Back in June, an Op Ed from Mayor Tory appeared in the Toronto Star extolling the virtues of the Scarborough Subway. Torontoist, intrigued by how this piece came to be, made an FOI request for correspondence in the Mayor’s office. The result is an article and associated copy of the FOI response.
Tory’s article triggered a response from Michael Warren, a former Chief General Manager of the TTC. I have no brief for Warren himself, but what was intriguing was how the Mayor’s staff reacted with a need to debunk Warren. The following memo from the Mayor’s Chief of Staff is among the FOI materials.
This memo is full of misinformation, but it gives a sense of the mindset in the Mayor’s Office and why so many statements from Tory simply do not align with reality.
… greater use of existing GO rail tracks … six new stations …
The original SmartTrack plan was for a “surface subway” that would carry 200,000 passengers per day using capacity in the GO Transit corridors. However, this plan depends on key factors including good integration with TTC service and much more frequent trains. SmartTrack is now reduced to nothing more than GO’s already planned service stopping at six extra stations. That is not “greater use” of tracks beyond what would have happened with GO’s RER plan. Even the ability to make these stops with little or no penalty in travel time results from GO’s planned electrification, not as part of SmartTrack.
GO Transit has no interest in the work of upgrading signals on their corridors to accommodate the level of passengers implied by that all day count, and hence the network “relief” claimed for SmartTrack cannot possibly materialize without significant new investment.
Tory’s campaign literature talks about a “London-style surface rail subway”. In Toronto, the word “subway” means service that is at worst every 5 minutes, not every 15, and it’s that convenience the campaign expected people to key in on. Some of the timetables for London Overground do feature very frequent service at a level GO’s signal system (let alone Union Station’s platform arrangements and passenger handling) cannot hope to accommodate.
A recent City backgrounder on proposed new stations shows that they will attract some, but not a vast number of new riders. That’s why they were never in GO’s short list of potential stations to begin with.
At these six new stations, trains will come every six to ten minutes in rush hour. That’s better than what candidate Tory promised … every 15 minutes or better. And to be clear, the provincial RER model sees trains coming every 15 minutes.
Actually, the provincial RER model already sees trains coming more often than every 15 minutes during peak periods and the improvements are not confined to the SmartTrack corridors (Stouffville and Kitchener) or to the City of Toronto. Queen’s Park has made no move to bill Toronto for extra service above levels planned for RER, and therefore we must conclude that none is planned.
SmartTrack was always envisioned as a beefed up version of RER; more stations in Toronto, more access for riders, faster frequencies and a TTC fare.
In fact, there is no “beef” in SmartTrack, and its only contribution will be for those who live or work near the six new stations. The service levels are part of GO RER, nothing more. As for a TTC fare, this is far from decided, and the likely cost to Toronto to support such an offer is fraught with problems. There is the obvious question of where the operating dollars will come from, but moreover riders on other GO corridors within the city might reasonably ask why they don’t get the same deal.
Conversely, some of the Metrolinx machinations about “Fare Integration” have suggested that subways might be treated more like GO Transit with a fare by distance model. If that’s what a “TTC fare” for SmartTrack really means, that’s not what Tory was selling in his campaign.
… Warren suggests tax increment financing … has been abandoned. That’s flat out wrong. City staff are preparing to report back … and have already stated it “may be the appropriate revenue tool for funding …”
Warren may have been incorrect that TIF has been abandoned, although it is hard to tell because his original piece “was edited to make clear that John Tory still supports his TIF transit financing scheme” according to a correction notice following the online version of Warren’s article. Whether Tory still supports TIF is of little matter because City staff recently reported that it cannot support the full cost of SmartTrack and additional revenues from other sources will be required.
Warren … talks of the abandoned LRT option, which he says will cost $1.8 billion … The TTC said this week that building the LRT would now cost as much as $3 billion.
The infamous “Briefing Memo” from the TTC about LRT vs Subway costs provides that higher estimate, but this is based on the assumption that the LRT line would be build much later than originally planned. Most of the cost increase is a function of inflation. Also, of course, the LRT option would serve much more of Scarborough than the subway, including the Town Centre planning precinct, a fact Tory’s Chief of Staff conveniently ignores.
As for additional costs, the provincial commitments to various transit plans, including its own, have always included inflation to completion, although undue delay caused by Toronto Council’s inability to make a decision might reasonably considered beyond the level of Queen’s Park’s generosity. All the same, the $3 billion estimate assumed a leisurely LRT project schedule compared to what would have been possible with dedication and leadership.
Under the Mayor’s leadership, Toronto is moving ahead with the most ambitious, and badly needed, transit expansion in its history.
A great deal of the expansion now underway was in the works before John Tory was elected. Indeed, his campaign claimed that SmartTrack was the single project that would solve every problem, and no other transit schemes, notably the Relief Line, need even be considered. Tory has changed his tune on that, but the RL is still treated as something we will need, someday, maybe. There is no leadership on his part in demonstrating how this line would serve suburban riders with additional commuting capacity.
debate … should be guided by fact, not distortions and rhetoric
That comment speaks for itself.
At the Metrolinx meeting at Bramalea SS last night a Metrolinx rep said that all the trains from beyond Bramalea would probably operate express to union with a 15 minute headway of locals operating in from there because the new stops would make the travel time too long for riders from outside the 416. He said they would need another 2 tracks to increase service to better than every 15 minutes because there isn’t track capacity or platform capacity at Union. There might be more that 4 trains per hour but a lot would be express.
He also said that the CN-GO by pass line would start north of Milton with tracks following the Hydro corridor down to and along side the 407 to Bramalea where it would go under the Weston sub and re-join the Halton Sub east of Halwest. There would be no CP trains on it as they want nothing to do with this corridor, so no relief for service on the Milton line and probably no service to Cambridge.
At the Metrolinx information session that I attended, we were told that RER is constrained by the railroad signal system. This is my attempt at their explanation, and may be in error because it is more complicated than I could follow. The tracks are divided into blocks where only one train is allowed per block. This system can only change with upgraded signal systems (which monitors distance between trains real time). The best GO can do is schedule two separate trains into the same block, giving train service of two trains in a 15 minute block (the Stouffville-SmartTrack line).
Bottom line, the max service RER can provide is train headways of 7.5 minutes.
Steve: Metrolinx has published service plans for its corridors (two of them are linked from the article), and I use these as the reference of what they actually claim they are building for within existing constraints.
Isn’t it a bit of historical revisionism when Amanda Galbraith wrote:
Steve: The author of that email is Chris Eby, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff. Amanda Galbraith is the recipient.
Perhaps I’m being harsh in saying that, as maybe the campaign team did envision it as such, but that is not what the campaign message was. I recall it being more along the line of “look at this great plan we created that will replace the need for the Relief Line!”
I lost count of how many people I had to explain that this was nothing more than a few extra trains and stops added to a plan that was already underway by GO, combined with a western branch that was close to physically impossible to construct. I compared it to promising to make the sun rise in the morning with music playing, and making it look like their real challenge was figuring out how to make the sun rise consistently.
The branch is gone and replaced with an already existing LRT plan, the additional stations have been limited to six, and it doesn’t look like there will be any significant number of extra trains. Yet, it was “always envisioned” to be this way.
Steve: So much spin they believe their own invented history. Part of the problem is that some of the staff really were not around and paying attention to details like this during the campaign, and they believe the revised version as if it is the truth.
There are a couple of other problems with signalling. The Lakeshore, Kitchener and Barrie lines have to be able to handle long freight trains so they are going to stick with the 2 mile long blocks. The only connection to the Stouffville line is at Scarborough junction so it will not get long freights but they do not want 2 separate signal systems. Also they will have 12 car trains travelling at up to 80 mph and they schedule 2 minute dwell time for most station stops so they cannot let trains get too close together.
The second problem is Union Station; it cannot handle that level of service. Even if you put in the most modern signal system the major choke point is Union and signalling will not help it. One of the people from Metrolinx told me they had some German train operators visit and they asked if Union Station was a museum!
Steve: The amusing thing about all of this is that we have been “sold” on the idea that there is a vast untapped resource in rail capacity. That may have been true in theory, provided that our infrastructure was upgraded to modern European standards, but it certainly was not just sitting there for the taking. Those who promoted the “Big U” which evolved into SmartTrack have a lot to answer for.
Actually it wouldn’t matter how conversant Tory’s staff were with election details; they aren’t about to upset the applecart with any items of accuracy or consistency.
As for the course John T is offering on Creative Writing: When can I enroll? If I pass with honours, can I be the next mayor? Don’t worry Steve; I’ll make you Czar of all transit forms.
It is still DUMB TRACK!
I am not clear on whether this article is about transit planning, or about re-election politics. Too much waste of time and money has resulted from involving elected politicians in decisions regarding transit.
My beef is the Scarborough LRT line. There had been a provincial commitment to fund it entirely. There was a signed agreement to that effect, and the work was underway, (work being the Environmental Assessment approval, the engineering work on the line itself, and a final layout for the station).
Then Toronto City Council cancelled that deal in 2012. They were fully aware of the cancellation, and Metrolinx presented the bill for the “sunk costs” – $75 million more or less. Once a deal is cancelled, it is cancelled. Ask for legal advice, not political advice on this issue.
City Council asked the province to put funding into the Scarborough Subway line, and that was agreed to. Metrolinx awarded the DBFM contract for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, with a Kennedy Station design that has a subway extension, not an LRT line.
All this happened before John Tory was elected mayor.
Now we have city councilors acting as if they can reverse that decision unilaterally, and have the province go back to the deal that the city cancelled 4 years ago. The costs that were calculated then are meaningless now. There was a shared MSF with the Sheppard LRT line. That is off the table now. All the design work would need to be redone. There is no way to start work on the Kennedy Station until the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is complete in 2021, since that is part of a currently awarded contract, and any the cost of any changes to that would be totally unknown.
If council continues to flip-flop, nothing gets built, and our transit system gets no better. Re-elect our mayors and councillors on their political criteria, but let’s keep transit planning separate from electioneering please.
That is not totally true. As a stop-gap measure that creates a slight increase in capacity for commuter trains while maintaining longer stopping distance for freights, a number of recent signalling upgrades (some on the Oakville subdivision to the west of Exhibition, plus what was done for double-tracking the Bala subdivision from Elgin to Quaker) have introduced shorter blocks combined with “Advance Clear to Stop” (and similar variants) indications. This provides two-signal notification of an upcoming stop signal for the freights that need the extra stopping distance.
I can’t quote any specifics, but I have heard this is not as far off in the future as one might think, quite likely well before there is any real movement on electrification of GO’s system.
Steve: Given the changing government policies (not to mention governments), I will only believe this when GO no longer talks about headway constraints. There will still be the problem of Union Station itself.
Sadly, because there is some potential and will be something better on these rails, maybe we need to be calling the Tory ‘layer’ of extra transit Smart Trick, though at least this proposal helped reduce the mindset of ‘Fordwards was backwards’. We still have a very long climb up to planning again though, and it is telling that some feel there is a real issue with Union Station and its capacity to deal with all which is proposed for it. And if not Union, then perhaps the roads adjacent to it ie. do we need to expand the sidewalks?
A decade-plus ago, I was really keen on having a Front St. transitway that used Front St. for robust transit but this being Caronto/Moronto, and discovering the 1988 plan c. 2007, sigh. Now we’re poised to approved building a small bit of road on the south end of Liberty Village exactly where the transit was to go along, and otherwise fail to think transit and spend $$$ for effective transit in a key, and overloaded corridor. There is immense transport demand through the pinch point at the base of High Park to the core – so why do we continue to build costly subways in sprawl and roads in the core?
I was wondering if we could tap some of the railroad followers to answer questions I have.
1) Can GO do something about the frozen switches in winter and stuck switches in summer? I really don’t understand stuck switches in summer.
Do other countries, US, Sweden, Norway or Russia have the same problem?
I think railroads have been around over 100 years, commuters would be greatly inconvenienced by stuck switches. I note that the SRT is often delayed by frozen switches, my outsider guess is that it doesn’t have the track cleaning equipment that the subway has. I have asked GO people about this and they say switches are still railroad operations, not GO.
2) Is there a mixed usage of tracks by GO and freight during GO hours or are they mutually exclusive, when GO uses the tracks there is no freight and vice versa? The discussion of long freight trains is an example of complications. If the network is exclusive to GO and Via then one set of signals could apply, when switching to freight they could use the railroad signals?
I think that Mayor Tory won’t be a mayor for much longer. Yes, the thug that challenged him last time around is still unelectable but Mike Ford has proven to be very well behaved and agreeable plus by the time of the next election, he will no longer be a rookie having served one term as a TDSB trustee and one term as a city councillor and thus, Mayor Mike Ford is a strong possibility in 2018.
Steve: You are dreaming in technicolour.
Get your facts straight brother. Mike Ford will have served PART of a term as trustee and PART of a term as a city councillor and NOT one term as each. It could be said that he doesn’t stick around to finish a job he started but is an opportunist looking to advance his own political career at the expense of his constituents. There are lots of other councillors who meet your imaginary conditions who would be better.
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It’s not a matter of what “some feel”. It’s a matter of empirical evidence combined with demand modeling. It’s a classic bottle neck situation. You have a future 8 tracks from the northwest and 5 from the west converging into 9 tracks between the Bathurst St. Interlock and John St. Interlock. With 4-5 (Barrie, Kitchener, Milton, UPX, Lakeshore West) services wanting to run two-way service, and 1.5 miles at 10mph, you have 90 trains per hour, or 10-minute headways. That’s ignoring all the signals and fouling.
The pinch point track-wise is under Bathurst St., which was built in 1888.
Every switch on the network should be equipped with a natural-gas heater (SCD – Snow Clearing Device). CN has a minimum lead time of four months for delivery of tournouts and SCDs. Generally, the SCD has an overall thermal capacity, so the ability to keep the switches unfrozen relates to how cold it is, how heavy the snow/ice is falling, and how long before it started that the blower was running.
Old Merx RFI Tender
Check Section 3.4
On the flipside, we don’t have A/C for switches in the summer. Generally speaking, rail temperatures are 50% higher than air temperatures, so with July/August often in the mid-30s, the rails are nearing 50°C. Spot temperatures are often higher. This results in thermal expansion, which is why they jam in the summer.
These are general unsolved issues globally, and if you can think of a relatively cheap, effective solution, you’d make a ton of money.
There isn’t a single system-wide answer to how operations occur. However, the most general answer is that on important subdivisions like Weston, Oakville, and Kingston, while the corridor is owned by Metrolinx, CN/CP maintain at a minimum emergency running rights. Basically, this means the system must be designed to accommodate mixed freight-train usage. It’s even worse on the CN/CP parts of the network, where GO trains only run when permitted by the freight companies.
Technically speaking, you could have signal blocks that are shorter than a freight train consist, just that the train would occupy multiple signal blocks concurrently.
This is true, but only to a limited extent. In a fixed block system, block length is set based on worst-case stopping distance, which takes in a whole lot of variables such as maximum speed, maximum weight, grades, curves, and so on. With a 3-indication signalling system (stop, approach, and clear), there is only one block of stopping distance available to warn an operator of an upcoming stop signal. Thus, even though freights generally have a lower maximum speed limit (such as 60 mph where passenger trains may have 90 or 100), their weight results in a longer stopping distance, and that sets the block length.
On way to increase passenger train capacity, and it is being used in some new signal installations around the GTA, is to go to a 4-indication (stop, approach, advance approach, clear) system that would allow shorter block lengths. Now the freights that need a longer stopping distance get warning of an upcoming stop that is two shorter blocks long, but still long enough for them to stop, while passenger trains can proceed a little closer as they have the ability to stop in less distance. As I said above, this is somewhat limited. The added passenger capacity is fairly limited and the cost of installing new signals and changing the exiting track circuits is fairly high (not to mention the added maintenance costs of the additional signals, but we all here know that new facilities don’t just involve the initial capital costs!).
One solution to all this would be a whole new approach to signalling. GO could implement a form of CBTC that uses moving block technology on its trains that is overlaid on the existing fixed block system that freights would continue to use. This would have the effect of creating extremely “high resolution” (i.e.: tiny) blocks for the commuter trains while still allowing freights to pass through using the fixed blocks. Of course, this all comes with a substantial initial price tag, though it would have a lower maintenance cost associated with it that is not related to the number of blocks in the way that a fixed system does. I wouldn’t be surprised if GO/Metrolinx put out a call for proposals on such a system.
I’d like to thank the railroaders for answering my questions.
How feasible is it to build a shed or tent over every switch?
Steve: I have a feeling that if this were feasible, it would have happened already. Don’t forget that trains have to pass through such a structure, and this would leave a big gaping hole for wind and snow. Anyone who has every waited for the RT at STC Station in midwinter with a howling east wind will tell you that the “enclosure” doesn’t help a lot.
As Steve says there are big holes at each end and often systems like this cause more snow to deposit inside than would otherwise.
The reality is we have a Politically biased media attacking a Politician (Mayor) and using “experts” and “facts” to fit their preferences.
Thankfully one takes a more central Political stance and seems to be trying to move the projects forwards across the City. The plans are certainly not perfect and either were the previous ones which some simply refuse to accept.
It’s one thing to critique the plans and Mayor and another to repeatedly attack. Not sure you can ask much more from a Mayor with so many differing needs in this City. If they really want to keep arguing things can and likely will get worse.
Steve: Sadly, the Mayor has his own “experts” and “facts” that are just as untrustworthy as those you claim the media use to attack him. From a financial and policy point of view, the cupboard is bare.
To play this one out, the current brain child floating through the works is air curtains (for stations, not switches, but same ideas). This blows air to “seal” the opening. The question is how much you are going to enclose. #20 turnouts are the current system mainline standard, which can use 30-foot straight (35mph) or 39-foot curved (45mph) points (the bits that move). That’s two 12m sheds per switch and two switches per extra track. It soon gets to the point of enclosing the whole thing.
If you’re not worried about costs and the environment, you could put a glycol snowmelt system under the whole thing and arrange some sort of induction heating for the rails to keep it all at the ideal temperature range. We don’t because the costs greatly outweigh the benefits, just like how we don’t do it for our roads and settle for a million tonnes of salt instead.
First, why all the random capital Ps? Second, I’m still not buying the ‘biased media’ bit. The Star, the Sun, Rabble, and even Breitbart are all part of the info-tanment complex that makes money by telling their readers what is happening in a fashion that they want to hear (and/or anger click-bait). The media might stir an issue up, but only if there was some dormant interest/resentment laying there.
Steve: Random capitals are part of Joe M’s style. I stopped editing them out a long time ago.
Reductio ad absurdum. I hope transit planning can be measured in more than a bipolar perfect/not perfect solution. The majority of Scarborough transportation trips are within Scarborough (60.9%). More trips are to Durham/York than to Old Toronto (4.6%+9.0% vs 10.3%). Nearly as many trips are to North York (9.8%). All work-related trips to/from Scarborough are only 10.6% of the total trips made. Now to pull numbers out of my rear, even if 80% of trips downtown are improved by the SSE, you’d only need to improve 14% of the trips within Scarborough to come out ahead.
Where was this attitude during TransitCity? I find it ironic that the big spend on transit in Scarborough is to make it easier for work commuters to get downtown, all while complaining that downtown has all the subways.
The is the most misleading and absolute garbage stat used by the City’s Left to push their agenda.
Electricity flows thru the path of least resistance, water flows thru the path of least resistance and so do people.
The DVP is a parking lot during beyond the critical hours of the working day, Kingston Rd bottles up in the beaches and is almost un-drivable when they are down to a single lane. Alternately Scarborough residents have to take 2hour commutes with some having to take 1 or 2 buses, a piece of crap RT and then a subway just to reach downtown then further transit. It’s very clear why Scarborough residents have to travel East?
No one is saying the SSE is going to change or resolve the issues. It’s the number one starting point. Unfortunate it has to be butchered to pass thru has to have so much resistance for an massive area which your stats actually show is clearly not connected to its own City.
Wait, if the SSE isn’t going to change or resolve the issues, why do you want it so badly? If it’s not going to change or resolve anything, then it’s it a multi-billion dollar waste of resources that might actually make a bigger difference to help Scarborough elsewhere?
That’s bollocks. People are molded by convenience, risk, and familiarity.
And with the SSE that 120 minute commute will be shaved to 107 minutes (assuming a 10 minute transfer at Kennedy) while the other 90% of Scarborough residents will continue to have to take 1 or 2 buses to reach their jobs, schools, and stores in Scarborough.
If my stats are “absolute garbage”, what is your counter factual argument?
You’re wasting your time. It’s been brought up before and you won’t get an answer. I’ve made comments on this blog in the past about the BS notion that the SSE project turning a 120 minute commute into a 110 minute would convert car commuters to mass transit commuters. Cue the crickets.