This afternoon, June 1, there was a small miracle at the TTC’s Greenwood Yard. Assorted politicians and transit management gathered for an announcement of transit funding, of new transit funding, and for that perpetual orphan of Toronto’s political scene, the (Downtown) Relief Line.
Steven Del Duca, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, announced that Metrolinx would be given “more than $150 million” to work with the City and the TTC on advancing planning and design for the Relief Subway Line to bring it to “shovel ready” status.
This is a substantial commitment of financial support, but more importantly of political support. Del Duca was joined by Mayor John Tory in singing the Relief Line’s praises as a necessary part of growing capacity on the transit network building out from earlier improvements through GO/RER and SmartTrack.
According to Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat (whose Twitter session is in progress as I write this), study of the RL will focus initially on Phase 1 (Danforth to downtown), but will then shift to the northern and western extensions. The northern extension is of particular importance because, according to Metrolinx demand projections, it will have a major effect in offloading demand from the Yonge Subway and the Bloor-Yonge interchange.
[Source: Metrolinx Yonge Relief Network Study p. 31]
With both the Mayor and Queen’s Park supporting the RL, and with provincial funding of the design work, the Toronto City Council gridlock over transit priorities can be “relieved” for at least a few years. The RL will not have to compete with other schemes for City funding, and with Metrolinx holding the purse, Council will not be able to divert the money to pet “relief” lines for suburban Councillors. Indeed, the whole suburbs-vs-downtown argument, which is born in part by a desire to be at the front of the line, need not pollute the RL study.
The Metrolinx role is also important because the RL (aka the “Don Mills Subway” to many on this site) needs time to be presented for what it can do for suburban Toronto were it to run north at least to Sheppard & Don Mills via Thorncliffe Park. Many riders would have a completely new route to downtown comparable to the service now provided by the Spadina Subway, and this would be completely separate from the existing congested system. Capacity released on the Yonge line would be available to riders from the proposed Richmond Hill subway extension, and the reduction of transfer traffic at Bloor-Yonge could eliminate the need for an extremely expensive and complicated expansion of platform and circulation capacity there offsetting some of the Relief Line’s cost.
Del Duca acknowledged the considerable work already done by the City and TTC on this file. Indeed, had it not been for the TTC’s Andy Byford with support from City Planning raising the alarm about the need for a Relief Line, nothing would have happened.
Some comparatively short term improvements will provide “relief” on the Yonge line, but these will be backfilled by pent up demand over the next decade.
[Source: Metrolinx Yonge Relief Network Study p. 20]
Smart Track may shave another small amount off of this, but notwithstanding the Mayor’s enthusiasm, the City’s own demand projections published as part of the Scarborough studies show that SmartTrack has a very small effect at Bloor-Yonge.
Tory is still somewhat confused about just what Smart Track’s effect will be considering how much it has been scaled back since his election campaign. He was happy to talk about track work now in progress in Scarborough (on the Stouffville corridor) as being part of Smart Track, when in fact it is the double-tracking work for improved GO service that was in the works before he even ran for office. And he still talks of this as if it were an $8 billion project when a great deal has been lopped off of the project’s scope.
Finally, the TTC CEO Andy Byford is happy just to see money coming his way from all three governments on both the capital and operating sides (although, the latter more grudgingly from the City).
As for construction, that’s still some years off, and it will be important to think of the project in phases, not as one megaproject. It will take five to six years to get to “shovel ready” status, and the issue then is how quickly we want to build the line. A lot of transit capital planning lately has been hostage to constrained finances at both the City and at Queen’s Park. By the early 2020s, the Scarborough subway project should be winding down and spending can shift to the Relief Line.
Now in all this excitement, if only someone would treat other orphaned projects like the Waterfront and Sheppard LRTs seriously.
Steve said: “By the early 2020s, the Scarborough subway project should be winding down and spending can shift to the Relief Line.”
On the other hand, there are signs that people are getting cold feet over the Scarborough subway project which may result in a shift of funding earlier than 2020.
Steve: I doubt very much that funding earmarked for the SSE would be diverted to the RL. If anything, it would go to some of the Scarborough alternatives including an LRT network. However, that would be over the dead bodies of many Scarborough pols, municipal and provincial. Not very likely.
IBIWISI: I’ll Believe It When I See It.
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And still Tory tries to justify the Scarborough Subway white elephant. Scarborough’s version of the Sheppard Stubway and another idiot major (Lastman) that pushed for it. Now they put the newest subway trains on the Stubway Line. Better choice would be to shut it down and redirect new cars to Bloor_Danforth Line a.k.a Line 2.
Steve: Actually the TTC has a big surplus of T-1 cars. They don’t need TRs to operate the BD line.
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Tory and De Baeremaeker justify the Scarborough subway extension by saying that peak-hour ridership at Scarborough Town Centre (7,300) would exceed the peak ridership at most other terminal stations: Kipling (7,200), Downsview (2,950), Don Mills (3,120), Kennedy (7,000). I suspect there is a flaw in this argument, but I don’t know what it would be.
Steve: Actually, there are two issues. First, how many forced transfers at Kennedy does it take to justify spending billions on extending the subway? Second, if terminal volumes were unimportant, why did they make such a fuss of cooking up that 14k estimate for the line to justify the project? Either big numbers at terminals matter or they do not. In this case, they have been arguing both sides to justify the scheme they are flogging on any particular day.
The real problem is how many people will accumulate on the trains westbound to Yonge? How many will flow along Eglinton or other routes? How does SmartTrack fit into the distribution of trips across the network?
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Today’s major subway outage during the AM rush should be a lesson to those advocating DRL cost cutting by putting it in the Don Valley and hooking it up with Line 2 at Broadview. Imagine if the line were built west of the Chester crossover.
Whether or not planning is already underway . . . whether or not political egos are at stake . . . whether or not the shovels are actually already in the ground . . . the history of this town tells us that no scheme, no matter how well-reasoned and invested we are in it, cannot be undermined and thrown back to the drawing board by political machinations.
A subway on Eglinton West with millions already poured into plans and two stations under construction underway? No match for a political changing of the guard at Queen’s Park. Overpasses already being moved around to accommodate the gravy train *ahem* Sheppard LRT? King Rob of Ford Nation torched that plan by fiat at a press conference; he didn’t even bother waiting for (council) votes.
So I tip my hat to the current crop of civic/provincial/federal leaders for their announcement. But I don’t think we can rest on our laurels. Continued public pressure for the Don Mills subway is needed if it is actually going to be built.
The converse is also true – no matter how ass-backward, politically-motivated or pig-headed the plan, savvy politicians can find ways to bulldoze their vote-buying schemes through. Hence the Sheppard stubway, UPX, Scarborough RT etc.
While the sum of these two points can seem a mite depressing . . . I would argue it also offers some hope for an ideal (or good) outcome. As the recent saga of UPX fares shows, flip-flops can go both ways, reversing bad decisions too and the Scarborough Subway Boondoggle (SSB) is no further along than a number of other projects I mentioned. The current crop of negative press is a plus for anyone who still holds out hope that reason and good judgement will prevail over the emotional “subways subways subways” obsession of a certain crowd. Politicians who have married themselves to the SSB have done so at their peril, because now that it looks more and more like Rob Ford (rest his soul) was actually pushing a “gravy train” . . . the irony is pretty delicious. Of course, it means the SSB boosters will double down as the case for it weakens – they have that much more to lose having staked their reputations on it. Doesn’t mean we should back off the pressure though, as it still stinks (one might argue the pressure should increase now that the weakness of their case is becoming clearer). In fact their shrill defense sounds more and more like the various contortions Metrolinx/UPX put itself through trying to justify the epic success of their empty airport trains not so long ago.
Glenn De Baeremaeker, I’m talking to you.
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I’m going to be a bit contrarian in that I don’t think we have considered enough surface options yet, nor fully explored and shared the origin/demand data to really justify what could be another stubway in the less-correct place. It’s like thinking nuclear plants are the only way to power ourselves.
Yes, the east-of-Don north-south alignment has been around on plans for decades, but the original alignments I think were more politics than planning, and now we have Scarborough. Do we have any data about where the Danforth stations really crowd up? An index/chart that shows waiting for one train here at Main, waiting two trains at Greenwood??
This might indicate a better alignment on the diagonal, which would make more sense for faster trips through an urban setting.
We could do a lot perhaps, with finally improving the interconnections at Danforth/Main and NOT spend billions, if there’s a shortage of funds. If there was political will to put in a busway on the DVP, perhaps only a reversible lane for space reasons, that too could start to deliver some relief without billions being spent, and sooner too.
Analyzing where the heavy demands originating from Thorncliffe Park are going would be a good thing too – maybe we should try connecting up the St. Clairs via Thorncliffe, and again, the Gatineau Hydro corridor slices through all of Scarborough and we own it already.
Finally, the taint of the SSE has ramifications for all planning/scheming. It really is a mess; I like Royson James’ column today. And how curious that the Good News of these Millions arrives on the same day as the release of the bad news on the SSE ridership numbers – integrated scheming is alive and well.
Oh, in London, they’ve started to use bikeways as transit relief, estimates are up to 10% of ridership in one segment. Biking may not be for everyone all the time, especially when the City manages to plow the snow into the bike lanes rather than out, but we still lack a continuous and safe and smooth east/west route, and Bloor/Danforth was the #1 place in merely 1992. The City is appalling at doing simpler things ie. there’s a segment of Bloor St. E between Church and Sherbourne that should have bike lanes by now from the 2001 Bike Plan; they’d cost $25,000 for that 1km. The Bloor pilot in the Annex just concentrates and we need continuity first and foremost. The emphasis on ‘corridor study’ quite neglects the existence of a TRANSIT corridor carrying c. half-million daily riders – but they’ve only had 50 years to get aware of this transit corridor, so what should one expect??
I see that the Min. of Transportation has put out a release talking about how they plan to push forward with the Yonge North project.
How are they even considering thinking about pushing further north before even figuring out how transfer loads may or may not shift depending on what happens with the RL?
That, and I’ve always thought it was strange that York Region tries to piggy back on the subway system; why not either start to develop their own that mixes in – or look for an alternative?
Not to draw lines on a map – but there must be an east-west corridor north of the city – or a Bathurst link or something that could be built (by, and for them) to connect somewhere?
L. Wall: Well, Steve’s proposal for the Relief Line had to hooking up at Donlands to use existing yard and track infrastructure around Greenwood in that area.
Steve: What are the pros and cons of this proposal versus yours? Presumably it’ll cost slightly more to go up Pape versus Donlands. Is the subtle (?) difference between the two a big deal? Yours also went further south (on Front), which would be closer to the Financial District and the “South Core” that’s growing in popularity.
Steve: I have learned a few things about the alignments at a recent meeting. If a junction is built at Danforth, it will be north of the existing subway and will consist only of a west-to-north and south-to-west curve. It’s tricky, but doable without much damage to the neighbourhood (part of the area is already open space), and particularly without affecting the Danforth/Pape intersection. This will *not* be an excavation on the scale of Sheppard-Yonge Station which was vastly overbuilt. Trains heading back to Greenwood from the RL would turn west on Danforth and run to Chester centre track, then reverse east to Greenwood.
As for the Wellington alignment, I still feel that the Queen option is somewhat political, but some of the technical issues make it attractive too. It appears that the tunnel across downtown will be in bedrock, and it is easier to follow this layer on Queen than on King. A related question remains the matter of Bathurst North Yard and its conversion into a GO terminus for the Milton and KW corridors. The details of how a line would swing southwest from Queen to connect with this are a bit vague, and that option seems to have been lost in the shuffle. I’m waiting to see what Metrolinx comes out with later this month.
Steve makes good points in his rebuttal but the I think the actual flaw in the argument is that two different courses of action are conflated in the comparison made, so that it seems like two similar things are being compared when in fact it is apples to oranges.
We are not talking about spending money to extend the subway from Kennedy to STC versus spending capital in some other way, to keep it very simple let’s say hypothetically extending it from Kipling to Sherway Gardens (another crayon scheme that occasionally crops up). In such a comparison case, relative costs of the extension vs ridership served would be very relevant. If a hypothetical extension to Sherway cost half as much but served 3/4 of the riders as the STC extension, the Sherway extension would make more sense as the cost/benefit ratio would be lower.
However, shutting down an existing station/piece of infrastructure is an entirely different matter and shouldn’t be compared to building new extensions as Tory and Co are doing. The terminus stations at Kennedy, Kipling, Downsview etc already exist and simply need to be maintained i.e. they run an operating cost for keeping them open and servicing them with trains, and require relatively little new capital, orders of magnitude below the cost of building a new extension like the one to STC. This is why no one is balking at keeping those stations open because of costs but many are now alarmed at the cost of the SSB. It’s also why it doesn’t make any sense to compare keeping existing stations open with building several km of new track + a new station. The criteria for keeping a station open and building a new one +/- new tracks are completely different and should be for good reason.
I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense to ever shut down individual stations due to poor ridership or operational concerns . . . just that it doesn’t make sense in the cases cited here. If we’re going to start applying the logic in the quoted statements to the TTC, there should be some base ridership threshold for keeping a station open, and depending on where you set it a number of stations might be mothballed including Downsview, Leslie, Bessarion, Old Mill, Chester, etc. you might even conclude that a whole line wasn’t justified *ahem* Sheppard.
I’m also not saying anything about whether the low ridership stations should or shouldn’t have been built – the present reality is that under whatever circumstances were present at the time decisions were made, money spent and construction happened and can’t be undone.
Steve: The more basic question is not the ridership per se, but whether this method of handling the ridership is the appropriate choice. Everyone wants “just one more” stop on a subway, but at some point, you have to say “enough” and change to another mode. Kennedy was going to be that place with the shift to LRT and the multi-line network its lower cost would make possible. I will turn to this in my next article.
Tory can take this opportunity to cancel smart track east while saving face. Who needs smart track when the DRL is moving ahead and GO is improving the stoufville corridor?
If/when some form of rapid transit (subway or LRT) replaces the SRT, will “Line 3” as a line number be transferred to the DRL?
Steve, can you also check with the TTC as to why they chose to renumber 7 Bathurst to 19 and give 27 to the new Jane South rather than make 7 Bathurst become 27 [in the post TYSSE route configuration]?
I would like to know why the TTC loves to confuse people and make them have to learn new illogical route numbers/letters when a better option was possible.
Steve: I suspect that they just stared allocating numbers based on what was free. Line 3? It is a mystery, although part of me thinks its reuse for the (D)RL would e poetic justice.
This announcement might be a good start but I’m not yet sure there is much more reason for optimism for the possibility of seeing the Relief Line within my lifetime. There are some of us that believe that the 3 billion plus needed for construction will be harder to find than the money that government is ponying up for the study. That is regardles of the fact that the money is coming from the provincial government, via Metrolinx. If the ‘shovel ready date’ for the RL is beyond the Scarborough extention (supposed) completion date of 2023, that puts us well into another election cycle or two from now. The stars that have aligned so well for transit funding recently may have shifted alignment by then.
Steve: I don’t think it is fair to look only at Terminal volumes as the Mayor has done when trying to justify this enormous, wasteful and unnecessary expense. To recap – this vanity project will soak up pretty well all the capital expansion opportunities – for the whole City – for the foreseeable future; require 30 years of funding by all taxpayers in Toronto and require ongoing enormous subsidies to provide “one trip” service to an hourly passenger flow that could easily be handled by a bus. (To be clear. I advocate for a full and fair rollout of a comprehensive LRT for all of Scarborough – not bus service. That was a rhetorical flourish.)
If I recall correctly the length of this extension is 6.5 km. or thereabouts. Google tells me that the distance from Kipling Station to Runnymede Station is under 6 km. Over that 6 km. there are 6 stations – which are expensive – but also reflect the fact that there are actual riders who want to get on. It may be true that the projected volumes at STC (in 15 years) are roughly equal to the volumes at the Kipling Station Terminal (now). However, to be worth the expense the remote STC Terminal would need the kind of volumes that accumulate eastbound by Runnymede or continue Westbound from the same spot.
When it’s minus 20 and the bus is late and too full to ride when it arrives, I doubt many riders on Finch or Steeles East will take “Scarborough pride” in the fact that the whole City has pitched in because 7,300 people (per hour at peak) “deserve” a subway.
This’ll be very tinfoil hat, but one would almost think the early disclosure of house expropriation was a Machiavellian way to get Scarberians to reject that same subway project and score points for the LRT crowd. Or am I not alone in thinking this effect was had – whether or not it was intended by anyone?
Steve: I have found that in dealing with the TTC (among other organizations) it is always best to assume simple chance or even incompetence in place of some fiendishly clever plot. Someone probably thought it would be a good idea to tell people, but they neglected to take into account that the route was not yet approved, and moreover they didn’t tell the Councillors or Mayor in advance of the notices going out. We have seen this sort of insensitivity from the TTC before.
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Steve, considering the current capacity issues with Line 1 and possible future capacity constraints in the coming decades, would building the Relief Line with Express and Local stop options ever be considered or would the costs of doing so be far too prohibitive? Is Toronto’s population too small to consider such service within its subway system?
Steve: The Relief Line does not need to be built for local and express operation, it just needs to be built. The whole point is to divert a substantial existing and future volume onto a completely new route into downtown. I think there is almost a fetishization of this type of construction, and if anything, it will push this much needed project even further from our grasp.
Interesting that the RL announcement came just before the Smart Trak East announcement. Makes me wonder if ST East is still relevant considering the RL is a step closer to reality. Was it deliberately done by some politicians who (rightfully) want to derail ST East? Who are these politicians, and will they be successful?
Steve: I think the timing had more to do with a sequence of announcements that had to be orchestrated. The RL money had to come before the Richmond Hill announcement, and both of them had to be out of the way before Premier Wynne made the really big announcement in Ottawa whose timing was driven by her attendance at an Economic forum there.
Since the relief line will take at least a decade, and Yonge is overloaded now, why not whip out the old Bloor-University wye, and let it rip.. Of course there are numerous problems associated with this idea, but they aren’t insurmountable. With a little creative thinking, the problems could be dealt with in months, unlike the full trains on Yonge south of Eglinton. You wouldn’t have to work very hard to persuade AM rush hour riders on Bloor that a single train ride downtown on University trumps any kind of activity at Bloor and Yonge. Ditto, in reverse for the PM rush hour.
Steve: Actually, the problems cannot be “dealt with in months”. Ever since the Spadina line opened, there has not been capacity at the wye to accept a merged service from Danforth. Also, I fully expect that the TTC would make an operational hash of this scheme, just as they did with the original.
I only became aware of the DRL in the last few years, although it seems proposals have been bubbling away in the background, for decades.
Much of the explanation offered for this line is that it would address the serious overcrowding on the Yonge line, during rush hour, where so many riders get on on southbound trains at the northernmost stations that there is no room for southbound passengers to get onboard from more southerly stations.
Well, that is a good reason to build a DRL. However, proponents are quietly glossing over that the DRL will only start to provide an alternate southern route to the crowded passengers on the Yonge line when phase two or phase three is complete.
I specifically asked one of the planners this question, at one of the public events a year ago. He replied that phase one of the DRL would make a difference to southbound riders on the Yonge line… But then he named the number of Yonge riders their projections showed would use the DRL instead. I don’t remember how many riders per hour — but I remember saying “but that is only one subway train per hour’s worth of passengers!”.
It seems that those who suggested building the DRL decades ago were correct, and it would have been best if it had been completed years ago. How long has the Yonge line been this congested?
Who is advocating trying to complete phase one and phase two at the same time? It seems to me that anyone advocating for phase one, should explain to the public that only phase two will really help Yonge line riders.
Is there a danger that, if phase one is completed fifteen years from now, and it is seen as a failure in reducing congestion on the Yonge line, that phase two never gets built?
Steve: We are much closer to actually building phase 1 than we have ever been, and cannot get to phase 2 without it. I hope that the need will become blindingly obvious in coming years, and that by the time the TBMs hit Danforth northbound, someone will say “just keep going” to get us to north of O’Connor. The money from Queen’s Park will allow design work to be done on all sections of the DRL, and so it’s not as if we won’t have anything ready on that score for another decade.
I think we need to be asking about the dollars per minute saved, and what other trips could have been served by an alternate network. Clearly, we are not discussing comparing it to say Finch (interesting exclusion) or the degree to which they must expect the station to take the vast majority of current Kennedy ridership (given that currently STC only has 26k riders per day and Kennedy has 71k, while Kipling has 58k). How many riders would the overall network that could have been built instead attract? Now having said that – it appears to me, this train has in effect left the station, and it is now time to deal with the other point Steve made – riders that will accumulate on their way west and how they will be dealt with. This especially if we choose to make STC the true hub it could be as a terminus way out there, and connect Sheppard LRT with a BRT or LRT running to say Steeles. We also need to ask – why are we even entertaining ST a couple of KM to the east if there is capacity on the BDL, and what will be required is linkage to the core.
Could somebody explain the different ridership figures.
For example, wikipedia says that the SRT has 40k daily ridership on an average weekday. What is that number when translated into the peak-hour ridership? How short is it of the “magic” 14k figure? Thanks.
And again – what is exactly the “killer” argument for dismantling the SRT? Yes I know a bunch of studies concluded it’s expensive to upgrade etc. etc., but whatever estimates of upgrades I can find seem to be vastly cheaper than building a new subway – not to mention that the idea of just extending the subway by one stop over such a long distance seems a bit funny. Imagine someone said in 1967, hey let’s extend Line 2 west from Keele to Islington but skip all the intermediate stations, like High Park, Runnymede, Jane, Old Mill and Royal York. Who needs ’em? Doesn’t seem logical.
The SRT has the advantages that it’s already there, does not require any new corridors to be made open, no new tunnels, no expropriation of private or other non-city property, no new station construction.
As I see the main issue is the annoying transfer at Kennedy station – but is this really worth 2.5+ billion dollars to extend the line by one stop which may not have the required ridership?
Steve: The SRT carries about 4k as its maximum load today because that’s all that will fit on the trains. There are about 13 trains/hour, and the loading standard is 220/train. Actually more will fit than 220, but that’s the design load. Moreover, more trains/hour (17) used to operate on the SRT but as the trains wear out TTC has cut the service.
There are two problems with keeping this technology. First, if we are going to get newer “RT” trains, the modern version will not fit on the existing line both at the Ellesmere tunnel, and around the Kennedy curve. Reconstruction of both would be required. Next, extending the line would be quite expensive compared to the LRT option, especially if there were to be an LRT network on Eglinton and Sheppard with which the Scarborough line could share maintenance facilities. That was the plan until Rob Ford killed it. The transfer at Kennedy would have been substantially improved in the LRT scheme, but the Scarborough trolls don’t want to hear about that.
I use to think like you. However the last few years in Montreal has disabused me of this. When I visit in Montreal family and friends warned me to not take the metro. There’s not even a rush hour anymore. It’s always full and slow.
Even the STM has started asking passengers to consider using the bus instead. Indeed for many trips it’s now faster. It’s sad really. And while the mechanical problems (both the 1966 and 1973) cars are to blame, the STM expects that capacity constraints won’t go away.
But I suppose that instead of express lines if Montreal was to build another local line it might alleviate capacity issues.
Steve: Prebuilding a huge piece of infrastructure — more tunnels, bigger stations, more complex transfer points — costs a lot of money for something we may never need. More capacity someday, yes, but there is no guarantee that the Don Mills to Downtown corridor would be the best place for it. Meanwhile, other much needed projects in the GTHA would go unbuilt because of our making a supposed provision for the future.
If you want to talk about capacity, the limitations on the existing GO corridors are more troubling and particularly the bottleneck at Union Station. In the SmartTrack context we keep hearing about near-subway frequencies and capacities on the rail corridors, but nobody has explained how all this will actually fit on the network.
Of the two options of extending the Eglinton Crosstown line on the SRT right of way, versus building new SSE/SSB heavy rail tracks, I’ve preferred the the LRT option, for various reasons, including it would be cheaper, and riders would have a more scenic view. But, to be fair, should we forget the one advantage building a new line, on a new right of way has over re-using the SRT’s right-of-way?
Reusing the SRT’s right-of-way would require making the SRT’s existing riders take shuttle-buses during the time it takes to rebuild the tracks and stations. Even if it didn’t strain the TTC’s bus fleet to provide enough shuttle buses, we need to remember the inconvenience cost to riders of using temporary shuttle buses.
I read, elsewhere, that, in China, an entire subway or LRT, can go from blueprints to ribbon-cutting, in about a year. Of course those who praise China seem to forget it is a command economy, where political leaders don’t have to worry about pesky citizens complaining about expropriation, or environmental impact. Since boring tunnels takes years, I imagine those super-quick to construct Chinese routes are built by bulldozing a route, and then using cut-and-cover for the tunnel.
I don’t believe there is an actual plan in place. The worker bees I spoke to at the meetings were either being cagey or there simply is no specific concept or idea to talk about. I’m not feeling good about this.
I am a volunteer over at the wikipedia, and came across a notion a couple of years ago, the “premetro”, a rapid-transit route that, while initially designed to carry less than heavy rail number of riders, were to built with a future conversion to heavy rail in mind.
In particular, bridges and trestles might be built so they could eventually carry heavy rail vehicles. Tunnel curvature might be over-engineered so they too could carry heavy rail vehicles. Corridors, escalators, platforms, might be built to let a heavy rail number of riders use the stations.
I found some enthusiast or enthusiasts had inappropriately characterized dozens of rapid-transit routes as “premetro” systems. Even the SRT was characterized as a “premetro” system.
The more I looked into this idea, the more convinced I became that its proponents were overlooking a huge problem. The idea of converting an LRT route, or a BRT route, to a heavy rail line, when that route is approaching its maximum capacity, means taking it out of service, right when it is very popular, and a lot of riders rely on it.
The result would be chaos for commuters, for a year, or two, or three, during the (expensive?) conversion. Even if the initial design included heavy rail elements, there would still be a need to take the route out of commission during the conversion.
I became convinced that, when planners could anticipate a route would reach capacity, they should convince their political masters to build one or more relatively nearby parallel route(s). Nearby routes could unload some of the first route’s riders. And they could be built near enough to tap the first route’s riders, but far enough away that a new set of riders would find themselves within walking distance of rapid transit.
So, when the Crosstown approaches its maximum capacity, we would have built a parallel route along Lawrence.
With regard to the DRL, planners talked about it, decades ago. Am I wrong that we needed to have phase 2 of the DRL completed several years ago? If so, I guess the failure with the DRL was that planners failed to get their political masters to commit to it fifteen years ago.
This weekend there were some city planners, with a kiosk and some brochures, on The Esplanade. I shared with them my sympathy, and told them I thought that John Tory had put them in a “warning Will Robinson” situation.
They were all youngsters, so I told them about how, curious will Robinson, the fiery-haired youngster on the campy old science fiction show “Lost in Space”, was the center of many episodes, when he would discover something dangerous, like an Alien Artifact. His constant companion, the mission’s robot, would routinely roll around in circles, waving its arms up and down, squawking, “Warning Will Robinson”, and predicting all the terrible things that could go wrong if he opened Pandora’s box himself.
Tory is like Will Robinson, Keesmat and her colleagues find their warnings are ignored, just like the show’s robot. Tory directed Keesmat to find ways to make his SmartTrack work, under budget. And they gave him very broad hints that his plan could never be made to work. And just like the irresponsible child Will Robinson, Tory ignored the advice of those wiser and more experienced. In Tory’s case this seems to be involved him sending the planning department back to the drawing board, as if, if they only tried harder, they could make SmartTrack work.
Steve: The situation with ignoring the value of a Relief Line is one of wilful ignorance by the TTC. For years they downplayed the need for another route claiming that there was huge untapped potential on the Yonge line. Never mind that this would require headways shorter than physically possible, massive reconstruction of Bloor-Yonge Station to upgrade its capacity, and an “all the eggs in one basket” approach to network planning. A Relief Line was a waste of money, and even the hallowed TTC ex-chief, Gary Webster, would say, in effect, why would we build a new line when we can get more capacity out of the existing one. The assumptions behind that statement were deeply flawed as is now painfully obvious.
Your experience with young planners is a typical, sad commentary on the state of City Planning. Because projects have taken so long, and so many senior staff would rather retire than fight the madness that passes for “planning”, there is a loss of institutional memory. I often find myself explaining things that happened only a few decades ago when staff shrug and say “we don’t know”.
I have been reading arcticredriver’s prior posts about bedrock locations in Toronto which suggested the bedrock layer is closer to the surface at King Street than Queen Street. If the tunnel is to be through rock rather than in the layer above, would that not be a benefit?
Steve: Apparently the layer is more uniform, less of a “roller coaster” profile at Queen versus King.
As someone who lives in NYC, the whole express/local system is perhaps the most misunderstood part about the subway by those who don’t use it regularly. Contrary to popular beliefs, the main purpose of having four-tracked tunnels is not actually to decrease travel times, but to increase capacity. For instance, the Q express train on the Broadway line only skips four stops in Manhattan and its scheduled travel time is only 4 minutes less of the N and R locals. Saving 4 minutes to wait for a train that runs every 10 minutes during rush hour doesn’t make any sense. With modern signaling and CTBC, it’s not even necessary to have more tracks to add capacity. Not to mention throughput is further constrained whenever an express and a local train pull into a station at the same time, both trains are further delayed when passengers are crossing the platform to switch trains while holding the doors. It’s a much better strategy to just build an alternate route for a new line if more capacity is needed, at least the tracks would be useful outside of rush hours. The new Second Avenue Subway line is being constructed with two tracks.
I wish I knew more about this. I’ve looked at the maps I linked to, and I consulted sites like one about “Lost rivers of Toronto”.
Just a wild guess, but the lost rivers site described how the original town-site of York had five short streams flowing through it. Those short streams were on the order of a hundred metres or so long. So, maybe these short streams disrupted the bedrock enough to recommend the northern route?
A neighbor of mine, who lives on a small street south of Crombie Park, says that none of the townhouses on Albert Franck Place, were built with basements, due to a flow of groundwater that is a remnant of one of those short streams.
The flow of groundwater near High Park is so strong that ten years or so ago exploratory drilling triggered a gusher, spouting dozens of meters into the air. That flow of groundwater is a remnant of the huge glacial Laurentian River that flowed from what is now Georgian Bay to the Toronto area. Maybe Steve can confirm whether that is why High Park and Keele are built above ground?
Steve: Keele and High Park are above ground because of the grades and the valleys the line crosses enroute to Jane. Strictly speaking, High Park Station is underground and the line emerges into the open briefly to cross the valley just west of the station. If you look at old photos of the city you will see that Bloor Street itself is built on fill across deeper valleys than we see today.
Construction time is pretty easy if you throw enough money at the problem. And China was more in the mode of “build anything” rather than “build what is needed”. Now they are trying to move away from this approach and switch to a consumer-based economy.
This one just fails the sniff test. I would generally break a lines costs down into four parts (deceasing in expense): enabling infrastructure (bridges, underpasses, intersections, maintenance yards, etc); Right-of-way (rails, alignments, signals, stations, etc); equipment (vehicles, etc); and operating costs.
I don’t mind pre-building for future expansion (more tracks, infill stations), but to build “provisions” for HRT while operating LRT means you have the expense of one while the limitations of the other.
Did you ever think of writing a book? A working title might be “Swan Boats, Swings and Roundabouts: 150 Years of Toronto Transit Planning. Or How to Beat Your Head Against Brick Walls”.
Steve: My first “head” experience only goes back to 1972, although other primary sources are still among us who could take the record back further.
We sure are lucky to have Steve and all the commenters here; thanks.
I’ve been wrestling with how to get far more transit happening more quickly and one option is to see about surface routes/tweaks, including new corridors as it seems that that is the need.
So I wonder why the Richmond Hill GO line isn’t being touted/brought up more for Yonge relief and if it’s some flooding, then let’s disconnect the driveways and slow storm surges. There’s also a bit of now-Rail-Trail that was a former shortcut line that is near to Yonge, so if we can’t use that is it from sensitivities to the well-off people in the area? There’s also a north-south bit of rail corridor from Brickworks south to the core that we own through Metrolinx apparently, and it has a bridge, though it’s being neglected, and to re-use it it needs maintenance, and we need to think single usage and signals, an issue perhaps, but it shouldn’t be.
Steve: That line is not appropriate for the Richmond Hill corridor for reasons that have been discussed here before. Metrolinx has a scheme to change the grade of the existing line, but it’s not a high priority. If you expect that downspout disconnects will solve the storm surges, you really should look at the acres of surface parking that feeds into the storm sewers.
Another option is the Don Valley Parkway itself. It’s an already-owned corridor; and can we ever find the political will to squeeze the cars to put in a busway? Could the express bus on Mt Pleasant take more people, especially if there’s a single-fare (I don’t know if it costs double, but it may). Busways seem to be undervalued here; with some cause perhaps, but they work reasonably well in other areas, and if the technologies are improved…
Steve: How many times do I have to reiterate that there is a limited capacity for buses, not to mention that the big problem with demand on Yonge originates well north of the end of Mount Pleasant Road?
Also with simpler repainting of Yonge St. – technically simple – we could think maybe of a new busway but reversible centre lane with near-zero stops starting south of St. Clair, and two travel lanes, perhaps with bike lanes or perhaps the travel lanes could only be wider lanes with the inferior sharrows. It would be awkward for merchants needing deliveries, but maybe have the busway become a delivery zone during the non-rush hours from say 10 to 3pm.
The Danforth has far more width than Yonge St., and it too could be repainted for express bus service and bike safety, and done relatively quickly, though yup, pretty ‘roadical’. But shouldn’t the numbers of people using the subway be compared to those using the roadspace, and those using the subway are paying….
I’ve also thought of building a separate subway line/tunnel from Rosedale south but curving it over to Church St., and having fewer stops ie. Ryerson, and then near Queen, turn to use the Queen St. stop at City Hall area.
Steve: The junction’s design does not bear thinking about. How are the services supposed to merge? You are addressing the wrong problem.
For Scarborough, I’m still thinking that very long Gatineau Hydro corridor is the best way to truly boost transit all the way through Scarborough to the 401, and we still own it, and while it is green space and has bike trails on it vs. busway, the highest/best use of the corridor is for heavier transit, and if we can bury a transmission tower with multiple connections for scads of solar panels with transit atop, we could start to move ourselves more sustainably too, and with quieter/newer bus technologies, the dirty noisy diesels would be less of an issue.
With the Smart Spur option, I wish I had more confidence in the explanations of why it isn’t possible to change the SRT service to the Smart Spur apart from the convenience of riders, which is a good reason, but what about using the parts of the Gatineau as an option?
It also seems pretty obvious to have improved the connections between Main and Danforth by now: the old plans need dusting off, and upgrading, but if we could ease the trippng to the core in the east end, some people may even travel east to get the fast trip.
I suspect that for much of this however, there was a failure to understand that
1: the new satellite centers would fail to really rival the core, as they never received transit to a wide area that was out of traffic.
2: that the drop in core bound ridership was a temporary thing, and that the thoughts about capacity required to the core, would be need to reviewed. It was clear that the city and the TTC was very aware of a need for additional parallel capacity in the late 1980s and in 1990, until the recession of that time.
This failure of vision, was understandable, but not one that people wanted to admit to. I have never really understood how a location like the STC was to become a truly large center without having a very large area of draw, where people had a real choice other than car. We could likely get growth spread around more, and do so viably, if we had a broad network, however, the failure to build transit city, or equivalent, has likely made worse the concentration in the core, hence the need to build a DRL. We have chosen not to build a broad network, hence we will tax the capacity focused on the one location that is served. STC could likely be more meaningful, if you could get there quickly and easily from more of Scarborough and Pickering. Making the STC and NYCC more accessible by rapid transit would also make them more attractive office locations, and hence, take pressure off of the core bound subways. Finch West LRT from Yonge to the Airport, would make the NYCC more attractive, LRT north through to Richmond Hill, with a transfer also at Finch, would make the Finch / Yonge location more attractive, as an extension of NYCC. To the extent we do not create natural hubs but just extend subway, we increase the need to have a DRL.
Steve: STC, like Yorkdale, exists because that’s where a developer owned a large chunk of land (Eaton’s for STC). There was no strategic planning at all beyond its proximity to the 401.
I would like to see some illustrations as well if only to confirm the truth of what the city is saying and or if it’s an exaggeration. Surely the lowest point would be under the Don and a line would rise on a slight incline as it goes westward if it wasn’t to just stay at a uniform depth.
I grew up in Etobicoke, and walked to the high school at Martingrove and Eglinton. I regret that TTC/Metrolinx plans for the stations to be so close together. The underground part of the route has stations as far apart as the Bloor-Danforth line it parallels. Am I mistaken that travel on the underground portion of the Crosstown will be as rapid as travel on the Bloor-Danforth line?
As someone who used to live relatively near Eglinton, I’d sacrifice half the surface stations, in return to letting the LRT network come closer to subway like speeds.
Mind you, won’t the Flexity Freedom vehicles load and unload passengers more slowly than the TTC’s heavy rail vehicles? The vehicles have four doors, but they were designed to be only wide enough for one passenger at a time. The rear doors of the CLRV and ALRV are doubled, so two passengers can exit at a time. Does this mean passengers can debark 50 percent faster from a CLRV – and even faster from an ALRV?
Is it too late for the stations where the LRTs intersect with another rapid-transit line to be built so passengers can board or debark from doors on both sides of the vehicles?
Steve: Be careful what you ask for. Any mid-block stops now on Eglinton will be lost from Jane westward, and you would cut this even further. This has implications both for new buildings to go up along the corridor as well as transfer connections at the cross-streets you don’t consider important enough to have an LRT station. The operating speed underground will be comparable to the subway.
Boarding and alighting speeds are constrained both by the number of doors and the demand pattern at stations. A CLRV or ALRV has more doors per lineal metre of the carbody, but the Flexitys do not have stairs and will have level access to the platforms. The Metrolinx cars will be double-ended and so will have doors on both sides. However, the stations are designed with a single shared centre platform as this eliminates the cost of providing two sets of vertical access (elevators and escalators) to separate platforms.
A map I linked to here, a couple of months ago, had a cross-section of the bedrock plain down the Yonge subway line, and it had a similar cross-section that followed the Bloor-Danforth line. While it showed that the Don River had carved a gorge into bedrock, it showed a larger gorge had been carved into our bedrock, around High Park, by the Laurentian River, the huge river that drained the melting Laurentian Glacier, during the last ice age.
The whirlpool on the Niagara River was carved when the current river intersected an earlier buried gorge carved during an earlier interglacial period. For those interested in this kind of thing, who have visited the beautiful Elora Gorge, those who drill for groundwater around the Grand River are aware that there is a parallel deep gorge, now full of glacial deposits, also carved during an earlier interglacial period.
Steve: Yes, it would be interesting to see the comparative geo-tech data as well as a map of potential utility conflicts. But neither the Laurentian nor the Niagara have anything to do with the alignment of the Relief Line.
Yes, and we made sure that alternate served locations would not rival the STC. Build in the area beyond, and the Borough, and Province decide on some new fangled, untested high cost technology, to connect it. The plan was for a light LRT, and that is what should have been. I imagine today, if that had been done, today there would be a real network in Scarborough, just because building an extension here, and there, would be an easy way to buy elections.
Industrial policy, and building as tribute, does not work well for transit, and development.
Have you read the detailed plan for the Smart Spur Option? It is a total non-starter because there is:
That’s not a worry. Even in the RL full $12 billion mega project configuration it would not reach that far west. I would love to see any sort of data that would confirm or refute the idea of the city making misrepresentations on this matter.
With the extent of work under consideration and the huge impact that ground conditions could have between selecting one option or another, wouldn’t it make sense to hive off the geo-tech into one comprehensive project that could be recycled in the future? I’m imagining a city-wide grid around 350m spacing (~6000 holes), which could then be supplemented with some localized info in specific areas.
That appears to be in error. The original Don River seems to have followed the Laurentian channel into Lake Ontario in the Ashbridges marsh. See here, Figure 4 (on page 6), and also this map which shows the Laurentian River Valley notch crossing Yonge at York Mills.
Thing is, much of that data already exists. The first link includes a map (Figure 2, page 5) that shows the location of approximately 28k boreholes that reached bedrock. Many of those are in the city of Toronto. (Plus an additional 6k boreholes that did not reach bedrock, and hence can be used to set an upper limit on it; Figure 3.)
Additionally, every time a developer seeks approval for a project, they have to provide site geotechnical data. It appears that the city of Toronto site has only a limited set of current approval documents on file, but I was able to find a few. As an example, this file lists 3 boreholes that hit bedrock at approx. 10mbg or 72masl in the King & Church area. The document for 154 Front St. East is very interesting; Section 3.3.2 references several other documents likely to be of interest, notably “Metropolitan Toronto Bedrock Contours, “Ontario Department of Mines Preliminary Map 102”.
Unfortunately, it’s not metric, it will have to be compared to the surface elevation at each point and it doesn’t have most streets on it, so using it may be difficult. But it is possible to tell that the bedrock height (above sea level) along the King/Front corridor is approximately flat, since Front St. would (as best I can tell) run slightly north of the 230′ contour line.
Nevertheless, I’ve found a number of borehole datapoints in various planning documents (list below) and it seems that King and Front Streets, from Parliament St. west, have bedrock fairly consistently about 10m down. The few data points I’ve found further north aren’t enough to show consistency, but do suggest (unsurprisingly) that the bedrock is deeper at Queen. (This jibes with my own observations; I’ve worked in the King East neighbourhood for 20 years, and watched numerous condos go up from Jarvis east to Parliament; they have all hit bedrock around the P3 level.)
Which tells me that the planners are (once again) full of… I’ll let Steve pick a word that’s appropriate to his site. They are likely not telling the truth that Queen is a better site for tunneling than Front is, once the tunnel has already crossed the Don Valley at Eastern.
Steve: “Bovine effluvia” might be a suitably literary discription.
King & Church, Church & Colborne: 3 boreholes, bedrock at 10m (72m ASL)
154 Front (E of Sherbourne): 1 borehole, bedrock at 10m
177-197 Front (W of Sherbourne): 3 boreholes, bedrock at 7m
Front & Parliment: inferred bedrock depth 8m to 10m
King & John: 1 borehole, bedrock at 11m
King & Tecumseth, Bathurst & Wellington: 3 boreholes, bedrock at 11m/13m (75m/74m ASL)
Wellington & Spadina to Wellington & Portland: 3 boreholes, bedrock from 8m (east) to 10m (west)
Adelaide & Spadina: bedrock 12-14m
Chestnut & Armory: bedrock > 16m
Thank you for your insights and list of references. It’s starting to look more and more like the fix was in.