was the difference) than there was in Toronto in the time it was built, let alone now.
3 – There was much less traffic on the busway when it was opened or even a long time afterwards than would be on an overflow route for Yonge – day 1.
These are double articulated and 28 meters, so nearly as long as the combo of a regular and articulated bus in Toronto, but, I think that this is still like Bombardier rating a vehicle capacity – according to Bombardier a Flexity at 30 meters can hold about 250 passengers, where the TTC rates them at 135. I would argue that the TTC would apply a similar number or slightly less for the bi-articulated buses. (120-130 or so), so 10,000 people would still be 80 or so of these buses per hour, or about one every 42 seconds, more to the point 20,000 would be one every 20 seconds. This would require a dedicated roadway into the core, and a place to run to. Also signals would seriously limit flow and capacity. If we were to force this on surface streets – a large vehicle still would be better, say a 3 car LRT, but still this would not be enough into the core area.
Steve: The TTC number for Flexitys is a design average, not a crush load, based on the idea that if every vehicle is stuffed full, it cannot provide acceptable service. Very high packing of riders can “work” for a line haul service with little turnover, a point to point demand, but not for a route doing double-duty for local trips and long hauls.
I can imagine how people would feel about a virtual wall of buses going through their neighborhood, but no service for them. It would be hard to imagine, having people accept all those buses blasting past them, and never, ever stopping, or the anger about the fact that you cannot stop anywhere between whatever subway stop they boarded (sorry having a hard time seeing a corridor from Danforth to core that works) and never ever stopping. Also how 3 or 4 buses stopped at a light together would work on some of these streets.
I really think BRT on Lawrence, Ellesmere, Markham Road, Kipling or Islington makes sense. This should really be part of a build-out for a more destination neutral rapid transit network for Toronto. I also agree, that in general mega projects are a last resort. They focus far too many resources on far too small an area. Toronto, however, needs a very substantial capacity boost, this needs to be a major project – given the current shape of the city. The extensions of service however, do not need to be nor should they be mega projects.
I believe that he meant the engine was still burning fuel during braking and idling, thus consuming energy; though diesels are miserly when idling. Electric engines do generate electricity during braking; it is called regeneration.
According to NEMA (National Electric Manufacturers’ Association) electric motors over 125 hp must have a minimum efficiency of 92.4%. Comparing theoretical efficiency to achieved efficiencies can be misleading as there are power losses in transmission lines vs oil pipelines, generating stations vs refineries, mining vs well head extraction etc. There are also a lot of parasitic loads in transportation: heating, ventilating, air conditioning, lighting etc which also must be provided by the energy source.
The main advantage that electric motors have in transportation is better starting torque and acceleration. This becomes significant in lines with a lot of starting and stopping or hill climbing. A second benefit is very subjective but it is reduced noise and vibration in the vehicle, especially near the engine compartment. A third benefit is distributed power from placing electric motors in wheel hubs. This would allow 4 axle, 3 section articulated buses to have more powered wheels which improves acceleration and steering. There are lots of these in Europe, especially hilly cities. Are they right for Toronto? I doubt the 3 section buses would do well on most of our narrow roads but trolley buses could be useful on certain routes though they would not be able to pass each other.
This is the same Bombardier that claims a bilevel GO coach can carry 276 standing passengers in addition to 142-162 seated? (Even those seating claims are suspect, since a number of those seats are significantly narrower than anything that’s considered a seat on a TTC vehicle.) Can you picture 400 people on a single GO coach?
This is what I was saying and that why I find the $1M/km cost for “trolley buses” to be underestimating the full system costs in a developed urban environment.
I’m all for considering alternative solutions, but a realistic comparison needs to be made, not idealistic conditions.
Actually – I can, they would all need to be say 5’5″ or less, and under 115 lbs, and people would need to take turns breathing. On the upside, nobody would be able to fall over, and what really matters here – either only the people closest to the door are getting off or nobody is, and the coach or car would take about 10 minutes to offload. However, that was rather my point, think of 270 people in a 28 meter bus. You could get them on – but well, it would be the same thing, nobody is so much as shifting, and everybody better be fairly small.
From some experience in overcrowded buses in Cuba, it’s still possible to fall over. You’re just going to take 6-8 other people with you. You can squeeze on and off, if you aren’t too picky about stepping on the floor. On the plus side, children and small women will sit on strangers laps (maybe small men too, but I never saw it).
It’s possible to load buses to the brink of death, but is that desirable? In Curitiba, car ownership is more than double the national average. There is the same divide of buses for the poor, cars for the rich. Curitiba is a great example of good urban planning, and it’s limitations (the BRT system ends at the city limits instead of extending into the surrounding metro area).
Glad to have prompted some serious discussions and criticisms about having a busway in a few years on the Gatineau corridor; it is offered as an extra inducement to Scarborough going beyond mere reversion to the funded LRTs. I’m aware that there are issues with linking to the Thorncliffe area ie. it needs a bridge – but as so much of our transit is about providing the jobs for men and machines and resource usage, if something is just too easy/light – like painted bike lanes on Bloor/Danforth for easing that 1% crush load, perhaps 2% – then odds are it won’t get far. Having an off-road busway on the diagonal through Scarborough with potential for linkage to the core is part of the silver buckshot that is needed for all of TO. The link to the core could be done by pressing through to St. Clair Ave. E. (linking the two segments would be too impossible), and there’s also a possible route using a disused but owned by Metrolinx rail bridge by the Brickworks and then to the Don Valley beside the DVP.
Of course steel wheels and larger vehicles in tunnels may be more helpful over the long term, but we have crises now, and given how foolish the SSE and to a lesser degree the Smart Track is, we should kick the tires on all options, which isn’t yet done.
Steve: Your proposed route to downtown is sheer fantasy on two counts. First, it requires a major capital project when the whole premise was the relative simplicity of building in an “available” corridor. Second, it ignores the problem of dealing with the flood of buses when they reach downtown streets.
I would agree – sort of. The problem is that we should be looking only at the projects that can address the most critical issues, and that have a reasonable prospect of resolving them. While I agree that the Gatineau has a possibility of getting an easy rapid route nearly as far as Don Mills, realistically – the link from there would need to be a DRL, or something in a tunnel. It cannot be a solution to transit to the core – without another link. I would argue, that this is something we should have in our back pocket to improve transit to the North East – all the way out to the 401 – but it would require a notable bus terminal – if it were to have real success, perhaps with a Gateway Blvd terminus – and a subway station at Overlea and Don Mills. However, I believe this overlaps to a great degree with the Crosstown, and would be a long term prospect, for a truly quick ride.
It is not however, a realistic answer to the critical capacity issues, simply as it does not reach the destination, and has no reasonable prospect of getting close anywhere, that would not make the load at the critical bottleneck worse. A huge part of the current problem, is that we keep getting distracted by projects, that have no reasonable prospect of resolving the current critical capacity issues, and thereby delay getting down to business. I for instance also support a hard look at conversion of the Richmond Hill ROW, to permit a way around the fact that there will be severe constraints north of the CN mainline. However, I do not suggest this as an alternative to a DRL, but rather a long term addition to capacity and attractiveness of transit for the period and area beyond the scope of a DRL. This also would be a huge project, require a tunnel at the south end, a station away from Union etc. It is not however, a realistic alternative to a DRL, and pushing it in that context, means the province will want to study it – and push back a real solution – required now. The original subway plans in say 1966 had a subway route planned here (Don Mills and Eglinton – through core. Although it was predicated on a much higher use of transit – it also reflected the reality of the city’s available rights of way and their limitations. These have not gotten better.
Steve: The subway was not planned to follow the GO corridor, but to run further east, probably up Pape.
Au contraire, I think it’s quite a logical response to major issues east of Yonge St. and funding problems for some megaprojects. Phase one is entirely within Scarborough, and could assist with mobility issues there by enabling mostly off-road but speedier transit all through the area. Having speedy connections from the western end somewhere near Eg/VPark, down to the Main and GO Danforth mobility hub helps plug in those wishing to move to the core. I think it is possible to have a Gatineau busway project entirely as a standalone to benefit Scarborough, but there are definitely further stages that could occur to broader public benefit.
These other phases or segments that cross over to Thorncliffe Park and to St. Clair and/or the core are more costly, absolutely. But I think we could re-use an existing bridge by the Brickworks that we already own, and much of the older rail-line too, now unused. As this combines parts of SSE, Smart Track and DRL in one faster-done project, or stages, if it costs up to $2B, but gets done in five years, isn’t that a better deal than three other megaprojects? We have a set of significant problems and stresses now; everywhere; and don’t they all need money? And some political will?
Of course there are significant details like the entry points into the core, but I’m also quite fine with re-purposing lanes of the DVP and the Gardiner for advantaging public transit. Are you?
Thanks for enabling comments and kicks.
Steve: The existing bridge by the Brickworks is decrepit and must be replaced before anything can run over it. Also it is a single track bridge, and would have to be substantially widened to accommodate two-way bus traffic. Similarly, the Don Branch (to which the bridge leads) is also single track and widening it to a two-lane road would be challenging.
Sorry Steve – I meant similar to current DRL proposals, except running out to Queen Street. Looking at it, the way I phrased that was confusing, but no, the plan was not in the Valley.
I am trying to imagine the complaints from the good burghers of Scar who would end up with an expressway of buses running behind their property. I know that the right of way is wide but they are still buses. No the only thing that would be allowed is a completely grade separated heavy duty subway. After all this is the borough of Scar.
I’m fine with repurposing highway lanes, but I was also fine with the Allen Expressway. There are two sets of solutions: politically viable and publically aggravating. A “simple” entry tax on cars, a la London, could raise money for transit and reduce the competition for road space. It’s a great idea on paper, but not very likely to happen.
Steve: It also completely ignores the fact that the majority of travel to the core is already by transit (or walking and cycling), and that the real problems for motorists lie in the suburbs where transit is a distant second as an option, if it is available at all.
Steve with SmartTrack increasingly being approved by experts as a way to delay the need for a DRL East and possibly even eliminate it, I was wondering if TTC should expedite the study of a DRL West and relief is especially needed in extremely high density Liberty Village area. Such an expedited study of DRL West makes sense now that East’s problems are on the verge of being solved with SmartTrack and the Scarborough subway. I am relieved that Adam Vaughan is not in the Cabinet as he would certainly have derailed the Scarborough subway especially if he had been made Minister of Transportation.
Steve: I don’t accept your premise about “experts” and ST replacing the DRL East. That is not physically possible given limitations on capacity of ST and the very different type of demand it will intercept. Metrolinx demand modelling has shown that the DRL East is far more beneficial to providing subway relief than ST.
Quite bluntly, some of the “experts” behind ST are little better than shills, carnival barkers and snake-oil salesmen.
DRL West is another issue, and it suffers from people projecting many possible benefits onto one line that cannot possibly aid them all. The Weston corridor, the site of ST West, has capacity limitations and possible station locations are poorly located relative to much of Liberty Village.
In general, transit to the waterfront and to communities in the strip roughly 2km north from there cannot be provided by single “solution” no matter how much some politicians might like to present their schemes in this light.
Sure, some parts of what I’m thinking about are easier and cheaper. The in-Scarborough parts using the Gatineau as a spine (with some on-road for major destinations), I think is cheaper, and faster-done than other things, being mostly on-surface, plus the diagonality, and it could be seen as an extra inducement to back away from the SSE, especially if we start ensuring a faster feed-through of buses from the lower end near Eglinton/Vic Park to Main/Danforth, and invest in easing connections between TTC and GO there, after dusting off those old plans of maybe 30 years ago.
I think we need more corridor options beyond further loadings on Bloor/Danforth, including needs for sub-regional and near-express services, and buses are cheap, relatively, till demand is clearly shown and built up. To thus think of extending the Gatineau corridor to fulfill the function of linking the two St. Clair Easts in an easier place via high-density Thorncliffe is also an equity issue as much as a key place for easing existing transit pressures eg. B/Yonge as I think much of the bus service feeds into the Danforth subway.
Of course reaching through to make the connections would be more money for heavy constructions and environmental review; but the jobs and materials usage are major components of our transit these last few decades right? I am keen on re-use though, and yes, the bridge deck of that older bridge is done, but for the most part I think the concrete supports are very durable, and why cannot we have a busway go down to one lane with signals for alternating usages If it saves ___ million??
Steve: Spending lots of money should not be the primary justification for a transit project. Just because we have the SSE and ST at multi-billions, we shouldn’t be saying money is no object for other schemes. You are aware, I hope, that linking the St. Clairs is a very, very project because the Don Valley lies east-west, not north-south in this area.
As for the bridge, on the BRT headway/capacity you have implied by virtue of capacity claims, a single-lane bridge is not an option.
Sure, maybe the better vehicle for Scarborough is steel-wheeled, and could we run the St. Clair streetcars out to the Zoo via what might be built, and increase usage of St. Clair RoW?
Steve: Nobody is going to travel to the Zoo from St. Clair West by streetcar. This is complete madness.
I really do wish we actually had integrated planning – GO rides, TTC#s, copious origin-destination overlaid with both job and jresidential densities, and not including density spikes where some Councillors live. We do need to do things now both for transit users everywhere, (and I think this means squeezing the billions), but also the climate. We also have an electoral cycle, that some will be more mindful of than others. Can we agree that better linking up at Main/Danforth is overdue, as is Dundas St. W. and Bloor GO?
Steve: The Main/Danforth connection is a non-starter because the stations are too far apart, and a better link for riders originating in Scarborough would be provided at Kennedy Station.
The bridge is 350 m (1150 feet) long. At an average speed of 50 km/h (30 mph) it would take a bus 26 seconds to cross the bridge. Allowing for time for signals to clear and to make sure the bridge is cleared you might be able to run 1 bus each direction every minute or 30 buses per hour. At 100 passengers per bus that is 3000 pphpd. If you wanted to run in packs you could improve the throughput at the cost of increase time between service packs.
I find it hard to use the term “mass rapid transit” along with a 350 m long section of single width right of way, but it would make a great bike way if the winds didn’t get too high over it. The advantage for railway rights of way for bike paths is very flat grades and little noise impact on neighbours. During University I once walked to Union Station from the CP rail line at Lawrence and Underhill using the two CPR bridges. The wind on the double track bridge got fairly strong.
I know CP would have fits, but putting a bike path along the Belleville and North Toronto subs would provide a very direct bike path through a lot of Toronto. I haven’t biked in years but I used to do a fair bit of it. There should be enough room on the Weston corridor for one also. Why do bike paths have to follow streets?
Those are fighting words! We have a brand new world class state of the art 3P mass rapid transit jewel right here on the left coast that Toronto would die for, if only you would open up your eyes and look beyond the centre of the universe.
Steve: And the headway operated over that single track is nowhere near what would be required for the proposed busway, and they are trains, not individual buses, and half of them don’t even go to YVR. This has nothing to do with the centre of the universe, wherever that might be.
I think I’m being creative in trying to develop often off-road but expedited yet linked to real destinations transit routes that could bring elements of the three mega-transit projects into one phased project. I think we need to develop at least one other transit corridor to diversify the routes into the core; the rail lines are crowded, and digging is really costly.
My grandfather suggested in the late 1960s that Toronto should build a mile of subway every year and eventually there’d be no room for cars left downtown, so maybe sometimes his wild views skipped a generation, but not every type of mass transit has to have steel wheels.
If we’re questioning rationality though, if there isn’t to be a transit component to the unused rail bridge by the brickworks and the rail line south parallel to the Don Valley Parkway, then why is Metrolinx owning it and how much did they pay for it?
Steve: I don’t know purchase cost, but it was available and Metrolinx scooped it up to protect for a future link to service in the CPR corridor.
I agree that the rail beds are Great! bikeways, but at times the highest best use of them is for transit, if it’s effective transit. With the wonderful Rail Trail on the Weston Sub, I worry that the Folly of the UPX will survive any Smart Track, and the easy target will be the Rail Trail, though it’s sooo rare to have a somewhat convenient off-road trail in the core. This is another issue of how suburban areas get more resources, and how Caronto dysfunctions.
There’d likely be a HUGE nest of stinging Greens outraged at disturbing the Don Valley with any transit, and of course there’d be a point, but a recent book indicates that a full 70% of the stormwater surge is from upstream drains ie. roads and parking lots. If we can get pressure for disconnecting driveways along with any busway (to start), the compromise of some new transit connections may be easier to have happen.
Thanks for the PofViews.
The other aspect, that I find hard, is they talk about large BRT capacity by buses being able to pass each other in the ROW etc, and seem to forget that this means an additional lane, which means at least 3 plus platforms, and what we are all arguing about in the ROWs (other than Gatineau) is limited lane space to begin with. So we jump from 2 lanes plus a single platform is too much space to 3 lanes plus 2 platforms isn’t and issue. They also miss that one of the key reasons to limit an LRT length to 3 cars, is that, well, if you deliver say 200-400 people (2 trains in opposite directions) to a single intersection during a single signal you will have massive issues with pedestrian flows unless you have overhead walkways etc. This issues doesn’t go away just because they got off a bus, as the timing of buses will also be limited by the signals, 400 people wanting to alight at a single point is still 400 people at that point within a single signal cycle. The major difference is that LRT does not require a passing lane, and people from both directions can alight on a single platform, and oh yeah, 20 trains and 20 operators instead of 120 noisy buses plus operators passing a single point.